Sometimes people just won't believe you.
A common staple of Disney and children's films, where the Kid Hero stumbles upon an evil conspiracy or a criminal ring and their parents and the police refuse to listen. Nothing left to do but save the day yourself.
The trope name comes from the seer Cassandra from Classical Mythology. Apollo granted her the gift of prophecy, but she then stirred his wrath by refusing his advances (in one version of the story she promised him sex in exchange for the gift but then went back on her word, while in another Apollo was just trying to take advantage). Apollo couldn't revoke his own gift, so he cursed Cassandra so that her prophecies were always true, but never believed, thus making this Older Than Feudalism (and writers just looove to name precognitive or clairvoyant characters "Cassandra" or some variant thereof). Cassandra then spends the rest of her time, whenever she makes an appearance, warning numerous characters of their doom, none of whom pay her any attention.
Cassandra therefore became a metaphor for someone who vainly tries to warn others of impending disaster but is never believed - indeed they are flat-out ignored.
A Cassandra Truth is when a character tries to warn others of some danger, or tell them that something about the world is substantially different from how they believe it to be, but is then dismissed out of hand for no good reason due to laziness, prejudice, stubbornness, etc. on the part of the listeners. The reason could also be supernatural, such as the listeners being hypnotized, bewitched, or fooled in some magical manner. The truth may be told to a single person, multiple people, or even society as a whole.
A Cassandra Truth is not a character merely doubting another character, or a character disbelieving another character when there are good reasons to disbelieve them. Nor is it a character simply not immediately believing another character, or an off-hand but true comment being dismissed as a joke. It is also crucial that both the character and the audience know the information is true, while everyone else in-story ignores or dismisses it.
Subtropes are Ignored Expert and The Cassandra, where the character in question is in a position where they really should be believed, due to authority on the subject or a track record of accuracy, but still isn't. See also Police Are Useless.
- Anime & Manga
- Fan Works
- Film Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Western Animation
- Real Life
- Jor-El in nearly every version of Superman's origin. The classic story is that he tells the Kryptonian High Council (or something like that) that Krypton is doomed and they must evacuate, but nobody believes him, so he's forced to send his infant son to Earth in a small rocket.
- Averted in the origin of Superboy-Prime from DC Comics Presents #87, where the Jor-El of the Prime Universe tells colleagues that Krypton is doomed, and everyone believes him, but bureaucracy gets in the way.
- The Krypton Chronicles: Several millennia before the birth of Superman, Rao's prophet Jaf-El foretold that Kryptonians would have to be ready to leave Krypton eventually because their planet would be destroyed in the distant future. Unfortunately, his warnings would go unheeded.
- During John Byrne's run, a computer programmer working for Lex Luthor ran extensive data on both Superman and Clark Kent into the system, in order to find a perceived connection between them. When the computer responds, "Clark Kent Is Superman", Lex promptly fires the programmer, refusing to believe that someone with Superman's powers would be satisfied with a "normal" life.
- A literal example in Supergirl (1996) as one character is the Cassandra of legend, who has sadly accepted how no one believes her predictions of disaster.
- The first volume of Runaways has the superpowered main characters struggling with the fact that no one will believe that their parents are supervillains, resulting in them having to bring them down personally. Conversely, after the Pride are dead, their activities exposed, still few are willing to trust the Runaways, because of who their parents were.
- In Route 666, the main character is named Cassandra (usually called "Cassie") and suddenly starts seeing a world of ghosts and horrific monsters preying upon humanity. No one else can see this, and so, in her struggles against them, she is also pursued by the police as a psychopathic killer.
- Invoked by Neil Gaiman in a 1993 speech at the Diamond Retailers Seminar: "I'm not here to play Cassandra. I do not have the figure and I do not have the legs". In his speech, he predicted that the contemporary speculator boom in comics would result in the market crashing.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
- Extremely minor character Harvey Who was portrayed as this. A member of the Royal Secret Service, he warned King Max Acorn over not trusting certain characters, including the original Robotnik. However, Max ignored those warnings as he had trusted the mystical Source of All for his guidance. Years later, when Max's son Elias had lost the throne, Harvey decided to help him as he realized he was in a better position to be king than his father ever was because he never used the Source.
- Daredevil: In the classic issue #181, before Murdock's Secret Identity became public, even before Kingpin knew who he was, Bullseye figured out that Murdock was Daredevil, and even guessed that the chemical accident had given him his powers. When he tries to tell Kingpin, Fisk dismisses him as insane.
- Ultimate Marvel:
- Ultimate Galactus Trilogy:
- Played for drama. Xavier agrees that the vision of the aliens dying (that he got in a dream, as well as Jean) was not a made-up montage, but thought that it was just a visual metaphor of loneliness and abuse from some new mutant. It turns out that the visions were completely what they appeared to be.
- Ultimate Galactus Trilogy:
- For many of the first few arcs of Volume 2 of X-Force, X-23 is constantly warning Wolverine that Angel is a liability they can't trust because of his Super-Powered Evil Side. However Logan downplays her concerns, and insists Warren is under control. Sure enough, Archangel proves to be an uncontrollable wildcard that derails a couple of their operations. Logan immediately warns her not to even think of saying "I told you so," when she's proven correct.
- Deadpool will loudly and repeatedly tell anyone who will listen about how they're all in a comic book, complete with critiques about either the plot or art style, but nobody listens. Granted, it doesn't help that he's genuinely insane otherwise.
- Age of Bronze: The daughter of Priam, Cassandra frequently makes predictions. While some are clear, others are gibberish and only decipherable in hindsight. This tends to get all of her prophecies dismissed -even when she's reminding Priam of a prophecy he believed. The problem is compounded by Priam being insistent on having his own way, to the point of ignoring other, saner prophets.
- The Ultimates (2015): Connor Sims, the Anti-Man, managed to attain a state of hyper-awareness when he gained his powers, and learnt all reality was in a "cage." Unfortunately, his attempts to explain this to people never work, partly because Connor went insane because of what he saw, and also because something is making sure no one hears his explanations. Then, come Civil War II, someone does start listening. It's Thanos.
- The Red Ten has twisted mass-murdering villain Oxymoron telling long-time nemesis crimefighter Red that her super-team, the Alliance, is made up of monsters with some responsible for crimes even worse than Oxymoron's. This sets Red to find the truth.
- A Town Called Dragon: Mickey earlier tried to warn everyone about what he discovered to be a terrorist cell up in Devil's Peak, but turns out to be a team of German scientists looking for the dragon egg. When he tried to warn the police about the dragon, he gets disbelieving looks until one of the officers found a huge pile of dragon dung with a severed human hand in it and then seeing the dragon's molted husk.
- In Safe Havens, at one point a school photographer snagged a photo of Remora's mermaid transformation, but when he presented it to the school principal she simply denounced it as a manipulated photo, as Samantha had already shown her several manipulated photos in advance. Samantha later apologized to him, telling him she had to do it to protect Remora's secret.
- In a Tempest strip, when Tempest awakes in an interrogation room, he quickly and clearly tells the questioner that Deathfist and his daughter have broken out of prison and are on their way to Times Square to punch a hole in the space-time continuum. When the lie detector says he's telling the complete truth, the interrogator jumps to the conclusion that he's figured out how to fool it.
- An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, no one will believe Fievel after he warns them about Cat R. Waul's evil plan to eat all of the mice that he convinced to move west, which Fievel overheard while snooping.
- In Mulan, when the Huns emerge from the snow, Mulan is the only one who sees it. She returns to the city to inform Shang of this, but he doesn't believe her because she had earlier lied and posed as a man. The ordinary folk refuse to listen because she's a woman. In a twist of fate, Shan Yu and his army show up at that exact moment and take the Emperor hostage right in front of everybody.
- In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sally tries to tell Jack about her vision of his Christmas being a disaster. Jack, blinded by his plans, blows her off and then comically misses the point by thinking Sally was referring to his "Sandy Claws" outfit.
- Mr. Tweedy in Chicken Run notices early on in the film that the chickens are plotting something and insists on investigating, but his wife, Big Bad Mrs. Tweedy, refuses to listen and convinces him it's all in his head. Naturally, the chickens are left free to organize a revolt, thoroughly humiliate Mrs. Tweedy, and escape.
Mr. Tweedy: I told you they was organized.
- In Recess: School's Out, the police laugh off and outright mock T.J.'s attempts to tell them that an evil mastermind has taken up residence in the school now that it has been abandoned for the summer. They do this even when T.J.'s friends back him up, and when Ms. Finster tells them that something's going on at the school. The fact that they weren't even willing to believe Finster, a teacher at the same school and thus theoretically a better source than kids also makes them something of an exaggerated case of Police Are Useless.
- Hercules: Phil discovers Meg is working for Hades (albeit unwillingly). When he tries to warn Hercules, he will have none of it, going to the point of hitting him in a blind rage, leading Phil to leave at Herc's darkest hour. Hades ends up revealing Meg's involvement to Hercules after taking his strength away. And boy, does it have a more crushing effect on Herc than having his strength gone.
- Osmosis Jones infiltrates the villain Thrax's organization and learns his entire plan — but because he's a screw-up, nobody believes his warnings. Thrax even points this out, and has a laugh over it.
Thrax: They're making this too easy! Hahahahaha! Y'know, in all the bodies I've been in, no one's ever gotten wise to me. And now for the first time, an immunity cell has figured out everything, and they don't believe him! Hahahahahaha! Can you taste the irony in that?
- This trope is a huge part of the Ayreon legendarium. In The Final Experiment the protagonist, Ayreon, is sent visions from the future about the end of the world and travels to King Arthur's court to warn him. Merlin is jealous, convinces everyone that Ayreon is wrong, and realizes that was a bad idea too late. He predicts that another seer will come: Mr. L in 01011001 has dreams about the end of the world sent to him by cyborg fish aliens; unfortunately, he's in an insane asylum.
- Emilie Autumn's Bedlam House chic is heavily based on her belief that psychiatric institutions have not progressed that much with patient care: specifically, she alleges that abuse is rampant but never gets brought up because "[she's] the crazy girl and he's the doctor with a million dollar education."
- Fear Before the March of the Flames have "Taking Cassandra to the End of the World Party," with lyrics referencing someone predicting a catastrophe while being ignored with the chorus, "No one listens to the damned."
- The Lumineers' darkly humorous song "Submarines" tells the story of a town drunk who tries in vain to warn the townspeople about an impending attack.
- The trope namer: Cassandra from Classical Mythology, theater, and literature, as featured in The Iliad, The Odyssey, the lost epics of the Trojan Cycle, The Aeneid, and many others. Cassandra is portrayed as someone driven half-mad, tormented by visions of disasters she not only can't prevent, but can't even get anyone to take seriously. Despite being cursed by Apollo, she later became a priestess of Athena and was considered a pious and dedicated follower of the gods. When she died she was granted a worthy place in the afterlife.
- In some versions of the King Arthur story, Merlin has this problem; see, for example, this Arthur, King of Time and Space strip.
- Numerous Biblical prophets, most notably Jeremiah and Elijah, spent much of their lives trying to convince the public in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah that exile was imminent due to the people having strayed from the Torah's commandments, and the monarchy in particular having turned to idolatry. This was often met with hostility, particularly from the monarchy.
- Isaiah 53:1 invokes this: "Who has believed our report?"
- In the radio adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a fortune teller insists that inside Jekyll's saintly exterior is a monster. The other characters shrug this off.
- Mage: The Awakening features "Proximi", families with a magical heritage, limited magic, and an unbreakable family Curse. Particularly the Primid family, said to be descended from Cassandra with a gift for prophecy, and who originally shared her Curse. They eventually tried to use it to their advantage (deliberately making predictions that they knew people would act against, as a way to manipulate them), so the Curse altered itself accordingly (the point of Proximus Curses being that they are always bad, and change themselves to fit loopholes). Now, the Primid Curse is that they are incapable of accurately conveying their prophecies at all (that is, they will know the future, but will be unable to truthfully tell it to anyone else)
- In Warhammer 40,000 Magnus the Red tried to warn the Emperor of his brother Horus's corruption but was ignored. While Magnus was right, he used sorcery to deliver the message, which was not only outlawed but inadvertently allowed daemons to invade the Imperial Palace. By the time the Emperor realized the truth, half of his sons had been corrupted and turned against him. Worst of all Magnus himself was forced to turn to Chaos in order to save his legion, joining the same traitors he tried to warn his father about.
- In the board game They've Invaded Pleasantville, a homage to alien-invasion B-Movies, the townspeople can't react to the alien presence until somebody spots the aliens and spreads the word. Certain people are unable to spread the word, because nobody else in town will believe someone known to be 1) a drunkard or 2) a Democrat.
- In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, once Mrs. Lovett's pie shop starts doing business again, the Beggar Woman starts hanging around the shop, trying to warn people that something evil's afoot, pointing out the stench from her chimneys and claiming that Mrs. Lovett is a witch. Naturally, no one believes her because she's a mad beggar woman.
- Trope Namer: Within The Oresteia, in the play Agamemnon by Aeschylus, Cassandra gives a prophecy revealing Clytaemnestra's plan to kill her husband, Agamemnon. Although the chorus does try to listen to Cassandra, they don't understand a thing she says, and eventually ask her to stop talking about such horrible things, because they would never happen.
- Julius Caesar: By the time Caesar learns that he should pay more attention to soothsayers, it's too late. He also learned too late that it's not a bad idea to install metal detectors in the Senate.
- In Hourglass of Summer the protagonist tries to warn the girls of the future events he's seen from traveling randomly through time against Lee Jane's warnings not to. It fails because nobody believes him and the tragedies happen to them anyway.
- One of Corpse Party: Blood Covered's Bad Endings has this: Satoshi finds himself sent back to the day they performed the ritual that sent them to Tenjin. Unfortunately, he can't convince anyone not to go along with it, as they all assume he's just too scared and superstitious rather than having good reason to protest. Book of Shadows actually picks up from this ending and deals with the results.
- Webprose example: In Star Harbor Nights's Toymakers arc, fully half the conflict could have been avoided if everyone had just believed Claire's observations and her resulting conclusions.
- #109 of the Evil Overlord List: "I will see to it that plucky young lads/lasses in strange clothes and with the accent of an outlander shall regularly climb some monument in the main square of my capital and denounce me, claim to know the secret of my power, rally the masses to rebellion, etc. That way, the citizens will be jaded in case the real thing ever comes along."
- Sean Malstrom accurately predicted the rise of the Wii to first place in the seventh generation all the way back in 2006, when others were expecting the Wii to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor in terms of (lack of) commercial success.
- Invoked by Jim Sterling in Turning Players Into Players. Given how many predictions he'd made about the video game industry that had come true despite people pooh-poohing them, he started referring to himself as the Cassandra of video games.