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Caught in the Bad Part of Town

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"Bad neighborhood, Snake! You don't want to be walking from the Bowery to 42nd Street at night. I've been driving a cab here for 30 years and I'm telling you: you don't walk around here at night! Yes, sir! Those Crazies'll kill you and strip you in ten seconds flat!"

In many cities, there is an acknowledged "bad part of town": a place where outsiders just don't go. This trope is what happens when characters who don't belong find themselves in this bad part of town.

This trope can play out in a number of different ways. In more hopeful works, the characters could discover that not everyone in The City Narrows is a bad person and learn a lesson about judging by appearances. In other works, the characters will face a nail biting adventure as they find their way out and back to more familiar ground. In Crime and Punishment Series, they might just end up dead.

In a military/warfare context, this can be lethally serious. As in the inhabitants of this side of town/this side of the front lines want to kill the character. Depending on the depiction, this can sometimes lead to Unfortunate Implications of racism or classism, particulary if it's a dynamic where a rich/white character finds themselve endangered in a low-income or minority-heavy neighborhood.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In Baker Street #1, Susan unwisely attempts to locate the mysterious Baskerville's, and finds herself lost in the bad part of town. She is attacked by a gang of punks and has to be rescued by Sam.
  • During Batman: No Man's Land, many Gotham natives end up in parts of town they know are dangerous while trying to evacuate due to the damaged roads and destroyed buildings making it hard for them to navigate. One family that was attacked by a gang on their way out was rescued by Robin and Nightwing who then gave them directions to one of the still-viable ways out of the city.

    Films — Animated 
  • Doctor Aki Ross from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within dares to venture outside the protected zone, and into the abandoned areas where the deadly phantoms lurk, seeking key pieces that she believes will solve the mystery of the phantoms. The Deep Eyes elite strike team routinely has to cover her butt while she's gathering her MacGuffins.
  • Lady and the Tramp: After being fitted with a muzzle, a distraught Lady runs away and gets lost in the inner streets of town. She is chased by stray dogs and cornered in an alleyway when Tramp jumps in and fights off the dogs, rescuing her.
  • In The Lion King, when Mufasa shows Simba the Pride Lands, he informs Simba that the Elephant Graveyard is beyond their waters and they must never go there. Scar coaxes Simba to go there by telling him only the bravest lions are allowed to go there, and Simba tricks Zazu into bringing him and Nala there by telling him they're going to the water hole. When Simba, Nala, and Zazu reach the Elephant Graveyard, they get chased by the hungry hyenas, until Mufasa arrives and saves them.

    Film — Live Action 
  • This is what happens to Chris and the kids in Adventures in Babysitting. Her car suffers a flat tire, stranding them on the South Side of Chicago. In getting out, the encounter a variety of locals, both helpful and hindering. Meanwhile, Brenda suffers a similar experience stuck in the downtown bus station.
  • After Hours is Paul Hackett's odyssey to survive one night in New York's SoHo district while the world decides to make him an incredibly dark example of the Butt-Monkey (as in, "he may end up lynched by an angry mob that mistook him for a thief" kind of Butt-Monkey). At one point he even begs the universe to tell him what he did wrong and when he witnesses a murder near the end, he's so far into Giving Up on Logic that he can only snark that the lynching mob will blame him for it somehow.
  • Behind Enemy Lines: The hero has obtained evidence of war crimes before being shot down over hostile territory.
  • The Big Tease: When Crawford, Martin and their cameraman is driven by Eamonn to the home of the person who sold Crawford his car, they get caught in the crossfire of a gun fight.
  • This is almost the entirety of Judgment Night. A group of friends pile into an RV to go to a boxing match. They take a detour to avoid a traffic jam, get lost, and witness a murder. They spend the rest of the film trying to escape the killers.
  • Played with in The Warriors. The whole city is the bad part of town, and the gang has to get back to their own bad part of town after they are framed for killing a gang leader.

  • The Bonfire of the Vanities: Bond trader Sherman McCoy and his mistress Maria Ruskin accidentally enter the Bronx while driving to Manhattan from Kennedy airport. Finding the ramp back to the highway blocked by trash cans and a tire, McCoy exits the car to clear the way. Approached by two black men whom they perceive — uncertainly, in Sherman's case — as predators, McCoy and Ruskin flee. Having taken the wheel of the car, which fishtails as they race away, Ruskin apparently strikes one of the two.
  • Cauldron of Ghosts: Early in their infiltration of Mesa, Victor Cachat and Thandi Palane are accidentally routed through the Lower Radomsko district, the poorest and most violent seccy district of Mendel, and promptly attacked. Since we're talking about Cachat and Palane, the trope is then promptly reversed onto the attackers instead.
  • Whenever Discworld characters finds themselves in the Shades, the most infamous and crime-ridden slum in the city of Ankh-Morpork (which is really saying something!), it's essentially a countdown (usually a very short one) until multiple crooks try to mug and/or kill them.
  • Jedi Academy Trilogy has one part where toddlers Jacen and Jaina Solo wind up in the dark underbelly of Coruscant, where they encounter malfunctioning worker droids, cannibalistic street wraiths and various other unsavory types.
  • Warrior Cats: There are rough parts of Twolegplace where a group of vicious rogues called BloodClan rule, as opposed to the calm area where Firestar lived as a kit. In the Tigerstar and Sasha graphic novel, Sasha's kits wander into one such bad part of town, where they're chased by BloodClan cats and shelter in an abandoned, beat-up house. The illustrator even commented on his blog that the scene is in a bad part of town and was instructed by an editor to remove some markings on a car that appeared to be bullet holes.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Arrow, there's the Glades, the "wild side" of Starling City, which is like a ghetto in which most of the common crimes of the city occur. Thea Queen, the protagonist's little sister appeared oftenly for the Glades by various reasons (partying, working on Laurel Lance's CRNI or flirting with Roy Harper), and in most than one time she was attacked there, being saved by various people, included his own brother (as Arrow/The Hood, without knowing about his Secret Identity) and her boyfriend Roy.
  • Cavendish: "Charlottetown Nights" sees Andy, Mark and Molly get themselves into the rough part of Charlottetown, and face gang violence. Apparently, there's numerous gangs, and Andy made fun of the wrong gang member's speech impediment!
  • CSI: "Getting Off" starts with the Victim of the Week driving a BMW into an area under the freeway. The next scene has him dead, with his wallet, watch, shoes, and car missing.
  • CSI: NY: In "Blacklist", the killer hacks the GPS of a CEO's car and sends him into the worst part of New York. He then activates the car alarm to attract the attention of the bad element.
  • The Sopranos:

  • This is the whole premise of Buddy Brown's song "Driving Through the Ghetto".
    When you're driving through the ghetto
    In your hillbilly truck
    You made two wrong turns
    And suddenly you're out of luck

  • Fen Quest: Fen's chase takes him into the bad part of The Fence, which he was warned can get him killed easily.

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Manual Samuel, where Death sends Sam into a part of town that is torn apart by gang wars. But to his surprise all gang members are already dead, and the few left get put down by War.
  • Persona 3: The protagonist, Yukari and Junpei at one point investigate the back alleys of the Port Island Station area, against the protests of Junpei who knows that's where all the delinquents hang out. They get into a tight spot with said delinquents but then are saved by Jerk with a Heart of Gold Shinjiro.
  • Sorcery!: Everywhere in Khare is dangerous, but the Red Eyes' part of Khare is especially so.

    Western Animation 
  • Daria: The plot of "Legends of the Mall" is driven by the Fashion Club having to catch a bus from the mall and winding up getting off in a less salubrious part of town. Of course, this being Lawndale, the 'bad part' of town isn't too bad.
  • DuckTales (2017): In "Daytrip of Doom!", Webby's misconduct on the bus winds up getting her and the triplets dropped off in the bad part of town. They don't run into any trouble while they're there, but the Beagle Boys spot them and wind up tailing them to their otherwise safe destination.
  • Green Eggs and Ham (2019): In "Mouse", instead of mailing themselves to South Shvizelton where Sam and Guy are, Gluntz and McWinkle accidentally mail themselves to North Shvizelton, which turns out to be The City Narrows. The city slogan is even "You're probably here by mistake."
  • The Simpsons: In "Lost Our Lisa", Lisa gets stranded on the Wrong Side of the Tracks after getting on the wrong bus. She has to trek back through Springfield's surprising number of bad neighborhoods while Homer searches for her.