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, but then went back on her word. 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 or simply ignored.
A Cassandra Truth is when a character tries to warn others of some danger, or tell them something incredibly important, but is dismissed out of hand for no good reason due to laziness, prejudice, stubbornness, etc. The reason could also be supernatural, such as the listeners being hypnotized, bewitched, or fooled in some magical manner. In exaggerated Played for Laughs examples, the skeptic may just be extremely stubborn in their doubts, even as legitimate evidence piles up in front of them.
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. Cassandra Did It is when people believe the seer's visions (usually after they come true), but then blame the seer for making it happen. Another subtrope is the Contagious Cassandra Truth, which is when The Cassandra manages to convince one, maybe two other people, including an expert, but the community at large, and the expert's peers, will think that they're delusional liars. See also Police Are Useless. Contrast Sarcastic Confession, where the character tells the truth but expects to not be believed.
- Anime & Manga
- Fan Works
- Film — Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Western Animation
- In the famous "Jake from State Farm" advertisement, a wife doesn't believe that her husband is talking to a real estate agent, believing him to be having an affair over the phone. Even when all the details are lining up so that it's clear the husband is telling the truth, she still doesn't take the hint.
Wife: "Jake from State Farm," at 3 in the morning?! Who is this?!
Husband: It's Jake... from State Farm.
Wife: What're you wearing, (Air Quotes) "Jake from State Farm?"
Jake: Uh... khakis?
Wife: (nodding) She sounds hideous!
Husband: Well, she's a guy, so...
- King Shakir: In "April Fools", nobody believes Shakir, Necati, and Remzi about the evil suckers planning to prank the neighborhood since they had been pulling April Fools jokes earlier. Sure enough, they don't realize they were 100% not joking until when the suckers actually go through with their prank.
- 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.
- Subverted in The Hunt for Reactron. After stealthily X-Raying Lana Lang, Thara Ak-Var tries to warn Supergirl there is something foul about her surrogate aunt, but Kara dismisses her former friend's words as a nutjob's nonsense (even though Thara clarifies she did not mean Lana was evil or sinful). Later, after they have made up, Kara finally listens to Thara and confronts Lana about her unknown malady.
- In Superman (Volume 2) #2, 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.
- In a classic early issue, Spider-Man fights Doctor Octopus, is soundly defeated and unmasked...and no one believes Peter Parker can be Spider-Man. It helps that Peter was suffering from a bad flu and at nowhere near his strength, so folks think this was just him trying to be a hero.
- When he thinks he's lost his powers, Peter confesses the truth to his friends, who don't believe it. It turns out, it was just another flu and Peter brushes off the "confession" as him suffering a high fever.
- Debra Whitman is convinced Peter is Spider-Man, risking her life to prove it. Spider-Man finally comes to her, unmasks...and Debra laughs at how ridiculous this idea was and thanks Peter for putting on that "cheap costume" to shock her out of this.
- When Peter reveals his identity to the world in 2006, Flash Thompson refuses to accept "puny Parker" could be Spider-Man and this is some sort of ruse. He changes his tune when Peter lays him out in a dodgeball game.
- In Spider-Man 2099, Miguel point-blank tells his mother he's Spider-Man, showing the costume and "claws" and she still won't believe it.
- 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 Superpowered 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.
- Joker: At one point, Harvey Dent pulls The Joker's new henchman Jonny Frost aside and urges him to quit, saying the Joker is insane and prone to killing the people around him. Frost doesn't believe him, delusionally thinking he is the Joker's friend and partner. Sure enough, at the end of the story, Joker shoots Frost in the face in the middle of a Villainous Breakdown.
- Calvin and Hobbes: In the arcs featuring Rosalyn, Calvin's parents are used to horror stories from Rosalyn when they arrive home. Naturally, the one time Rosalyn says she had an easy time babysitting Calvin, they're skeptical to believe it.
- 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.
- Retail: Josh was telling Stuart the truth when he tells Stuart that Val and Cooper were in a relationship, which violated Grumbel's policy, but since Amber overheard him ratting them out, she had time to warn them and they had time to make it look like he was Crying Wolf by having Cooper's friend pose as Val's boyfriend.
- Spider-Man: In one storyline, J. Jonah Jameson interviews Spider-Man (love him or hate him, he sells lots of papers). When he asks where where Spidey got his powers and is told about the radioactive spider bite, he angrily ends the interview, convinced that he's being trolled.
- In "Morozko", the family's talking dog foretells the old woman's stepdaughter will become rich whereas her daughter will die during that night. Its warnings are not appreciated by the old woman, who tries to bribe it or threaten it into changing its tune.
- 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.
- Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses: When the girls sneak off to a magical world to dance and Rowena is suspicious when she finds their shoes worn out, she demands to know what's going on; however, she thinks the girls are being random when they tell her about the magical world, and thus forces them into servitude until they tell the truth when they technically are. It's not until Brutus finds the gateway and leads Rowena into the magical world does she realize the princesses were right.
- The Land Before Time: Played with when Littlefoot doesn't believe Cera when she claims she saw Sharptooth is still alive, but then again, she filled her story with so many Blatant Lies that it's hard to blame him.
- 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.
- Early on in Flushed Away, Roddy meets a seemingly-crazy doomsayer who warns of an impending tsunami that could destroy Ratropolis. Roddy ignores him, and it's clear that nobody believes him, but it ultimately turns out that not only is the tsunami coming, but the Big Bad's entire plan is to open the town's floodgates and allow it to be destroyed.
- 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.
- In Ice Age: The Meltdown, Sid is kidnapped in his sleep by a tribe of mini-sloths who wish to sacrifice him to prevent the coming flood. When he stumbles back into camp the next morning, no one believes his story, insisting that he was just sleepwalking and dreamed the whole thing. Later the tribe reveals themselves to Diego when they ask Sid to return to them, but Diego turns them down in one of the film's more heartwarming moments.
- The Jungle Book 2: Shere Khan refuses to believe Kaa when the latter truthfully tells him he has no idea where Mowgli is.
- 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?
- Woody from all the Toy Story films:
- The first movie had him trying to convince the other toys that Buzz was still alive and he didn't kill him.
- The second movie insisting to Jessie and Stinky Pete that Andy didn't break him intentionally.
- The third movie has him telling the other toys that Andy really wanted to put them in the attic and not in the garbage, as from their perspective, they were sealed in a trash bag and thought Andy was purposely throwing them out. It's only when Mrs. Potato Head sees Andy complaining about where he put the toys through her missing eye that the toys realize Woody was right.
- The fourth movie inverts the formula with Bo trying to convince Woody that Bonnie doesn't love him the same way Andy loved him. It plays it straight, however, over Woody attempting to convince his friends of Forky's importance to Bonnie.
- Up: Charles Muntz. His discovery of the Beast of the Falls in the beginning of the movie got him ridiculed as a liar. It went downhill from there. He doesn't believe the other people who went to the Falls went there for any reason other than trying to get the beast for themselves.
- Brave: Merida's father doesn't believe in magic. Nor does he believe Merida when she tries to explain that the bear in the castle is actually his wife until Merida bests him in battle.
- Ratatouille: Due to his neurotic, dramatic and temperamental behavior, everyone who hears Skinner rant about Rémy just thinks he's nuts despite being absolutely right.
- 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.
- Classical Mythology: Cassandra, 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.
- The Bible:
- Many prophets, like 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 Ten 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 can believe what we have heard?"
- Sick Sad World:
- A teacher went to the police after one of his students said her father was planning to kill her. He was dismissed as stupid.
- In another episode, drug users went to the cops to report a serial killer. They were ignored because they used drugs.
- 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.
- In Heathers, Veronica confesses in a fit of rage that she was responsible for the deaths of Heather, Kurt and Ram after the school points on a patronising and unhelpful anti-suicide rally. When she realises what she's just said, she's horrified... only for everyone to laugh and assume she's just doing it for attention.
- 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.
- Troilus and Cressida features the original Cassandra. In an early scene, she runs onstage and attempts to warn her father and brothers that Troy will be up in flames by the end of the Trojan War. None of them believe her.
- 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.
- Can You Spare a Quarter?: The Department of Child Disservices and police never believed Jamie's claims that his parents abused him, even though they were, until Matty took up the case and Graham came to request guardianship rights.
- In The Crawlspace, no one believes the narrator about the crawlspace creature and her roommates seem to think she's having some sort of breakdown. She's the only one who escapes in the end.
- On the Dream SMP, Quackity, despite being one of the resident Cloudcuckoolanders, is much more perceptive than most people would give him credit for. On November 16th, he is the first to put two and two together and realize that Wilbur had left the group to blow up L'Manburg and tries to warn everyone, but is ignored amidst the chaos. Ten seconds later, Wilbur presses the button, and everything goes to shit. He is also among the first people to realize that Dream was the root of most of the conflicts on the server, while most other people, more often than not, ended up falling for Dream's manipulations. It took the Doomsday War for several server members to realize that Quackity was being truthful about Dream all along, which he eventually lampshades to Sam.
Quackity: I've been telling everyone that he's bad all fucking along and no one goddamn believed me!
- #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."
- : 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.
- Invoked by Jim Sterling in Turning Players Into Players. Given how many predictions they've made about the video game industry that had come true despite people pooh-poohing them, they started referring to themselves as the Cassandra of video games.
- The Rageaholic/Razorfist stated, on the topic of Rogue One and Star Wars as a whole (at least regarding the Sequel Trilogy), that the franchise was likely to be going down hill in both quality and profitability after seeing the box office results of it (and being put off by what he saw as poor quality), infamously saying 'You will BEG for George Lucas in the end', to much criticism of fans of Rogue One and The Force Awakens (which he also panned). Then the incredibly divisive at best The Last Jedi came out, which suffered a heavy box office drop-off a week after the movie played, despite lavish praise from mainstream critics, and was hammered with criticism by much of the fandom (with some strident defenders).