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"What does a guy have to do to get nicked in this town? What does a man have to do to get some attention 'round here?"
Tez "technically you could call me a serial killer" On Toast, KateModern: The Last Work

A character wants to get in trouble, either for their own reasons (such as enjoying the punishment or to get access to a prison) or to frame someone else. This trope is a combo inversion of Can't Get Away with Nuthin' and Selective Enforcement.

The first form of this trope is often found in Doppelgänger, shapeshifting, and body-switcher stories. A character looks exactly like their archenemy or rival. Instead of moping or trying to revert, they immediately plan to ruin their enemy's life by getting into all sorts of trouble for which the original will be punished. May also occur in a non-fantastic situation, where the character is never seen, but (unsuccessfully) tries to frame the other.

In the second form of the trope, reminiscent of a Springtime for Hitler plot, a character wants to be punished in order to escape a worse fate. Perhaps they want to be sent to bed without a disgusting dinner, or maybe a homeless person would rather go to jail than starve or freeze to death outside.

Unfortunately for the story's focus, every single thing they do is appreciated by the intended victims, from telling them their hat looks stupid ("What? Oh! I hadn't realized I'd put on the wrong hat this morning!") to burning down their house ("Thank you! That house was full of crappy artwork insured for well more than it was worth! I can finally buy medicine for my poor children, and a house that doesn't have asbestos leaking from the ceiling!"). This even happens when the character would typically get in trouble with the victims for merely imagined slights. The gratefulness is usually in direct proportion to the heinousness of the misdeed. Either that, or the character is typically so lawful and good that the idea of them actually doing something bad is so unthinkable to everyone else that they immediately dismiss the possibility that it's true, and the bad thing is promptly blamed on whatever unlucky schmuck happens to be nearby. They had to have done it, it's the only explanation that makes sense!

A twist on this that's usually done in comedy situations is when the character keeps trying to get in trouble by doing big misdeeds and failing, but eventually commits a small one by accident (jaywalking and littering are common examples) and then gets what they wants.

Occasionally the character will find that the person they are impersonating is the Token Evil Teammate, so anything cruel that they do comes off as nicer than usual. May overlap with Poke the Poodle. See also Get into Jail Free and Karma Houdini.

This plot can be tweaked by having the characters' opponents realize what he is attempting and seek to frustrate him, preventing him from being arrested, or making sure to remove the very point of why he wants to be in prison.

Contrast Unintentionally Notorious Crime.

Examples of the first type:

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    Film — Live Action 
  • In Angel on My Shoulder the soul of gangster Eddie Kagle is placed in the body of Judge Frederick Parker by the devil, with instructions to destroy Judge Parker's reputation. However, everything Eddie tries ends up making him look better.

  • El Goonish Shive: the first arc involving Ellen (Elliot's misguided Opposite-Sex Clone). She wanted to get Elliot in trouble at school, but threatening bullies didn't result in any punishment, insulting the principal caused him to realize the insults were accurate, and trying to pick an inappropriate topic of discussion when the topic wasn't inappropriate enough just led to a situation that was overwhelmingly embarrassing for Ellen instead.
  • League of Super Redundant Heroes: Bad Good Girl seethes at how great her alter ego Good Girl's rep has gotten and decides to do something to ruin it. So she beats up some random happy-looking guy on the street.
    Good Girl: Turns out he was a wanted serial killer! The Mayor is giving me a medal tomorrow!

    Western Animation 
  • Happened on the "Freaky Friday" Flip episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius. Jimmy and Cindy failed each other's tests and then tried to damage each other's reputations.
  • One episode of American Dragon: Jake Long featured Jake and his sister Haley swapping bodies. While waiting for a chance to undo it, Jake tried to destroy her good reputation while she tried to build him a good reputation he'd not like.
  • Not a mystical or lookalike version, but often in Baby Looney Tunes and similar spinoffs, one character (usually Sylvester or Daffy) would try to frame another character (Bugs or Tweety Bird, respectively) without being seen. Usually, this would be seen as a misguided yet heartfelt attempt at kindness, such as planting a tree in the middle of the living room rug on what just happened to be Arbor Day.
  • Danny Phantom: The only reason Danny ever overshadows people, aside from information gathering.

Examples of the second type:

     Audio Drama 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who drama Doing Time (part of The Demons of Red Lodge and Other Stories), the Doctor gets arrested, and Nyssa tries to get arrested as well in order to get into the prison. She steals a bracelet from a jewelry stall, but the stall's owner turns out to have stolen all his wares anyway, so he's arrested and she's released. Then she tries breaking into a warehouse but manages to choose the only empty one on the estate. When she is arrested, it's because she was framed.

    Comic Books 
  • Both types are a fairly common plot in The Beano, such as Dennis the Menace disguising himself as Walter and pulling pranks to try and get him into trouble, or Roger the Dodger trying to get himself grounded in order to escape revenge from the last set of people he's pranked.
    • One Oor Wullie strip has him reading The Beano (also published by DC Thompson) and deciding to emulate Dennis the Menace, but every time he tries to pull off a prank, it turns out to be beneficial (such as a water pistol attack missing and watering his mum's flowers). By the end, his parents are asking him why he can't be this helpful all the time.
  • One Lucky Luke comic has the Daltons try to break into a maximum security prison where they think a huge treasure is buried. When they see how heavily defended it is (Gatling guns and all) they instead try to get arrested, not knowing that it's actually used as a base of operations by the corrupt mayor, arranging for dangerous criminals to be sent there to work for him, so he always lets them off with a scolding and a pat on the cheek (Averell liked it). And when the Daltons finally break in, it turns out the idea of treasure was never there to begin with: their cellmate told them about it so as to get rid of their snoring.

    Comic Strips 
  • Sometimes given as an explanation for Wally's behaviour in Dilbert. He knows that his severance package would be greater than his future wages, so he's trying to get fired. The company know this as well, so they just put up with him. This is based on an actual colleague of Scott Adams at Pacific Bell.
  • At the beginning of a weeklong arc in FoxTrot, Roger declared that he was going to take Jason golfing after school the following day, never mind that Jason was clearly utterly uninterested in the game. The final panel of the Monday comic that week showed Ms. O'Malley, Jason's teacher, on the receiving end of a hailstorm of paper darts, yelling "Jason Fox, are you trying to get detention!?" (His scheme failed.)
  • In a 2020 Gasoline Alley arc, a family of thieves break out of prison and start work on a new con. When it doesn't work out they break back in, but find out their sentence is over. After this, they try robbing a grocery to get back in, but the storekeeper just feels sorry for them.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In "The Clouds," Soapy's attempts to get himself arrested so he can spend the winter in a warm jail cell are continually thwarted. He tries vandalism, petty theft, and playing the caddish masher, all to no avail and at times resulting in his receiving Amusing Injuries.
  • In The Dark Lady Tonks, Tonks repeatedly fails at getting recognized as a dark witch because people keep mistaking her various criminal activities for good deeds (like trying to kill someone with a reducto to the head, only for the guy to turn out to be a death eater who himself was trying to assassinate Amelia Bones).
  • The Final Fantasy VII fanfiction The Zor's Pizza Chronicles has a sequence in which the main characters decide to die and go to Hell because there's a creature there that can be used to revive Aeris/th. In order to get there, they need to do something bad first before dying, but Cloud finds that everything he tries backfires - for example, snuffing out Cosmo Candle at Cosmo Canyon, only to be congratulated by a parent whose kids were always getting burnt by the flames.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • American Psycho, both the book and the movie. Patrick Bateman commits a series of heinous crimes including chasing a hooker with a chainsaw, going on a shooting spree, blowing up several police cruisers, and hiding in his office as a helicopter searches for the perp. While hiding, he phones his lawyer and confesses to everything, but later on, nothing has come of this. He meets his lawyer, who laughs the whole thing off and mistakes him for someone else. Bateman becomes angry (who had just called "Bateman" spineless, after all, Patrick Bateman couldn't pull off a murder, let alone about 20), informs the lawyer that he IS Bateman, and insists the crimes actually happened. He is apparently saved again when the lawyer informs him he had dinner with someone he supposedly killed just a few weeks ago, tells Bateman he no longer finds this funny, and leaves. Bateman slinks down in his chair and delivers a speech about how there are no more barriers to cross, etc. In both the book and the movie, Bateman is shown to suffer from hallucinations and other psychotic (duh) episodes. It is left unclear whether he really does embody this trope, with the reason being that everyone is so interchangeable to each other that they can't notice when someone dies, or whether he imagined the whole thing.
  • In An American Werewolf in London, the titular werewolf realizes what he is and tries to get thrown in jail for the night, to no avail.
  • The main plot of Bamboozled is an example of this trope. The main character is a Black producer who wants out of his job at a television studio. So he creates the most racist show possible called the Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show, hoping he'll get fired. Instead of the show offending people, it becomes a huge hit making the producer rich, much to his shock and disappointment.
  • The protagonist of Cemetery Man has a job that involves shooting zombies in the head when they rise from the graveyard where he works. By accident, one day he kills someone who wasn't already dead. Nobody believes him when he tries to come clean to the cops. The entire last act of the movie is him performing more and more depraved acts in a desperate existential attempt to write his own destiny. The denials from the authorities as to his guilt get more and more bizarre.
  • Played for Laughs in Chopper as mass murderer Mark Reade confesses to shooting a man in self-defense to the police, and brings in the murder weapon. When the police don't believe him, he claims that he has "Never been as insulted in his whole life". He later laments that he used to be a dangerous criminal and now can't even get arrested.
  • HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami: Pablito is trying to get thrown in jail to join with Dan Geraldo and help him escape. However, when he pretends to steal an old woman's bag a few meters away from policemen, the corrupt cops aren't paying attention and he just gets a few cane strikes for his troubles.
  • Played with, briefly, in Last Action Hero. The newly self-promoted Big Bad gets his hands on a magical ticket that lets him escape his movie into the "real" world. Soon after, he sees two kids mugging, possibly killing, a third to steal his shoes. Befuddled by this (and the fact that they weren't instantly arrested like in the Troperiffic movie he came from) he goes to a nearby garage and shoots the mechanic. Then twice more. Then loudly shouts through the streets of New York, "I have murdered a man and would like to confess!" Someone yells back "SHUT UP, we're trying to sleep!" Cue Aside Glance and an instantaneously hatched diabolical scheme.
  • In Laughter in Paradise (and its 1970 remake Some Will, Some Won't), Captain Russell has to spend 28 days in jail in order to inherit 50,000 pounds. He makes numerous attempts to get arrested for minor offences and fails in all of them. For example, he very obviously shoplifts only for a pickpocket to steal the loot off him seconds before he's nabbed by the store detectives.
  • Played for Laughs in The New Guy, as Diz constantly tries to get expelled from his school so he can get a fresh start at a new one, but the guidance counselor is a Hippie Teacher, so he never actually gets in trouble... until he breaks a mop in front of the Principal, who expels him immediately for vandalizing school property.
  • In The Noose Hangs High, Abbott and Costello try to commit a crime to Get into Jail Free. It doesn’t out work so well because they target the wrong people (e.g. stealing something from a guy who stole it himself).
  • That Man from Rio: Adrian rescues his girlfriend Agnes when she's abducted in Paris and spirited away to Rio, where she drags him into an adventure with one hair's-breadth situation after another. As they're driving to Brasilia in their underwear (getting caught in a fierce storm shortly before) he has enough and pulls into a police station. He turns himself in, running off a list of offenses — entering their country without a passport, using a plane ticket he stole from an old pensioner, getting into fights with several people, including policemen, indecently dressed, and driving a stolen car — but as he speaks French the policeman doesn't understand a word. Adrian throws his hands up and exclaims "Nothing — just Rio and Brasilia!" and the policeman cheerfully points the way. Back on the road, he mutters "I should take up crime!"
  • In Three O'Clock High, Jerry tries to avert a fight with a bully by getting himself suspended. His efforts to offend his English Lit teacher backfire when she falls for him

  • An odd Jewish story/joke has a dead man turned away from Heaven on the grounds that he's never sinned, which the system wasn't designed to cope with. He's returned to Earth and given one day to commit a sin so that he can get past the Pearly Gates. Unwilling to do anything really evil, he wanders around in increasing desperation until finally a woman propositions him. They sleep together, but in the morning he freezes in terror when she tells him he did "such a good deed last night."
  • In a joke from Communist Eastern Europe, a man is so desperate he tries to get into prison. At first, he tries by stealing bread from a (state-run) bakery — but the employees just pity him, knowing well enough how much it sucks to be hungry. Then he goes to a bookshop and steals the collected works of Marx and Engels — but the employees are glad to finally get rid of those doorstops. Now he is so desperate he walks into a party meeting and shouts: "Down with Communism!" After which he gets reprimanded: "Are you crazy? Can you imagine what would have happened to you if there was a single real Communist in here?"

  • The Book Thief has Liesel blow up in outrage at Ilsa Hermann when she tells her she can no longer afford to send her laundry out for Rosa to clean. After Liesel yells at Ilsa, she feels terrible about it and decides to tell Rosa what she's done in hopes of getting punished. Much to her frustration, Rosa (who is usually a very strict disciplinarian) tells Liesel she doesn't believe she'd say such horrible things. The narration notes that Liesel would have rather gotten a beating.
  • In the O. Henry short story "The Cop and the Anthem", Soapy the bum wants to spend the winter in jail rather than on the street, but can't get arrested for anything. That is, until the end of the story, where he decides to get a job just before his arrest for loitering. This story was adapted into a Freddy The Freeloader sketch on The Red Skelton Show.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, there is a character named "Done It" Duncan, for his habit of telling the city watch, "Whatever it was, I done it!" in order to be given a bowl of soup and a night in jail out of the cold. They never believe him, but sometimes let him stay anyway, because his suspiciously specific denials make him a pretty good informant ("it was me that done it, not Coatface's boys like everyone says").
  • In Doctor Dolittle's Return, Dr. Dolittle tries in vain to get himself thrown into jail so that he can write his book in peace and quiet. When he finally succeeds, the animals break him out and he has to start over again.
  • In one of the sequels to Doctor in the House, a character tries to deliberately fail his final medical exam. (If he passes, he will be obligated to marry a woman he no longer loves.) He attempts to deliberately fail the written exam but, never having failed a test in his life, finds he is unable to deliberately write down wrong answers. He gets drunk before his final oral exam and refuses to answer one of the questions. The examiner then realises that he has been using that diagnostic example too much and thanks the student for drawing it to his attention. At this point, he might still have passed if he had not then thrown up on the examiner.
  • The Dr. Thorndyke novel Mr. Pottermack's Oversight contains a comedic sequence in which the Sympathetic Murderer tries to get rid of his victim's wallet by deliberately taking it places that are notorious for pickpockets, only to find that when he wants his pocket picked nobody seems interested.
  • Invoked in the Firefly spin-off novel "Life Signs" when the crew have to infiltrate a high-security prison to find a doctor who may be able to treat Inara's terminal illness. As the crew's only doctor, Simon Tam has to join them on the planet, but Mal Reynolds notes that Simon is too clearly not the kind of person who would normally commit a crime serious enough to merit him being sent to a prison like this. With that in mind, Simon's cover story when asked why he's in this prison is that he was framed for embezzlement while working in an office.
  • The Good Soldier Švejk features a character called Friedrich Welfer, who receives a yearly allowance until he gets his doctoral degree. Since this allowance is bigger than his payment as a doctor would be, he purposely prolongs his studies as long as possible. However, when World War I breaks out, he has to take a "military exam", and receives his doctorate despite writing "Lecken Sie mich am Arsch!" (meaning "Kiss my ass") to every question.
  • What starts off Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat. The main character Youto Yokodera is a complete pervert and is doing actions to get a sexual thrill. However, all of his actions in doing so are thought of as good deeds (such as he polished the tile floors of the school so as to see girls' panties in the reflection he is rewarded for cleaning the school).
  • In Joy in the Morning, Bertie Wooster tries everything to get Florence Craye to call off their engagement. Finally he kicks her beloved little brother in the pants, and she thanks him: he had destroyed some of her scrapbooks, and she was going to kick him herself.
  • This is essentially the plot of the short story "The Misguided Halo", in which someone gets a, well, halo due to a celestial bureaucratic mix-up. This being not exactly a desirable fashion accessory for a mid-20th century businessman, he attempts first to cover it up (the only hat he can find that's large enough is a piece of a marching band costume that the dog has been using for a bed, so it's both unsightly and stinky) and then to get rid of it by "sinning". Except that everything he does is taken by the angel who gave him the halo in the first place to be either a good deed or an attempt at one.
  • Wringer has Palmer deliberately getting detention so his "friends" (who take great pleasure in killing pigeons) won't see his pet pigeon follow him home. Played straight when he confesses to spitting on the floor (the first time) and she forgives him (to his dismay). Subverted when he spits again and promptly lands himself in detention.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock: After attaining A-list celebrity status, Tracy desperately wants out. He tries disgracing himself publicly, but all of his boorish antisocial antics are embraced as the quirks of a genius artist by an adoring public.
  • In The A-Team episode "Pros and Cons", the team investigates a prison where inmates are forced to fight the death. To get into the jail they plot to get themselves arrested. When BA drives dangerously, the team acts drunk and insults the police they are let loose because the Dirty Cops already have federal heat on themselves. So Hannibal demands the keys and drives their van through a window of the sheriff's office.
  • In an episode of Batman (1966), the Penguin, acting as a respected restaurateur as part of a Falsely Reformed Villain scheme, has considerable difficulty when he actively tries to get thrown in prison so that he can consult an expert forger criminal colleague. When he was finally sent to prison, he learned the colleague was just getting released.
  • An episode of CSI had the Victim of the Week in the B plot turn out to have been a homeless man. He tried to get sent to jail (for free food and shelter) by punching a police officer. Said officer realized what he was doing and left him handcuffed, apparently failing to realize this would lead to his death.
  • In Frasier, during the period when Niles was married to Mel, but knew Daphne loved him back, Mel would only agree to a divorce if he showed himself up as a rude, boorish man whom she wanted rid of. Nothing he attempted worked: for instance, when he made comments about someone having a drinking problem, he was praised for his insight and courage in speaking up, and the man immediately swore off alcohol.
  • In Get Smart
    • Max has to get into jail to retrieve a microfilm off a convict... all his attempts to get arrested backfire, but he finally gets caught for littering - he gets the sentence he needs by insulting the judge.
    • Max has to lose a lot of money gambling so KAOS will think he can be bribed. Unfortunately he keeps winning instead. Then he tries to stage a drunken brawl with the Chief, but the KAOS agent is distracted each time, so he has to keep breaking Soft Glass bottles over the Chief's head.
  • Some of the members of the eponymous club in Glee try to improve their reputations by getting in trouble. Even an impromptu musical in the library just gets praise from the librarian and an invitation to perform at her church.
  • On an episode of iCarly, Carly and Sam are planning a big 50th-webcast show. Sam gets detention for the night on which the show was being held, though, so Carly and Freddy decide to broadcast the show from detention. Trouble is, no matter what they do, it backfires (Carly pulls a fire alarm; there was a real fire. Freddy graffitis a window; it gets washed off. Carly breaks a teacher's chair; she's so happy that she gets a paid vacation she doesn't investigate. Freddy grabs the principal's phone and slams it to the ground; Principal Franklin has recently gotten a new phone advertised to be Made of Indestructium.) Eventually, Carly gets detention for slamming her locker in frustration from the failed attempts of getting in trouble, from a Sadist Teacher, and Freddy hides in a closet.
  • On an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Reese wanted to avoid going to a formal dance with his girlfriend so he tried to goad her into a fight by insulting her. When that didn't work, he deliberately got himself grounded but his mom saw right through the plan and told him he was grounded after he went to the dance. Finally, he admitted to his girlfriend that he didn't want to go and she told him that he made a promise so he was going to have to attend and, after that, she would break up with him.
  • The Middle: In "The Last Whiff of Summer", Sue attempts to get attention from her father by deliberately misbehaving so he will have to punish her. However, her attempts to be a 'bad girl' fall solidly in Poke the Poodle territory and Mike fails to even notice.
  • In a Polish comedy/slice of life show Ranczo (eng: the Ranch) the main antagonist, village mayor, gets himself elected to Senate and has at least a few instances of it, like going to his first day of job utterly shitfaced and having a meltdown how terrified of this new responsibility he is. Another one is showing up to a talk show having (this time accidentally) taken drugs and under their influence proclaim his head hurts in the middle of a debate and walk out. In both cases, his reputation rises because public opinion finds him pretty relatable.
  • In an episode of The Red Skelton Show, Freddie the Freeloader wants to get sent to jail for Christmas because it's nice and warm, and he likes the people there. But no matter what he does, he can't get there. Then he meets someone who gives him the incentive to remain on the outside. Only then does he get dragged off to jail.
  • In Seinfeld, George needs to be fired from the Yankees to get a more lucrative title with the Mets but is actively praised for wearing/damaging Babe Ruth's clothes and 'streaking' during a ballgame in a flesh-colored body suit. In the end, he finally manages to do something that would have gotten him fired, except that Mr. Wilhelm barges in at the last second to take credit for it and get himself fired because he was up for the same Mets job.
  • So Awkward: In "Parentology", Martha feels abandoned by her workaholic mother, so she tries to get into trouble at school to be noticed, with the help of Jas. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it seems, with Lily—who is usually just standing on the sidelines—usually copping the blame.
  • In the earlier seasons of Supernatural, Sam is rather disgruntled by the fact that, despite their tendency to pull the exact same stunts in pursuit of the Monster of the Week, Dean is the one who builds up an impressive criminal record while Sam's name doesn't even appear in any legal database. Despite the advantages in the, you know, not-getting-arrested department. Dean finds the entire situation amusing.
    Dean: "You innocent, harmless young man, you!"
  • In Young Dracula, Ingrid pulls the fire alarm at school, setting off the sprinklers at the same time, in a deliberate attempt to get suspended so she can prove to father how evil she is. A horrified Vlad shows up and turns off the alarm... just in time to get blamed for setting it off.


    Pro Wrestling 
  • Comes up sometimes when a heel with a title is desperately trying to retain it by getting himself disqualified. No matter what he does — hitting his opponent in the crotch, using a foreign object, slapping the referee, or just getting himself counted out - an authority figure (assuming it's a face) will just keep restarting the match with no disqualifications. (Of course, this often ends up playing right into the heel's hands, since he can now do whatever he wants short of murdering his opponent with no consequences, so maybe it's a subversion.)
    • A notable occurrence was in a late 2006 edition of Smackdown when Undertaker and Kane, known as the Brothers of Destruction, wrestled as a tag team for the first time in five years against newcomers Montel Vontavious Porter and Mr. Kennedy. MVP and Kennedy tried to walk out and get counted out, only for Theodore Long to restart the match with no countouts. Shortly after, they got themselves disqualified, leading Long to restart the match again with no disqualifications or countouts. From then on, it was a one-sided match with Undertaker and Kane utterly destroying the heels, to the massive approval of the audience.

  • The plot of the 1938 musical Leave It To Me involved a bathtub manufacturer being made an ambassador to the USSR as an unwanted reward for campaign contributions and trying various schemes to get himself recalled.

    Video Games 
  • The goal of the Jester in Town of Salem is to get lynched, so Jesters try to act as suspiciously as possible to get themselves voted up (the town doesn't want to deliberately eliminate Jesters because they kill one person who didn't vote innocent). Of course, it's entirely possible that either the town is too oblivious to pick up on the hints you're dropping, or the person you randomly accused of being mafia (you're going to look very suspicious if you push to get a townie, especially a powerful role, lynched) really is a member of the mafia, resulting in the town thinking you're a capable investigator and keeping you alive.

  • Although Florence in Freefall had previously been jailed just for her association with a wanted criminal, when she tried turning herself in for tampering with a global robot update (because she's strongly conditioned for being lawful and good), the robotic police were too generous.

    Web Original 
  • An amusing thread on 4chan talked about a GM doing this to wangsty anti-heroes that were getting on his nerves.
    Player: Eternally I fight a war on two fronts. I must protect the city, and I must battle the inner demons of my own cruel desires! What are we up against this week?
    GM: The Kruel Klown Koalition. They're racist clowns. With mutant battle-koalas.
    Player: Damnit! I go burn down an orphanage.
    GM: They're all skrull infiltrators. You make the front page of the Times for your heroism.

    Western Animation 
  • This happened in an episode of Angela Anaconda, where Angela forgets to wear green on St. Patrick's Day. She tries to get detention so that she can avoid getting pinched during recess, and fails each time. She manages to escape this fate when she turns her jacket inside out to green.
  • In one episode of The Batman, a new vigilante named "Rumor" starts catching and imprisoning all of Gotham's supervillains. To avoid this fate, The Penguin tries to get arrested by Batman, only for Batman and Robin to ignore him as he pretends to steal a priceless painting.
  • In the Biker Mice from Mars episode "Bleu Cheese Bros", Lawrence Limburger takes over a prison so he can get more minions by recruiting the convicts and deliver the soil to Plutark. Throttle, Vinnie, and Modo try to get themselves arrested by destroying a building and running a red light, but the building was scheduled to be demolished anyway and the police were prevented from arresting them for running a red light because of a report of a jailbreak.
  • In season five of Bojack Horseman, Mr. Peanutbutter wants to be seen as a "tough guy" who can be believable as the tough protagonist of his dream project. His insults are seen as tough love and by committing battery, he accidentally realigns one guy's shoulder and fixes another's strabismus.
    Smoking Rhino: You are truly a kind and approachable character.
    Mr. Peanutbutter: And tough?
    Smoking Rhino: Tough not to love, you big galoot!
  • An episode of Darkwing Duck has Darkwing trying to get arrested so that he can infiltrate a prison for supervillains. After repeatedly failing in his attempt to commit crimes, he is finally arrested for jaywalking. (The police officers only agree to send him to the super-prison when he demonstrates that he can also do scary shadow puppets.) When Darkwing put on the supervillain costume he was wearing when he was arrested, he joked he should be arrested just for wearing such a ridiculous outfit, and that was, in fact, the reason he was arrested for jaywalking. Made even more hilarious when you realize the police, and thus the super-prison, are on HIS side, so infiltration should have been trivial for him.
  • One episode of Detention centered around the kids who normally got detention trying not to, and Shelley Kelley, a Teacher's Pet who never got it, was trying to get it. Everything the poor girl did only resulted in praise... deflate all the basketballs? Great, now they'll fit through the baskets easier. Flood the gym? "We've been meaning to clean that. Thanks!"
  • In one episode of Detentionaire, Lee crosses the 13th Graders, The most feared students at A. Nigma High, by wandering into their territory following a clue. They demand that Lee fight them at 3:15 after school, but Lee isn't initially worried due to his year-long detention taking place at that exact time. He only starts to freak out when VP Victoria gives Lee an amnesty day due to a clause in the student charter (With The Reveal of Victoria's true nature, this might have been intentional). His first plan is to intentionally get into trouble, first by starting a food fight, and then by putting framed pictures of himself in the trophy case. This fails to get him detention because both Barrage and VP Victoria don't believe he did it, citing that he just got a detention-free day, why would he do anything that might endanger that? When getting in trouble doesn't work, Lee's second plan is to try and frame the 13th Graders, but that doesn't work out either. In the end, Lee decides to just man up and fight them.
  • In Dudley Do-Right, the titular character tries to get kicked out of the Mounted Police so that he can infiltrate Snidely Whiplash's gang, but everything goes wrong, from "You blew up the dam! The irrigation problem has been solved!" to "You burned down that building! We had been trying to tear it down for years and never got around to it!". He finally does manage to get in trouble, though... by eating his peas with a knife, something no Mountie should ever do!
  • In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo wanted to be sent to bed without the awful, casserole-like dinner Frankie was trying to make. Unfortunately for him, everyone else got the blame because Herriman had hidden a stash of carrots in his room and didn't want them discovered. Bloo ended up eating all of the dish. The way Frankie insisted upon this implies she considered it his actual punishment.
  • Kim Possible had the titular character going to detention because Ron had Rufus in the entire high school all along while getting the girl in trouble with her principal, Mr. Barkin.
    • Also subverted when the titular character had cheerleading practice as her dad appears, not knowing that there is a hole in his car made by the robotic Bebes while they capture the wrong person: Ron Stoppable (disguised as Mr. Dr. Possible) only to be brought to her arch nemesis, Dr. Drew Lipsky (often known as Dr. Drakken).
    • Often Subverted as her parents punish her for lying during Halloween and losing trust in Ron Stoppable (as Dr. Drakken and Duff Killigan were arrested)
    • Subverted in the 2005 movie as Kim and Ron rescue Mr. Dr. Possible from Dr. Drakken (shortly before she and Monique went shopping).
    • Also subverted as Camille Leon (disguised as Kim Possible) snuck into Club Banana (without Monique's permission) and stole the designs so she could make pirated clothing, framing the teenage girl (a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Camille Leon's evil plan of making pirated clothing was foiled as Ron finds out that his girlfriend is the real thing (and not a fake and a flake) (similar to Flash the Wonder Dog from Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers). Unfortunately, Mr. Barkin was also arrested by the fashion police for crossdressing as a queer Bluto-esque woman with a rubber chicken as his actual punishment during the end of the episode, aptly titled "Fashion Victim".
  • There was a King of the Hill episode where Hank tries to get arrested so he could apologize to Bill, who was in jail and refusing Hank's visits. Hank, being the by-the-book stick-in-the-mud that he is, attempts this by first jaywalking in front of a cop (who was busy writing a parking ticket and didn't notice), and then by entering a convenience store with two cops inside, taking off his shirt, and pointing to the "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" sign (the cops told him that's not a law, just store policy, and the cashier said he never enforces it). The thing that finally does the trick is when he gives a parked (empty) cop car a very light bump from behind with his own truck.
    Cop: [slamming Hank against the jail cell door] You scratched the bumper sticker from my daughter's school, jackass!
    • In another episode, Bobby and Joseph are trying out a book full of pranks but they keep accidentally achieving positive results. For example, trying the classic salt shaker spill on Connie causes a nearby girl to invite her to lunch.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012) had Blythe Baxter driving without a license (similar to Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries) but a police officer prevented the 13-year-old girl from driving a truck filled with sweets (while rescuing her LPS friends), making Roger Baxter (her dad) punish his daughter by taking away her cell phone but fails as her LPS friends recover it (while he is not looking) and film a reenactment of the same incident earlier (while using the same sweet truck), with Roger Baxter in hot pursuit, thus destroying his dummy racing buddy. He soon apologizes and joins his daughter in a race as forgiveness at the end of the episode.
  • On The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Flapjack tried to make enemies, but everything he did ended up making him new friends.
  • In one episode of Pepper Ann, Pepper-Ann wanted to get into detention (which she normally does) to keep her friend who got detention company, by doing nothing but wearing a bucket on her head and dancing like a moron in all her classes. She fails to get detention but is referred to the school counselor.
  • An episode of The Pink Panther concerned the titular character trying to get sent to prison so he can get a Christmas dinner.
  • A vintage Popeye cartoon has Popeye and Bluto trying to injure themselves so they'll be ministered to by nurse Olive - to their frustration all their attempts are thwarted by dumb luck. Popeye finally pulls out a can of spinach and force-feeds it to Bluto, who becomes a dynamo of flying fists. Popeye ends up happy in a body cast as Bluto looks on jealously.
    • In the series where Bluto was renamed Brutus, Olive was a sculptress wanting a beaten-down person to model for her.
    • In another remake of the original plot, Popeye ended up being ejected from the hospital because it was for dogs and cats. Bluto started barking while Popeye made cat sounds. The two of them were taken to "Happy Valley Screwball Institute".
  • In The Proud Family episode "Pulp Boot Camp" Penny wants to go undercover as a bad girl for a journalism assignment. She figures the best way to do this is to get sent to detention. She tries graffitiing lockers, drawing funny mustaches on school photos, and even pulling the fire alarm with a bunch of signs pointing to her. None of these work, but walking in late to class finally does.
  • In the Rated "A" for Awesome episode "Club Detention" the guys started a club to make detention more fun, but since Thera never gets in trouble she couldn't join and no matter what she tried she couldn't get detention. It later turned out that the vice principal was making up her own crazy rules to keep the guys in detention and eventually expel them, and she was giving Thera special treatment because she's an honors student.
  • One episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show have the titular characters attempting to go to jail, thinking that they'd get treated a whole lot better. They do this by trying to break in. The warden, though, just laughs off their attempts... until they destroy the warden's stuffed dog.
  • In The Simpsons, Homer tries to get himself disabled so he can work at home, but he doesn't get hurt. At one point, he walks around a hardhat area with no helmet and falling stuff keeps missing him. A wheelbarrow full of bricks falls on someone else, prompting Homer to quip "Probably better that didn't hit me."
    • In another episode, Bart, who is known to cause trouble 24/7, tries to cause mischief but every single attempt backfires with him winding up doing good deeds.
    • In the episode where the family moves so Homer can work for Hank Scorpio, Bart is transferred to the special-ed class in his new school, where he's surrounded by a bunch of Ralphie expies. When the rest of the family lists their grievances and ask Homer to go back to Springfield, Bart mentions that not getting in trouble due to his status as a special-ed student is one of the reasons why he wants to move back.
  • South Park
    • In the episode "Breast Cancer Show Ever", Cartman deliberately gets detention so that he can avoid having to fight Wendy Testaburger after school.
    • In the episode "Death Camp of Tolerance", Mr. Garrison knows he will win a huge cash settlement if he sues for discrimination, so he begins acting stereotypically gay in class in the most inappropriate ways possible (even bringing in a sex slave and spanking him), hoping that he'll get fired for his behavior and then be able to file a lawsuit for discrimination against homosexuals. Instead, the faculty and the parents of the students praise him for his "courage" in refusing to be closeted. When Mr. Garrison insists to them that his behavior is offensive and should be punished, they finally do punish him... by sending him to the Death Camp of Tolerance for being a Boomerang Bigot.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "Bossy Boots", Pearl goes to work for the Krusty Krab during her summer vacation and makes multiple changes to the restaurant that effectively ruin her father's business. As it turns out, all the changes she made were because she was deliberately trying to get fired, as working at the Krusty Krab is "cutting majorly into her social life", but Krabs simply didn't have the heart to fire his own daughter. So SpongeBob, who was sent to fire her anyway, "pretends" to fire her so she could go and enjoy her summer vacation.
    • In "Doing Time", Mrs. Puff ends up being sent to jail due to Spongebob's reckless driving. A guilt-ridden SpongeBob enlists Patrick to help him break into jail to get Mrs. Puff out. Their first attempt at it, robbing a bank, fails because they're not remotely threatening as bank robbers.
  • In one Underdog cartoon, Simon bar Sinister was trying to lure the hero into his Death Trap, but first he had to gain his attention. So he and Cad decided to simply rob a bank. Unfortunately, Underdog was busy stopping a far bigger disaster, which took priority, so while Simon and Cad got away with a fortune, they failed to make him show up. Then Simon decided to try robbing a toy store, hoping that such a heartless act would make him come running. Again, the hero had to be elsewhere, saving actual lives, so the villain failed to make him show up (and wound up with a lot of toys he didn't need). Finally, Simon decided to kidnap Underdog's girlfriend Sweet Polly Purebread, and that worked. (Of course, Underdog wasn't busy this time, and he has been known to put her on hold in other episodes if there's a bigger crisis to deal with.)
  • Lucky Lydia, in What A Cartoon! Show, was dared into kicking an old man's back. When she tried to apologize for this, he told her it put it back into place and he not only thanked but also paid her for this.

    Real Life 
  • Operation Greylord was a Federal Investigation into corruption amongst cops, lawyers, and judges in Chicago. The FBI wanted to send fake cases through the system as a sting to see if the targets would offer to let them buy their way out of trouble. So, they had federal agents impersonate drunk drivers all over town, trying to bait the CPD into arresting them. This proved maddeningly difficult, as the cops kept telling them to go home and sleep it off.
  • Pedro López, a Colombian serial killer claimed to have made over 300 victims across three countries, confessed to his crimes as early as 1978 — but was told off and released. The denial continued until a flash flood unearthed a mass grave containing many of his victims.
  • Reportedly, Robert Beltran was so fed up with his commitment to Star Trek: Voyager that he was willing to do anything to get fired, including asking for ridiculous pay raises; deliberately phoning in performances; and publicly accusing showrunner Brannon Braga of being gay. He even tried to have his character Chakotay enter a romance with Seven of Nine, played by Braga's girlfriend Jeri Ryan, hoping to get Braga jealous enough to fire him. Unfortunately for Beltran, none of it worked: he got his raises; nobody cared about his performances; Braga just went along with the accusations; and Chakotay actually got a steamy relationship with Seven.
  • When TomSka signed a brand deal with SurfShark VPN, he was shocked to find that they had a Surprisingly Lenient Censor, and started acting unprofessional in numerous ways just to find out what their limit was. This included name-dropping rival brands in the middle of videos, adding in crude jokes that hadn't been approved, doing the most Abusive Advertising he'd ever done, and only communicating via memes and GIFs, but none of it made any impact. His contact at SurfShark even started sending GIFs back!
  • Donny Osmond tells the story of being encouraged by his agent to rack up a minor arrest or two to get rid of his squeaky-clean image as a young adult. On one occasion, he saw his chance while walking ahead of a random cop, so he turned back nervously and started running. The cop stopped him but let him go as soon as he saw the name on his ID. Osmond later recounted that while it's long been said that a would-be actor "couldn't even get arrested in Hollywood", he had never heard of it being literally true until it happened to him. Unfortunately for his youngest sister Marie Osmond, he was released from prison.


Video Example(s):


"I need your protection!

The Penguin tries to get captured by Batman to avoid being caught by Rumor.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / CantGetInTroubleForNuthin

Media sources: