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Can't Get Away with Nuthin'

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Not even God likes smoking!

Buffy: I told one lie...I had one drink...
Giles: Yes, and you were nearly devoured by a giant demon snake. I think the words "let that be a lesson" are a tad redundant at this juncture.

In the land of television, morality and justice are swift, sure, and anvilicious.

Okay folks, listen up: many of the dangerous behaviors in life are as insidious and widespread as they are because most of the time, nothing bad comes of doing them. If you don't wear your seatbelt, most of the time, you'll be fine. It's just that on the rare occasion that you do get into a car crash, and you don't have a seatbelt, you will likely die a bloody, screaming death.

Thing is, if you do something wrong/dangerous/stupid on a TV show and consequences don't occur, sometimes Media Watchdogs and Moral Guardians will decry the show for "promoting high-risk behavior". So on a lot of shows (especially those aimed at children), every time you do something bad, justifiable or not, you will get punished.

There is a possibility that this trope is used simply because it's a good way to end a particular story, or an author's personal fantasy or something, and not as a deliberate way to get any message across. It's also a matter of basic story-telling economy: having a scene where a character does something bad (even if it’s justifiable) with no consequences at all is sometimes feels like wasting a good scene.

On a Sitcom, this isn't usually all that big a deal, except during the Very Special Episode. In a teen drama, it's a recipe for tragedy. Drive drunk even once and somebody is going to die. Have premarital sex even once and there's going to be an STD or an unwanted pregnancy note  and it's no use protesting, "But We Used a Condom!!" And heaven help you if you even look at drugs. This may be accompanied by an Inversion of Protagonist-Centered Morality to illustrate the dangers of peer pressure, by introducing characters who have been getting away with the bad thing for a while - but once the main character tries it out, things will immediately go wrong.

This is sometimes called an "Institutional Lie" — the deliberate exaggeration of the dangers of a certain behavior because the audience wouldn't be as quickly/effectively persuaded by the actual dangers. The problem with this kind of lie is that it can backfire. The audience recognizes the morality play as an obvious exaggeration, and so they don't take to heart the actual danger present.

If the disaster that comes from risky behavior is implausible rather than merely happening quicker than you might expect, it's a Space Whale Aesop.

A common delivery method for Can't Get Away With Nuthin messages is Scare 'Em Straight media. A (usually) comedic variation, in which everyone else is getting away with worse misdeeds but one character Can't Get Away With Nuthin' for lesser crimes, is Selective Enforcement. Very often, this is paired with Chekhov's Gun, as attention wouldn't be brought to the misdeed if it wasn't going to be relevant later on.

The Inverted Trope is Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin'. The polar opposite of this trope is Karma Houdini.

An Enforced Trope during the The Golden Age of Hollywood, where The Hays Code prohibited any sort of Karma Houdini. See "Rise and Fall" Gangster Arc for a by-product of this restriction.

Compare Laser-Guided Karma, Felony Misdemeanor, Kafka Komedy, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, Hellistics, and Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life. See also Compressed Vice and The Scourge of God. Occasionally overlaps with Disproportionate Retribution.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Heart Catch Pretty Cure had an odd one for its summer vacation episode—don't do your homework and you'll end up a Desertian.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind: Leone Abacchio was a cop who accepted a bribe once, from a man who had purchased a prostitute's services, when it really seemed like it would be completely harmless and beneficial to everyone involved (the prostitute was in debt and really needed the money, while the man would just bribe the lawyers if Abacchio arrested him, so the only difference was who got bribed), after witnessing the rampant corruption of the legal system for years. This led to his partner getting killed when they had to arrest that same man while he was robbing a store and had killed the shopkeeper, and he threatened to reveal the bribe if Abacchio didn't let him go, giving him time to draw his gun and shoot. Abacchio's corruption ended up being exposed, he lost his job, and fell into alcoholism and depression.
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run: Johnny Joestar lets fame get to his head and cuts in line at a movie theater to impress a girl. The guy they cut shoots him in the spine, putting an end to his illustrious horse racing career and resulting in him being abandoned by everyone he knew, including his father—for the second time.
  • In My Neighbor Seki, during the last episode of the anime, the teachers hold an unannounced search of students' bags for things like toys and games. Since the eponymous Seki frequently brings toys into class and plays them without the teachers noticing, Yokoi suspects that this will be trouble for him... but Seki manages to hide his toy "Robot Family" without getting caught, while the teacher finds a CD in Yokoi's bag, which she'd borrowed from a friend, and confiscates it.
  • One Piece: Being associated with the Pirate King Gold Roger is considered a crime so heavy that you can get executed for it. Young mothers were persecuted because of the possibility of them carrying/giving birth to Roger's child. The shipwright Tom was sentenced to death because he built and sold the Oro Jackson to Roger, which under any other circumstance would have not been counted as a crime, as the judge admitted. Ace is sentenced to death simply for being Roger's son, while Ace's career as a pirate has been basically ignored, and executing Ace in public is a risk that the World Government is willing to take, even if they have to wage war against the Yonkou Whitebeard just to eradicating Roger's bloodline. Former crewmates of Roger's crew who are still alive to this day somehow managed to avoid punishment, either by keeping low profiles or by being too strong to get captured. Since the crew was disbanded a year before Roger's execution, the crew was able to split across the globe, which made tracking them much harder, as most of them lost touch with each other.
  • In Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, the students of Daten High School are taught by a teacher, "don't have sex EVER. You will DIE! No matter what position!" Of course, this doesn't stop Panty from having sex with people.

    Comic Books 
  • In All Fall Down, Siphon learns this applies to her when she's arrested for the super-manslaughter that resulted from her becoming the world's last superhero.
  • The law laid down by the Dundonian Presbeteryans who founded D.C. Thomson to the writers of The Beano and The Dandy was simple: They could show the Naughty Is Good characters getting up to all the mischief they liked, as long as they were punished in the last panel.
  • Despite Thou Shalt Not Kill being a general rule in The DC Universe, a number of heroes have broken this rule. Some have faced consequences but others have more or less gotten off scot-free. Superman and Batman have both broken this rule when the opponent wasn't human and the consequences of leaving them alive were clearly too dangerous to risk, Superman killing Kryptonian war criminals from another universe and Batman killing Darkseid in Final Crisis being good examples. By contrast, Wonder Woman's reputation was shot when she killed Max Lord to stop him from controlling Superman in order using him to massacre millions of people.
  • The Plutonian from Irredeemable took a 10-minute break on the moon to get away from the constant calls for help that his superhuman hearing could pick up. In those 10 minutes, a sonic virus was released that turned hundreds of children into walking skeletal corpses. This, as much as anything, contributed to his going insane.
    • For the double whammy, the virus was accidentally released by a scientist who had convinced the Plutonian to let him study a piece of alien tech instead of destroying it. The Plutonian took a chance that the guy could be trusted to do some good for the world with the potentially hazardous technology and it all just happened to go wrong at the very moment he took that break out of ear-shot.
  • Justice League: Cry for Justice: The story ends with Green Arrow killing Prometheus as revenge for the villain's crimes including maiming Oliver's partner Roy Harper and killing his daughter Lian. Even though Oliver was not the only hero during the story who tortured and killed people, he was the only one who was arrested for it.
  • One issue of Gladstone's Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers comic actually averts this — a monster that runs on cowboy tropes can't be beaten by the other Rangers and can only be beaten by "an Indian" — or in this case, a bow user. However, Kimberly (said bow user) got grounded and they need her to help. One of the Rangers suggests just teleporting her there and get it over with. Zordon shoots it down, saying that risking more punishment on Kimberly isn't worth facing the Monster of the Week. Tommy solves the problem by confronting her father and having the others help shoulder Kimberly's punishment over the weekend. It works.
  • In Runaways, the team gets driven out of Los Angeles as a punishment for taking a neutral stance during Civil War (2006), and as a consequence, reluctantly decide to try their hand at outright supervillainy, only because they desperately need money. Naturally, their one foray into robbing a safe gets them targeted by The Punisher.
  • Spider-Man: Essentially the whole reason behind Spider-Man's existence. The one time he decided not to act and did something immoral instead, it came back to bite him in the worst way possible.
    • The movie messes around with this; in Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter ignores the criminal because he's letting his newfound fame go to his head and thinks it's not his problem, so it does generally feel like he's being taught a karmic lesson in humility. In the movie, the crook robs the wrestling promoter who screwed Peter out of his prize money and Pete lets him go in order to spite the man, which lessens the impact somewhat because it's easy to sympathize with Peter's attitude in that scene. You could argue that it actually increases the impact, but changed the moral. Instead of being about humility, it was about responsibility (which the comic was also about. After all...), which the movies are big on. Yes, the actions were understandable, but Spider-Man has to rise above that.
    • The reboot perhaps Crosses the Line Twice to restore its efficacy; After storming out of the house, Peter tries to buy milk but is two cents short. Since the clerk won't spot him two pennies from the (overflowing!) take-a-penny tray, Peter leaves, only to watch a street thug grab a handful of money from the register while the clerk's back was turned. Peter's reward for doing nothing, the milk the clerk refused him. Naturally, Peter doesn't help track down that thug for the clerk. Of course, that same thug then kills Uncle Ben, who had been chasing after Peter trying to find him. He dies because of two cents.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in one Bloom County Sunday Strip, where Opus is tempted to sniff a dandelion and is transformed into a bloated, discolored Gonk who declaims:
    Opus: Alert! The rumor regarding the effects of dandelion consumption is not, repeat, not, just another reckless fabrication of an increasingly sensationalistic and liberal-leaning media establishment!
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin is talking to Susie in class. When Susie tells him to stop talking, she is immediately caught by the teacher, who only punishes Susie. Susie gets moved to the front of the class, and when she gets an insulting note from Calvin, she writes one in retaliation, only to get caught in the act and sent to the principal. Considering the reputation Calvin has, Wormwood's actions require some explanation. It's her job to treat all of her students fairly, even Calvin. She probably didn't hear Calvin talking. And besides, everything worked out when Susie actually gets a chance to explain everything to the principal. She got off the hook, and Laser-Guided Karma hit Calvin like a ton of bricks.
    Susie: I'm so relieved. I was afraid you wouldn't believe me.
    Principal: (producing an overflowing folder) Oh yes, we've got quite a file on our friend Calvin...
  • A Peanuts storyline has Charlie Brown contracting "eraserophagia" after nibbling on erasers, prompting him to lampshade this at one point:
    Charlie Brown: So I'm an eraser nibbler! Why should I be punished for it? Can't I ever get away with anything?
    Linus: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
    Charlie Brown: (banging his head on a tree) I can't stand it!

    Fan Works 
  • Shane Walsh subverts this in For Want Of A Nail fic Better Angels where he murders his best friend Rick, and despite being spotted near the body, manages to lie his way out. Due to Shane's paranoia and suspicion in the group, this gets doubly subverted as major characters begin to doubt Shane's leadership.
  • Character-flipped in Cabin Fever: Promises To Keep. In Cabin Fever, Paul and Marcy neglect to use a condom when they have sex, and it's implied that this decision doesn't work out well for Paul, who subsequently becomes infected with the deadly virus Marcy was unknowingly carrying. Promises To Keep branches off from the Cabin Fever continuity immediately after this exact same-sex scene. In this story, Marcy is the one who has to deal with the consequences of unsafe sex, namely an unwanted pregnancy.
  • Scarlet Lady combines this with Selective Enforcement: Mme. Bustier will send most of her students to the Principal for the most minor of matters in order to preserve her reputation for being a "nice" teacher... with one exception: Chloé. Chloé can be as big a bully as her heart desires, but heaven forbid anyone dare stand up to her or call her out on her constant casual cruelties. This is most clearly demonstrated in "Zombizou", where Mme. Bustier gets akumatized when Marinette calls her out on her blatant Double Standards, becoming hellbent on forcing Marinette to bow to her will.

    Films — Animation 
  • Turning Red:
    • After she realizes she has a crush on Devon, the Daisy Mart clerk, Mei starts drawing some very suggestive pictures of herself and him together. Judging by her expressions and reactions, this is the first time Mei has ever even had sexual fantasies about a boy, much less drawn them on paper. Within minutes, however, her mother catches her, sees the drawings, and goes berserk.
    • In the end, Ming has been fined $100,000,000 by the city for the damages she caused in her giant red panda form, an act that she actually feels extremely guilty for. Fortunately for Ming, her family was willing to open up a charity drive in order to raise money to pay for the damages. Panda-Mei is also proving to be insanely popular with tourists, the ending showing business at the temple has never been better.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Ariel (1988), Kasurinen confronts the man who had robbed him, whereupon the man pulls a knife on him. Kasurinen disarms him and starts beating him, and is promptly arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for assault, attempted robbery, possession of a weapon, and resisting arrest.
  • Played straight, but justified, in The Dark Knight. Two-Face, having snuck into Sal Maroni's car, flips a coin for Maroni, and Sal wins. He then flips one for Sal's driver, puts on his seat belt, and shoots the driver in the back of the head. The car rolls over. Sal wasn't wearing a seat belt, and is implied to be dead at the end of the film. Two-Face is seen later, seemingly without an (additional) scratch.
  • The basis of the Sam Raimi movie Drag Me to Hell: a good-natured loan officer turns down a mortgage renewal from an old gypsy woman to show her boss that she is worthy of a promotion. The gypsy ends up placing a curse on her that literally summons demons to drag her to Hell and condemn her to eternal torment.
  • A tragic but understandable conclusion in Duwelo, which has a "number one hit man" as its protagonist who develops some Anti-Hero qualities then suddenly, a random sniper shoots him dead in front of a little girl he just rescued from certain death. Turns out, lording over how many men you've killed has some consequences.
  • French Kiss basically runs this Trope into the ground as Kate (Meg Ryan) loses her citizenship to two countries because she had one puff of a marijuana cigarette years ago in college—and got busted—and didn't even enjoy it.
    • Which itself is an example of Artistic License – Law. Most countries cannot revoke citizenship for anything short of treason and even then.
  • Gimme Shelter (2014): Apple narrates how every time she's attempted to escape from her mother has ended in disaster. One time she tries to escape in a taxi from her mother and she succeeded only to not have enough money for the taxi and be told to leave. She tries to steal the taxi to drive further away only to fail and have to walk. She then tries to escape in a car she carjacked only to almost die in a near-fatal car crash. Apple reveals she's only had sex once and she got pregnant because of that.
  • In Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Harold gets arrested for jaywalking when a cop car appears out of nowhere just when he puts one foot down on the road. He's completely aware this trope is in effect though, only stepping into the street against the "Don't Walk" sign to prove it.
  • Kids, in which Jennie gets AIDS after having unprotected sex one time.
  • In Last Action Hero, this is how the film world works. When the villain enters the real world, he slowly realizes he can get away with anything because the rule no longer applies. He tests this by randomly killing someone and waiting for the police to show. In the film world, this would be instantaneous, while in the real world, nothing happens, and when the villain starts gloating about it, nearby people only yell at him to shut up.
  • Maid in Manhattan. The titular character is shown to be an exemplary, beloved employee in line for a promotion. But when she lets a coworker talk her into trying on a guest's discarded clothes, it kicks off a chain of events that result in her being fired and publicly humiliated over her fling with a wealthy, well-known politician, despite the eventual happy ending.
  • In The Mexican, Jerry (Brad Pitt's character) stops at a stoplight in the middle of nowhere. He waits for the light to turn for a while, noting that no cars seem to be coming in either direction for miles. He gives up waiting and starts to run the red when a semi-truck comes barrelling through the intersection out of nowhere and almost t-bones him. This is all ironic because it was a traffic accident that mixed Jerry up in the plot to begin with.
  • By the end of Night of the Comet the whole world is dead except for the protagonists. Sam is aghast that Reggie has the kids wait until the traffic light changes before crossing the street, noting Los Angeles is now a "ghost town" and there's no traffic — then nearly gets hit by Danny in a sports car.
    Regina: (aside to kids) See what happens?
    Danny: God, I'm sorry but you shouldn't cross against the light like that.
  • In The Princess Diaries, Mia (Anne Hathaway's character) had a big aforementioned incident while partying at the beach with Josh Bryant (her high school crush) just as Lana reveals her shocking truth to the news by showing her private parts (while getting dressed in a tent). Vice Principal Gupta shooed them away and brought her home to her mother (saying "my foot didn't even pop" while crying/comforting her).
  • Red Rock West: Michael remains honest about his injury when applying for a construction job and refuses to steal money from the gas station despite how much easier it would make his life. Finally lying in order to get work instantly drops Michael into a complete mess.
  • In Yellowbeard, Betty (Madeline Kahn) tells her son Dan (Martin Hewitt): "The last time I read a book, I was raped—let that be a lesson to you."


By Author:

  • Outside of the Little Women series, Louisa May Alcott also used this trope often…
    • In Eight Cousins, Rose Campbell attempts to punish her cousin Jamie's playmate Pokey for petty theft (just some chestnuts and a rolled bandage), making the little girl cry. Jamie gets pissed off and reveals that Rose had her ears pierced by her friend Annabelle without permission from her guardian Uncle Alec, which upset Alec quite a bit.
    • In Rose in Bloom, Charlie has been struggling with alcoholism and irresponsibility. The one time he slips and gets drunk, he falls off a horse and dies a few hours later due to his injuries.
    • In Jack and Jill, Jill tries to read a letter that's thrown on the floor, believing it belongs to Jack's brother Frank and intending to use it against him for being mean to Jack. Not only does she fall off her couch (a big deal since she's got a recent and very painful back injury), but she discovers that the letter belongs to Frank and Jack's mother... and it says Jill might be this close to being permanently crippled.
  • Paula Danziger employs this trope in a few of her books, particularly with heroines who decide to put themselves first for once after spending most of the book placating or looking after other people.
    • In There's a Bat in Bunk Five, Marcy spends most of her time as camp counselor trying to reach out to Ginger, a troubled and seriously obnoxious girl who makes life hell for both Marcy and the other youngsters in her cabin. Eventually, Marcy pretty much gives up on Ginger and starts enjoying her time at camp on her own terms, even starting up a romance... then Ginger decides she wants to talk when Marcy is occupied. Ginger throws a hissy fit and runs away — Marcy gets lectured on how she was focusing on her own fun and not looking after the girls.
    • In It's an Aardvark Eat Turtle World, Rosie seems to spend most of her time being the diplomat and has had to make sacrifices to ensure her mother's relationship with her best friend's father is a success, such as giving up her pets because her kinda-stepfather is allergic. When she goes on holiday with her best friend/sister, Phoebe, she ends up feeling like a third wheel as Phoebe practically ignores her. Eventually, Rosie falls for Phoebe's cousin, Jason, and starts dating him, one of the few things she does for herself... whereupon Phoebe accuses her of being selfish and putting Jason first, resulting in Phoebe's ill-thought-out decision to move back with her mother. Rosie spends much of the time afterwards feeling guilty about this turn of events.

By Title:

  • In The Adventures of Pinocchio, our title character almost always faces some kind of punishment for his misdeeds, regardless of how minor it was. One time, he was punished even though he was the victim of the crime rather than the one who committed it. The punishments ranged from being sent to jail, to having to act as a guard dog for the night.
  • In The Angel Experiment, the Flock spend a night in New York sleeping in trees. They wake up the next morning with the police calling for them that what they're doing is illegal and to get down right now so they can have their parents called. Gazzy wonders who even looks up trees and Max comments "like there aren't worse problems going on than a bunch of kids sleeping in a tree".
  • Played with a twist in Bridge to Terabithia: Jess receives an invitation to a museum from his teacher. Having a crush on her, he doesn't think about inviting his best friend Leslie with him. Leslie pays the price — she dies. And Jess has lost his only friend. This is also a straight example for Leslie. She tried to use the rope alone just once this time, even though they had a rule that they always go to Terabithia together. And the water was high, but hey, she was the best swimmer, What Could Possibly Go Wrong??
  • In Comfort Woman, Beccah sneaks out to go on a school trip to the beach without telling her mother Aikiko, who is terrified of her being attacked by evil spirits. She gets a bit of coral lodged in her foot and gets a bad infection, which reveals the whole thing to Aikiko, who ends up keeping her daughter cooped up 24/7 for the next year.
  • The end of A Dollar To Die For has the Man with No Name arresting Tuco Ramirez for trying to get away with the gold they worked together to steal, and bringing him and Pinky Roebuck into the sheriff's office. However, he decides to throw Tuco a bone by giving him a chance to escape from jail, because he considers the bandit a Worthy Opponent.
  • Ellen and Otis: Averted in Otis Spofford, even though Otis does his best to get into trouble. Otis's class puts on a fake bullfight as part of a school performance, and Otis (as the front half of the bull) goes off script and causes the bull to win the fight. As the teacher is preparing to chew him out, several parents approach and tell her how hilarious the fight was and what a good idea it was to have the bull win. Otis doesn't get in trouble from the teacher and outruns the two boys who played the toreador and the back half of the bull.
  • Fablehaven averts this with Seth, who does occasionally slip away and break rules whenever it's extremely beneficial. It's played straight with Kendra, though, whose ability to get away with anything is so bad that she even drags Seth down.
  • Forbidden: In a story about incest, after not having sex for a long time because they are terrified of being caught, Maya and Lochan eventually decide that they're being paranoid and that no one is actually going around looking in windows to catch siblings having sex. So they go ahead and have sex, and disaster rains down — instantly.
  • The comic book version of Funky Winterbean by Tom Batuk had him doing something dangerous such as burning down the entire office of a TV station. He didn't get fired, though, for being stupid.
  • Gone with the Wind — after the numerous horrible things she's done, including several attempts at seducing the married Ashley, Scarlett and Ashley get caught in a genuinely innocent embrace — she was crying and he was comforting her. Only the intervention of Melanie, Ashley's wife, saves her from total public humiliation — a punishment Scarlett herself says she would have gladly borne had they been caught any of the times that they were doing something wrong.
  • The Greyfriars series, and any other school story penned by Frank Richards. The message to the readership is clear: don't gamble, drink, smoke, lie, cheat, sneak, steal, go out of bounds, consort with ruffians, refuse to do your lines, mercilessly provoke the mentally feeble, gang up on people in fights, or steal other people's cakes. Just don't. Go outside and play cricket instead.
  • Kyon of Haruhi Suzumiya didn't do his summer homework and ended up stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop for centuries, which led to Yuki developing errors and rewriting the universe.
  • A mild, Played for Laughs instance in the Horatio Hornblower novel The Commodore. Hornblower, irritated by an odd thumping noise on deck, comes up to find out what it is and tries to think of some excuse for being there. Then he decides that dammit, he's a commodore now, he can ask any silly question he likes without having to feel self-conscious, so he calls Bush over to do just that—and realizes that the noise was from Bush's wooden leg. So he has to come up with an excuse anyway.
  • In The Hyghcock Chronicles, Betsy never once gets pregnant during the years she spent entirely loyal to her husband, but after he dies and (through various circumstances) sleeps with both Protagonist Maynard the priest (and protagonist) and Archie the Sheriff in short order, she gets pregnant and can't determine the actual father. Subverted in that, once Maynard finds out, he outright says he doesn't care who the father is since he loves Betsy anyway.
  • In The Institute Tim Jamieson was a decorated police officer who one day forgot to take off his uniform while he was off-duty and drank some beer. This resulted in him getting involved in a robbery attempt by a teen high off his ass on PCP, and, Genre Savvy enough to realize the gun the teen might be fake, fired a warning shot. This resulted in hanging lights being dislodged by said shot and landing on top of a bystander who stayed behind to film the altercation. Said bystander tries to sue the police, and Tim was kicked off the force.
  • In Jesus on Thyface, practically everything Jesus does gets him in trouble with someone - the water into wine miracle, for example, results in him being prosecuted for producing alcohol without a licence.
  • It's easy to see why Michael never lies in the Knight and Rogue Series. The one time he lowers himself so much as to only tell part of the truth he's beaten up by four men as a result and needs help to even sit. Fisk, on the other hand, is something of a Karma Houdini in this respect.
  • Explicitly avoided by Cory Doctorow in his book Little Brother, as shown here.
    • As far as sex is concerned, yes. On the other hand, Marcus can't get out of that one time he stole a woman's phone (because it contained hard evidence that Homeland Security had imprisoned his friend illegally for most of a year) and ends up going to prison for it. The judge even mentions that it's a bit of an absurd edge case, but that is the law...
  • Persistent trend in Little Women and its sequels.
    • Amy borrows money from Meg to buy very trendy limes and look better in front of her school friends, despite it being against school rules. Her Sadist Teacher discovers her and humiliates her in front of the whole class. (This scene was edited out of the DVD of the 1994 film.)
    • Amy gets so angry with Jo for not taking her out that she burns the novel Jo was writing. Not only Marmee gets quite upset with her, but when the truth sinks and she asks Jo for forgiveness, she is roughly refused. Often shown in the 1994 film.
    • Jo refuses to forgive Amy for the aforementioned incident, despite Amy genuinely meaning it. The next day, Amy nearly drowns from falling through the ice on a river when skating with Laurie, and Jo is partially responsible since she knew the ice was very thin but didn't warn Amy out of spite. This was also shown in the 1994 film.
    • Meg visits her rich friend Annie; after humbly dressing in her own worn clothing all week, she lets Annie doll her up in her sister's party dress, and acts like an airhead to fit in better and hide her issues. This is the same night Laurie turns out to be her dancing partner, and he immediately lays the verbal smackdown on Meg.
    • Amy acts like a Proper Lady on a visit with their aunts, while Jo acts bitchy for no real reason. Turns out they were deciding during that very meeting which girl to invite on a trip to Europe, so Amy is chosen for her polite and levelheaded behavior.
    • When Laurie attempts to push his feelings on Jo, she rejects him twice and once even practically runs away.
    • Some of the boys in Little Men share a cigar and beer one night and set the room on fire. Another time, they try to enact a sort-of pagan ritual and end up burning a Creepy Doll for it, only to get shit scared of how it doesn't normally burn (it's one made of leather) and Jo severely scolds them for being stupid.
    • Jack steals Tom's money and lets Nat take the blame, later running away out of guilt. When he returns, the others act very cold to him for more than a while.
  • In the book Malheurs de Sophie by the Comtesse de Ségur, practically every innovative child's play idea Sophie gets causes some sort of trouble, from cutting her eyebrows off in hopes of them growing back thicker to getting her fingers bitten by a horse.
  • Melanie's Marvelous Measles was written by an anti-vaxxer who wanted to communicate that vaccines sometimes have side effects and sometimes don't work, however, all the vaccinated kids either have side effects or get sick anyway.
  • The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot (most recently Princess in the Spotlight) is also subverted as Mia joins Lilly, causing them to make an eggplant (food item) fall out of the window and on the floor of a sidewalk just outside New York. Unfortunately for Grandmere, the girls get caught, forcing them to take the blame as the eggplant was splattered all over the whole sidewalk. Mia Thermopolis, however, could never get away for being stupid (which wasn't a very trendy thing to be for a Disney Princess with a heart of gold).
  • Roys Bedoys:
    • In "Too Much Candy, Roys Bedoys", Roys eats two extra candies when he was supposed to only eat one and immediately gets a toothache.
    • In "That Website's Not Safe, Roys Bedoys!", Roys clicks on one link without checking it first and it turns out to contain a virus.
  • The Scholomance: El's affinity for malia is so potent that if she uses any amount of malia, even the kill-bugs-and-rot-wood level that any normal mage could use without trouble, she'll go tumbling down the slippery slope and not be able to catch herself until she's a full-on Evil Sorceror.
  • In Sweet Valley High, a secondary character dies after doing one and a half lines of cocaine. Elizabeth Wakefield drives drunk on one occasion after her drink is spiked and gets in a car crash, which results in the death of her twin sister's boyfriend and her arrest.
    • The latter is a Double Aesop, too; while Elizabeth is in a car crash and arrested, her twin sister was the one who spiked the drink and is punished for her actions by a dead boyfriend.
  • In the Wayside School series, Todd is always getting in trouble. Notably, this isn't used to deliver An Aesop, but rather played for Comedic Sociopathy — in several stories, he gets in trouble for a very minor offense while practically everyone else in the class is acting up much more.
  • Sandry gets hit with this in The Will of the Empress. On her eighteenth birthday, she puts off reading the accounts from her Namorn estate, and her uncle upbraids her for neglecting them. Not unreasonable, except that she hasn't been to Namorn since age ten, that she's been completely occupied acting as her uncle's Number Two since his heart attack, and her Namornese cousin, who's sending these reports, is far too prideful to do anything like ask for help in plain terms. Her friends also criticize her anytime her status comes up — even getting on her case for "acting the countess" by using her position to save a woman from a lifetime of marital abuse by hiring her as a maid. (Of course, all four of them are pretty horrible to each other throughout.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • On 8 Simple Rules, Rory is grounded for three months and threatened with expulsion. His offense? Cheating on a test in American History.
  • Better Call Saul: The first episode has Jimmy trying to help two bumbling scam artists pull off a Staged Pedestrian Accident on a specific target that he hopes to make his client as a lawyer in a complicated gambit to try and jumpstart his struggling law career. Unfortunately, it immediately goes From Bad to Worse when the two scam artists mistake the client's car for a lookalike that happens to be owned by the grandmother of psychotic cartel member Tuco, who drags the two and Jimmy out into the desert to kill them. Although he's able to talk Tuco down to merely breaking the would-be scam artists' legs, the consequences continue to plague Jimmy as Nacho, one of Tuco's criminal associates, becomes curious about the client that Jimmy intended to scam after hearing she embezzled a lot of money. The silent and her family fake their own kidnapping later and Nacho is fingered as the prime suspect because he was caught surveilling their house the night before. Now Jimmy needs to prove Nacho's innocence in one day before the police discover Nacho's extensive criminal activities and Nacho's associates come and turn Jimmy into a meat piñata as retribution. And this is just the first three episodes of the series.
  • On Beverly Hills, 90210, resident nerd Andrea ends up pregnant and married within weeks of losing her virginity, to the second guy she slept with. The plot was done to incorporate the real-life pregnancy of the actress, and the writers explained that they thought it would be too much to have her pregnant by the guy who deflowered her. Still, getting pregnant by Guy #2 isn't that much better and when compared with the rest of the gang, who had been sexually active for years, Andrea got shafted.
    • Don't forget how one beer seemed enough to be alcoholism.
  • In Bless Me Father, the sneak thief who repeatedly raids the offertory boxes at St Jude's is Scared Straight by a mighty voice from the heavens telling him his sins have been seen and that theft is a sin. In reality, it's a recorded message prepared by a BBC actor who is part of the congregation, relayed via the church PA system.
  • In an episode of Boy Meets World, Shawn and Corey turn Mr. Feeny's house into a B&B (taking a page straight out of an old Family Ties episode). When nothing bad happens, Corey panics, thinking that God has forsaken him, since this is the first time he's ever gotten away with anything. When Mr. Feeny finally does reveal their plan, he's delighted by the karmic balance. A few seasons later, they actually turn their inability to get away with anything to good, deliberately setting up a "Fawlty Towers" Plot so that in the process of catching them, Mr. Feeny will be forced to admit his feelings for a potential love interest.
    • Another episode of Boy Meets World sees Corey getting pulled over for going ONE MILE PER HOUR over the speed limit. Poor kid can't catch a break.
    • To be fair, in at least one dream episode, it saves his life because he and Topanga were virgins in a horror movie.
  • The episode "Cold Turkey" of The Brothers García took this to the extreme. Sonia caught the flu from Lorena so Lorena prayed to God and said she would give up watching her novellas for a whole month if it meant Sonia would get better. Sonia inexplicably recovered the next day though Lorena cracked after about a week and Sonia fell ill as soon as she switched the TV on. Then Larry and Lorena go to see a priest who says that they shouldn't make deals with God...
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer: after Dawn lies to Buffy and sneaks off to party with her friend Janice and two boys, she nearly gets eaten when the boys turn out to be vampires.
    • "Beer Bad.''
    • There's the Season 2 episode "Reptile Boy" where Buffy blows off training to go to a frat party.
      Buffy: I told one lie... I had one drink...
      Giles: Yes, and you were nearly devoured by a giant demon snake. I think the words 'let that be a lesson' are a tad redundant at this juncture.
  • On a second season episode of Charmed, the telekinetic witch sees a man walking his dog let the dog poop on their lawn. On the encouragement of her younger sister, she flips the poop onto his shoe. Cue a time warp into a future where she and her sisters are corrupt as all hell, witch hunts are a way of life, and things keep getting worse and worse until the telekinetic's sister submits to being burned at the stake. The last thing they see before the Reset Button is pushed is the demagogue behind the witch hunts — the guy who got dog poo on his shoe! The girls decide that the whole thing was an object lesson, as that was the first time any of them had ever used their powers to get even with someone who hurt them — they have to use their powers solely for protecting the innocent, and never solely to punish the guilty. Umm...
  • On Coop & Cami Ask the World, it's often justified due to how hackneyed the plans are, but a later episode takes the cake. Coop & Cami mistakenly believe their baseball tickets are under the wrong name so they claim to be that family. Turns out that family (who never showed up by the way) were designated VIP invites forcing the family to keep up the charade of being the affluent family.
  • Vanessa from The Cosby Show gets hit with this big time in the episode, "Off to See the Wretched". She and her friends lie to their parents about going to a concert of their favorite band, the Wretched, in town and that they were going to stop at their friend Susan's house before heading over to the concert, when actually, they were going to the concert all the way in Baltimore. Cliff and Clair soon find out about this as they just so happened to be watching the news and they are talking about a fire at a paint factory that was spreading toxic fumes to a bunch of houses, and one of them happened to be Susan's house. The news-crew started interviewing people and one person they talk to happened to be Susan's grandmother, who says that nobody was in the house. Then when Clair mentions that Vanessa went to see the Wretched, Denise says that they can't be performing in New York because the last time they were there, they caused so much trouble that they were banned from performing in the state. Back on the news, Cliff and Clair see an interview with the lead singer of the Wretched, who was thanking the people of Baltimore for letting his band perform there. As soon as Vanessa gets home, after a few misadventures, Clair gives her one hell of a tongue-lashing.
  • This is first seemingly played straight in one episode of CSI: Miami and then shown to be a subversion in a later episode. When a cop fails to clean his gun one day, he is involved in a big shootout and it jams. He gets into trouble over this and Internal Affairs even suspects him of being in cahoots with the bad guys. In a later episode, his gun jams again, and we find out that he has been negligent in maintaining his weapons for a long time and has in fact been getting away with it for all that time. This time, though, he is killed.
  • Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm embodies this trope. Most of the people he encounters are just as shallow and self-centered as he is, but he always gets caught and called out on it.
  • In the Death in Paradise episode "Stumped in Murder", the team investigate what appears to be a murder on a cricket pitch, but soon establish that the victim actually committed suicide because one of the suspects had spent the last few months blackmailing the victim after convincing him that he was responsible for the accident that left his son paralysed from the waist down; the evidence that the victim had been murdered was planted after the fact. However, although the investigation clears that suspect of murder, the inspector assures the victim's family that the blackmailer will be tried for a range of charges, including the blackmail, that will amount to the same sentence as though he was guilty of murder.
  • Degrassi. Constantly. The whole franchise:
    • Done part-way on Degrassi: The Next Generation. Every "high-risk behavior" has immediate consequences. A girl gets pregnant from the one time she has unprotected sex (this one actually is true—you can get pregnant or infected from even one instance of unprotected sex, but the moral ought to be "use a condom", not "don't have sex ever"). The most popular girl in the school swallows one pill of ecstasy, and in the resulting high she manages to lose all her friends (plus, she has to go into rehab, you know, to cure her rampant addiction). But the kids almost always get away with petty crime, like stealing school property or cheating a restaurant.
    • "Jagged Little Pill" (the Ecstasy episode) was relatively realistic. Did she royally screw up her life? Yes. Did she go to jail and/or suffer a permanently debilitating injury? No. Did the parents see the mess left over from the Wild Teen Party? Dunno; the episode ended before they got home.
    • Even writers have noticed this, as there is an increasing amount of Lampshade Hanging about it.
    • Word of God is that actions are required to have consequences, but the increasingly soap-operatic format has freed them from needing to portray the actions and consequences in the same episode.
    • In the original Degrassi Junior High, if you strike out on your own, you will get molested. Isn't that right, Stephanie and Wheels?
    • The Made-for-TV Movie Schools Out had a particularly egregious example, where if you don't have sex with your boyfriend, he'll cheat on you, and if you do, he already has.
    • All the way back in 1991, Dwayne lost his virginity to a girl out of his league... and got AIDS. Considering female-male transmission rates and the likelihood a white girl from Toronto would even have the disease at that time, abstinence-karma didn't just smack him, it beat him senseless. And then Joey beat him up too.
    • Before that, "Trust Me" (Season 1) had an A plot where Joey and the guys take Snake's parents' car. It was the A plot because of a very contrived effort to show consequences, and as a result, Spike getting kicked out of school for the duration of her pregnancy which had been built up to all season was shunted off into a B plot.
  • Josh from Drake & Josh fits this trope. Drake and/or Megan often get away with mischief, but Josh very much does not have that ability.
  • Happens in pretty much every episode of Everybody Hates Chris. Chris screws up, tries to fix/hide the mistake, gets caught, and pays for it. Though it's just as likely for him to get screwed over for doing the right thing.
  • Family Matters sometimes used this trope where Laura was concerned; many plots revolved around Laura doing something/being pressured into doing something wrong, and then coincidence punishes her, either by having something catastrophic happen or having her parents just happen to show up to catch her at it. In the Very Special Episode on gun violence, Laura's friend is shot in the arm as soon as Laura attempts to buy a pistol; in another, Laura buys a fake ID to go to a male strip club with her friends. It just happens to be on the same night her aunt and grandmother drag her mother to see the revue.
  • Has there ever been a Fawlty Towers plot that didn't blow up at the end?
    • Almost, once, in "The Kipper and the Corpse", following a guest dying, and Basil constantly trying to stop the guests seeing the body, he's confronted by dozens of angry guests who all demand an explanation for everything, in one of his few Crowning Moments of Awesome, he quickly declares that his wife, who has barely bothered to help him throughout the episode will answer all their complaints, then quickly escapes by hiding in a laundry basket which was being carried off, thus escaping his usual comeuppance and leaving Sybil to deal with it.
  • Frequently featured Frasier or Niles engaging in some minor act of selfishness or pettiness and ending up being humiliated after A Simple Plan has backfired horribly.
  • In spite of the fact that several of the secondary characters on Freaks and Geeks are total potheads with no anvilicious consequences, the one time that main character Lindsay smokes up, she totally freaks out like someone in a scene from Reefer Madness.
  • Game of Thrones: Bronn finally got a life on easy street set by Season 4 thanks to abandoning Tyrion. Come next season, he is back to being a grunt thanks to Jaime annulling his marriage, forcing him to work even messier and more dangerous jobs than when he was under Tyrion. It almost seems to make him regret not trying his chance against the Mountain. In the books, Jaime doesn't break his marriage and Bronn is more or less retired from the mercenary game, raising Lollys' bastard.
  • On The George Lopez Show, this was one of George's catchphrases. "I can't do NUTH-EEN!" He continues to use it occasionally on Lopez Tonight.
  • Glee manages to both subvert and play this straight. The episode that focuses on drinking? Everyone suffers minor consequences, but in general, the ending attitude is "we can't exactly stop teens from drinking, so let's sorta make them drink safe". But Laser-Guided Karma is in full force the one time that Quinn is shown texting in a car. She gets in an accident and is temporarily wheelchair-bound.
  • Jackson Stewart of Hannah Montana frequently incurs the full wrath of his father for infractions that would warrant, at most, a stern talking-to for his Easily Forgiven sister Miley.
  • On Home Improvement, when Jill doesn't feel like visiting with her Dad, she out-of-character makes up a white lie as an excuse for why she has to skip town and miss him. He dies. Naturally, her last words to him were another lie to get him off the phone.
    • When Jill buys a new sports car without Tim's help she forbids him to even touch it after he gives her a hard time for it. That doesn't stop him from hot-wiring it and taking it for a cruise. Of course, he gets stuck in traffic and a news crew covering the traffic jam gets a shot of The Toolman that prints on the front page of the Metro section the next day.
    • Similarly, when Tim gets a little too friendly (doesn't go beyond 'flirtation', but he later admits that the subconscious desire was probably there) with a female mechanic he hires to work on Brad's Mustang, a Red Light Camera catches him with her in the passenger seat and his hand suspiciously across her chest. Bonus points for the ticket arriving on their anniversary.
  • House of Anubis — Patricia seems to get in trouble for basically everything she does, even if it's something other characters do frequently.
  • iCarly has both played this straight (Federal freakin' agents bursting in when they try to hack the school computer!) and averted it (Live webcast from detention and the principal's a fan of their show!)
    • In the case of the latter, he was probably more concerned with the abusive Sadist Teacher — who fell into this trope after insulting the principal on live web, and got caught/in trouble five minutes later.
  • Arguably, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia derives a lot of its appeal from this; the characters are amongst the most horrible people on the planet, but they never succeed at anything.
  • On Craig Ferguson's run on The Late Late Show one of his recurring characters was Secretariat, a horse portrayed by two guys in a deliberately bad suit. Whenever Craig threw the slightest insult Secretariat's way the studio audience would instantly react very negatively, to the utter bewilderment of Craig. As he pointed out repeatedly, it's not like he's insulting a real horse and they never swarmed to Geoff's defense like that.
  • In a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode about underage drinking, not only do the kids end up in jail for underage consumption, two of them proceed to get into an offscreen drunk-driving accident and die. The worst part is that the one that wasn't driving was completely sober.
    • Though to be fair, they were drinking heavily and were also involved with a party where another teen died of alcohol poisoning, and the judge gave them several chances to clean up their act, only for them to blow every single one.
  • Leave It to Beaver: In the 1962 episode "Lumpy's Car Trouble," Wally and Beaver might have gotten away with them causing damage to the family car (the exhaust was damaged when Lumpy took a "shortcut") and having it repaired behind their parents' backs ... except Ward learned from a co-worker that he had seen the boys push the car and (unwittingly) ratted them out. In addition to telling them, in essence, that Big Brother Is Watching, Ward asks the boys about what happened and the boys, knowing he's on to them, are forced to confess. This page's trope and the Big Brother Is Watching tropes combine to remind the boys they will always have to be on their best behavior because someone might be watching.
  • Malcolm in the Middle — hoo boy. Very rarely do the boys get anything past Lois; she will almost always figure out exactly what they're up to. As Malcolm said once (as in reading a score), "Mom 62437, kids zero."
  • While nobody on Nashville (except Daphne and to an increasingly lesser extent Scarlett) counts as pure and innocent, no one has stuff backfire as frequently as Juliette. Whether it's the shoplifting scandal or her short marriage or her affair with a married man, you can count on her having to get blowback while the other characters somehow have to deal with less — especially Rayna (escaping blame from being in a potentially fatal car crash where she was the driver? Getting her voice back after much less time than you'd think? The whole Maddie thing? Only the lack of an official statement from Callie Khouri is keeping Miss Jaymes from being the Creator's Pet).
  • The opinion of the daughter on Necessary Roughness, that her mother comes down harder on her than on her brother when she gets caught acting up. May or may not be true, considering that her brother is more of a small-time con artist and Lothario — and is generally smarter about concealing his antics — while she does things like steal the car and crash into a restaurant.
  • The show Our House loves this trope. If the kids do anything wrong, they will get caught, one way or another. There is one double subversion. On a dare, David takes Gus's car for a joy ride around the block. After returning to the driveway, he finds a small but noticeable dent. After going to extraordinary lengths to (successfully) get the car fixed, he seemingly pulls it off. At the very end, however, Gus comments on how the dent that had been there for a couple of years was now mysteriously gone.
    • A near aversion takes place in another episode, where David leaves some dirty rags lying about in the basement. A few days later, the house catches fire, but quick thinking and the timely action of the fire department ensure that there is no serious damage and no injuries. Afterward, Gus tells the family that he doesn't want to know whose fault it was, as it might be simply too big for him to forgive.
  • In Pushing Daisies most of Ned's childhood was defined by this trope, particularly anything dealing with his gift, but also for just anything he did. This isn't really used for moralizing, but rather for Character Development to explain how closed off and timid he grew up.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Justice", the gang find themselves in a penal colony where the consequences of any immoral or criminal act committed whilst aboard the colony are exacted upon the criminal. Such as when Lister sets fire to the sheets, and his jacket catches fire. Or when Cat hits the crazed simulant and knocks himself out. Also an aversion, though, since the computer responsible for determining sentencing, which can read minds and see every crime you've ever committed, lets Lister go free "despite a number of petty criminal acts."
  • Saved by the Bell:
    • A single sip of beer renders our heroes incoherent and leads to a drunk driving accident. Note  Because, clearly, refilling a glass is unheard of. They'd have gotten away with it if only they'd stuck with their original "swerved to miss a dog" story. But no, they had to tell a different story to each set of parents specifically so their web of lies could unravel within the twenty-two minutes available. What.
    • "Jessie's Song", where Jessie has a full-on junkie meltdown after crashing from...caffeine pills. "Narm", indeed. (It was originally meant to be speed but was blocked due to the intended audience.)
  • In the Scrubs episode "My Dream Job", Turk and J.D. both uncharacteristically decide to loosen up and drink a few beers with an old college buddy while they're both on-call (drinking alcohol while on-call is a serious no-no for doctors), reasoning that they're only the backup on-call doctors—meaning that they'll only need to go into work in the unlikely event that the primary can't make it. By a monumental coincidence, the primary on-call doctor and the primary on-call surgeon both wind up incapacitated after colliding with each other in the hallway, resulting in both of them getting called in. Dr. Cox immediately smells the beer on their breath and furiously sends them home, deciding that they aren't fit to work.
  • 7th Heaven has a particularly spectacular track record for not letting anyone get away with anything. A recurring character had a son who resulted from the one time he had premarital sex. Possibly someone once got cancer from touching a cigarette. They make Flanders look like a badass Depraved Bisexual.
  • On Seinfeld, Elaine skips the boss's dinner party or whatever event and tells him she has to visit her father in the hospital. She is, in fact, going to the Yankees game with George and Kramer. When Kramer is hit by a foul ball, their picture is snapped and appears in the sports section the next day, which, of course, Elaine's boss never fails to read.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody lives on this trope.
    • London lies to her date's friend and says that Maddie is rich when they go on one double date. Suddenly the friend is apparently going to be staying in the city an extra day and Maddie is inexplicably invited to dinner with his parents… one day after meeting the guy.
    • The twins say she's staying in the Imperial Suite, which that very day just happens to be occupied by a famous wrestler.
    • Zack and Cody miss the bus and decide to skip school and go to the mall. Their mother just happens to decide to go shopping that day and Cody happens to win a contest to be in a music video filming that day. Their mother sticks around at the mall long enough to wander by the shoot and catch the twins.
    • Often subverted when Zack and Cody pull a massive prank on Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) while designing a long-sleeved very trendy glittering pretty in pink pajama shirt with the words "THE WORLD'S #1 VERY TRENDY PRINCESS IS HANNAH MONTANA!" sewn on, causing Robby Ray Stewart (Billy Ray Cyrus) to catch the twins.
  • A Taxi flashback episode shows a single taste of a "hash brownie" transforming straitlaced Harvard student James Caldwell into spaced-out hippie freak Jim Ignatowski.
  • On an episode of Two of a Kind, Kevin is convinced to call in sick at work and go to a ballgame instead. He wins a car because of this—and ends up on the big screen and the evening news. When his boss calls, the trope is revealed to be subverted; he was just asking to test drive the car.
  • Invoked on True Blood. The first time Jessica Hamby sneaks out to go to a friend's party is the night she gets abducted and turned into a vampire. However, being turned into a vampire by Bill Compton is arguably the best thing that ever happened to her and gives her the nerve to stand up to her abusive religious zealot of a father and defend her mother and little sister.
  • What I Like About You has Val lie to their Aunt Wanda that Holly is ill so they don't have to go to her house for Thanksgiving. Guess who shows up at the house checking on Holly.
  • On the American edition of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, everyone takes potshots at Colin Mochrie for being bald and/or Canadian, but in one game, when he makes a joke about Ryan Stiles' nose, the audience reacts negatively. After the game, Colin notes "Notice all the melon jokes, the bald jokes? I make *one* nose joke, it's OOOOOOOHH!!!"
  • Wizards of Waverly Place plays this with Alex. When she does get away with something, it's usually just something Played for Laughs.
    • Even more so with Justin, who even says in "Taxi Dance" that while Alex sometimes gets Easily Forgiven or rewarded rather than punished for the bad things she does, he never does.
  • Played for laughs in The Worst Week of My Life, in which even the smallest transgressions that protagonist Howard Steel commits are guaranteed to backfire on him in the most humiliating way possible at exactly the worst moment for him personally. For added 'hideously unfair suffering value', however, Howard can't even get away with things that he didn't do, or even that he did right, because that's just how it works.

  • Bloodhound Gang's "I Hope You Die" describes how its subject flips some guy the bird, and as a result ends up killing dozens of people in an accident and ends up molested by his psycho roommate in jail. Yeah...
  • From the days when it was always an automatic death sentence comes "She Thinks His Name Was John" from Reba McEntire. It tells the story of a young woman who was always careful with her sex life, but just once, at a party, she let her guard down... and ended up with full-blown AIDS.
  • Mark Chesnutt's 1996 song "Wrong Place, Wrong Time", where a young man and his trouble-plagued brother-in-law go to a seedy biker bar — hoping for a boys' night out, without knowledge of their wives (as they'd assuredly be in deep trouble if they were found to have gone out, much less merely rumored to have been out on the town) — and wind up in jail after a major brawl breaks out. (The brother-in-law had gotten into a fight with the bouncer after he was caught dancing with his (the bouncer's) wife.) The judge sets bail and, with no money between them to come close to covering the cost, concede they have no choice but to tell their wives and admit they were out on a boys' night out. The tone of "What in the world are we gonna tell our wives" implies neither one of them were allowed to go out that evening, or else.

  • In Live From Mount Olympus, Persephone is tired of merely trailing behind Demeter and painting flowers. When she breaks free from her mother's gaze to join Artemis and Athena for a picnic, of course, she's kidnapped.

    Video Games 

By Creator:

  • Some of the games made by Mat Dickie/MDickie, such as HARDtime... and The You Testament have this sort of thing. You can sit there and watch other characters beat the ever-loving crap out of each other, carry weapons, steal weapons, etc., but if you try to do this, you'll get caught. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
  • Sierra games can be just as bad.

By Title:

  • Near the end of Always Sometimes Monsters, no matter how careful you are, you get called to task for many of the choices you'd made up to that point after Casey reads your journal. Note that no matter what decisions you made, they will always find plenty to criticize you about.
  • The things in Cultist Simulator that will result in Notoriety include but are not limited to: almost all Cult Actions, talking to the wrong people, being at the club at the wrong time, incidents at work, using specific inspirations for paintings, locking your own cult members in the headquarter's cupboard or clearing empty ruins in another country. You need to take care of Notoriety before Suppression Bureau does, as just one card on a very bad roll can lead to you being sent to court, even if you haven't committed any crimes. It's implied that Suppression Bureau isn't above using supernatural means themselves to find potential threats.
  • At the Live House in EarthBound Beginnings, there's a woman who will offer to buy Ninten and friends (who are minors) a beer. Accept, and a police officer will immediately appear to haul you in to the station for underage drinking.
  • Done to a huge extent in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The guards quickly find out if you've committed even the smallest crime (in this case, let's say you stole a turnip from a shop); soon, other city guards are alerted about this armed and dangerous turnip thief. Even if your fine is only five gold, the guards will stop at nothing to apprehend you.
    • More to the point, the guards have x-ray vision, as you can be in the middle of someone's house, in their basement, with no one around. Breaking in and walking around is no problem, but the second you pick something up, the guards will run into the house, run down the stairs, and tell you to "Stop thief!" …unless you are crouching, which somehow makes you invisible. Oh, and a guard can see into your pack and identify stolen goods when you chat with them, and somehow stolen goods are distinguishable from regular goods. Yes, it appears that every time someone buys a carrot, they etch their name into it.
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim steps it up with what may be Artificial Brilliance: you may think you've gotten away with stealing that turnip, as the shopkeeper didn't react, you have zero bounty, and the guards aren't hunting you down... but then you meet some well-armed mercenaries later in your travels, hired to teach you a lesson about stealing. If that's not enough? The Dark Brotherhood gets a contract on you too! People can also put a bounty on your head even if they're dead.
    • Early versions of the game had what may be the most extreme version of this trope yet encountered, thanks to a bug. You could slaughter an entire village and steal everything not nailed down. But bounty hunters still come after you for your crimes, because they received a bounty from an avenging chicken.
    • Speaking of which, the same early versions also played this trope to an unbelievable extent, even more than in Oblivion. Eight out of ten crimes would get an instant bounty on your head, even when there is seemingly nobody around. And, in another example of a bug, it was later discovered that chickens, dogs, and even your own horse were being flagged by the game's engine as eligible witnesses!
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3 has plenty of this. Not only will you have Regulators hunting you down if you do bad things, but all of the NPCs are psychic enough to know it too, even if they don't immediately turn hostile. For example, if you kill everyone in Arefu, Lucy West in Megaton will still say something to the effect of "I heard about your little killing spree in Arefu. Get away from me!", even if there was no one around to witness it. Speaking of Megaton, decide to nuke it and everyone, including James, will somehow know it was you. And of course, there's Three Dog, who always manages to find out whenever you take the evil option in a quest. You can't get away with being good either, as the Talon Company mercs will be hired to hunt you.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, just having a "Shunned" reputation with either of the major factions is enough for them to send hit squads after you. In the case of the Legion, the squad will run up to you at a certain location and announce "The Caesar has marked you for death!", and sometimes they immediately spawn hostile without warning. As above, they are psychic and will immediately all know of your wrongdoing.
    • Killing high-ranking faction NPC's, even in Sneak mode with a silenced weapon, will automatically alert the rest of the faction and turn them hostile.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • In a subversion, you can do all sorts of crazy stuff and not be punished, so long as you do it in moderation. The police start taking action at one star, but a quick ride around the block fixes that. Hit two stars, and only heading to a Pay'N'Spray (or other options) will get rid of them. Otherwise, they'll just keep chasing you, and every time you respond with force they'll up the ante. By the time you cap out the wanted meter, you will be hounded by the military in their instant death collision tanks.
    • Played totally straight in Grand Theft Auto IV, where the police will go batshit fucking insane trying to catch you for a fender bender. Also falls into Selective Enforcement, because Niko can get run over all day long and the cops won't care.
    • It gets rather ridiculous in Grand Theft Auto V. In that game, killing one person will result in the cops speeding to your position immediately. Even if you killed that person with a silenced pistol in the middle of the desert. In fact, the same happens if you're in the middle of a forest, no one around you, and you simply fire a single silenced pistol shot into the ground.
    • Also from GTA V: all of Trevor Phillips's carefully planned heists end up amounting to a big old load of nothing, even when they succeed. He manages to steal cargo from a heavily guarded freighter belonging to a private militia, only to relinquish the score because it was a bloody nuke and selling it would make him and his friends enemies of the state. He manages to hijack a plane carrying military hardware, only to have to ditch it when it gets shot down. He manages to wreck a train carrying valuable loot, only for his partner to steal one thing that he plans to give away to a man Trevor had wronged by attacking him and stealing his wife. Even in GTA Online, he pulls off a massive theft of drugs, only for the person he planned to sell them to reveal he's with the DEA.
  • In the Hellsinker universe, karma is a very real force of nature and misdeeds were punished swiftly and harshly. In order to free humanity from the shackles of karma, the Garland system was built in order to control its flow. However, this comes to bite humanity in the ass, since four children were sacrificed so their spirits would power the system, and they grew vengeful at humanity. Eventually, they caused the shutdown of the system. Karmic Death indeed.
  • Many Nancy Drew games include some really stupid, anvilicious examples of this, particularly in regards to safety tips. Forget to turn the iron off after using it, and you'll immediately burn down the hotel. Forget to click on your helmet every time you ride a bike, and you'll immediately wipe out and get a concussion. Better wear your life jacket when you get into that boat, or else you're immediately shown a spinning headline about a tragic drowning. And so on. And then it gets stretched to the point of self-parody. "After you've been knocked out, tied up and left in a burning shed, be sure to put out the fire!" (Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake)
  • Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners: All Crimes Are Equal in the underground ruins, and the penalty for any crime is death. In two cases, the victims are judged for crimes they committed outside of the pyramid:
    • Sae Otogi is secretly a drug runner, which gets exposed when another member of the tour group finds out and attempts to Blackmail them into becoming their latest victim. When Ayuto interrupts, the assailant claims they were making a "citizen's arrest", then flees right before the pyramid attempts to enact its judgment upon their victim.
    • Poor Yoko shoplifted something before their trip to Egypt. Their guilty conscience combined with the horrors of seeing others violently judged spurs them to start panicking — and if Ayuto doesn't figure out how to save them, they suffer a particularly brutal, violent demise.
  • In Rune Factory Frontier, if you confess to another woman while married, your wife will walk in and beat you up, leaving you with one HP and no RP. Also, her FP and LP will be set to zero, and she'll make you crappy meals.
  • The third Saints Row game toys mercilessly with this idea. You have two tracks of 'Want You Dead' that can be run up at the same time (one for the multi-gang Syndicate, the other for the police/military) and early on, all you can do to shake unwanted attention is run back to a building or shop you own to lay low. Later on, things turn the complete opposite direction when you unlock the 'Notoriety Wipe' options. Suddenly, getting the law off your tail is as simple as the Boss pulling out his/her cellphone and asking good friend Mayor Burt Reynolds (yes, that Burt Reynolds) to call off the dogs.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, you'll often see gangsters get into knife fights on the streets and the same prostitutes will walk around the town and not get the slightest bit of notice from the police. On the other hand, if you attack someone, it will immediately mean that the police will show up and try to kill you. Apparently, their apathy got patched.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption, your party of vampires — including The Grotesque Nosferatu NPC — could walk around in full body armor with assault weapons and rocket launchers through New York and London(!) without any interference from the ever-present police. But the second you "kiss" someone's neck (i.e. drink blood), a battalion of SWAT officers descends on you like a rain of hammers.
  • WarioWare: Touched!: Done to a rather comedic extent in Wario's story, where after being warned to not eat any sweets, after some dental surgery, he does just that, immediately gets all teeth damaged, apparently has a seizure, flies about fifty feet into the air, smashes through the dentist's roof, and lands in the chair again.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ace Attorney, the prosecutors seldom get in trouble for using false evidence or witnesses with unreliable/false testimony, but the defense attorneys tend to suffer consequences. In the backstory of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Phoenix is disbarred when he unwittingly presents a forged diary page that would prove that the victim was still alive after meeting with his murderer. Meanwhile, in The Great Ace Attorney, Ryunosuke unwittingly ends up getting an acquittal for a murderer with evidence that had been tampered with and the testimony of a witness who lied under oath, and is suspended from practicing British law when the truth comes out. Compare how the prosecutors generally get off with a warning or at worst, a penalty, for doing the same thing.

    Web Animation 
  • Many of the trouble-making kids in the infamous "Grounded" videos made on GoAnimate fall under this. It doesn't matter if there is no possible way for the kid to be caught in the act, or if they have gone to many measures to ensure they won't be caught afterward. Someway or somehow someone will find out what they did and tell their parents, who will then ground them for a long time.

    Web Comics 
  • Sleepless Domain: Following an argument, Tessa takes a single night off to show her teammates how much they need her. She even changes her mind and goes out to join them after all shortly after they've headed off to go fight. But as a result, all but one of her teammates is brutally murdered, and Tessa herself winds up depowered, sacrificing her magic in order to save the last survivor.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time has Ice King, whose many, many Pet the Dog moments can't save him from his Artifact of Doom corrupting him back into a Yandere at every turn for the simple crime of being curious about a valuable antique and loving his wife. He then suffers as a Butt-Monkey Harmless Villain simply because he wants to have a wife who loves him like his old one did. This is all by virtue of him being the antagonist, and therefore not allowed to be happy. There's even an episode where he stalked Jake and Finn just to see what it meant to have fun. When the episode ends, he falls asleep in a hug with Finn and Jake saying "I'm...still...not...happy..." This is Played for Drama and for laughs in equal measure, so it may qualify as a Deconstructed Trope, and it's clear he's meant to be sympathetic. And you would think finally being rid of said Aritfact Of Doom would mean he's finally thrown a bone, right? Wrong.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, "Party at Neutron's": Jimmy almost gets away with throwing a party while his parents are out for the night, but then gets in trouble when he forgot the Velociraptor in the closet that Sheen had accidentally brought to the party with the time machine.
    Hugh: Um, Sugar Booger? How long have we had a raptor in the closet?
    (Raptor roars; Hugh screams)
    Jimmy: I can fix that! I hope...
    Hugh: Bad dinosaur! Bad! Okay, that's it, out of the house! OW! Ow! I'm glad you're extinct! You're mean! AAAAAAAAH!!!
    (Raptor chases Hugh, closing the episode)
  • The All-New Superfriends Hour had an explicit version of this in the Wonder Twins solo adventures. Most stories were titled with some unacceptable teenage activity like "Drag Race" or "Hitchhiking," which featured teenagers engaged in it at the protest of their sensible friends who are forced to alert the Wonder Twins to deal with the problem. Sure enough, the offending teenagers soon find themselves in deadly peril as a direct result of their misbehaviour and have to be rescued by the Twins.
  • Arthur: Zig-zagged in "Arthur's Big Hit". Arthur is disciplined for hitting D.W. in retaliation for stealing and breaking his model airplane, and his friends also voice disapproval when they learn about the incident. Yet D.W. is never disciplined on-screen for breaking said plane, and when Binky punches Arthur to prove how tough he is to his Jerkass friends, Arthur's parents treat it as justified because it teaches Arthur that hitting people is wrong. Somehow.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King", when Temple Fugate, before becoming the Clock King, breaks his schedule so he can be more relaxed. Notice that when Fugate was at the park at 3:05, instead of in his office as he had planned, he was very nervous and waiting for certain doom. It's only when he dared to relax that the Disaster Dominoes that would ruin his life started falling.
  • Done anviliciously in Ben 10, where Ben and Kevin break into a bottom-rung warehouse with a third-rate security system containing retail shipments of a new video game, only to have police in full SWAT gear arrive in helicopters and cruisers a mere thirty seconds later, and immediately open fire with tear gas and bullets. This leads to a police chase through city streets, involving gratuitous disregard for the safety of innocents on the part of the police. Obviously, that must be a really Serious Business video game.
  • In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, any time a character tries to do something behind another character's back or disobeys orders, the most dramatic, most impossible, most chaotic thing the writers can think of will happen. Legions of bounty hunters will try to annihilate the guilty party's best friend, the protagonists will wind up in the villain's clutches, Star Command being taken over by giant pants...
  • From the animated movie Capture the Flag:
    Amy: I break one rule in my whole life, and I end up in a rocket heading to the moon...YES!!!!!
  • In one episode of Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot, Bedtime warns Funshine not to stay up all night, or he might get sick. Sure enough, once morning arrives, Funshine is instantly beset with an illness.
  • Danny Phantom:
    • In The Ultimate Enemy, the act of him cheating on a test, has the repercussions of Danny becoming one of the evilest ghosts around by fusing with Vlad's ghostly half, killing most of his family and friends, grievously harming the other ghosts, and generally making the future pretty fucked up. Sure, it gets undone thanks to Time Travel, but all this happened because he cheated on a test.
    • They did the same thing one or two seasons earlier when he started finally defending himself from the bullies by using his powers to make a fool out of them. It led to Poindexter manifesting and getting on his case about it, eventually pulling a "Freaky Friday" Flip on him to trap him in Poindexter's own experiences of being bullied. Nickelodeon really has a thing against heroes using their powers to get ahead in life. Just ask Jimmy Neutron or Timmy Turner...
  • In "Doug's Math Problem", Doug fails a math test and his parents receive a school letter. His numerous attempts to see what it says first are thwarted. The school alarm system goes off when his hacker friends try to see what the school computer says. When he tries to open the letter, he cuts a corner off when he tries to use scissors, cuts himself with a letter opener, and spills liquid white and ink. When he uses steam to pry it open, it makes the ink run. Just as he is about to read it, his dad comes home and he decides to confess everything.
    • It's later subverted when Patti shows up at the door - the letter was just telling them that she had been selected as his new tutor.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy barely get away with anything. Most of the other kids get away with bad acts most of the time, even when there is not a precipitating provocation.
    • Eddy especially. The closest he got to avoiding karma was in "A Fistful of Ed", by avoiding a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown by Jimmy. But he still gets punished when Kevin steals his jacket.
    • Even when they try to let Eddy get away, he will ultimately blow his chances. In "Truth or Ed", he publishes a bunch of tabloid lies about the kids under the name of "Bobby Blabby". Just as Eddy could sneak out with the money he has earned, Ed mispronounces Bobby Blabby. So Eddy blurts out the correct term and, yes, blows his own cover.
  • One episode of Family Guy has Peter skipping work to go to a baseball game. His boss was also at that ball game.
    • "Breaking Out Is Hard to Do" has Lois develop a shoplifting addiction until Brian makes her come to her senses. She is unfortunately caught by Joe before she can return the goods.
  • Fillmore!: Not even diplomatic immunity can keep you safe from Cornelius Fillmore.
  • Futurama episode "Three Hundred Big Boys". In the end, everyone but Bender has learned an important lesson. When he points it out, the cops show up to arrest him for his theft of a valuable cigar, and he triumphantly cries out "Alright, closure!" However, considering Bender usually gets away with his crap...
  • The various Public Service Announcements for G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (where Knowing is half the battle) usually had a Joe show up right when a kid was about to do something bad, stupid, or dangerous. Even when, on later consideration, said soldier really had no business being in the area.
  • Invader Zim has Dib who, being the Only Sane Man, sees it as his duty to constantly keep an eye on Zim and try to thwart his world domination at every single turn.
  • Kaeloo: Used as a plot point in Episode 229, where Rules hands out severe punishments for minor infractions such as Quack-Quack eating too much yogurt and Mr. Cat looking at the answer key for a crossword instead of figuring out the answer for himself.
  • The Legend of Korra does this quite a bit with Mako. Mako has a bad tendency, when caught in a lie or omission of truth, to try and shift the blame on another party. More often than not, he's called on it almost as soon as the lie comes out of his mouth.
  • In one episode of the less-than-well-remembered cartoon Life with Louie, the title character steals a single piece of candy from a store and is informed that the following night's inventory check will make sure that the store owners know exactly how many were stolen and whose parents to call. Might have been a BS scare tactic, but it's still Anvilicious in its use of this trope.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012) is often subverted, as Blythe Baxter (the teen protagonist) rescues the pets from a runaway truck (while driving) in which Roger grounded her and takes her cell phone away. Unfortunately, the LPS pets recovered her cell phone to film a reaction to the aforementioned incident and show it to her dad that it is a big mistake and forgives her for taking it away, thus joining him at the Downtown City picnic. This, however, made other people so pissed off and throw things out the window unless, of course, you're dumb enough to know that young girls (like Blythe Baxter) can't drive at the age of 13 until they turn 16 and get their driver's license. Hasbro thinks it is a major joke because they couldn't get away with nuthin' at all.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, any kind of gaff or rule-breaking on Spike's part will result in the whole world and all living creatures retaliating without fail. Even things that aren't bad at all, or things other characters would get away with, or sometimes even when he legitimately tries to do good.note 
  • Ninjago: In the series 5 opener, the ninja are roped into plugging Master Wu's new tea shop on the provision they don't use their powers. When they do, it's at the same time Lloyd gets possessed, causing their powers to stop working, humiliating them (and in the case of Zane, causing him to fall from mid-air). Trying to warn Wu about the situation causes them to reveal to him they broke their promise.
  • Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat:
    • Invoked in the episode "Sagwa's Good Deed". Sagwa gives away her portion of dinner to Fam and his family, who don't have anything to eat. But since she misses dinner because of it, Mama Miao is pissed at her. While she does forgive Sagwa when she learns, she still overreacted and makes sure Sagwa knows the importance of keeping a promise.
    • Seemingly averted in "How Sagwa Got Her Colors". Sagwa accidentally gets ink on the magistrate's rules and worries she'll get in trouble for it, but the magistrate ends up liking the new rule and praises her. Her mother, however, seems to feel less positive.
      Mama Miao: But she also did something she shouldn't have!
  • In its early days, one of the initial controversies that arose from The Simpsons was how rarely Bart received punishment for his misbehavior.
    • Played straight in "Marge Be Not Proud" where Bart is goaded into shoplifting by Nelson and Jimbo. He is immediately grabbed by the store detective, banned from the Try N' Save, and later publicly outed and shamed.
    • "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" has Bart ditching school after the school day has been lengthened, with Skinner in hot pursuit. He gets away and witnesses an accident that later implicates Mayor Quimby's nephew Freddy. He later testifies on the stand to clear his name, which proves to Skinner that he indeed played hooky. Skinner, petty as he is, gives him three months detention — "Wait... make that four months detention."
    • Played the straightest in "Itchy & Scratchy Land". He whips out his "Li'l Bastard Kit" and fires a smoke bomb at the hapless mascot. He laughs it up... and then seconds later, a security guard grabs him by the arm, handcuffs him, and throws him in the holding cell (meeting Homer, who got arrested for fighting with a costumed staff member). It gets worse when, after things start going crazy in the park, the family tries to get on a rescue which is the previously-offended mascot, who tells them to enjoy Hell before kicking him and Homer away.
    • Also played straight in "Marge in Chains", where Marge, having a bad day, forgets to pay for one item at the Kwik-E-Mart, after having paid for all of the rest of a big basket of items. She is immediately arrested and sentenced to 30 days of imprisonment.
      • When Apu starts to gloat after Marge's sentence that his store is now safe, we cut to Snake towing the entire Kwik-E-Mart to Mexico.
    • In "Bart the Mother", Nelson pressured Bart into shooting a bird with a BB gun. Bart attempted to miss it, but he ended up hitting it because Nelson didn't tell him the sight was crooked.
    • "Double, Double, Boy in Trouble" implies that Bart became the delinquent he is in utero after Marge ingested a single sip of alcohol. To be more specific, she was watching the mayor christen a ship and a drop of champagne flew into her mouth.
      Marge: That was unforgivable.
  • Played With a few times in South Park:
    • In the episode "Toilet Paper", a guilt-ridden Kyle panics at the prospect of actually getting away with a prank.
    • In "Cartmanland", Kyle sickens and almost dies out of spiritual suffering over seeing Cartman get a totally undeserved windfall until the episode's end plays the Aesop straight.
    • Subverted in "My Future Self 'n Me", where Stan touches a joint to throw it away and his future self arrives to warn him that drugs have destroyed his life. It turns out that Stan's future self is just an actor that his parents have hired to scare him straight. The ruse does more harm than good, and ultimately Stan insists that his parents just give him the realistic picture. The show's creators were inspired to do the episode after seeing a poster that claimed that smoking marijuana supports terrorism.
    • In "Christian Rock Hard", the boys download a few songs illegally and are, within moments, raided by a SWAT team.
  • Plankton is the only character in SpongeBob SquarePants who can't seem to get away with anything. This is justifiable when he's up to evil schemes, but sometimes it's just plain unfair, with the most jarring case being "One Coarse Meal". Even Squidward has gotten off scot-free with some things.
    • The only time Plankton got away with something was in "Someone's in the Kitchen with Sandy", where he got away with stealing Sandy's fur and got her arrested for "public nudity".
    • Nobody can ever get away with littering in Bikini Bottom. Even if said littering is having your statue melted by a stench.
  • Sweet Sea starts with Sweet Sea briefly shirking her royal duties to play water polo, and her father's none too pleased.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures parodied the above, in which Buster, Plucky, and Hamton all got drunk off of a single beer (which they shared, so it would have really been more like a third each, making the plot even more ridiculous), and then proceeded to demonstrate the dangers of drunk driving by driving a car off a cliff.
    • Lampshaded twice. At the beginning of the episode, Hamton protests that Buster's insistence that they drink his dad's beer is wildly out of character. "I know," replies Buster, "But in this episode, we're showing the evils of alcohol." It's lampshaded again at the end when it's revealed the characters did not really die from the car accident and that the entire half hour was the result of Executive Meddling. With the serious issues tackled, next week they can go back to starring in a funny cartoon.
    • Finally, in a meta twist, the episode itself was later banned from Nickelodeon's line-up because parents complained about both the subject matter (underage drinking) AND the way the show handled the issue (as a self-aware parody.)
  • Inverted in The Venture Brothers: Henchman 24 puts on his seat belt while sitting in a parked car. It gets him killed.
    • In the episode "A Party for Tarzan", Rusty "borrows" the Blue Morpho's suit from the tailor shop. He ends up getting chewed out and charged a huge amount for getting grenadine on it and almost getting killed when the Guild mistake him for the Blue Morpho and try to snipe him. Also subverted when it turns out that the suit is bullet-proof, thus saving his life when he is shot.
  • What About Mimi?:
    • Subverted in the first episode "Second Honeymoon". Mimi's older brother Jason throws a Wild Teen Party in the house without permission while the parents are away. The parents never find out, but during the party Jason is treated like crap by his guests and ultimately rolled up in a carpet and shoved in a closet.
    • Also subverted in "The Big Sleepover". Mimi attempts to get away with throwing a slumber party by having it in the treehouse instead, but when the girls accidentally blow out the power by plugging in too many devices and try to get to the fuse box, they're caught by Mimi's parents who were also going to the fuse box. Mimi is almost punished, as her parents think she was having her slumber party in the house, but Mimi clears things up and her parents let her have her slumber party in the house.


Video Example(s):


Michael DeSanta

Alone in the desert for miles around, Michael still draws the Cops to him just by setting up a beer bottle as a target to shoot at.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / CantGetAwayWithNuthin

Media sources: