Follow TV Tropes


Cassandra Did It

Go To

"What if I show you something worse? If I see something that you don't like, you're gonna be all 'Bruno makes bad things happen. Oh, he's creepy and his vision killed my goldfish!'"
Bruno Madrigal, Encanto

The heroine became aware of an impending disaster and strenuously attempted to warn the people in charge, only to be brushed aside. This is The Cassandra's lot in life, and she's resigned to it by now. Doom arrives, exactly as she foretold, and while she's scavenging through the ashes for what's left of her belongings, the authorities arrive. Oh, what an unexpected twist; they've realized they made a mistake and they've come to apolo—

Wait, they're here to arrest her?!

That's right, ladies and gentlemen. When an Obstructive Bureaucrat or a Fascist, but Inefficient government fail to heed Cassandra, they can add insult to injury by blaming the whole disaster on her. Since this catastrophe was entirely unpredictable, there's only one logical explanation: she did it, and we can make everything right if we just get rid of her.

As idiotic as this kind of reasoning sounds, it is possible to use it in such a way that's not completely stupid. The Unintelligible may have shown up for the sole purpose of warning us about the catastrophe, but if we can't understand him, well, blaming him for the problem makes as much sense as anything else. Additionally, once Cassandra has been revealed as knowing something, the idea that she's an accomplice is plausible — although, since she's trying to warn you, treating her like a criminal is still pretty dumb. However, with certain subjects, or when the listener is in a certain frame of mind, their warning may be taken as a threat.

This is particularly likely if both the disaster itself and Cassandra's ability to predict it are Sufficiently Advanced to seem supernatural (or if they really are supernatural); the instinctive conclusion is that the two incomprehensible things are directly connected. This is the kind of logic that gets wise women and Plague Doctors hounded out of town, wrongly accused of causing what they tried to fix.

If the Cassandra really did do it, then it's likely to be a case of Engineered Heroics: predict a disaster —> cause the disaster to happen —> be heralded as a legit psychic —> profit. Alternatively, the Cassandra could be a Reality Warper, and whenever they "predict" the future, they're actually rewriting fate to make what they prophesied come to pass (possibly without even realizing that's what they're doing).

It may go without saying, but this is a sad, distressingly common case of Truth in Television, particularly in regards to The War on Straw.

A possible outcome of a Cassandra Truth, as well as a potential fate of the Ignored Expert. Related to Shoot the Messenger and Hero with Bad Publicity.

Not to be confused with A Wizard Did It.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: When Yamamoto confronts Mayuri about the steps Mayuri's taken to counter the Vandenreich's potentially world-unbalancing activities, he briefly tries to pin the blame for the extent of the problem on Mayuri and his division's competence level. Mayuri retaliates by pointing out the only one to blame is Yamamoto himself for ignoring Mayuri's Cassandra Truth two years beforehand as paranoia when it was Yamamoto's own fault for not killing the cause of the problem years ago. Yamamoto's forced to back down.
  • A villain in Dragon Ball GT twisted this to his advantage, threatening a village by claiming to be able to create earthquakes, when in reality he was just predicting ones that were going to happen anyway.
  • Monster: Inspector Lunge outright refuses to believe Dr. Tenma's story that a ten year old boy could have possibly committed multiple homicides, believing instead that Tenma is the real killer. He goes through various revisions to his theory starting with the Johan story being a poor attempt on Tenma's part to feign innocence, up to "Johan" being the good doctor's murderous Split Personality. He figures out the truth eventually, but by then there's already a massive body count.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura keeps trying to warn characters about the future, but they won't believe her warnings. When this future does eventually come true, Kyubey insinuates that the tragedy of it is actually all her fault, because it was her trying to warn everyone about the consequences that made said consequences even worse. Homura effectively turns the situation from "her friend dying" to "her friend becoming evil and so powerful the entire world is destroyed." This applies to timelines 1-4, in which Homura keeps making things worse; timelines 5 and 6 change everything. Subtly subverted because it's implied that the events actually were in a way, The Cassandra's fault, rather than this being a scapegoat situation.

    Comic Books 
  • In volume 5 of Empowered, the Superhomies (especially Major Havoc) blame Emp for the trouble Fleshmaster / dWARf! caused at the Capeys, since she "so obviously" could never win a fight against a supervillain on her own and must have planned it and may even be a closeted villain herself. The telepath Mindfuck reads Emp's mind and sides with Emp, but Havoc doubts Mindfuck's abilities and still thinks Emp had something to do with it and issued a gag order on all public discussions on the matter, leaving Emp unable to defend herself publicly against the already-started rumors.
  • This is old hat for Dusk in the DC Comics Crisis Crossover Final Night. She arrives at a planet and warns the populace that the Sun Eater is going to, well, eat their sun. Almost no one believes her, and when the sun does get eaten, everybody starts thinking that she led the Sun Eater there. Dusk is quite bitter but resigned to it by the time she arrives on Earth.
  • The Last Warring Angel starts with the FBI questioning a man who tried to assassinate the president. The man informs them that he wasn't trying to kill the president, but his Evil Chancellor who's going to manipulate the U.S. into World War 3 after North Korea nukes Seoul. He's treated as a madman at first, and a North Korean spy once Seoul indeed gets nuked.

    Fan Works 
  • Heart of Fire: Shortly after Kathryn arrived in her first village after running away from home, she had a vision of bandits attacking, killing the innkeeper and burning the inn to the ground. Everyone laughed at her warnings... until her vision came true three days later, at which point she was labeled a bringer of evil and bad luck and driven out.
  • I See What You Do Behind Closed Doors (Miraculous Ladybug) offers a Downplayed variant after Lila's manipulative nature is finally exposed to the whole class. When Marinette points out that she warned everyone about her, Alya declares that it's Marinette's fault that nobody believed her, claiming that she was obviously "just jealous". Their attempts to convince Marinette that it's not their fault that they refused to believe her only succeed in making her reject their "apologies", as it's clear none of them are willing to admit their own mistakes or truly apologize for how they treated her.
  • The Karma of Lies: Adrien finds himself in this position after Lila steals the Agreste's emergency funds. When he reports this to the police, they come to suspect that Adrien himself was the one who emptied the account, and is attempting to frame her for it.

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney's Encanto features Bruno Madrigal, a superstitious man with the Gift of Future Vision. To his displeasure, a majority of his visions foretold bad things, leading to the entire town blaming him for all the misfortune that would come to be. When he read his latest vision of how Mirabel would play a part in the destruction of the Madrigal magic, or its stability, Bruno was aware of how horribly the family and town would react to this. Believing that everyone would hate him and ostracize his niece, he decided to self-exile into the walls of Casita without sharing his last vision.
    • Mirabel herself plays a similar role; when she first claims that she has seen cracks forming in the casita, she's dismissed, but once they start appearing unmistakably where others can see them, Abuela shifts to blaming her for somehow causing them.
      Abuela: What did you do?!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the circus prophet Cesare foresees that Allan will die at dawn. Cesare then kills Allan in his sleep. The ending implies that Allan was actually murdered by the film's Unreliable Narrator, Francis.
  • This becomes an Invoked Trope in An Enemy of the People (1978) when the protagonist is framed to look as if his objection to a tannery that was poisoning the town's water is a stock swindle.
  • In Final Destination, Alex is immediately taken into questioning after the plane exploded just as he said would happen. Though he's never arrested, authorities are never convinced he has nothing to do with the accident or the deaths that happen afterwards. The second and fifth films also have the protagonist questioned by authorities, but nothing to the extent of the first.
    • Near the end of the third movie, Ian blames Wendy for the death of his girlfriend Erin and tries to get revenge on her for it, even though she was the one who tried to warn them about it in the first place and even saved his life in the process.
  • A lot of the conflict of The Frighteners arises when people who think Frank is a complete fraud (rather than just running a Monster Protection Racket) interpret his warnings as threats.
  • Happens to the protagonist of Werner Herzog's Heart of Glass, the clairvoyant cowherd Hias. When, true to Hias' prophecies, the local glass factory burns down, the townsfolk blame it on him, beat him up and turn him in to the authorities.
  • This is one Alternative Character Interpretation concerning the Mothman, which appears in fiction in The Mothman Prophecies.

  • According to the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book that was released for charity, Auguries in Harry Potter are feared because they're said to prophesise death. They really cry in advance of bad weather.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, some people will occasionally try to invoke this on Gandalf, since he only tends to show up when things are about to get bad. This usually leads to Gandalf sarcastically asking if they'd rather forego his help in the face of great danger.
    Wormtongue: Late is the hour in which this conjurer chooses to appear. "Lathspell" I name you: ill news, and an ill guest!
  • Part of the reason Zorian keeps a low profile in Mother of Learning is because he realises that his in-depth knowledge about the Cult of the Dragon Below and the upcoming invasion of Cyoria would sound to the authorities like he's involved in those things. "A time traveller endlessly repeating the month" will not be their first guess.
  • This happens in The Passage when Amy shows up at Jaxon's village.
  • "The Psychohistorians": Hari Seldon is taken to court due to his claims that the Galactic Empire is falling apart and will completely collapse within a few centuries. The charge is disloyalty and attempt to incite trouble. The punishment is exile to the furthest planet in the galaxy, exactly what he wished.
  • Janet Lunn's novel Shadow In Hawthorn Bay features a Scottish protagonist named Mairi who has the gift of second sight. She has a vision of frozen gardens and says, "There will be no summer next year." The other people in her Upper Canada settlement don't believe her. When the area suffers an unseasonably cold and wet summer, the settlers decide that since Mairi knew about the strange weather beforehand, she must have caused it.
  • Turns out to be a major problem for precognizants in the early years of Anne McCaffrey's Talents series, as depicted in To Ride Pegasus. When something goes wrong and there's nobody else to sue, the litigious go for precogs on the theory that they could have got the warning out sooner. Eventually, it becomes a big enough problem that they have to go to the legislature for shield laws.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Charmed (1998), Phoebe is a juror in a case where the plaintiff, a magician, is accused of killing his ex-wife; one of the main pieces of evidence is that he told the police where her body was, which he claims to have seen in a vision. While you can forgive the Muggle characters for not buying this, it somehow never occurs to Phoebe, who has magical visions about Once per Episode, that he could possibly be telling the truth...until she gets a vision of the murder and sees that it was somebody else.
  • In Doctor Who, more than once, the Doctor has been blamed for bringing about whatever catastrophe of the week he's there to save everyone from, despite them having ignored his warnings about it. In-Universe, he's gained something of a reputation as a herald of doom, given that he nearly always shows up on the heels of disaster and a ridiculously high body count is likely to follow. Never mind that if he weren't there, many planets and indeed the whole of reality would have been obliterated several times over. To some extent, this is his fault, as he rarely accepts credit or reward for his actions and prefers to remain anonymous to the universe at large, guaranteeing that he will be Shrouded in Myth.
  • Often happens to Gary when he tries to fix the next day's events that he read about in the Early Edition. In a multi-parter episode, he's saddled with a murder charge, a newspaper wrong about the time of death, and someone with access to the evidence room deliberately tampering with it to frame him.
  • A variation occurs in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, when a "psychic" shows up to help the detectives find a girl who's been kidnapped and raped. He tells the team that she's beneath running water; later on, they find her body underneath water pipes. Stabler, being who he is, immediately suspects that the psychic was somehow responsible. He was.
  • This set in motion the plot of Psych. Main character Shawn was trained to be hyper-observant by his father, in hopes that he would follow in his footsteps and become a police detective. Unfortunately, Shawn goes through a rebellious streak and instead takes on a plethora of odd jobs while occasionally using his skills to solve crimes based on mere minutes of news footage. The police refuse to believe Shawn could really be that good an amateur sleuth, and decide he was actually right all of those times because he's a criminal in the know. So Shawn claims that he's really psychic, then uses a number of things he's already noticed to correctly deduce information about his interrogators. The chief realizes he's a useful tool, and by the end of the episode, Shawn's set up a fake psychic detective agency called Psych.
  • According to the eponymous detective of the BBC series Sherlock, certain members of the London Metropolitan Police have assumed that the self-proclaimed sociopath demonstrating extensive knowledge of the crime and attempting to insert himself into the investigation must be the killer. No kidding?

    Myths & Religion 
  • This can be found in the Book of Jeremiah, making it Older Than Feudalism. Jeremiah had spent the last years of the kingdom of Judah warning about the exile that the Judeans will go through if they continue worshiping pagan gods. Then the exile happens, and the people blame Jeremiah's crowd stopping the worship of the pagan gods as the reason for the exile! Jeremiah 44:17-18:
    Judean pagan worshippers in Pathros: On the contrary, we will do everything we have vowed — to make offerings to the Queen of Heaven and to pour libations to her, as we used to do, we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty to eat, we were well off, and suffered no misfortune. But ever since we stopped making offerings to the Queen of Heaven and pouring libations to her, we have lacked everything, and we have been consumed by the sword and by famine.
  • In The Book of Mormon, Nephi is arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder when he prophetically announces the bloody death of the chief judge, despite being on the other side of the city and no one having discovered the fact yet. They suspect that Nephi has set the whole thing up so the people will believe him to be a prophet. He clears his name and proves his true prophetic nature by revealing the name of the murderer, who confesses to his crime and denies that Nephi had anything to do with it.
  • An old Paul Bunyan tall tale has the logger stumble across a pair of mysterious whimpering shoes. Sometime after it whimpers, something incredibly strange happens, such as it raining upside-down. The other lumberjacks demand the Paul get rid of the shoe (sort of hard to blame them since stuff this weird only happened right after Paul found the shoe), but Paul, realizing the shoe's value, keeps them hidden away, only bringing them out when he was playing poker with lumberjacks who wouldn't recognize them.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed Rogue: When Shay warns Achilles that his pursuit of the First Civilization Roots is harmful, as tampering with the sites causes destruction, Achilles promptly accuses Shay of somehow causing the resulting earthquake.
  • Devil Survivor: The first time the player and Yuzu meet up with Naoya, he brings this up while discussing his recent invention of the Laplace Mail system. The player can either impress him by accurately deducing that the Laplace Mail system predicts the future, or play it straight by accusing him of somehow causing events to happen, with Naoya waving off the latter.
  • In Dragon Age, it's heavily implied that Teyrn Loghain believed that the Wardens were lying about the Blight to gain power and influence over the idealistic King Cailan, allowing them to mass Orlesian Wardens and forces in Ferelden to enact a military coup. Thus, his decision to quit the field at the Battle of Ostagar, sacrifice the King and leave half the army to perish at the hands of the Darkspawn was entirely justified, as it eliminated a major threat to the realm. Unfortunately, he was utterly wrong and his actions plunge Ferelden into a Civil War, leaving the Blight to grow unchecked. Also, leaving Ferelden greatly weakened so that Orlais might be able to sweep in anyway, even if Loghain hadn't had the Blight to deal with. After all, half of the standing military force had just been sacrificed.
    • It's also subtly implied that Loghain did internally know the truth, but was unable to consciously accept it. After all, to admit the threat was to accept the aid of Orlais, for which he's held a not-Irrational Hatred after having fought their invasion which killed his parents; the prospect of a threat big enough to require Orlesian aid on Ferelden soil turned him into The Paranoiac.
  • King of Dragon Pass: The Ducks try to recruit the humans of Dragon Pass to help them fight the undead. This doesn't stop certain clans from believing that the Ducks themselves are actually minions of a necromancer — specifically, the very same necromancer that the Ducks are desperately trying to defeat.
  • In the Neopets plot "The Curse of Maraqua", two sisters with the gift of foresight deal with this trope. The first sister, who sees happy events in her dreams, is lauded and welcomed; the other, who sees bad events in her nightmares, is feared and shunned.
  • The Pokémon Absol gets this treatment, according to its 'dex entries. They have a natural ability to sense disaster, and a natural desire to warn humans of it — but they can't communicate effectively with humans, and so are believed to be the cause of the disaster when it does arrive.

    Web Comics 
  • In a Jaws parody storyline in Schlock Mercenary, Der Trihs tells the authorities that a shark is behind the killings, but they don't believe him because sharks aren't native to that world. He sarcastically suggests that it must have been a stealth submarine with a shark-jaw mechanism, and they immediately decide that Der Trihs is responsible, and it was his stealth shark-submarine, and arrest him. Even when the Mad Scientist who created the sharks confesses, the police are convinced that he was Der Trihs's co-conspirator. After the whole thing is cleared up, Massey (the Toughs' lawyer) says he's going to sue them for impersonating a police force.
  • Tales of the Unusual: In "The Future Spirit", the protagonist can see spirits that depict how people will die. He once tried to save a woman with his ability, but she accused him of pickpocketing. When she died the next day, he was branded as a suspect. He was cleared of suspicion, but it was such a rough day that he stopped trying to interfere with people's fates until he met his love interest.

    Western Animation 
  • The Looney Tunes short "Scardey Cat" sees Porky Pig moving into an old house with Sylvester as his pet cat. Sylvester quickly finds out that the mice infesting the house are trying to kill them. He proceeds to spend the night alternately trying to warn Porky and trying to foil the murder attempts. Unfortunately foiling those wound up making it look like Sylvester was trying to kill him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, "Bridle Gossip": Twilight and friends confront Zecora, a mysterious zebra who lives in the Everfree Forest and whom everyone suspects of being a witch. Zecora departs into the woods with a cryptic warning about "those leaves of blue" the ponies are standing near, which the other ponies assume is some kind of curse. Sure enough, a weird affliction strikes the ponies the next day, and guess who they blame? Naturally, Zecora has nothing to do with their condition, and it turned out to be the fault of the blue-leaved plants they were walking through earlier, which are actually a magical plant called "poison joke"; when they confront her, she was actually in the middle of making them a cure.
  • Parodied on The Simpsons.
    Moe: (in response to a near-miss meteor strike) Let's burn down the observatory, so this can never happen again!

    Real Life 
  • This is the main reason the Good Samaritan Law exists to protect people from such accusations.
  • This is frequently invoked in politics.
  • Several books had been written prior to the attacks of September 11 that included commercial aircraft being intentionally flown into buildings by terrorists, including one by Tom Clancy that involved a commercial aircraft striking the Capitol (the believed intended target of United Flight 93 that crashed in Somerset County, PA after the passengers tried to retake the aircraft). When the attacks occurred, the authors of these works were questioned by federal agents.
  • When Hitler's forces invaded the Soviet Union, the authorities refused to believe it, insisting the reports were a trick to start a war. Two air force pilots flew off to investigate and confirmed that German troops were advancing well into Soviet territory, only to be arrested for spreading disinformation on their return. They were later court-martialed, despite having been right all along.