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Cower Power

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It's the cowering conga!

"Bob! Prepare for the ass-kicking of your life!"
[moves behind George]
"And George is the one that's gonna do it!"
Mega Man, Bob and George

It's only natural to cower in the face of danger.note  As such, many a classic Damsel in Distress and fearful child will cower behind the nearest Love Interest, parent, or Big Damn Heroes when presented with peril. Of course, most conscientious heroes and even Innocent Bystanders will naturally interpose themselves anyway to protect other innocents (and perhaps pointlessly, but they do get props for chivalry). This kind of cowering stems from the classic pose of hero and heroine facing a monster on Film Posters for Touch of the Monster: the hero has a gun in one hand pointed at the beast, his other hand holding the Love Interest back, while she clutches his shoulder with one hand and covers her mouth from shock with the other.

There's another kind of character who cowers this way too, the Dirty Coward. He'll grab a nearby Innocent Bystander and use him as a Human Shield, hide behind the Littlest Cancer Patient when the Serial Killer with a soft spot for kids shows up, and might even shove his Love Interest towards the Martian Woman Stealer. Villains also tend to do this when faced with an implacable hero, inverting the cower by using the Love Interest to hide from him!

Sometimes this is used for comedic effect, with a hero who is Afraid of Needles reacting with complete terror to mundane things, sometimes even jumping into his Sidekick's arms or ducking behind his Love Interest like a Damsel in Distress. The Fish out of Water might hide from otherwise harmless things too (and notice who/what they're hiding behind looks far more threatening). See also Pose of Supplication. Bonus coward points if the character also Screams Like a Little Girl. Compare Eek, a Mouse!!. Contrast Go Through Me.

Not to be confused with the former Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed's Ai Haibara fulfills the Damsel in Distress version of this trope. She can often sense the presence of a member of the Organization close by. When she gets this feeling she will frequently cling to and hide behind the closest person available. This is most often Conan and Professor Agasa, but have on occasion also been Ran or Mitsuhiko.
  • Bulma in Dragon Ball often hides behind Goku whenever someone or something dangerous happens when she is a teenager. She looks especially funny since she's so much taller than Goku, who is barely three feet tall. She also hides behind Yamcha, which terrifies him at first because of his fear of women.
  • In the second arc of Gantz, Kurono is treated like a Dirty Coward for momentarily hiding behind Kishimoto when they first encounter a hostile alien. He objects that it is justified because she is wearing a super-suit that provides some protection from injury, while he is in street clothes and thus defenseless.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers: Poland does this after trying to tell off Sweden.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, Suletta's first instinct in any kind of confrontation while outside the Aerial is to dodge behind whoever or whatever is closest and cower there until the conversation is done, no matter how ineffective a protection this is. Notably, she has a tendency to do this with Miorine, who she normally towers over.
  • Used in a bizarre way in One Piece: Bobby Funk is scared of battle, so when he enters a fight, he immediately turns around and crouches in fear, though he doesn't hide behind anyone. However, Bobby has Super-Toughness, the skin of his back being strong enough to break bladed weapons swung at him, so this proves to be a pretty good way to defend himself.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Team Rocket frequently do this behind Wobbuffet, since his Counter and Mirror Coat can repel attacks coming their way.
    • In Pokémon the Series: XY, Serena's Eevee starts out very timid and comfortable only around Serena herself or Clemont's Bunnelby. When frightened, she will run and hide behind whichever of those two is available.

  • In Dante and Virgil in Hell, Dante appears to be hiding behind Virgil from the sight of the two damned brutalizing each other. He still seems worried to just be peaking over his guide's shoulder to get a look at what's happening.

  • Rich Hall's Otis Lee Crenshaw character has a song called "Do Anything You Want To The Girl (Just Don't Hurt Me)".

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla MonsterVerse fanfiction, the infant Manda a couple times retreats against the bodies of adult Titans whom he trusts when sensing serious danger.
  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero: After Haruhi's reaction to Tsuruya's report on what she and Kyon did to disband a illegal photographic ring (which included sleeping with him and bathing together — It Makes Sense in Context), Mikuru automatically hides behind Tsuruya. Kanae, noting that hiding behind Tsuruya isn't the best idea in this circumstances, decided not to follow this trope and only hide behind the table.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, a few classmates of Mei hide behind each other after she attacks Tyler.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Lone Wolf: In The Cauldron of Fear, when confronted by guards, the first reflex of Sogh (the thief helping Lone Wolf escape the jail) is to cower behind the hero and use him as shield.

  • In The Boy from Aleppo Who Painted the War, Adam hides from some soldiers behind Yasmine.
  • In A Boy Made of Blocks, Sam is shy around his aunt Emma and hides behind Jody's legs. He warms to her after she gives him a bag of toy airplanes.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story The Pool of the Black One, Sancha grovels after being thrown to the ground.
  • In The Dead Zone, Greg Stillson spends most of the story as Villain with Good Publicity. However, when the protagonist tries to shoot him at a campaign stop, his response is to hide behind a young boy. The incident is enough to make his career go down in flames, as nobody is willing to elect someone who endangers a child to protect themselves as President of the United States.
  • Galaxy of Fear: Army of Terror. Faced without warning with a being that psychically forces people into very convincing illusions of their worst fears, the Rebels are utterly unprepared and do anything from dropping their weapons to falling to their knees to assuming the Pose of Supplication.
  • In the second book of the Gone series, Hunter cowers behind Astrid, who is protecting him from Zil's lynch mob.
  • In The Place Inside the Storm, a little girl starts to pet Xel the robotic cat, but when he tries to talk to her, she hides behind her mother's skirts.
  • An early Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel portrayed this as being the hat of Ferengi, despite it having been well-established by that point in the franchise that Ferengi were quite willing to fight.
  • In the Xandri Corelel novel Tone of Voice, Xandri's parrot Marbles greets Diver by vomiting on his shirt, then tries to hide behind Xandri's other parrot Cake. It doesn't work, since Marbles is almost twice Cake's size.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Of course, it has a gender inversion from the movie poster description above.
      Xander: Where'd you get that accent, Sesame Street? 1, 2, 3 victims, nyahaha!
      Buffy: Xander, I'm pretty sure that's Dracula.
      Xander: [jumping behind Buffy] Hey, sorry, man.
    • Lampshaded in the Musical Episode.
      Anya: When times get rough, he / just hides behind his Buffy...
  • In an episode of Castle, there is a scene when the resident badass Beckett hides behind a local sheriff, while Castle hides behind her. Both decisions actually make sense in context: Castle is a Non-Action Guy who is used to stepping back and let Beckett handle a criminal; Beckett is a highly trained police officer, but she is unarmed, while the sheriff at least has a gun (which he is very uncomfortable with).
  • Doctor Who. In "The Haunting of Villa Diodati", Lord Byron cowers behind his mistress Claire Clairmont when faced with something spooky. At the end of the episode she informs Byron that using her as a human shield has ended whatever infatuation she had for him.
  • On Everybody Loves Raymond, whenever the main character's wife is in conflict with another person, she will usually bully her husband into confronting the other person for her, almost always growling "You need to back me up on this!", to the point where that line is almost her catch phrase (and even if the other person has a perfectly valid point, they will still be treated as being horrible simply for opposing Debra). Then when Ray inevitably caves in to her demands and starts doing the verbal battling on her behalf, Debra always finds a way to sneak into the back and hide behind Ray while he takes all the heat from the other person. Then when he gives her a chance to speak her mind and join in, Debra always says something like "hey, it wasn't me, this was your idea," and goes back to cowering behind Ray's back and letting him be the target of the other person's anger. What's really infuriating about this pattern of behavior is the fact that Ray himself is usually in favor of making peace with the other person and wants everyone to get along, but he gets dragged into the argument anyway because his wife wanted him to, and yet she herself is totally unwilling to actually take responsibility for it, even when the whole conflict is entirely her idea. And yet she still treats him as if he's an unworthy husband, even though he always ends up doing her dirty work for her.
  • Firefly's River Tam does this occasionally, because the mental trauma she suffered, her uncontrolled Psychic Powers, and her inability to control her own emotions render her unable to handle the terror she feels when threatened.
  • An episode of Mythbusters that involved testing the myth as to whether a large container of non-dairy creamer could serve as an effective explosive resulted in a fireball so large that a startled Kari Byron reflexively pulled Grant Imahara in front of her before running up the hill behind her. "Today I learned that in a crisis situation, I will hide behind a coworker. Sorry, Grant." - Kari Byron
  • Doctor Smith from Lost in Space cowers behind Will Robinson at least Once an Episode. Sometimes the Robot, for variety.
  • In the Odd Squad episode "Agent Obfusco", Olive and Otto both briefly cower behind Oprah when the eponymous agent suddenly appears behind them without any warning. In the case of Otto, it's rather amusing seeing as how he's taller than Oprah and the girl merely goes up to his shoulders, requiring him to crouch down in order to properly cower behind her.
  • Stargate Atlantis has a hilarious moment in the fourth season where Sheppard and McKay are rewarded with a portrait that features them and a young princess who they'd just saved from the Genii and her treacherous older sister. Sheppard, who the princess grew to dislike, is depicted cowering fearfully behind the little girl, while Rodney stands out front firing his gun and (presumably) letting out a war cry.
  • Star Wars, The Book of Boba Fett, "Return of the Mandalorian": As Peli Motto is chasing a womp rat with her blaster, her pit droids aren't of much help, all three of them cowering behind her or other droids.
  • In one episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody where the main characters believe a certain room of the hotel to be haunted, most of the characters end up screaming, jumping into each other's arms, running from the room, and using this trope at some point. At one point in particular, Cody and London try to cower behind each other, and end up screaming and chasing each other in a circle.
  • Supernatural:
  • Super Sentai, Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger: When the crew is confronted by a monster, Doc will almost always hide behind Luka, who will in turn elbow him in the gut for his cowardice.

  • A parody cover for the sci-fi magazine Andromeda Spaceways has an astronaut cowering in fear behind a scantily clad space babe who is fearlessly fending off a tentacled monster with her Ray Gun.


    Pro Wrestling 
  • A favorite tactic of the heels, who are not above grabbing a female at ringside (either the face's girlfriend or their own) to stop from getting attacked, and then shoving said female into the opponent! Edge used to do this all the time. Eddie Guerrero made it particularly reprehensible when he grabbed Rey Mysterio Jr.'s young son Dominick; this made Mysterio very angry.
  • Leva Bates cowered behind the ring announcer when she realized Coastal Championship Wrestling was going to have her referee a match between Isis The Amazon and Calypso.
  • The Best Friends Chuck Taylor and Trent Barreta did so multiple times during the Global Force Wrestling debut against the Tate Twins.
  • Allysin Kay and Taylor Made reacted this way in NWA FUW after Jazz brought back Amazing Kong. "Made In Sin" became much bolder after the formation of Valkyrie in SHINE.
  • A calling card of The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette. It's one of the leading reasons why fans thought the latter was gay.
  • Stevie Richards clinging to Victoria/Tara's leg to protect him from Carlito in Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore.

    Puppet Shows 

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • When approaching a warehouse containing a giant bug monster, Barbra cowers behind Jacob, saying outright that she plans to use him as a human shield if things go wrong.
    • When the same bug monster throws up liquid for fellow bug person Jenna to eat, Luna is disgusted and hides behind Rose, who then hides behind Sebastian. Made comedic by the cowering girls being significantly taller than Seb.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The first version of Kobold PCs in 5th Edition get a racial special ability called Grovel, Cower, and Beg. Once per fight, they can cower and grovel, distracting nearby enemies so that the Kobold's allies gain Advantage on any attacks made against them for a round. The revised version replaces it with a similar but more powerful (and distinctly less-cowardly) "Draconic Cry" that mostly does the same thing but also lets the Kobold character attack that round.
  • Warhammer: When they at all have a choice in the matter, the Gnoblars' preferred method of fighting is to cower behind an Ogre while making aggressive noises at the enemy.

    Video Games 
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent has this trope as the player's only means of defense. You are given no weapons of any kind and any time you're attacked, the only thing you can do is run and hide in the dark, usually behind crates, until the monster gets bored and leaves.
  • BioShock 2 features Stanley Poole, who spends most of his only level hiding in a booth while forcing Delta to clear up his dirty business. And once Delta finally has access to that booth, learning all that Poole had done (killed most people in that area in a flood, plus selling both Delta and his "daughter" Eleanor to the mad scientists who made them inhuman) he can do nothing but cower, with the player needing to choose whether he deserves to live.
  • From one standpoint, any Stealth-Based Game or game with a Stealth-Based Mission could be seen as utilizing this. You need to hide from enemies, often by crouching in dark corners, because you can't take them on. Certain Horror-genre games will have the character give indications that they're afraid, like Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.
  • Each protagonist in Fears to Fathom has to hide for a time before escaping danger to conclude the story. What makes it challenging is that they mustn't make noise to attract attention to their whereabouts; the game can also pick up noise coming from the player's microphone while hiding.
    • Miles in Home Alone has to hide in his room from an intruder until the police arrive on the scene.
    • Holly in Norwood Hitchhike hides in the motel closet while the intruder looks for her before the owner intervenes.
    • Noah in Carson House hides in the laundry room until Cara has moved elsewhere, giving him a chance to escape and call for help.
    • Jack in Ironbark Lookout hides under his bed then in the outhouse from the cultists before running for the park entrance.
  • Final Fantasy IV has Edward who has an ability that lets him do this. He also does it when he's low on Hit Points.
  • Mother:
    • In EarthBound (1994), Porky Minch does this as one of the many useless actions he's capable of performing in battle while accompanying Ness at the start of the game.
    • Mother 3: When traveling with Salsa, Fassad will occasionally do this in battle, despite the fact that (as an NPC) monsters don't target him anyway, and he's easily several times stronger than Salsa.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon has Wimpod, a wimpy little isopod and its special ability "Wimp Out" where "The Pokémon cowardly switches out when its HP becomes half or less" and lets one of its stronger teammates take the heat for it. Wimpod's evolution, Golisopod, a massive samurai isopod, does not "Wimp Out". Rather it makes an "Emergency Exit" when its HP becomes half or less.
  • In the online game Sissyfight, cowering protects you from the first Scratch or Grab move or from any damage from a Tattle, but cannot protect you from a successful Tease. While the game's rules are such that the goal is to survive rather than do as much damage as possible to your enemies, "cowerbotting" is frowned on.
  • In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, the Nobleman, a completely harmless starter opponent, has the ability "Spare Me" that he uses at low HP. When he performs it, he falls to the ground and begs you not to kill him. If he's allowed to complete it, the fight automatically ends (so you don't get any XP because you didn't kill him) and you're given a large amount of money.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Peach's special move in which she uses Toad as a shield has been altered so that rather than holding him in front of her, she cowers behind him while he stands defiantly against the enemy.
  • In World of Warcraft, during the Spirit Kings encounter, Meng the Demented, during his Cowardice phase, runs away from players while reflecting damage onto them. He still periodically uses his Maddening Shout ability, though. Lei Shi, a water spirit corrupted by the Sha of Fear, will hide at certain points, and must be forced out into the open through area of effect damage.
  • Wolfenstein: Subverted in Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
    Mad Scientist: It's the spy! [hides behind SS officer] You must protect me!
    SS Officer: No, Herr Doktor, you are the one who will protect me! [throws him through the portal, only for scientist to come back as a mutant monster and kill him]

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "Trouble on the Half Shell", when the rats mutate and grow huge thanks to toxic waste exposure, Greedly hides behind Skumm and tells him that he should deal with them; they're his relatives.
  • The title character in Dave the Barbarian hides behind a tiny puppy to escape the Dark Lord Chuckles' rampage in "The Red Sweater of Courage". The other characters (including Chuckles) point out that this was a new low, even for Dave.
  • Kaeloo: In any instance when the characters are in danger, like being attacked by zombies or Exploring the Evil Lair, Kaeloo winds up hiding behind Mr. Cat.
  • Parodied in the Kim Possible episode "Overdue", in which Ron has a tendency to hide behind Wade's robot while invading Dr. Drakken's lair. Problem is that the robot turns invisible if Dr. Drakken or Shego see it, causing Ron to get spotted immediately. To them, it looks like Ron is just shivering in a corner in fear.
  • Played for Laughs and played straight in Teen Titans; both examples feature teams of males hiding behind their female leader. In the humorous version, The Titans East hides behind Bumblebee when Control Freak drops in unexpectedly; the serious one features the H.I.V.E. five hiding behind Jinx in nervous anticipation for Madam Rouge's verbal abuse.