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Crying Wolf

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House: At the end of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", the wolf really does come. And he eats the sheep... and the boy... and his parents.
Chase: The wolf doesn't eat the parents!
House: It does when I tell it.


You know the story. A little shepherd boy cries wolf to get people to come running because he's bored out of his skull (or whatever). They fall for it. He does it again. They fall for it again. Then, an actual wolf comes along, and the little boy screams his little lungs out (crying "You Have to Believe Me!") but this time nobody comes, since they think he's just playing that stupid prank again. The sheep the boy is watching get nommed down, and the boy learns a valuable lesson. Grimmer versions will end with the wolf eating the boy as well. Or everyone.

Some have the variant plot of the hero kid getting caught in a relatively minor lie, or at least they thought they have, and then the kid alone spots something truly serious and no-one believes him. Fortunately, the kid is either able to find witnesses to support him or is able to prove his claim, even if he has to save the day on his own. Eventually, the kid's reputation is restored either by the authorities being impressed by his heroism or the people he helped coming forward to praise his character.


Moral of the story: nobody believes a liar, even when he's telling the truth. This can be taken two ways: "Don't be a liar" or "Don't assume liars are always lying." Less traditional possibilities are "Never tell the same lie twice" and "Don't leave a known liar on watch."

There is also a more innocent variant when a hero, like a detective, makes a conclusion and decides that he has to take immediate action with something, only to find he was mistaken to his embarrassment. This kills his credibility with others, which makes his next move upon learning the real situation all the more difficult.

Older Than Feudalism, the Trope Namer being from Aesop's Fables. Which also makes it one of The Oldest Ones in the Book.

A frequently subverted Undead Horse Trope.

Not to be confused with the Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots boss Crying Wolf.


See also: This Is Not a Drill, Cassandra Truth, Not-So-Imaginary Friend, No Mere Windmill, Mistaken for an Imposter, Not Now, Kiddo. Contrast While Rome Burns, when things are actually going horribly wrong but everyone is in denial of it. In situations like that, if the character crying wolf turns out to be right, and people still refuse to believe him, then he is either an Ignored Expert or The Cassandra. Subtrope of Poor Communication Kills. Not to be confused with a wolf that is crying.

This trope provides examples of the following situations:

  • An Aesop: "Lying is bad" is the usual interpretation, but Aesop didn't actually spell this one out and alternatives have been proposed as mentioned in the description.
  • The Big Bad Wolf: Without the antagonist, we're left without the tale.
  • Cassandra Truth: The villagers don't believe anything the boy says, even when he is serious.
  • Crowd Panic: As in another unspoken Aesop of the tale; "don't agitate then laugh at the village — it gets really cranky".
  • Honesty Aesop: The moral is not to lie.
  • The Gadfly: The boy gets people riled up by screaming about danger that doesn't exist.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: How the boy justifies crying wolf, complete with the lesson that "It's just a prank, bro!" will turn out badly in the end.
  • Karmic Death: Let's face it, the lad earns this typical fairy tale ending. Depending on the version, either he dies or his sheep die because of his lying.
  • Rule of Three: The third time the boy cries "Wolf!" nobody believes him anymore.
  • Space Whale Aesop: "Don't lie, or else your sheep, and possibly you, will be eaten by a wolf."
  • Urgent Medical Alert: Patient abusing alarms results in this, regardless of the truth.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: The boy isn't believed because he's telling an improbable-sounding story with no evidence to back it up.

On a similar note, see Opening a Can of Clones for when this situation extends to an author and their audience, where viewers become unable to take the work at face-value because of certain story decisions made by the writer.


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  • Fittingly, Isuzu featured the Joe Isuzu as the boy (or car salesman, in this case) lying about various problems before showing it was solved easily with his Isuzu Trooper. When he's surrounded, this happens...
    Joe Isuzu: Help, wolf! I'll never lie again, I'll never lie again. Help, wolf! [townspeople ignore him]
    Wolf: BURP!
  • A Dutch ad had the host of the Dutch equivalent of Candid Camera falling off his ladder and hanging onto the edge of the roof. His shouting attracted some bystanders, but once they recognised him they laughed and left, not wanting to "fall for it".

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Angel Beats!, Yurippe told this story (lies repeated make them less believable) and her new alternative is to use different people and invent new gags. The gags used are: Hinata - bamboo shoots shooting out the ground (Hinata's chair launches), Takamatsu - look thinner on the clothes (Takamatsu's chair launches with style), Ooyama - confess to Tenshi (Hinata's chair launches). The plan behind these outlandish ruses is to distract Kanade "Angel" Tachibana while one of Yurippe's accomplices switches her test with a fake answer sheet, causing Kanade to fail her exams and be removed from her position as Student Council President.
  • Code Geass uses a variant of this in R2. During the Second Battle of Tokyo, Suzaku says he's carrying a Weapon of Mass Destruction in an attempt to deter the Black Knights. Lelouch doesn't believe him because a couple of episodes earlier, Suzaku lied about a private meeting and brought along soldiers who nearly captured Lelouch....except that Suzaku did come alone; Schneizel was the one who sent the soldiers, to destroy any remaining bonds of trust between the pair. This results in Tokyo getting destroyed.
  • In a filler episode of Dragon Ball Z, a little girl named Lime would constantly scare her small town by screaming that Cell was coming. Ironically, the real Cell never shows up, but Gohan and her grandfather scold her for it. One of her warnings exposes a man as a Dirty Coward when he runs into his bomb shelter and locks everybody out. (Gohan then casually destroyed it and pointed out it would never have stopped Cell.)
  • In GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, Miki acts out and uses the emergency button her father (a high-ranking police officer) gave her, to get his attention. Unfortunately this makes him not respond when she really is kidnapped, until Onizuka arrives and tells him in person.
  • Happy Happy Clover. Episode 12 of the anime, "Big-Time Thief", involves Cinnamon and Twirl telling Clover and friends that they spotted a wolf stealing berries. However, after Clover notices a leaf that appears to be a trap, they go for plan B by using a stone that turns the duo into wolves. Clover and Kale listen to their plans until they see a cave that contained missing berries. As the episode goes on, more stuff from the citizens of Crescent Forest starts disappearing. Cinnamon and Twirl once again run back to Clover and the rest of the citizens, only for Clover and Professor Hoot to say that they are both lying. Near the end of the episode, Kale notices a moving box covered in sheets that is later revealed to be his baby brothers. His brothers then reveal that there actually is a wolf inside the box. The wolf explains to the citizens that he got injured by a falling tree and Kale's brothers decided to help him recover by taking various things to help him heal including food and temporary shelter.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Erika never belives Karen claims of having seen romantic moments between Kaguya and Shirogane because she's always talking about stuff like that even when nothing is happening. The narration even refers to her as "The girl who cried 'ship'."
  • This also shows up in an episode of the Little Lulu anime. After three false alarms involving falling out of a tree, freaking out over a caterpillar, and thinking that Alvin was going to fall into the lake while rolling in a barrel, Lulu is no longer believed by Tubby and the other boys when she tries telling them that the Westside Gang really did show up. Up until the end of the episode, that is.
  • Minor instance with Lucky Star, where Konata can't convince her teacher she's too sick to attend class after she spent the past two days giving other (dumber) excuses.
  • Lupin III is able to exploit this trope in a manga chapter and the Lupin III: Part 1 episode ("One Chance to Breakout") based on that chapter, by intentionally causing this effect. While he's in prison, he keeps claiming that he isn't really Lupin, until everyone gets sick of it and stops listening. On the day of his execution, he switches places with a guard, who gets dragged off protesting that he isn't Lupin – and, of course, no one believes him.
  • Usopp's introductory arc in One Piece is modeled on the Boy Who Cried Wolf (or Pirates, in his case), and his name is a portmanteau of "Uso" (lie) and "Aesop". By the point we meet him, he's done it every day for ten years. By then, the village sets their watches by it. ("Usopp's coming, time to go to work.") Unfortunately for Usopp, when he learns of an actual pirate who's plotting to kill Kaya and steal her inheritance, no one believes him, and it doesn't help that Usopp repeatedly clashed with the man he's accusing of being the pirate- Kaya's butler Klahadore.
    • It becomes heartwarmingly inverted at the climax of the arc when Usopp resolves to handle an actual pirate attack by himself (with help from the protagonists) because he cares more about the villagers' peace of mind than restoring his credibility. When he decides to join Luffy's crew, his friends take up the "Pirates are coming!" chant every day in his honor. The village actually finds it sweet because they miss Usopp.
    • The Jaya Arc introduces an in-universe version of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf", "Noland the Liar". 400 years ago, Montblanc Noland was a seafaring explorer who always had wild stories about what he had reportedly seen during his voyages. One day, he claimed to have seen a city of gold on Jaya. The king of his country commanded Noland to take him to the city of gold, but when they got to Jaya, there was no trace of the city ever existing. The king put Noland to death for lying to him, and Noland's last words were a suggestion that the city had sunk into the ocean due to tectonic plates shifting. No one believed him, or anything else he had ever said, and parents would warn their children not to lie, or end up like Noland. The Skypiea Arc reveals that the piece of Jaya were the city of gold was had actually been flung into the White Sea by the Knock-Up Stream.
  • The opposite is played with in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. After some incidents on April Fool's Day, Itoshiki concludes that if a person is always honest everyone will believe them even when they're lying. Then a fairy tale book is shown with the opposite of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" story, where an entire village is destroyed after a perfectly honest boy cries wolf as a joke.
  • In the second Tenchi Muyo! movie, Ryoko is the most hostile to Mayuka when she appears at the Masaki household. When Ryoko finds out that Mayuka might really be a threat to Tenchi, Ryoko tries to warn the others, only for Tenchi to brush her off, thinking Ryoko is overreacting again.

    Asian Animation 
  • In episode 7 of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, Mr. Slowy gives the goats whistles and tells them that they may only use them to call for help if Wolffy is nearby. Sparky keeps blowing his whistle, not because Wolffy is attacking him, but just to mess with Weslie and Slowy; when Sparky actually uses the whistle to call for help, Slowy assures Weslie that Sparky is just playing a trick again, and it isn't until later that the other goats notice he's missing and worry about him.

    Comic Books 
  • In All-Star Superman, Lois refuses to believe Superman when he tells her he's Clark Kent for this reason. He's spent decades misleading her about his identity, so why would he reveal it now so flippantly? After all, he's tricked her like this before.
  • Archie Comics:
    • Reggie plays a recorded ice cream truck jingle to fool Jughead. He does it again, saying it really is the ice cream truck. When Jughead decides not to be fooled, the real ice cream truck drives by.
    • When Cheryl Blossom becomes a lifeguard, almost every teenage boy on the beach needs to be saved. Even Cheryl knows that they're faking it, but has to check each one in case one of them actually needs help. Eventually, the head lifeguard calls the boys out on this, stating that their antics might keep the lifeguards from saving someone in actual trouble. At that point, Archie (the one boy who ''didn't'' fake it) suddenly gets attacked by little octopi. However, Cheryl thinks it's just a ploy and doesn't go in. Needless to say, Archie was pretty upset with Cheryl when he managed to get out…up until she puts him into some Post-Kiss Catatonia.
  • Happened in the Disney comic "Cry Duck!" in which Scrooge McDuck staged "tests" to see how his employees (among which, Donald Duck) reacted. Hilarity Ensued when a real thug attacked Scrooge, but he failed to learn anything, refused to admit he was ever at fault, and ends up chasing Donald out of town trying to clobber him.
  • Takes on a more literal meaning in Fables. Jack Horn is brutally attacked by a group of living wooden soldiers and escapes to tell Bigby and Snow about it. They don't believe him, despite the fact that he is bloody and carrying a wooden leg, because Jack has basically made a career of scams and get-rich-quick strategies and they think this is just one more, and the very first arc of the series actually involved him and Snow's sister Rose faking her death and using her actual blood (taken over a period of time to give the appearance she'd bled out) at the scene to get out of paying Bluebeard. When he protests, Snow White asks him "Jack, have you ever heard of the boy who cried wolf?" to which Jack replies in total seriousness, "Yeah, he lives on the seventh floor. What's that got to do with anything?"
    • There's also a flashback in a later chapter that shows Jack tried to steal the Naughty or Nice list from Santa Claus back in the fifties.
    • The Jack of Fables series has more flashbacks with Jack pulling off even more outrageous schemes for cash.
  • The Swedish comic book Kunskapens Korridorer had a scene where the school was having a standard fire drill... when an actual fire broke out. The principal (who earlier had complained how no one takes the fire drills seriously) is amazed how serious everyone is about the drill... while he's idly pottering around the school halls instead of evacuating because he still thinks it's just a drill. The whole event culminates with him going out on an upper-floor balcony while everyone waves and shouts at him, and prepares to make a speech... and only then realizes the room behind him is on fire. The fireman who rescues him even asks him why he didn't evacuate like a smart person should.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Buttercup pulls this on her sisters in the comic book story "Who's Afraid Of The Closet Monster?" (issue #29).
  • In the Rivers of London graphic novel Cry Fox, a woman who faked her daughter's kidnapping by supernatural means receives a phone call in prison telling her that her daughter has been kidnapped by supernatural means and asking if she's familiar with the phrase "crying wolf". As it turns out, this doesn't work; the police response to a child in care going missing is the same whether they believe the phone call or not.
  • In one Golden Age Superman comic, Orson Welles himself played this role. In the plot of the story, a group of Martians who admired and mimicked the Nazis were planning to invade Earth, and Welles, who had been abducted by them, tried to send a warning to Earth, only for it to fall mostly on deaf ears— too many people remembered his famous hoax adaptation of The War of the Worlds. Fortunately for everyone involved, he was able to convince Superman, who was enough to stop the invasion before it started. (Welles himself is no slouch fighting them either.) On the last page of the comic, a debutante asks Welles at a party if it was another hoax; he chuckles a little, and tells her, "Just ask Superman!"
  • A TaleSpin comic had Baloo be late for work due to running into a ghost plane flown by skeletons. Rebecca naturally thinks he's lying until he flies her up there to see it for herself. After the plot is resolved (it was a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax created by Shere Khan to hide his secret Airborne Aircraft Carrier. Really.) Rebecca vows to never doubt Baloo again. The comic ends with Baloo loafing around Louie's while calling Rebecca to tell her he was caught in a hurricane and may be stuck the whole night.
  • In Wild's End when Mr. Fawkes, a notorious drunk, wanders into a bar ranting of aliens and lights in the sky his warnings go unheeded. Unfortunately, he isn't lying or exaggerating this time.

    Comic Strips 
  • Retail: Inverted and invoked. Josh was telling the truth about Val and Cooper being in a forbidden relationship, but because Amber overheard him ratting them out to Stuart, it gave them time to make it look like Josh was crying wolf by getting someone else to pose as Val's boyfriend.

    Fan Works 
  • CONSEQUENCES (Miraculous Ladybug): EXPOSED features Lila attempting to out Marinette as Ladybug; however, the heroes are able to preserve her Secret Identity with a clever ruse, while Lila is left revealed as a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Her attempts to prove that she's telling the truth repeatedly fail, culminating in her stealing a pair of decoy earrings and attempting to transform in front of everyone.
  • The epilogue to Black Cat Crossing by Neeko 96 reveals Lila died at the age of 50 after her reputation as a liar made people respond too slowly when she had a heart attack.
  • Fate/Harem Antics: After Luvia shows up, Rin starts blaming everything on her. At one point, Rin shows up exhausted and says it's Luvia's fault; Sakura gently says she can't blame everything on her. Archer, amused, says this actually is Luvia's fault. She bought the empty lot next to Rin's house and made sure a construction crew was working loudly throughout the night.
  • Five Times Lila Rossi Was Killed presents five different canon-divergent scenarios where Consummate Liar Lila's lies and misdeeds result in her meeting a gruesome end. In the last one, Lila starts choking on a piece of chicken during lunch at school and pleads for help from her classmates. Unfortunately for her, in this particular timeline, her lies have been exposed to everyone, so everyone thinks she's just faking it like she had before. Of course, they only realize she was finally telling the truth after it’s too late. Her mother even references the Trope Namer, lamenting she never told her daughter the story, as learning its moral might have prevented her horrible fate.
  • Luan’s over-the-top April Fools pranks in The Loud House becomes her undoing in The Fool Who Cried Foul. Someone ruins her sisters’ Day in the Limelight with elaborate pranks similar to the style of her April Fools terrors, leading everyone to accuse her. It doesn’t help that in addition to the pranks being in her style, her absences are perfect time slots for her to set them up, and her only way of proving she’s innocent is declaring "Not Me This Time".
  • The alternate Morrible of all people in The Land of What Might-Have-Been; she may have actually been telling Glinda the truth when she tried to warn Glinda that Elphaba was becoming unstable due to spells Morrible had performed to try and control Elphaba, but thanks to both Elphaba's deceptions (which Morrible couldn't have known about) and Morrible's own past actions, Glinda is thoroughly disinclined to believe a word of it.
  • Loved and Lost: Part of the reason why the heroes' attempts to warn the citizens of Canterlot about Jewilius' treachery prove to be in vain is because the only other witness to his backstabbing actions was Queen Chrysalis, and as one angry crowdgoer points out, a creature who lies and decieves ponies shouldn't be trusted to give testimony. Sure enough, when the Changelings escape in the midst of the already chaotic events following Celestia's botched execution, Twilight doesn't believe Chrysalis when the latter mockingly warns her that she and her loved ones will be in peril as long as she continues supporting Jewilius (at least until he personally reveals his true colors to her later on).
  • One step backwards and Three forwards: After betraying Ladybug so she could make a reality-warping Wish, Alya spends a lot of time insisting that she's not to blame for any of the horrible events that follow. By the time she discovers a legitimate Awful Truth, she's built up a reputation for rejecting reality, and doesn't help her case by insisting that the truth means nothing she did actually matters. Coming from her, the notion that they're trapped in a world that isn't real just sounds like making further excuses for herself.
  • In Princess Trixie Sparkle when Trixie who had kicked off the plot by manipulating Twilight into switching bodies with her is forced to work with The Mane Six and Spike, Twilight understandably believes that Trixie is just pulling another trick and double-crosses her. Too bad she was telling the truth.
  • Defied in Red Fire, Red Planet, in a Shout-Out to the Honor Harrington series (see Literature, below).
    "And for that brief moment, Kybok's Vulcan composure slipped. Case Zulu was a code phrase that had not been heard in Sol since the Breen attack thirty-four years ago. It was never, ever given during exercises to avoid crying wolf, and had only one definition: 'Enemy invasion imminent.'"

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Bedazzled (1967), George (the Devil) gives poor shlub Stanley seven wishes for his soul, but grants them all in the worst-case ways possible. Having claimed more than enough souls to get back into Heaven as an angel (as per a bet with God), he gives Stanley the deed to his soul back, maybe out of pity, but more to make himself look good. At Heaven's gate, he's turned away for this selfish gesture - he rushes back to Stanley, desperate to give him back his soul in an altruistic way, but Stanley has been tricked too often, burns the deed, and slips away.
  • This is the entire plot of Big Fat Liar. The characters' surnames are even Shepherd and Wolf.
  • Carry On Matron had an expecting mother that had a baby three-weeks overdue waiting inside her. She binge-ate while she waited, leading to her calling out that her waters had broken when it turned out to be wind or indigestion.
  • Chunk has this problem in The Goonies. None of his friends believe him when he starts a story with "I just saw the most amazing thing in my entire life." More importantly, the friendly sheriff doesn't believe him when he says he's in trouble because the last time several times he called it was a prank.
  • In Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, Jesse's half-brother Elvis turns out to be a compulsive liar. After several days of them dealing with Elvis' lies, Jesse and Elvis find a whale beached in the aftermath of an oil spill, and Jesse, apparently not thinking about this, sends Elvis to wake up their foster parents and tell them to call for help. Unsurprisingly, it takes Elvis a little while to convince them there's an actual emergency.
  • Friday the 13th Part III has Shelly, who's known for playing pranks on the rest of his friends, including one where it looks like he's taken an axe to the head. When Jason proceeds to slit his throat later on, he manages to last long enough to make it back to one of the others, but at this point he's pranked everyone so many times she merely assumes he's playing another joke and ignores him, only realizing that this time he's not joking long after he's bled to death.
  • Exploited in How to Steal a Million. Simon Dermott, as a ploy to snatch a counterfeit statue from a museum, uses a boomerang twice to activate the statue's motion-sensing alarm before quickly sneaking back into his janitor's closet hiding place. After the museum security fails to find anything stolen or moved, and after getting an angry call from the French President concerning the loud siren so late at night, the Head of Security decides to just turn off what he believes to be a faulty security system, allowing Simon and Nicole to grab the statue without problem.
  • You Know from Keep Off My Grass! spends so much time bragging about his nonexistent sex life that when he gets laid for real, no one believes him.
  • In The Lost Boys, a new recruit starts the process of becoming a vampire by drinking the blood of the group's leader. David uses this trope to make sure Michael will drink it. The gang have Chinese food, and David gets Michael to eat some white rice, then asks him how he's enjoying his maggots. Looking down, Michael sees wriggling maggots, but when he drops the box, only plain white rice spills out. David apologizes and offers a box of noodles, but Michael sees writhing worms inside — yet when David takes a big bite, they are clearly only noodles. Needless to say, when reluctant half-vampire Star tries to warn Michael that the wine bottle he is offered contains not wine, but blood, Michael scoffs and takes a good long drink.
    • Interestingly, the viewer has no way of knowing what is real and what is illusion in this scene. Was mortal Michael eating maggots or rice? Was vampire David eating real worms? It's impossible to know whether this is a case of crying wolf falsely or warning of real wolves who are then hidden.
  • The reason nobody initially believes that Andy Kaufman really does have cancer in Man on the Moon is because he had done so many fake publicity stunts before. A reflection of the real life incident listed below.
  • In Mr. Deeds, tabloid reporter Babe Bennet pretends to be mugged in order to get the titular character to trust her and get dirt on him. He eventually found out her deceit and when later she was in danger of drowning, he has a hard time believing her.
  • In Outbreak, Colonel Daniels had previously predicted serious outbreaks of deadly diseases, which failed to happen. This is why General Ford tells him not to worry since the recently discovered (actually reemerged) Motaba virus kills so quickly, it's unlikely to get very far. Cue one Motaba-infected monkey arriving in America...
  • Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean is an interesting case. It's not that he tells outright lies, but usually half-truths, and it's always for the purpose of manipulating people for his own ends. As a result, nobody actually trusts Jack fully and when it turns out he's been honest about something, it's pretty shocking.
    Norrington: You really were telling the truth.
    Jack: I do that quite a lot. You people are always surprised.
    Will: With good reason.
  • Razorback. The eponymous giant razorback is shot with a tracking dart. When a signal is picked up, a posse goes racing off to its location only to find an ordinary boar shot with a similar dart. When the signal goes off a second time to show the giant razorback is close, no-one is interested as they're busy getting drunk in the pub.
  • Scary Movie 3: Brenda watches the cursed tape from The Ring and tells her friend Cindy about it. Afterwards, she pranks her by pretending to die three times. When the curse turns out to be real, Cindy thinks it's another prank and doesn't come to help her.
  • The Sea Wolves. While sailing to Goa, the lookout sounds the alarm over what he thinks is a U-boat's periscope, only to get derided by everyone when it turns out to be a shark fin. Later he sees a real periscope, but is afraid of making a fool of himself again so thinks It's Probably Nothing. Fortunately the Germans think their tiny rustbucket vessel is not worth wasting a torpedo on.
  • In Six Degrees of Celebration 2, an elderly man who watches over a closed airbase is sure that someday it will be needed again, and his grandson keeps telling him that a plane is coming to distract him from the staff phone and call his girlfriend. Naturally, when the boy notices an actual plane making an emergency landing and raises the alarm, the grandpa calmly sits at his supper. Fortunately, when he sees the boy really running to turn on the runway lights, he believes him, and they ensure the plane lands safely.
  • Superhost: The protagonists Teddy and Claire are a pair of travel vloggers with a bad reputation for clickbait. At the end of the film, Claire records and uploads a video saying that Rebecca, the owner of the house they're staying at, is Ax-Crazy and trying to kill her. When Rebecca sees that the video has finished uploading, she initially thinks she's done for... until she reads the comments and sees that everybody thinks that Claire's pulling a dumb prank to boost the channel's subscribers. While Teddy and Claire will likely be reported missing eventually, the fact that nobody believed Claire's initial warning means that Rebecca will probably have enough time to change her identity again and get away with everything.
  • Tremors. The boy Melvin Plug repeatedly plays pranks on Earl and Valentine, including wrapping a Graboid tentacle around his head and pretending it's attacking him. Finally he starts yelling and Earl, thinking he's still joking, says he's going to kick Melvin's ass. When they go outside, they see Melvin cowering on top of a metal pole — making them realize that this time he isn't kidding — the Graboids are here. You'd likely expect a jerk like Melvin to be counted among the victims in a film like this, but ironically, he survives.
  • 12 Monkeys: Part of what makes Kathryn realize that Cole is telling the truth about being from the future is when they overhear a news report about a kid falling down a well and the ensuing rescue operation. Cole dismissively notes that he remembers hearing about this when he was young, and that the kid was actually just playing a prank and hiding in a nearby barn. Kathryn ignores him... until she later sees a second report on TV showing the kid being found in the exact barn Cole described and confessing to his prank.
  • The Window has this as its Central Theme and as An Aesop for the hero kid Tommy. Because of his history of being a notorious Mr. Imagination, Tommy's parents and the police don't believe him when he becomes a witness to a murder. It almost gets him killed afterwards but by the end, the villains get caught and Tommy's reputation is restored.

  • The title comes from one of Aesop's Fables, making this Older Than Feudalism. Interestingly, the boy in the original fable only loses his sheep; the detail of being killed by the wolf himself only being added much later.
    • A variant in some versions of the story has the boy overreacting to a single sheep going missing (usually, the missing sheep is found again later). Different motivation, same result; the villagers stop believing the boy, and then an actual wolf comes.
  • Discussed in Andy Griffiths' Just Series, when in one book, Andy and Danny are yelling out, "Murder! Bloody murder!" just because they're bored. At one point, one of them says, "What if we really were being murdered?".
  • Invoked in The City of Ember; the mayor tried to claim to the city that this is what Doon and Lina were doing when they reported that he and Looper were stealing, stating that they were "spreading vicious rumors." However, they were telling the truth.
  • In Charlie and Lola, the book "Help! I Really Mean It!" (which would later inspire an episode of the show) has Lola and Lotta falsely call for help during a game, and then when quoting the game, so Charlie doesn't believe them when they call for help about Casper the cat being up a tree.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The book "Cabin Fever" has a variation in that no one deliberately lied. A blizzard hits Greg's neighbourhood and his friend Rowley had told him that one was coming, but Greg didn't believe him. The reason is because whenever Rowley watches a Christmas movie that his family taped, he believes the severe weather warning that was part of the tape.
  • Invoked in Firebird by the protagonist Ilya and a helpful fox. They get the villain, the Kaschei, to disable his own guard dragon by having it make a series of (apparently) false alarms.
  • Combined with You Have to Believe Me! in a book in Galaxy of Fear. By that point, the characters have become more inclined to believe wild claims. But the hacker who cruelly tricked Zak into shutting down important ship functions in the hopes of seeing him get in trouble?
  • Goosebumps has the story "The Girl Who Cried Monster", about a girl who constantly pulls monster pranks. Eventually, she finds out that the librarian is a monster, but nobody believes her. Of course, this aesop is a bit undermined by the inherent nature of it — people may believe you if you say there's a wolf in town, but a bug-eyed monster? Unlikely in any case. It turns out that her parents - as well as her and her brother - are actually monsters, which she didn't know at the time and they had been acting like they didn't believe her when they were planning to eat the librarian.
  • Defied in Honor Harrington: On Basilisk Station. The narration mentions that the code phrase "Case Zulu" is never, ever given in drills to avoid exactly this trope. It has only one meaning: "Enemy invasion imminent."
  • In Jennifer the Jerk Is Missing, Malcolm's past history of reporting nonexistent crimes to the police (that he genuinely thought were occurring) has destroyed his reputation with them. So when he does see the kidnapping of a bratty classmate, no-one believes him.
  • In Gordon Korman's The D- Poems of Jeremy Bloom, the narrator of the poem "Why I Was Late" comes to school late every day for a week, always giving a ridiculous excuse (an asteroid enveloped Earth in a time-distortion field which means he's actually on time, he had to tiptoe around an unexploded atomic bomb in his front yard, etc.). On Friday, his excuse is actually plausible: he missed the bus because he had to rescue the family cat from a tree, and he couldn't ride his bike to school because he left it in the driveway and his father accidentally backed the car over it. He insists that he was telling the truth this time — honest — but his enraged teacher refuses to listen.
  • Help Me Be Good: In "A Children's Book About Lying", Katie lies that she is sick, then later actually gets sick but her mother doesn't believe her.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: Early in Storm Rising, Tremaine realizes the Hardorn resistance has weaponized this trope. The Imperial army uses mages to scry for attackers; the Hardornens are using their mages to flood the Imperial mages with illusions of attackers.
  • Willo D Robert's " The Kidnappers" has a protagonist, Joel, with this problem. so, when he says he saw the school bully kidnapped, no-one will listen (except his friend, sister, and the bad guys themselves). This proves to be a really, really BAD thing.
  • A Lion in the Meadow: Implied. When the boy claims there's a lion in the meadow, his mother dismisses it as him "making up stories again".
  • One chapter of Little House on the Prairie has this occur to Laura's cousin Charley. He doesn't want to help his father and uncle in the fields so he goofs off all day and gets in the way of their work. Eventually they tell him to go away, but even then he keeps on mock screaming to fool them until they begin to ignore him. Charley begins to scream and it turns out this time it's for real danger. He had stepped on a beehive and they were attacking him. He ends up okay but covered in bee stings.
  • Hilaire Belloc's poem Matilda, who told lies and was burned to death, features Matilda, who...told lies and was burned to death, for
    ... every time she shouted "Fire!"
    They only answered "Little Liar!"
  • Nero Wolfe tends to experience this with the various authority figures that he tangles with, particularly Inspector Cramer. The authorities know full well that he tends to hold back information until it suits his purposes, rely on carefully misleading Exact Words to the point where it becomes an art-form, and otherwise play games with the truth. However, they tend to exaggerate how much he does this and so resort to a default of mistrusting everything he says, even when they have sufficient experience with him to know that he rarely outright lies. In an interesting variation, however, this tends to backfire more on the doubter rather than the 'liar', however; the authorities end up being too stubborn and unwilling to trust Wolfe to the point where they end up cutting off their own noses to spite their faces since despite his mendacity Wolfe is usually on to something they've missed.
  • Nightmare Hour: "I'm Not Martin" receives its title from the titular character's habit of screaming that he's not Martin, especially as he's being taken in to have his foot surgically removed. This later dooms Sean as the orderlies take him away after Martin switches their charts since they've been warned about Martin's habit.
  • In Oh, Hogwash, Sweet Pea!, Sweet Pea keeps lying about where she put her shoes, so her parents don't believe her when she tells the truth about them being stolen by a bird.
  • Orson Scott Card discusses the trope in several of his novels, usually favoring the "don't put a liar on guard" interpretation. If you don't believe the kid when he raises the alarm, what's the point of having him watch the sheep in the first place?
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Regained, when Eramus blames himself for not heeding Prospero's message, Prospero blames himself for having cried wolf once too often.
  • Roys Bedoys: After Roys tells one lie to each of his friends in “Stop Lying, Roys Bedoys!”, they believe he is lying again when he is stuck in the slide.
  • In the Kim Newman novel The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School, one of Amy's schoolfriends, Smudge, is constantly telling wild stories. Then another friend gets kidnapped by sinister hooded figures, and they go to report this to the staff:
    "Smudge told the story first, which was a disaster."
    • Amy corroborated the story, which might have helped if a third girl hadn't said she simply ran off.
  • In one of Nyx Smith's Shadowrun novels, an assassin returns to a location several nights in a row to shoot a security camera. While the security guards do keep checking each time it goes on the blink, their response-time becomes slower and slower, until it's long enough for her to sneak inside and swiftly eliminate her target.
  • Invoked Trope in The Silly Season by C. M. Kombluth, where invaders from Mars encourage Flying Saucer stories so when the Alien Invasion starts everyone will dismiss the initial reports as silly season hokum.
  • Downplayed in the kids' story Silly Young Billy Goat: A young billy goat is given a bell and told to ring it when he's "in danger" but he rings it for minor things like having a fly on his head. Later, he's attacked by a wolf and then the grandpa initially doesn't come but luckily saves the boy just in time. The downplay is that the young goat wasn't actually lying; he just didn't really know what "danger" was and what wasn't until the wolf came.
  • In There's a Lion in the Library, a girl named Lucy keeps pranking the people in a library by lying that a lion is in there, so the librarian sics an actual lion on her, who eats her because nobody comes when she calls for help.
  • In Tiddler, the eponymous fish keeps making up stories as excuses for why he is late for school, so when he gets lost and then finds his way back by tracing the source of one of his previous stories, then tells his class about it, nobody believes him.
  • In Would I Ever Lie to You?, the narrator's cousin Ed keeps telling him outrageous lies, so when he claimed that a relative of theirs had no teeth, the narrator didn't believe Ed, but it was true.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 100 Things to Do Before High School, once Principal Hater pulled false fire alarms too frequently, no one believed her when there was an actual fire.
  • 1000 Ways to Die once related the tale of an obnoxious Attention Whore coed on vacation in Australia with a group of other students. Among the antics that soured the others on her were throwing herself at other girls’ boyfriends and crying "shark" instead of "wolf" ('cuz they were on a beach). Unfortunately, while taking a swim, she unwittingly swallowed a tiny – and deadly – jellyfish, which proceeded to sting her to death from the inside (known as Irukandji syndrome, a terrifyingly painful way to die). The last thing she ever saw as she staggered up on the beach gasping for air was her companions looking on with contempt, unknowingly letting her die because they thought she was faking.
  • In 90210 sequel series, one of the teachers exploits this trope when his student Naomi falsely accused him of sexual harassment. She later admits her lie, but soon afterwards he rapes her for real.
    Mr. Cannon: Who's going to believe you? You're the girl who cried wolf.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Scars". Raina is a well known for being a Manipulative Bitch with an I Just Want to Be Special mentality who always wants more. As such, when she predicts that having Jiaying meet S.H.I.E.L.D. would lead to war, no one believes her. This is partially her own fault, as while her attempts to avoid war were genuine, her desire for more power cause her to insist she should meet S.H.I.E.L.D. As a result, everyone dismisses her warnings as a blatant power grab.
  • All My Children:
    • When Kit Fisher is raped, Tad Martin flat-out states that she's lying, not just because he knows about her past as a con artist, but because she once made a False Rape Accusation against him when he threatened to expose her thieving ways.
    • Liza Colby lies that Jesse Hubbard raped her when he confronts her about her cruelty to his best friend Jenny. When she is raped a few years later, no one believes her because of her previous actions.
  • Almost Once per Episode on Arrested Development. Particularly when Lucille expresses concern for any of her children. She couldn't care less about their well-being, but sometimes the pretense she's using is true, even if she's just bringing it up because she stands to benefit in some way.
  • Blake's 7. In "Orbit", the Villain of the Week tries to kill Avon and Vila by overloading their shuttle so it won't reach escape velocity. They strip the shuttle of everything they can throw out the airlock but are still short 70 kilos. The computer then helpfully informs Avon that Vila weighs 73 kilos. Vila promptly hides himself while Avon stalks him with a gun in his hand saying, "Come out. Vila, I know how they did it, but I need your help." Then Avon really does discover how they weighed down the shuttle — by hiding a speck of super-dense matter on board — and needs help pushing it out the airlock. Vila of course refuses to come out of hiding, and Avon barely manages it in time.
  • El Chavo del ocho and La Chillindrina were playing a game where Chavo was a sports commentator and the lollipop he was holding was a microphone. When Chavo ate the "microphone" and she told her Dad about it, he thought she was talking about a real microphone. Later on, Don Ramón refused to believe when Chavo told him Quico swallowed a radio.
  • The Colbert Report: Stephen warns about crying wolf or rather crying zombie in the end of this clip about college students playing zombie tag. According to Stephen, this game will leave us vulnerable when the rage virus escapes.
  • Community:
    • Combined with Playing Sick on an episode. Leonard's comrade Richard continually says, "Where am I? What year is this?" and the rest of the seniors laugh at this genius ploy of getting out of trouble. This leads to a Tear Jerker moment towards the end when Pierce and the others discover Richard is actually suffering from dementia, and may or may not have been previously faking.
    • It also occurs with Pierce's father. Pierce is notorious for faking heart attacks to get out of things, even winning at paintball using this tactic. When his father appears to have a heart attack, Jeff assumes it is another fake. He is actually having a heart attack and thus dies.
  • On Cougar Town, Jules pretends to be hurt to get her son to come into the room faster than if she just called him. The second time she does it, she's lying on the floor, and says, "No, really this time! I twisted my ankle!" Not really.
  • On Dexter, the title character builds up Sergeant Doakes' suspicions of him covertly to make it look like Doakes has an irrational vendetta against him. When he finally makes a blatant move against Doakes by lying to him about a blood report and causing him to arrest and terrorize an innocent man, Doakes' superior doesn't even bother to check his insistence that Dexter set him up.
    • Dexter's setup is done rather brilliantly. One move involves Doakes challenging him in Dexter's office. Dexter walks up and headbutts him, then calmly walks out into the main floor as if nothing happened. Doakes gets up and charges after him, tackling Dexter and assaulting him in full view of the other detectives. Naturally, Dexter claims he didn't do anything to deserve the pummeling.
  • Doctor Who: In "Amy's Choice", the Upper Leadworth version of Amy is heavily pregnant and has a history of experiencing false labour pangs or faking it, leading to some confusion at the climax when it looks like she actually is giving birth.
  • Played tragically straight in Downton Abbey. Dr Clarkson is helping oversee Sybill's pregnancy. Clarkson expresses his concern about Sybill's condition, fearing she may have eclampsia. However, his misdiagnoses in the past cause Robert to doubt his diagnosis and he hires another, more respected doctor, who insists she is healthy and nothing is wrong. Sybill gives birth, then goes into seizures and dies from postpartum eclampsia.
  • Comes into play in the Flashpoint episode "Shockwave". After a report of a suspicious package in a high-rise, security begins an evacuation of the building, but one group of people in a basement office refuses to evacuate for "another fire drill". The package turns out to be a bomb and the people who refused to evacuate end up trapped in the basement (along with three SRU officers and the security guard who was trying to evacuate them) when it goes off.
  • Game of Thrones: Tyrion tells Varys in "The Lion and the Rose" that he has warned Shae of the dangers of King's Landing so many times that she pays no attention anymore.
  • Played with on an episode of The Golden Girls. Rose is regaling Blanche and Sophia with another St. Olaf story. It starts off like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, only this boy Shepard actually WAS losing his sheep to a wolf, but he never caught him in the act. So he became known as "The Boy Who Didn't Cry Wolf". Finally, when the boy did catch the wolf, this being St. Olaf Insane Troll Logic comes into play. The townspeople assumed that if the boy never cried wolf when it was there, now that he was crying wolf it probably wasn't. It was a bear. The boy is now known as "The Boy Who Cried Continuously".
  • Gosei Sentai Dairanger features such plot to kickstart a trouble of the week. Ryou is oversleeping so Shouji used the Aura Changer to falsely inform that there's a Gohma on a rampage, waking Ryou up. However, it's a lie. Then a real Gohma monster shows up, and Shouji informed Ryou again... but this time, he thinks that Shouji is suckering him again, so he didn't respond. But only when Doushi Kaku informed that there's a Gohma monster for real that Ryou got his ass moving (though too late to save Shouji from being trapped).
  • The Go Show: One of the "story time" segments parodies the original "Boy Who Cried Wolf" story by having a little merboy babysitting for a seahorse family and lying that there's a shark out of boredom, causing nobody to believe him when a Threatening Shark does show up.
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: In "The Flickering Torch Mystery", the Hardy Brothers suspect that their client is going to be killed with a bomb on stage. To prevent that, Frank and Joe storm the stage during a concert and rip up the equipment, but find nothing. After that fiasco, the Hardys have a much harder time convincing anyone of a real murder threat on the client's plane, especially since it was already searched and came up clean. Acting on instinct, the Hardy Boys stop the plane and the plane is discovered to be much more subtly sabotaged: with a special radio designed to interfere with the plane's navigational equipment to make sure it goes off course over water and crash when it runs out of fuel with no land in sight...not to mention a missing technician who discovered the plot and tried to warn of the problem is found tied up in the empty spare fuel tank. Of course, everyone changes their minds about the Boys who are obviously amazingly astute as detectives to foil this genuinely cunning murder attempt.
  • In an episode of House, a woman with Munchausen's Syndrome (a syndrome where a person seeks attention and perceived virtue by pretending to be sick) turned out to actually be sick. Also, see the quote above.
    • Deconstructed into a Hard Truth Aesop in another season five episode where House references the story by saying "I don't care how many times he lies, Mom's gonna come running." Which is sad, but true. This is actually demonstrated in the same conversation. While talking with a patient, he hits the emergency button, causing a nurse to come check on the patient. He then hits the button a second time summoning her again, and she even references the original story. House later hits the button a third time...and the nurse comes and checks, because she has to.
  • The I Love Lucy episode "Lucy Cries Wolf" features Lucy wanting to test Ricky's reaction by pretending that the house has been broken into. When she makes the house look like it had been ransacked, Ethel, Fred, and Ricky all mourn Lucy's loss until a neighbor phones and tells that Lucy is sitting on the ledge of the window. Later when Lucy is pouting in the hallway and is really attacked by some crooks, Ricky and the Mertzes ignore her cries for help, thinking that she faking again. Even when Lucy comes through the door all tied up, they still don't believe her.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Kiriya Kujo's lies left the Cyber Rescue team distrustful of him to the point where even Emu struggles to believe him when he's actually being honest. It plays into the hands of the villains quite well. They don't have to do much to discredit him when he finds out crucial information.
  • The Last Man on Earth: In "Wisconsin", practical jokes over walkie-talkies get out of hand when Todd suffers a heart attack. He has to say his designated Safe Word to Melissa for her to realize the joke had gone too far. Also no one believes Tandy that Karl is really a creepy weirdo until they catch him eating part of a corpse.
  • In one LazyTown episode Ziggy was playing pranks by saying untrue things, such as there being a monkey playing trumpet outside or Trixie having a spider on her shoulder. The other kids get sick of it and decide to ignore him, then, when he stumbles on Robbie plotting out loud in a cow costume, they refuse to believe he saw a talking, evil cow with a catapult. Kind of a Broken Aesop, in that it would have been a pretty reasonable thing for them to doubt anyway, even without Ziggy losing their trust by telling lies. It would also happen in another episode, "Ghost Stoppers" where Trixie pulls a prank when she sees a ghost. She even heard the story about the old folk tale. Later, when she sees a ghost disguised Robbie Rotten, she tells everyone but no one thinks she's honest.
  • In an episode of Lexx, Xev refused to heed 790's warnings that Stan was possessed by a malignant alien influence since 790 was always saying similar things about Stan and begging anyone in earshot to kill him.
    790: Not that I didn't mean it before, but this time I really mean it!
  • Leverage: This is weaponized against The Mark in "The Order 23 Job"; the crew target Eddie Maranjian, an investment manager who swindled several people out of their savings but is going into witness protection since he offered to give the government on his criminal associates. The team trick Eddie into thinking there is a viral outbreak causing him to escape the hospital he is in and lead them to where he hid his money. When the team reveal themselves to him, Eddie tries to tell the government agents what happened but no one believes his story over the much more plausible explanation that he simply tried to escape custody. This is lampshaded by Nate when he points out that Eddie himself never considered that no one had any reason to believe him.
  • Few believe Lost's Ben Linus when he says the Boaties are Bad Guys who plan to kill everyone on the island since Ben has spent the last season and a half destroying his own credibility through series after series of intricate lies.
    • Likewise, when he tries to get Hurley to come with him next season, having joined forces with Jack to take the survivors back to the island, Hurley refuses to listen.
    • Also, in season six, when Ben finds an injured Sun in the jungle, the others refuse to believe he had nothing to do with it, even though he had switched sides at that point.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Klinger lies repeatedly about family emergencies that require him to be sent home. When he receives word in the mail that his wife wants a divorce, nobody believes it's for real.
    • Klinger also fakes illness or injury on several occasions in hopes of getting a medical discharge from the Army. In "The Red/White Blues," he has a bad reaction to an anti-malarial drug and develops anemia. The medical staff initially ignore his symptoms, thinking this is just another of his pretend afflictions - until another soldier comes down with the same symptoms.note 
    • This also happened in the episode when Klinger lost his hearing. The doctors were skeptical when he claimed their lips were moving but no sound was coming out. They realized he was telling the truth when BJ stood behind him and crashed two bedpans together, and he didn't flinch at all.
  • In Misfits, we have a rare case of a character crying wolf both metaphorically and literally. Nathan is convinced that his step-father is a werewolf — and not without reason — but unfortunately his mother, Louise, is so used to her son attempting to sabotage her relationships (and generally spouting fantastical lies at the drop of a hat) that she sternly refuses to listen.
    Louise: This is like the time you said Richard was sexually abusing you.
    Nathan: It's nothing like that! This is true!
    • This trope is actually played with quite a lot in Misfits, and not merely with Nathan and his various lies. As the protagonists are all convicted petty criminals, when they find themselves committing horrible acts through necessity (they are forced to kill an Ax-Crazy guy in self-defence), they know that no-one would believe them if they told the truth — which is understandable, the truth being that they were caught in a freak electrical storm that gave them all superpowers and transformed their supervisor into a psychotic zombie. Hence they are given little choice but to lie.
  • Mutt And Stuff: In the episode, "Hop Dog", Noodles the Mouse plays too many pranks and when a kangaroo comes, Calvin thinks he's making it up.
  • Newhart: In the episode "The Boy Who Cried Goat", the Minuteman Café gets robbed (off-camera), and when the insurance man investigates he asks Dick about Kirk, and Dick reluctantly tells him that Kirk is known for telling lies. With insurance believing that Kirk might have been lying about the robbery, Kirk has to take a lie detector test... which ends up not showing any results when used on Kirk. When it looks like Kirk won't get the insurance money, Dick tells Kirk that the whole situation was his fault for lying so many times before, comparing it to "The Boy Who Creid Wolf", a story that Kirk had never heard (and as Dick tells the story everyone else mentions hearing different versions). Of course, in this episode, the robbery happens off-camera, so the viewer has to decide that Kirk is actually telling the truth this time.
  • On One Life to Live, promiscuous troublemaker Marty Saybrooke spread false rumors that the town reverend had molested a local teen (out of revenge for him rebuffing her advances). A year later, when Marty was gang-raped, the DA warned her that many would see her accusations as an example of this trope.
  • Power Rangers in Space had an episode where a kid named Patrick constantly made up stories to his friends, the latest of which was being bitten by a giant bear and having a (fake) scar to prove it. So naturally when he runs into a bunch of alien creatures who are disguising themselves as humans and tries to get help, nobody believes him (except the Rangers, who know he's telling the truth and are looking for said creatures).
  • In one episode of The Practice, Jimmy defended an accused rapist whose victim had a record for claiming to have been raped in two previous occasions only to have the authorities investigate and find no evidence to confirm either case. That record makes Jimmy believe his client's claim that the "victim" consented. However, the law prohibits defense from bringing up the victim's sexual life in rape cases. Jimmy even tried (and failed) to convince the judge to allow it. While trying, Jimmy literally accused the "victim" of crying wolf. In another episode, Hannah Rose discredit a rape victim by pointing out said victim had been diagnosed with Münchausen.
  • The Prisoner: Invoked in "It's Your Funeral". Number Six discovers an assassination plot against Number Two and tries to deliver a warning (to prevent reprisals from striking The Village). However, Number Two has been given a fake recording of Number Six delivering a number of such warnings in the past and dismisses Number Six as a paranoid crank.
  • In an episode of Psych, Shawn alone believes the testimony of a man who's known to be a chronic liar, because he can read the man's "tells" that reveal he's not lying this time. He spends the rest of the episode trying to prove the man's case.
  • On Sanford and Son, as well as the revival series Sanford, Fred's fake "heart attacks" were a running gag. An episode of the latter show starts out with him complaining about feeling sick and having numbness in his arm, but the other characters blow it off as the usual goldbricking; after they've left, however, he suffers a real heart attack and they come back to find him collapsed on the floor.
  • Scrubs does this a lot, usually involving the Janitor:
    • One episode involves him planning an elaborate prank on J.D., who is living in a tent on his half-acre. The Janitor calls the police from a nearby payphone for several days, reporting a wolf. When the police arrive and ask J.D., there is no wolf. The plan culminates in the Janitor releasing an actual wolf in JD's tent, only to have the wolf turn on Janitor instead.
    • Played fairly straight in an episode where the Janitor claims to have been a world-class hurdler in his younger days. J.D., who had been victimized by the Janitor's compulsive lying for years, finally cries foul and tells him that the hurdling bit is a bridge too far. J.D. finds out later that the Janitor was actually telling the truth this time.
      • Same when the Janitor tries to prove that he's not a loner and is seeing someone. When J.D. prompts for her name, the Janitor seemingly struggles and blurts out "Lady". Naturally, J.D. thinks he's proven the Janitor is lying yet again, only for a woman named Lady to show up and kiss the Janitor. They later marry.
    • Yet another time, the Janitor offers an apology and tickets to a sporting event as a way to make amends, and J.D., having been tricked by this sort of thing before, denies him. The Janitor then turns, pulls the tickets out of his pocket, and says "Fine, see if I ever reach out again."
  • In the Shoestring episode "Stamp Duty", Eddie's acquaintance from the psychiatric ward calls the station, saying he witnessed a murder. Eddie doesn't believe him, since he's a pathological liar who makes up a different crime every week, even though he's telling the truth this time.
  • The Sopranos:
    • After Junior is arrested, his options to discuss business become limited. To get around it, he organises appointments with his doctor so he can be left alone in the office with associates. Due to rules around doctor-patient confidentality, the FBI are not allowed to monitor his activity in doctor's rooms, and the dubious doctor lets him enact business. This is permitted after Junior lies about having issues with his back, and due to his age is considered serious enough to warrant several appointments. Once in house arrest however, he actually does injure his back, and suffers the effects of it.
    • In another instance of Junior Crying Wolf, he pretends to have dementia so his trial is delayed. It's not exactly convincing, and the FBI can see right through him, but his team of doctors and lawyers are able to delay the trial. However, he begins to show actual signs of dementia, angering those around him (especially Tony). After he wanders off looking for Tony's deceased father, he's diagnosed with Alzheimer's. His final appearance in the series has him sitting in a state mental facility, gazing out the window at birds.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Deja Q", the Enterprise crew doesn't believe Q's pleas that he isn't responsible for the collapse of a planet's moon since he's been stripped of his omnipotent powers, because in Q's last appearance in the episode "Q Who", Q also claimed the same thing before introducing them to the Borg, in an incident that left 18 crewmembers dead.
    • Played with in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Improbable Cause". When Bashir tells the story to Garak, the Cardassian (coming from a Planet of Hats of Manipulative Bastards) concludes the moral is to "never tell the same lie twice". Ironically, however, Garak is apparently aware on some level of what Bashir was trying to get across — that getting a reputation for lying leads to no one believing a word you say even if you vary the lies — given that this conversation occurs shortly after Garak blew up his own shop to fake an assassination attempt on himself because he knew no one would believe him if he merely tried to tell them his life was in danger.
  • In an episode of Top Gear where the boys turn cars into trains, Jeremy Clarkson passes James May on an adjacent track and sees that James' buffet car is on fire. When Jeremy tells him his train is on fire, James doesn't believe him; the fire was on the side he couldn't see and Jeremy isn't the most trustworthy co-presenter around. As a result, the buffet car burns down completely and all the passengers James is carrying run away.
  • The Twilight Zone episode "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby". Somerset Frisby constantly tells made-up tales of great things he's done. He gets abducted by aliens who've mistaken his lies for truth. After they let him go he tells his friends about the experience, and of course they don't believe him.
  • One episode of Ultraseven was titled "The Boy Who Cried Flying Saucer". In it, a stargazer spots a huge fleet of flying saucers heading for Earth and is goaded by the alien behind the invasion to report his sighting to Ultra Garrison, only for the team to check their telescopes and find nothing each time (the alien even claims "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" to be the inspiration for the scheme). However, the alien's plan ends up backfiring when UG learns about the stargazer rats on him and they finally get a photograph of the saucer fleet.
  • Velvet: Enrique has lied, schemed, and done so many dirty tricks that no one believes him when he says that he didn't steal Raul's designs. He didn't, but lying about something else in the same episode he's given an ultimatum about lying didn't help his case.

  • Julien Baker's "Crying Wolf" inverts the typical take on the story into a parable on addiction and trying to convince your friends to believe that you're really trying to change even when you fail.
    I'm not crying wolf, I'm out here looking for them
    In the morning when I wake up naked in their den
    I'll swear off all the things I thought that got me here
    In the evening I'll come back again...

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Talmud: The liar’s punishment is that even when he speaks the truth, no one believes him (Sanhedrin 89b).

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Classic Theater special adapted the classic fable as well, with Gonzo as the titular boy who cried wolf. Unlike most of the other examples, though, Gonzo is not deliberately lying; he's just over-excitable and jumps to conclusions a lot, his imagination well helped along by overreacting sheep who panic over everything (a couple of falling rocks means an earthquake, a few drops of water hitting him is obviously the signs of a tidal wave). He honestly believes it every time he rushes to warn the villagers of impending doom, but since the disasters are always ludicrous and never even remotely true, the result is the same: When the Big Bad Wolf shows up, the villagers don't bother to listen to Gonzo's cries for help. It becomes a bit of a Broken Aesop when the moral weirdly remains "don't lie" and the villagers all chew Gonzo out for lying — except Gonzo never tells a single intentional lie over the course of the story. A better moral for this version of the tale would have been "before making public statements about something, try to make sure you have the basic facts right and haven't misunderstood the whole thing.", which might be interpreted more along the lines of "The Sky Is Falling" than of deliberate pranking.
  • Sesame Street:
    • A Muppet sketch adapted the classic fable, with Cookie Monster taking the place of the wolf.
    • In another sketch, Ernie finds a piece of cake and eats it. Bert then informs Ernie that he bought two pieces of cake for them to have for dessert, before seeing that one piece is missing. Rather than admit his mistake, Ernie tells Bert that a monster ate the cake, and when Bert questions why Ernie has a fork in his hand and is wearing a napkin, claims that the monster did it to frame him. Bert doesn't believe him, figures out that Ernie ate the cake, and is only humouring him when he agrees that it could have happened. But when Bert leaves, Beautiful Day Monster shows up, eats the other piece of cake, and for some reason asks Ernie to hold the fork and napkin. Bert comes back and notices the other piece missing, and when Ernie starts telling Bert what happened, Bert immediately doesn't believe him.
    • In Episode 3430, Maria hears Elmo crying, but soon finds out that he is pretending to cry as part of his new Crying Game. Elmo plays this game throughout the episode, and as a result, Maria thinks he's still playing the game when he really does become sad near the end of the episode after another monster calls both Elmo and his game silly.
  • Treasure Attic: In "Achoo, I've Got a Cold!", the big dog's friends tell him the original "boy who cried wolf" story after he pretends to be injured.

  • Attacked in a That Mitchell and Webb Sound sketch depicting the shepherd boy's uncle being cross-examined during a court inquiry into the incident, where the prosecutor questions why the boy was chosen as the one to watch the sheep in the first place and suggests a better moral for the story would be "If you have grounds to believe there is a ferocious predator at large, don't appoint as your sole watchman a twelve-year-old child whom you have resolved to ignore." It then goes on to suggest the shepherd intentionally set the boy up as part of an insurance and inheritance scheme.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Transhuman Space supplement Cities On The Edge describes an ultra-tech version of the car/shop alarm problem described under Real Life. If criminals can keep fooling an AI security system into making false alarms, then eventually the owners will either start ignoring it or set it to be less vigilant.

  • Amahl in the Menotti opera Amahl and the Night Visitors has told his mother so many imaginative stories that when he comes to tell her there is a "king with a crown" at the door, she doesn't believe him ... or when he finally ramps it up to, "The kings are three / And one of them is black!" Then she goes to the door herself and finds the Three Kings waiting there.
  • Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio is a melodramatic jokester, so when he gets into a mock fight with Tybalt and screamed that he is dying while making witticisms about his injury, all of his friends laugh at him. He is, in fact, dying.

    Video Games 
  • At the beginning of Banjo-Tooie, Kazooie cheats at a game of cards by telling everyone that Gruntilda has come back to life. While they're looking out the window, Kazooie steals some chips. During that very same game of cards, the whole house starts shaking, and Mumbo leaves to investigate. He comes back and reveals that Gruntilda really has come back. Bottles doesn't believe him and stays inside while everyone else is running out, which doesn't end so well for him.
  • In Half-Life 2: Episode 2, after an (offscreen) unending stream of false alarms due to crows, nobody takes seriously the first Combine assault on the White Forest base. Several lives are lost for not reacting faster, and of course it's Gordon's job to fix things.
  • In Hypnospace Outlaw, Playful Hacker Re3koning is known for a number of wild, flamboyant pranks on the Hypnospace community at large. So when, shortly before New Years Day, he hacks into admin section of Hypnospace to warn the community that the Hypnospace headbands cause brain damage, something he previously claimed in his Brainbeef prank, few people, if anyone believe him.
  • Moshi Monsters: Baby Rox apparently pretends to cry for attention sometimes, so in the mission "Pop Goes the Boo Boo", when she's genuinely crying due to having her voice stolen, the Super Moshi initially wonders if she's faking it.
  • Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners: Rin likes lying for the attention it gets her, and she keeps playing cruel pranks on Ayuto and the other tourists. Eventually, she tells a Cassandra Truth. If Ayuto doesn't believe her, she's unable to get the help she needs to survive her judgment.
  • The Tactical Teleportation Feint Device in Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages creates a hologram of yourself behind an enemy ship. The Tactical Teleportation Device teleports the actual you behind the target ship and increases the damage your weapons do to boot.
  • In The Secret of Monkey Island, after Guybrush overuses his "Look Behind You, a three-headed monkey!" phrase, the cannibals of Monkey Island™ don't fall for it when a three-headed monkey actually shows up.
  • Later SimCity games feature this. Not all disasters can be handled by police or firefighters (UFOs or tornados for instance) and for those disasters, you're given access to an emergency alarm that sets the entire city on "red alert". Pull it when there's no disaster, and residents in the city will become disillusioned and are less likely to take it seriously even when there really is a disaster underway.
  • In Subnautica, once you get the radio running again, your distress signal gets picked up by another ship, the Sunbeam... whose captain promptly snarks that it better not be another of Alterra Corp's frivolous errand runs. Once he finds the debris field from the destroyed Aurora, he's kicking himself for brushing you off.
  • In Super Mario RPG, the boy Gaz tells his mother he's just seen Geno walking around outside. She's heard excuses involving Geno before, and "Geno" is just a doll Gaz likes to play with. Doubles as a Cassandra Truth since Geno really did come to life and he does meet Mario and Mallow who can vouch for him, but if you bring Geno back to Gaz's house after beating Bowyer, Gaz's mother thinks Geno is just some guy in a costume.
  • In Unfair Mario, this is part of the Platform Hell nature of the game; so many warnings mislead that the game sometimes tells the truth about a Fake Platform or spike trap to make the player less suspicious of the platform.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry the reason why social services do not believe that Satoko is being abused by her uncle is that she used a Wounded Gazelle Gambit one too many times against her innocent stepfather and they were afraid that she was doing the same thing again. This is rather tragic when you read the TIPS and learn that abuse from previous stepfathers has really messed with her head and she can't tell the difference between her current stepfather and the ones before. In other words: There's a good chance she really believed she was being abused. Although the social services actually DID show up at her house when her teacher called them. However, this time Satoko refuses to admit to the abuse, so they can't do anything.

    Web Comics 
  • Cyanide & Happiness shows how the pandas suffer because of this.
  • In Doc Rat, Wilbur Fuzz is shaken when after all his jokes about heart attacks, he actually has one. He thinks of this trope. The paramedics — wolves — tell him that they came, and he should Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • In Freefall, Sam's release of 2001 crickets has a few effects on Security's responsiveness to alarms...
  • In chapter 32 of Gunnerkrigg Court, Annie's attempts to reconcile with Kat by inventing dangerous situations for them to "solve" become so exaggerated that Kat assumes a huge, clearly real kraken to be another of her antics.
  • Oglaf:
    • The page image has the trope defied. As soon as the boy admits he lied, he is shot to death.
    • Another page has a boy make ridiculous claims to a traveler, who stabs him. The boy seeks help, but is dismissed as another lie.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Parodied in "The Elf Who Cried Raven." Vaarsuvius' party members refuse to believe that V really has a familiar and that it's been with them the whole time, largely because V completely forgot about it until recently. The trope is even referenced in the title.
    • A much more serious (and sad) version of the trope appears in "Getting the Message". Roy doesn't believe Belkar when the latter reveals to them that Durkon is dead, arguing it is another of Belkar's sick jokes. Though in this case, it was mostly out of denial from Roy's part.
    • Referenced again when Blackwing tries to get V's attention via their empathic link. It doesn't work, as he's been doing the same thing whenever the sky pirates so much as glance at his new bauble.
      Blackwing: Ugh, this is all that wolf-crying boy's fault, whoever he is.
  • Paranatural: Subverted for laughs. Max often warns his friends about gut feelings he has, and he's pretty much always right. They still find it annoying.
    Isabel: Max, one of these days you're going to cry wolf, and there won't be a wolf, and then you'll be sorry.
    Max: Yes Isabel that's exactly how that fable goes.
  • In the prologue of Stand Still, Stay Silent, a talk show guest suspecting that an Apocalyptic Gag Order is in place concerning the seriousness of The Virus is discredited due to being somewhat of a Conspiracy Theorist.

    Web Original 
  • On the Discord app, due to how easily the @everyone feature can be abused — allowing one member to notify everyone on the server, regardless of reason — many users mute notifications on all servers they're a part of. This makes them susceptible to missing announcements that would actually be important to them, such as security issues and major updates. Over time, it becomes increasingly obvious to staff members which members have muted the server if they haven't updated their roles along with everyone else...
  • The Evil Overlord List:
    • Defied (like many other things that would create The Guards Must Be Crazy): Any kind of alarm is to be treated as true and responded to with full military might always in case heroes are tying to lull security into disregarding them (the List itself doesn't has any rules for compulsive liars, though, but since for the most part they advice the Overlord to severely castigate any act of Stupid Evil done by his subordinates...)
    • Played straight with Rule 109 of cellblock A, which has some one resembling "a plucky lad/lass in strange clothes and with the accent of an outlander" regularly climb a monument in the overlord's capital and denounce him, claim to now the secret of his power, rally masses, etc. The idea is that after a while, said masses will be too jaded to care when the real McCoy comes along.
  • In one of the GoAnimate "Grounded" videos, Caillou is wrongly punished at school for going to the bathroom because in the past, he would pretend to go to the bathroom but actually go to Chuck E Cheese's.
  • Neopets:
    • Some devious users will lie that they accidentally abandoned their pet in the pound, to try to nab someone else's adopted pet. This makes it hard for users who genuinely did lose a pet in the pound by mistake to be taken seriously.
    • Neopets can't die, but some scammers will pretend their pets are dying so they can get free items or Neopoints. On the other hand, many users claim their pets are dying because they genuinely think so, having gotten confused because "dying" is their lowest level of hunger.
  • In "No More Lying", a boy named Goo-Goo lies that he washed his hands (despite them obviously being dirty) and that it was his pet who broke a pot plant instead of him. So when his neighbour, Ya-Ya, tramples the garden, his parents think he did it and don't believe him when he says he didn't.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-2179 is a supernatural fire alarm that likes to play a downplayed version of this prank, where it phrases actual incidents in a way that makes them sound more dangerous or anomalous than they actually are, to the Foundation's expense. Then one day, it declared an animal attack and everyone was too sick of the constant military deployments to care. Until it declared 5+ civilian casualties, at which point a squad was deployed and discovered that it was telling the truth for once. Since then, they HAVE to listen to the alarm, regardless of false positives. Interestingly, the animals turned out to be pathetic but rabid from hunger, yet the squad witnessed mega-beasts mauling the corpses of the civilians.
  • The Shortest Story: Discussed in Bring the Wolves Down, with reference to a sexist Double Standard.
  • An update on TV Tropes itself resulted in a bug that would sometimes lock random pages but had a couple of workarounds. Attempts to fix the bug brought things to a point where in most cases, "Edit page" buttons will display a lock despite the page not actually being locked, but the page can otherwise be edited like any other page. Because of this, running into a page that actually is either permanently locked, suffering from the more crippling version of the bug, or temporarily locked because another user is currently working on it can come as a surprise.
  • Over the course of Twig, the Lambsbridge Gang develops a deserved reputation as devastatingly cunning human-looking experiments that masquerade as children and use their abilities to bait their enemies into disastrous actions. Naturally, when Lillian, who actually is a normal human child, is injured and needs medical help, Sylvester and Jamie run into problems convincing the people they go to for help that it's not a trap.

    Web Videos 
  • In various Achievement Hunter videos featuring Trouble in Terrorist Town, Geoff Ramsey will usually shout out "I'M NOT THE KILLER!" or will immediately blame someone else as the killer. A lot of those times, Geoff really isn't the killer, but the rest of the team will usually just kill him because he tends to be loud in his protests that he had to be the killer.
  • This trope is partly responsible for pokecapn's infamous LP of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). The OP for the archived version tells the tale of reviews for the game complaining about terrible controls, a terrible camera, a terrible story, and terribly long loading times — but pokecapn had heard the exact same complaints about every other 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game before then, and having enjoyed all of them regardless of those issues, decided to Let's Play the game, initially assuming that the problems wouldn't be nearly as bad as everyone made them out to be this time, either.
  • In the Fairy Tale edition of 50 Ways to Die in Minecraft, death number 35 shows the shepherd boy from the original story trying and failing to warn everyone about the wolf after crying wolf one too many times. The wolf gloats about being able to eat the sheep...only for the shepherd to yell for help again in a different voice.
    Villager: (gasp) Trustworthy Troy? Is that you?
    (cue the wolf getting run out by an angry mob)

    Western Animation 
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: Lucky's constant exaggerations of the truth earns him this reputation in "Cruella World", which makes it so that no one believes him when he tells them that Cruella is using her theme park as a cover to pump for oil in the swamp.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius:
    • In "The Junkman Cometh", Jimmy receives a message from BroBot asking him to come to the moon. Jimmy initially ignores it until BroBot says that he and his family are being attacked by Moony Men. When Jimmy, Carl, and Sheen arrive on the moon, BroBot laughs and reveals that he made the whole thing up just get Jimmy to come visit him. Jimmy is not amused and asks BroBot if he has ever heard of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. He hasn't and Sheen explains it to him.
      Sheen: Kid yells wolf, people come to help, kid laughs, he made it up, real wolf comes, kid yells, people don't come [...] THE KID'S WOLF FOOD!
    • Later, BroBot tells Jimmy that his parents were abucted by the Junkman, but Jimmy refuses to believe him and leaves. On the way home, Jimmy and his friends are abducted by the Junkman, making him realize that BroBot was telling the truth.
  • In Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Tummy is caught eating Grammy's cake and tries to convince everyone that an ogre ate it, and when asked how an ogre could have gotten in, he nervously says it "was a small ogre". (Seeing as he has frosting on his nose, it's obvious he's lying.) As fate would have it, Duke Igthorn's henchman Toadie (who is a small ogre) breaks in, Tummy sees him and no-one believes him until Toadie steals their whole supply of Gummi Berry Juice. (Fortunately, when they corner him, Toadie makes the mistake of drinking the whole keg at once with rather explosive results.)
  • In the American Dad! episode "An Apocalypse to Remember", Stan tries to warn his family that Buckle is after Hayley, but because his previous assumptions of things turned out to be false, they refuse to believe him. Eventually, Stan becomes convinced it was only his imagination and lets it go. Only then do they see him.
  • Sasha from Amphibia takes advantage of her friendship with Anne to betray her and the Plantars in favor of the toads twice. This bites her squarely on the ass when she uncovers evidence that Anne's ally King Andrias is actually a despotic conquerer who's much worse than her or any of the toads. Unsurprisingly, Anne refuses to listen, and disbelieves her claims until she gets proof in the worst possible way, which makes things go From Bad to Worse for everyone... except King Andrias.
  • An episode of The Angry Beavers deals with Dagget discovering how much fun slapping his tail on the surface of the water is. Norbert tries to get him to stop abusing it because of this reason (even though the whole thing comes off as a metaphor for something else...), and indeed an actual wolf shows up and no one takes Norb seriously when he tries to warn them with the tail slap.
  • An episode of Baby Looney Tunes has Petunia wanting attention, so she starts yelling out about seeing monsters and leading everyone outside to search for them. After the second time, Granny explains this trope to everyone and when Petunia accidentally breaks the bathroom sink, causing water to flood everywhere, nobody believes her when she tries to get help.
  • On Beat Bugs, this is the subject of "Anytime at All". After Buzz is terrorized by the local cat, Mee-Yow, the Beat Bugs set up an alarm system, the Crikcto-call-me, which she's supposed to use "anytime at all" that she needs help. Buzz, however, uses it one too many times for trivial stuff and so when Mee-Yow shows up again while everyone else is off playing, she sounds the alarm and they ignore it, forcing her to solve the problem herself.
  • Big City Greens: The b-plot of "Volunteer Tilly" has Cricket and Gramma play pranks on Bill after being inspired by a TV show about pranking people. When they play one prank too many, Bill gets fed up and takes a bath, and doesn't fall for yet another prank Cricket and Gramma were setting up outside the bathroom. Then a vicious chihuahua Tilly brought over from the animal shelter comes for them, and they slip on the oil meant for their prank and cannot stand up, and when they try to call for help, Bill assumes they're pranking him again and ignores their cries, leaving them an open target with no one to save them. By the time Bill does comes out minutes later, Cricket and Gramma are badly mauled.
  • In The Biskitts episode "The Biskitt Who Cried Woof", Wiggle pretends to be a Damsel in Distress in order to gain the attention of Waggs, whom she has a one-sided crush on. However, it doesn't take long until the other Biskitts catch onto her and she is left in tears. Due to Wiggle's false alarms, the Biskitts are nearly caught by the wildcat, Scratch, and later don't believe her when she tries to warn them that their enemy, King Max, is training a hawk to hunt the Biskitts. When her friends wind up getting captured by King Max, Wiggle successfully saves them and admits to being wrong for her actions.
  • Breadwinners: Sway Sway and Buhdeuce summon the Bread Maker too much that he gets tired and doesn't come to stop Lava-Mole in "Mine All Mine".
  • Double subverted in Camp Lazlo with the episode "Radio Free Edward". When his radio show isn't getting any attention, Edward sets up a sham about being attacked by yetis and everyone believes him. The next night, he's attacked by yetis for real, and successfully convinces everyone that he's telling the truth... only to find that the yetis are intellectuals who are breaking into the radio station to play music.
  • 'Care Bears (1980s)'':
    • In the DiC episode "The Girl Who Called Wolf", there's a girl named Jill Wayland who has a habit of telling tall tales for laughs. The episode starts with her being sent to her room after calling the fire department with a false alarm about a cat stuck in a tree. However, she sneaks out and tells a couple of boys about a treasure in an old mansion. Her friends believe her and go to the abandoned building and wind up getting trapped in the basement. The Care Bears (Tenderheart Bear, Share Bear, and Champ Bear) and the Care Bear Cousins (Brave Heart Lion, Loyal Heart Dog, and Bright Heart Raccoon) head over to rescue them and they take Jill along to show her the consequences of telling lies.
    • The Nelvana episode "The Camp Out" invoked the trope with Playful Heart Monkey and Funshine Bear using a swamp monster instead of a wolf and the others refused to believe them when they were attacked by a "real" swamp monster, who was actually Mr. Beastly in disguise, but the Care Bears didn't know it.
  • In the Charlie and Lola episode "Help! I Really Mean It", Lola falsely shouts, "Help!" three times. The first time, she really did want assistance (getting her grandparents' cat out from under her bed) but her tone and choice of words made it sound more urgent than it was. The second time, she and Lotta were playing a game and pretending to be in danger, and the third time, she and Lotta were quoting what they'd said during the game they played because they thought Charlie misunderstanding them was funny. So when they call, "Help!" when the cat is stuck up a tree, Charlie initially doesn't believe them.
  • The Clifford the Big Red Dog episode, aptly titled "The Dog Who Cried Woof" in which Cleo pranks Clifford and T-Bone with ghost stories about a giant ghost skunk named Wiffy. She kept pranking them by saying he was after her, and they finally got fed up with it and leave after Clifford sees she's faking it again after sneaking up on her. When she gets her bow snagged on a bush, she calls for help, but they've already left in disgust. Karma soon catches up to Cleo when a real, living skunk shows up and she scares it and it sprays her when she barks. Meanwhile, Clifford and T-Bone hear that Cleo still hasn't arrived home, so they go back to the woods to look for her and they smell that she got sprayed, and they guess it was the skunk ghost. When asked if it was, Cleo doesn't bother embellishing it and declares it exactly how it happened. Cleo apologizes to Clifford and T-Bone for her cruel pranks and promises never to do it again. The next day, after receiving several baths in a row to get rid of the smell, a now complimentary-odored Cleo exits the vet's office where Clifford and T-Bone are waiting outside.
    Cleo: Don't worry, you guys. I've learned my lesson. The stinky way!
  • Big Bad of Code Lyoko, XANA, cleverly invokes this in "Cold War" when he repeatedly activates a different tower on Lyoko only to deactivate it again without launching an attack in the real world through it. After so many false alarms, Jérémie decides to just wait and see what happens when yet another tower activates. And then XANA launches his attack for the episode.
  • In a Darkwing Duck episode, Honker is mistakenly thought to be lying about something when it was the supervillain Splatter Phoenix's fault. At the climax, Splatter literally steals the lips of the Mona Lisa (which protests all the way) and Honker saves them. His parents come to punish him, but the lips stun them by protesting their mistaken judgment of the boy, whose character they praise.
  • A Dexter's Laboratory short had DeeDee pulling the old "What's that" gag, pointing to Dexter's chest then flicking his face when he looked down. The 3rd time, she cries out "What's that" for real and Dexter's got his eyes closed, refusing to fall for the gag as a face-sized bug is latched onto his head.
  • Dragon Booster subverted the trope all the way to the point of a Broken Aesop in "The Mouth that Roared". Similar to the Darkwing Duck example above, Lance is entirely in the right about seeing a black-market dealer selling gear, it's just the cops and his friends don't seem to want to stake out the spot for more than a few minutes despite knowing someone is selling black-market gear in the area. To add insult to injury, Lance is outright accused of crying wolf and the dealer always seems to show back up right as the adults leave.
  • In the Ewoks episode "Cries of the Trees", Wicket, Paploo, and Teebo are caught trying to lie their way out of playing a forbidden game and sentenced to join the ground work crew. Suddenly, a Wistie (magically enchanted by Morag the Tulgah Witch) appears to light Wicket's broom on fire and the boys frantically attempt to put it out but only make it worse until the Elders come do it properly. Unfortunately, given that the boys were caught lying before, the Elders don't believe their story that they didn't start the fire which seemed to begin on its own. Thus the boys are given a harsher punishment, which puts them in an area to see Morag's larger scheme at work, but this time, Wicket's brothers, responsible as their warders, see what is going on and immediately back up the boys when they run back to warn the tribe. In the end, the boys save the day and the Elders decide they were too hard on them.
  • In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Orson the Pig tells the story of "The Wolf Who Cried Boy" about a wolf who cries "boy" too often until finally none of his pack believe him when a young hunter comes up the hill. In the middle of telling the story, Orson realizes that Roy the Rooster's constant cries of "Wolf!" throughout out the episode may not be another prank.
  • In Fireman Sam, Norman Price accidentally sets off the fire alarm with his soccer ball/football and pretends it wasn't him. Later, he sets it off on purpose to teach his mother a lesson. Sam tells Norman the folktale and when a fox comes, Norman and his mother mistake it for a wolf, and the former worries that if he used the fire alarm for a real emergency, that Sam might not believe him. Sam does come, and he tells Norman and his mother that the fox is only a fox, but never to falsely set off the fire alarm again.
  • The Flintstones: In the episode "At the Races", Fred and Barney fake being mugged so they can gamble Fred's pay check at the dinosaur races. Wilma is very skeptical but is eventually convinced when she sees a bump on Fred's head (which was really inflicted by Barney). After Fred and Barney win and hide their prize money under a rock, Fred confesses everything to Wilma, and when she thinks Fred and Barney's plans for the money are a good idea, he and Barney go to retrieve the money... only to get mugged for real, and the mugger gets away with their money. They tell the exact same story to Wilma as before, this time truthfully, and she doesn't believe them.
  • On Invader Zim, one of the reasons people are skeptical of Dib's paranormal claims is that he's apparently made quite a few odd ones over the years. Played With, however, in that Dib clearly believes them, and we never find out if they were actually wrong; given the setting and Dib's usual luck, maybe there really was a ninja ghost in that toilet?
  • The King of the Hill episode "Peggy's Fan Fair". There, Peggy tries to prove to everyone that Randy Travis stole an essay she wrote and made it into a song, but even Hank refuses to believe her, because she has such an exaggerated sense of self-esteem that she could very well be imagining it or making it up. (And because they're conveniently never present when the more obvious evidence appears.)
  • Kissyfur: Episode "The Bear Who Cried Wolf", hoping to liven things up around the swamp, Kissyfur and a mockingbird named Howie play pranks on several folks by using Howie's ability to mimic and throw voices and trick others into thinking someone was in trouble. When their joke eventually gets a beaver dam destroyed and causes a flood, they get a lecture and promise no more pranks. Kissyfur and Howie try to make up for what they've done by giving their friends treats and setting up a waterslide for them. Thinking it's another trick, the swamp cubs insist they test it first. Due to Lenny changing the direction of the slide by putting a log in the way (trying to get some payback for being pranked earlier), they land in mud, which turns out to be quicksand. Because of Kissyfur and Howie's previous false alarms, no one comes running when they call for help.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In "Foney Fables", a running gag is this story where the boy does it just to piss off the townsfolk, greeting them each time with a characteristic laugh. At the end, the wolf does come and the woodsman comes to discover that the wolf has eaten the boy and laughs just like the boy did earlier.
    • Inverted a chicken was in real danger as a fox continuously tries to get him, and constantly pulls the alarm but The Barnyard Dawg couldn't understand him and only thinks he wants water (each time the fox fled as soon as the alarm rang).
    • A variant happens in Rabbit Hood. Bugs hits the Sheriff of Nottingham with a club after fooling him into believing that the king is behind him. Later on, Bugs tries to pull this again, but he isn't fooled at first. Bugs eventually fools him.
  • In The Loud House episode "Family Bonding," it's revealed that sometimes, when a new neighbor moves in, Lincoln and Clyde are quick to accuse them of something based on the latest fad they're into at the moment (or one of their longtime interests), such as supervillains, ghosts, or aliens. So when the Millers move in and Lincoln and Clyde accuse them of being spies, the rest of the Louds do not believe them. Except by the end of the episode, it turns out Lincoln was right, and he foils the Millers' plan to get rid of all of the cherries in Royal Woods.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: In "Liar, Liar, You For Hire?", K'nuckles claims to know where Candied Island is. At the end of the episode, he really does see Candied Island but no one will believe him.
  • In "The Bunny Who Cried Lobster" from the Animated Adaptation of Max and Ruby, Ruby tells Max the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, with Max cast a boy minding toy chicks against wolf attacks after he claims that his toy lobster somehow got out of the cupboard, swiped a piece of her upside-down cake, and went back into the cupboard. (Not that actually says as much directly, he just says "lobster" when she points out what happened to her cake.) As it turns out, it's a Broken Aesop from the beginning, as Max is telling the truth, as Ruby finds out when she concludes the story, summarizes the moral, and then watches the lobster do the exact same thing after she hears Max shout, "Lobster!" again. Additionally, in Ruby's version of the story, the villagers actually tell the boy point-blank after the second time that they won't believe him if he calls out a third time, which means they're being actively stupid, as they've now directly surrendered responsibility to someone they've admitted they won't come for when he calls.
  • In the cartoon version of Milly, Molly, the episode "The Cat Thief" involves two dogs named Barker and Bouncer... well... barking and bouncing, for no apparent reason. So when they do it to warn about the eponymous cat thief, the citizens initially think they're just goofing around.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, one reason nobody believes Marinette when she tells them that Lila is a bully is that Marinette is known to be irrationally jealous of her romantic rivals, of which Lila is one. Unfortunately, Marinette was telling the truth, and Lila is a hell of a lot more malicious than she is.
  • Subverted in My Life as a Teenage Robot: Tuck spent all day calling Jenny to do his chores and impress his friends, by guilting her about prioritizing Saving the World over him. One of his new friends in particular has weird yellow eyes and pointed teeth. Later, his brother persuaded Jenny to read the story, and she decided not to go after Tuck anymore...until she reads what happens to the boy at the end of the story. The last time he calls her, she eventually goes — but finds that he was calling her to see a friend's pet (a dog that was half wolf). Jenny is pissed at the revelation and Tuck gets chased around by Jenny as she fires lasers at him for wasting her time.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the second season, Twilight Sparkle gets worked up over nothing on several occasions, on one occasion throwing a whole town into chaos. This bit her in the rump big time in the season finale when she realized Princess Mi Amore Cadenza was Not Herself, but nopony believed her.
    • Inverted in the season four episode "Leap of Faith", when Applejack's honesty has such a good reputation that when she lied about the Flim Flam brothers' tonic, everypony believed her.
    • The young Hippogriff Silverstream suffered a more innocent example in the episode "Student Counsel" where she repeatedly went to Starlight for advice on more trivial things that Starlight turns her away when she has an actual problem (to get advice about her homework regarding Cockatrices) and Starlight only tells her that she can probably take care of the problem single-handedly. Seeing how Cockatrices are creatures that turn others into stone statues, this causes a lot of trouble when Silverstream goes off to study them alone.
  • The New Adventures of Peter Pan: When Michael starts off doing this for laughs in "Thief, Friend And Foe", no one believes him when he tries to warn them the thieving Sienna was stealing The Great Book of Neverland.
  • Peter Rabbit 's episode "The Tale of Jeremy Fisher's Recital" starts with Peter Rabbit constantly coming up with excuses to avoid going to Mr. Fisher's musical recital. His mother, of course, doesn't buy any of it and he ends up going with his family and friends. During the recital, Peter spots the rat, Sammy Whiskers, trying to steal cake and tells his mother, but she thinks he's just telling more fibs and doesn't believe him. Peter and his friends foil Whiskers, but because Mrs. Rabbit didn't see the rat, she lectures her son for leaving his seat. Later, Peter spots the fox, Mr. Tod, creeping in the grass, but again, his mother doesn't believe him when he tries to tell her... not until Mr. Tod appears and attacks the audience. After Peter and his friends fend off the fox (and his mother sends Sammy Whiskers flying for stealing cake, as well as selling them out to the fox), Mrs. Rabbit apologizes for not believing Peter and Peter apologizes for making up excuses earlier.
  • In Pound Puppies (1980s), young Whopper is pretty much always telling lies and made-up stories. Nose Marie even once told him "If you were Pinocchio, your nose would stretch from here Kalamazoo."
    • In "Whopper Cries Uncle", the puppies' year supply of dog food suddenly disappears. Whopper suggests asking his uncle, a rich Texas tycoon named JR Whopper, for money, but the way he talks about his uncle, his friends (understandably) don't believe him. After getting a message from Whopper's uncle, they're convinced, but unfortunately, Whopper lied to his uncle, saying he's "a zillionaire, live in a mansion, and own the puppy pound." So the pups use the evil dog-hating Katrinia's home to fool JR. When Katrina arrives, the pups hide in a closet and Whopper comes clean to his uncle about not being rich (though the way he confessed caused Nose Marie to say "He even sounds like he's fibbin' when he's telling the truth"). JR Whopper, luckily, wasn't upset. Apparently, lying runs in Whopper's family because JR wasn't rich (he wasn't even from Texas) and was just a flat-broke dog hoping to get money from Whopper. Fortunately, the puppies find their missing food while inside the closet (turns out Katrina stole them).
    • Ironically, in an earlier episode ("From Wags to Riches"), the puppies are blamed for damaging a rich couple's mansion. Whopper witnessed Catgut and some of his no-good feline friends destroy the couple's home, but chose not to say anything because he feared his friends wouldn't believe him. Eventually, Whopper does tell the other pups about who really trashed the mansion.
      Cooler: You saw Catgut and his pals at the mansion? WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US SOONER?!
    • In the remade movie, Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw, Whopper attempts to warn Cooler about the villain McNasty's scheme, but due to all of Whopper's previous tall tales, Cooler doesn't believe him.
  • This is also done in The Powerpuff Girls. The Gangreen Gang trick the Mayor into leaving his office so they can use his hotline to Powerpuff Girls to play crank calls on them, sending them after Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins, and finally Him when they were just minding their own business. When the trio finds out that the gang was responsible for the girls attacking them, they attack the gang and when the real Mayor gets back to his office and sees the fight, he calls the Powerpuff Girls, but they don't believe him and even incinerate their phone.
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The rest of the gang initially refused to believe Shaggy and Scooby about Dr. Croaker because they assumed it was another exaggeration as the ones they invoked to justify their skepticism.
  • The Raccoons: In one episode, Bert Raccoon found out Cyril Sneer wanted to pave the forest but nobody would believe him because of how he jumped to conclusions before.
  • A variation occurred on The Real Ghostbusters: The victim isn't a perpetual liar, but he did open a Ghostbusters-themed rollercoaster, using the guys' likenesses, logo, and vehicle designs without their permission or even their knowledge, so when he calls them up saying the ride is haunted by ghosts, they initially dismiss it as a publicity stunt and hang up on him.
  • Played straight and inverted in Regular Show. One Episode, Grilled Cheese Deluxe, revolves around Mordecai and Rigby having a lying contest while getting their boss a grilled cheese sandwich. Their lies end up escalating to them using a Grilled Cheese Sandwich to save the city from an Antimatter Explosion. (It Makes Sense in Context) When habitual liar Rigby tells the truth about what happened to the sandwich, he's not believed. Mordecai then lies about what happened and is believed.
  • In a Robot Chicken sketch, people start crying out to Superman for help, and when he saves them, he finds out they intentionally did it as a way of getting "Suped". When a kid strapped to a bomb calls for help, Superman angrily declares that he's not falling for it - and then it blows up and kills the kid. For bonus points, the kid says Lex Luger put the bomb on him, Superman assuming he was mispronouncing Lex Luthor's name - and then it turned out it really was the wrestler who did it, as he shows up to taunt Superman over it immediately after.
  • In Rugrats, the only times the babies don't believe Angelica are when she's telling the truth. This probably justifies why they keep believing her lies most of the time despite knowing she usually is up to no good, as they can never really know when she's actually being truthful.
    • Most evident in the episode "Tricycle Thief", where Susie accuses Angelica of stealing her tricycle after she can't find her it, only to see Angelica riding a tricycle. Angelica had broken Susie's reflector earlier, and Susie pointed out Angelica's tendency to lie, so the babies naturally believe Susie at first. It turned out that Angelica's tricycle was not the same one as Susie's, and Susie's tricycle was under her porch.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Marge Gets A Job" does this with an actual wolf, although it starts with Bart playing sick to avoid schoolwork.
      Grandpa: Did you ever hear the story of the boy who cried wolf?
      Bart: Boy cries wolf, has a few laughs... I forget how it ends.
    • Later, an actual Alaskan timber wolf escapes from its owners on the set of Krusty's show due to loud noises (with "loud" being the secret word), and attacks Bart right outside the classroom. Groundskeeper Willie rescues him (beating the wolf handily) and Bart staggers back inside all scratched and bloody... and still isn't believed, of course. He gives up and "admits" he was lying about the wolf.
      Bart: I'm just gonna lie on the floor now. Please don't let me swallow my tongue. [faints]
      Krabappel: Don't you feel much better for telling the truth?
    • In "My Sister, My Sitter", Lisa tries to call 911 after Bart gets himself injured, but due to Bart's multiple prank calls on them beforehand, the dispatcher dismisses her call.
      Dispatcher: Simpson? Look, we’ve already been out there tonight for a sister-ectomy, a case of severe butt rot and a leprechaun bite. How dumb do you think we are?
    • A "Treehouse of Horror" segment has the people of Springfield listening to Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938, panicking, and then discovering it was a hoax. Shortly afterward, the aliens Kang and Kodos launch a real invasion, reasoning correctly that the townspeople will dismiss it as another hoax.
    • In "What To Expect When Bart's Expecting", after Bart successfully uses a voodoo spell to get a woman pregnant, Ralph runs up to the other kids and tells them this, only for the news to be dismissed as one of Ralph's usual non-sequiturs. Then, Milhouse runs up and tells them the same thing as Ralph, and suddenly everyone believes it.
    • In one episode, Bart has a stomachache but Krabappel doesn't believe him since he got it just before a test and he usually always fakes being sick before a test. It's only when he still has the stomachache after the test that she realises he's serious.
  • Inverted and subverted in the South Park episode "The Death Camp of Tolerance." Mr. Garrison is trying to get fired for being gay, so he can sue and get a big payout. To accomplish this, he brings in Mr. Slave and starts doing incredibly lewd things in the middle of class (like putting the class pet up Mr. Slave's ass). The boys tell their parents that Mr. Garrison and Mr. Slave are being inappropriate, but their parents accuse them of being homophobic and take them to a tolerance museum. They tell them again, but they still won't listen and send them to a tolerance camp run by a pseudo-Nazi who threatens to kill them if they screw up. And it's then that the parents see Garrison and Slave are not just gay but behaving incredibly inappropriately and sexually in the context of teaching children, and then they bail out the nearly-dead kids. Of course, none of this happens until Garrison himself gets fed up with how far he's had to take things and goes off on a rant about his own inappropriateness, resulting in him and Slave themselves being sent to the camp for being "intolerant of [their] own behavior."
  • Steven Universe: In "Doug Out", Steven and Connie accompany Mr. Maheswaran on a job trying to find the people who've been vandalizing Funland. After a chase, they catch local troublemaker Onion, who they give a warning and let go despite his (unintelligible) insistence that it's Not Me This Time. Due to his regular mischief-making, which has included targeting Funland on multiple occasions, the three leave Onion without realizing that in this instance he's in real danger, demonstrated by the Sinister Silhouettes that pop up behind him at the end.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), Zach's parents sent him to a military academy for falsely reporting several crimes he believed to happen.
  • Naturally, this occurs in Three Little Wolves, the follow-up to The Three Little Pigs: Practical sets up a horn as a wolf alarm, only to find his brothers abusing it and laughing at his expense. He warns them that "Someday the Wolf'll get ya. Then you'll be in a fix. You'll blow that horn and I won't come. I'll think it's one of your tricks." Which is exactly how it plays out, though they finally get his attention by tricking the wolf into blowing the horn with all his might.
  • Wheel Squad had an episode where Enzo was having a tunnel built to grant potential customers easy access to World Mart. Unfortunately, the construction was threatening the neighborhood, so they started a petition. Fearing the petition wouldn't be ready on time, the heroes tried to forge signs of dinosaurs having lived there so archaeologists would delay the work until the petition was ready but the hoax was soon exposed. Later on, the heroes investigated and found out remains of an Ancient Roman bath house. As it sometimes happens when the hero finds out the villain's secret, the villain appeared to confront them about it. One of the heroes told Enzo he couldn't keep them from telling about the bath house and Enzo said he didn't have to since nobody would believe them after the dinosaur hoax. Nevertheless, they did convince someone to investigate and the truth gets out.
  • In Yogi's Gang, the animals and "Mr. Fibber" convince Yogi to land the flying ark, twice. Both times they claimed an emergency situation of some sort, but it turned out they just spotted a lemonade stand and then an ice cream factory. When the animals spot an approaching tornado, Yogi refuses to land, thinking it's another trick.
    Yogi Bear: You fooled me twice. Three times isn't nice!

    Real Life 
  • The technical term for this phenomenon is "Alarm Fatigue", where constant exposure to false (or inconsequential) alarms desensitizes people to them and makes them more likely to ignore actual emergency alarms or react to them much slower than they should.
  • The "Particularly Dangerous Situation" and "Tornado Emergency" enhanced verbiage/warning came into existence precisely because of this. In most places where severe storms are frequent (e.g. the Midwest and South in the US), tornado watches are often ignored entirely, and due to the old way of issuing tornado warnings by county rather than by locations at risk, people got into the habit of even ignoring tornado warnings unless they saw it for themselves - often leading to lots of deaths and injuries from tornadoes, especially at night. To get around this, "particularly dangerous situation" verbiage is now used for watches when a tornado outbreak is expected in the watch area, and a "Tornado Emergency" is declared for actual urbanized/heavily populated areas in the path of a confirmed via ground truth or debris echoes tornado. These seem to work to emphasize danger, as the number of fatalities and injuries began to drop after this was implimented.
  • In Real Life, this happened to Andy Kaufman. Having built his career on an increasingly outlandish series of worked shoots, a lot of people thought his increasingly fragile, sickly appearance in 1984 was another prank in the making (indeed, he had once considered faking his death). But he really was dying of lung cancer, succumbing that May... though there are still a few who think He's Just Hiding!.
    • In late 2013 his brother claimed Andy did indeed fake his death and had was quietly living with his family. He then introduced Andy's 24-year-old daughter. He soon admitted it was a joke and the "daughter" was actually an actress he hired - Andy probably would have approved.
  • GG Allin would have friends call his brother (who was also in the band) and say that GG died, which is nothing compared to his onstage antics (throwing his shit into the audience, bashing his head in with a microphone, beating up audience members, et cetera). Eventually, he got used to it, so he ignored all calls like that. When GG Allin died of a drug overdose, band members, friends, and others called him to say that he died. Guess what happened?
  • A few years after Orson Welles' infamous radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds (which was made as a radio Mockumentary and actually tricked a large number of people into thinking Martians had really invaded) he was doing a patriotic radio show featuring music and poetry that was then interrupted with the news that the Japanese had just attacked Pearl Harbor. Nobody believed it.
  • Forcefully averted in Real Life by many high-security areas (prisons, army bases, top-secret labs, and so forth) when all alarms are always answered, even when it seems to be just another false alarm as it's always a possibility that the "false" alarms may be engineered by intruders hoping to exploit the crying-wolf syndrome in the hopes of breaking in without too much resistance.
  • This is precisely why today, joking that you have a bomb isn't a good thing to do. Not only will you be detained, you can be outright arrested. Case in point: a violinist traveling to Chicago made a joke about having a machine gun in his case. Airport security did NOT have a sense of humour, but deliberately so. He missed the flight. In fact, US Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., defined the limits of free speech in Schenck vs United States as "falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic".
  • In World War I, both sides spread propaganda about the enemy, which included a genocide perpetrated by the Germans. There were indeed occasional war crimes against the civilian population (what with the western front being most of the time in Belgium and France), but genocide less so. This came to light after the war, of course. Now, if you have been paying attention during history lessons, you might remember that Germany did indeed start a program of genocide within the next 20 years. The response to warnings this time was rather... lukewarm. Ouch.
  • The Crusades got off to a very ignoble start with "The People's Crusade," which failed so horribly that Kilij Arslan, the Seljuq Sultan of Rûm, was convinced that every future attempt would be similarly disorganized, and was thus nothing to worry about. This miscalculation allowed the much better-organized and better-equipped Baron's Crusade to gain footholds in the country nearly unopposed and, eventually, Jerusalem itself.
  • The Battle of Trenton during The American Revolution followed similar lines; the Hessians defending Trenton had been informed by friendly farmers that Washington and his Continental Army were in the area, but a small skirmish with some scouts led the Hessians to believe that was it and stood down to celebrate Christmas. The following morning, when the main body of the Continental Army showed up in force, the Hessians were too hungover and disorganized to mount an effective defense and suffered a major Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Also, the media agitation over the possible end of oil reserves during the record prices attained in the summer of 2008 flopped during the first months of 2009, when crude oil prices dropped sharply. (In practice, the oil reserves of all major countries increased in 2010-2011 due to the drilling campaign bringing huge untapped reserves into the market.)
  • Workplaces and schools which conduct regular fire drills can result in people becoming complacent when there really is a fire and the alarm rings (compounded by the fact that pulling an alarm as a prank also happens). However, this isn't always a bad thing: alarms being routine means that the process is familiar and makes it less likely that people will panic, making it easier to evacuate everyone from the building in a safe and orderly manner.
    • Unfortunately, this was exploited in the Stoneman-Douglas shooting in 2018, as the shooter pulled a fire alarm in order to have more targets.
    • On a related note, a dormitory at Seton Hall University had a problem with idiots setting off the fire alarms as a joke. This happened repeatedly over a matter of months and caused many students to ignore the alarms and not evacuate the building when a real fire started.
    • Similarly, a school called Edendale Primary in Auckland NZ has all intercom messages preceeded with three bells. However, an earthquake drill is heralded with many bells in a row, so it's often not until the fourth bell that the students realise it's an earthquake drill and not a message.
    • There's also the version where a large emphasis on one particular drill or procedure can cause a person to respond that way to what turns out to be a different type of emergency; for instance, a teacher hears a siren and think it's another fire drill, but it's actually the tornado siren. (It's happened; fortunately, all known cases have only involved tornado drills, not actual emergencies.)
  • King You of Zhou, a Chinese monarch who reigned in the 8th Century BC, had a favorite concubine named Bao Si whom he later made his queen, but he could not get her to so much as crack a smile. One night he had the bright idea to light the kingdom's signal fires, and the resulting confusion, with so many men and horses running around in disorder, made Bao Si break into laughter. This made his wife happy but cost King You the trust of his nobles, and after repeated abuse of the warning system, there was an actual invasion. When the monarch lit the beacons again they were ignored, and that's why King You was the last of the Western Zhou.
  • This post on The poster got told that her cousin would say he's allergic to foods to get out of eating them. This, of course, leads to her making him eat something he's allergic to.note 
  • During the Apollo 13 mission, astronaut Fred Haise turned a valve in the Lunar Module that produced a loud bang, as per a joke. So when the accident occurred and produced a similar bang, the other astronauts Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert initially didn't think anything about it until they saw Haise's concerned face.
  • Groups like DARE, and to a lesser extent the U.S. education system in general, have been known to lie about the effects of milder illegal drugs like marijuana, causing many to take less seriously their warnings about more significantly dangerous drugs like heroin and meth. This has led many to give them a fair bit of the blame for the high rates of use of hard drugs. John Cheese of Cracked, for example, had this to say:
    You spend years in school listening to D.A.R.E. programs (or whatever anti-drug stuff they do where you live) telling you that one hit off a joint will put you in a coma. Then you actually try the stuff and realize that's bullshit, so you immediately ignore all other warnings, too.
  • Dialing 911 (or any other emergency number) and making up a bogus emergency situation or not answering the dispatcher is a good way to get yourself arrested and/or fined. Emergency dispatchers are trained to send out police officers to anyone that calls them (if one is requested) or calls and immediately hangs upnote . Thanks to the advancement of technology, you can easily be tracked down if you try to prank the emergency dispatcher. All that said, there have been instances of bad 911 operators treating a seemingly disbelievable 911 calls as if it was a prank when it actually wasn't.
    • In the late 2010s, there were some particularly controversial instances of this where social class and race intersected, most notably "BBQ Becky" and "Permit Patty". Every instance had been captured on phone cameras, which was becoming more common due to the falling prices of smartphones. These are generally at least easy to detect, since the callers will usually describe the "problem" accurately, but in most cases they still have to send someone to make sure there isn't actually something serious going on.
  • This trope is the reason why faking surrender, injury, or death are all forbidden by The Laws and Customs of War. Being shot at by "surrendering" enemies tends to discourage soldiers from accepting genuine surrenders, and being ambushed by "corpses" similarly leads to them making sure that any dead bodies they come across are, in fact, dead (which, it bears mention, is also illegal).
  • Claims of police brutality are becoming so incredibly common these days that it's getting hard for anyone, including the most professional internal affairs investigators, to distinguish between the mountains of disgruntled and self-entitled traffic stop "victims" and actual cases of brutality. It is especially common on YouTube to have videos of people open-carrying firearms, which is perfectly legal in many places but then approaching random officers of the law just to start an incident, thus tricking the cop into getting confrontational and aggressive. Once they get home they then upload said video to prove that the police are violent, usually after editing out their harassment of the cop in question so it looks like said cop is being aggressive and confrontational for no reason.
    • Police responses to claims of brutality are also subject to this as well. Minority citizens have complained about police brutality for decades to no avail, and it is only with the rise of social media and cellphones that more and more cases of police brutality are becoming known to the public. Officers commonly falsify their reports and the police use Manipulative Editing as often, if not more than the claimants themselves. A number of incidents of the police releasing edited footage when just about everyone has a camera these days and can post unedited footage on the internet has damaged police credibility in the public eye.
    • This is part of why shoulder-mounted cameras on officers is gaining traction, as the logic is that it would protect good cops from this sort of harassment while outing bad and Corrupt Cops for their behavior. Some locations that have integrated body cameras have seen drastic reduction in the number of civilian complaints, while other locations have remained relatively stable. On the other hand, many juries seem reluctant to convict officers even when what would otherwise seem to be clear video camera evidence is used.
  • Fire safety regulations often recommend installing smoke alarms in every room except a kitchen, even though the presence of lots of high-powered electrical equipment (oven/stove, toaster, water heater...) there makes it a very common place of where fires start. The reason for this is that smoke detectors can't tell the difference between smoke from burnt food and smoke from an actual fire nor the difference between smoke and steam for that matter, which would lead to frequent false alarms which in turn can lead to people ignoring a real alarm.
  • Back in the 1990s, in a lot of divorce cases there were parents fighting for custody who falsely accused the other parents of child molestation. Sometimes, they coached their kids to go along with it. As a result, many judges simply don't want to hear accusations of child sex abuse. Some studies have even suggested that nowadays, a parent who accuses the other parent of abuse may be less likely to get custody than if they said nothing at all (especially if the accusing parent is female and the accused is male, as this is the dynamic most commonly associated with this concept), which, of course, can lead to rather horrifying problems in the event that the allegations are true.
  • As a bitter (of course) post-Soviet half-joke puts it: "Everything they told us about Socialism was a lie. Only too late did we realise that everything they told us about Capitalism was not."
  • Thanks to gluten-free diets becoming a fad, people who actually have celiac disease or gluten intolerance have trouble being taken seriously by restaurant staff, leading to things like not paying attention to cross-contamination or even blowing the request off altogether. Restaurant staff are taught to take all claims of allergies or restrictions seriously, no matter what their personal thoughts on the matter, because the consequence of not doing so is so potentially severe, but some people are just bound and determined to "prove" that someone is faking.
  • Similarly, due to Obfuscating Disability, this trope has led to a lot of those with disabilities not being taken seriously, accused of faking, or even being subject to violent attacks. A particular case of this is the subject of ESAs vs service animals, because of a combo of factors (mostly tied to legalities note ), SA handlers (or trainers) have been accused of faking so they can have an excuse to bring their animal into public or get past housing rules.
  • Stratagem #1 of The Thirty-Six Stratagems is essentially this, banking on the fact that the enemy will be so annoyed by constant false alarms that they will ignore you once you make your real move.
    • This was used by the Syrians during the lead-up to the Yom-Kippur War: for a while before the war the Syrian troops on the front would remove the camouflage from their artillery position and let themselves get spotted, causing an alarm for an imminent attack before putting them back and going back on their barracks. In time the Israeli troops on the Golan Heights stopped taking them seriously, and were caught by surprise when, on October 6 1973, the Syrian troops did not put the camouflage back and return to their barracks but instead attacked.
  • For a few years, the Cambodian genocide was dismissed by many people, mostly leftist intellectuals, as over-the-top anti-communist propaganda. This came shortly after The Vietnam War, during which the U.S. government had told fairly transparent lies to justify its military actions. Unfortunately, it turned out the Cambodian genocide was very real.
  • Through either alarm fatigue or the pilots deliberately disabling alarms to stop them from making that godforsaken noise every time they take off or land, nuisance warnings on aircraft kill.
    • An aircraft warning system known as TAWS warns the pilot if they are coming dangerously close to an obstacle or ground. It has a database of major airports, so it won't generate a false alarm when the aircraft is approaching the ground in order to land. However, the pilots from Polish 36th Special Aviation Regiment - responsible for carrying VIPs, including the President, on the international flights - were very often landing at various Eastern Europe airfields not in the database (e.g. many rural military or ex-military airports) and, with the TAWS invariably going off every time during landing, they developed a habit of ignoring it (or even resetting the altimeter to silence the alarm). Thus, during a VIP flight to a rural military airport, as the TAWS sounded once again, the pilots ignored it... cue a major Oh, Crap! when they suddenly saw the trees looming out of the dense fog right in front of them.
    • Air traffic control in the San Diego area had an automated system that was supposed to prevent mid-air collisions by sounding an alarm when there were two planes on a collision course. There was one problem with the system: it issued so many false alarms that air traffic controllers ignored it. Then on the morning of Sept. 25, 1978, the alarm went off warning that a PSA 727 was going to collide with a small Cessna. The controller on duty ignored the alarm only to discover to his horror it was for real after the two planes collided.
    • The MD-80's take-off configuration warning system had a tendency to give false alarms during taxiing resulting in pilots of MD-80s routinely disabling the alarm which resulted in what was then the second deadliest airline accident in US History.
    • Similar to the example above, due to Air Inter pilots routinely flying their planes faster than normal, the ground proximity alarm had a tendency to go off a lot resulting in the airline disabling the alarm on all their planes with predictable results.
    • This was also a major factor in the crash of an Aeroperu flight in 1996. Shortly after takeoff, their instruments started going haywire, causing a series of alarms, some directly contradicting each other, to sound off in the cockpit all at once.note  So when the pilots heard the ground proximity warning system, they assumed it was another malfunction. The GPWS was actually one of the few systems that was working, trying to warn them they were flying dangerously low. They didn't realize the truth until the plane's wing actually struck water, by which point it was too late for them to avert the accident.
  • This was a major factor in the 1988 Gare de Lyon rail accident. Trains at the time were known to have a problem where if the emergency stop was activated, the brake lines would develop a condition known as an "air lock" where they would become overloaded and not release, requiring the driver and conductor to manually release air from the braking system, so when the driver of a commuter train found that his train would not move after he reset the emergency brake, he assumed this was the problem and acted accordingly. In reality, while resetting the emergency brake, he had inadvertently also closed a valve that disabled the brakes on all but the first car, triggering a safety mechanism that would lock the brakes to prevent a train from moving without sufficient braking power. By responding to the problem he thought he had (an air lock), he inadvertently disabled a failsafe and started the train with insufficient braking power. (Contributing to the problem was the fact that there were no additional signs to indicate it was a more serious problem; the train was not equipped with a warning to alert the driver that the brake valve was closed, and even the brake pressure gauge erroneously indicated that everything was normal.)
  • Dyslexia and/or ADHD. Both of those, depending on the country, can result in several bonuses during education (eg. more time given to complete a written test, or relaxed rules considering behavior during classes). When both became known to the general public somewhere in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the schools around the world noted a serious influx of suddenly diagnosed cases of both, thanks to "protective" parents trying to get their kids through school years in an easier way (and the "helpful" doctors as well); as a result, nowadays a number of schools treat any claim that your child is dyslexic or ADHD as a cheating attempt and refuse any special treatment of such children.
  • California Proposition 65 mandates that any and all consumer products that contain possible carcinogens must be labelled with a warning (i.e. the famous "This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm"). However the low bar for labeling something a carcinogen meant that almost everything sold in California is labelled with the warning. Many pollution activists have criticized the system because these labels are so ubiquitous that no one actually pays attention to them.
    • A similar problem occurs when the media repeatedly and breathlessly report that "Substance X is dangerous!" Such reports are usually the result of studies where scientists force-feed lab rats an ungodly amount of Substance X, and then note that some rats develop health problems.
  • The Top Gear presenters and crew were almost lynched in Argentina because some Argentinians thought that a license plate H982 FKL was a reference to the 1982 Falkland war. It was most likely a coincidence but not many people believed that. As Jeremy Clarkson wrote: "For once, we did nothing wrong."
  • Abe Vigoda had been erroneously reported as dead twice before in 1982 and 1987, so when he died for real on January 26, 2016, many reports had to say "This is not a hoax."
  • According to The Death of WCW, the sale of the wrestling promotion company in 2001 was treated as this by many wrestlers. The management team did so many shoots, swerves, and works to throw everyone off-balance, including their own workers, that when they were told that they were being sold, they didn't believe it. It was only when the wrestlers didn't get their paychecks that they finally knew they weren't being worked.
  • Throughout 2017 - 2020, the former Labour Party leader in Britain, as well as the party itself (which had moved away from the centrist right and taken a more left-of-centre stance) was dogged by accusations of institutional anti-semitism and the repeated assertion that the party itself had become anti-semitic. A largely right-wing media owned by vested interests who were threatened by a popular left movement, took up the theme. A very small fire was fanned into a lot of smoke that damaged both the Labour Party and irrevocably smeared its leader. note . While every newspaper gleefully took up the "Labour = anti-semitic" slur and regularly made it front-page material, during the same period there were lots of assaults on Jews by more traditional and implacable enemies on the far right, including an actual Nazi nutter firebombing a synagogue. The arson attack on the synagogue barely got a couple of paragraphs on an inside page, probably because it did not fit the narrative. Saner commentators pointed out that weaponising a largely non-existent anti-semitism, trivialising a real concern for the purpose of destabilising a political party, was an act of crying wolf - what would happen if at any point it became a more real and actual immediate threat? The hypocrisy of smearing Labour and it's Leader when the incumbent Party in power the Conservatives has an even nastier reputation of racism to the point their Manifesto even gleefully talked about taking nastier actions against the Traveller community and their Leader Boris Johnson has a very long reputation of bigotry including anti-semitism and other Conservatives were promoting anti-semitic conspiracy theories has been pointed out.
  • The Russian government under Putin has repeatedly frivolously accused its political enemies of terrorism. Thus, when US law enforcement received faxes from Russian authorities regarding two brothers, asylees in the US, who were terrorists, the faxes were disregarded out of hand and summarily sent through the shredder. Unfortunately, this time, the accusations were legitimate, as the two brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, went on to carry out the Boston Marathon Bombing.
  • During the past several decades, the news media has run sensationalized stories about infectious diseases, including SARS, MERS, avian flu, swine flu, mad cow disease, Ebola, and Zika. Ultimately, these diseases appeared to be more bark than bite, in some cases precisely because they were treated seriously before they could become a major crisis. This was the same reaction with COVID-19 when it first popped up in late 2019. By the time people realized that COVID-19 was a big deal, it was too late, and the Great Lockdown shut down everything.
  • This is why Mark Henry didn't get another retirement speech after he legitimately retired in 2018. His "retirement" speech in 2013 was so well done that he managed to sucker everyone — the audience, the superstars in the back, the announcers, and even John Cena — into believing it was real, only for it to turn out to be hoax to challenge Cena to a WWE Championship match at the next PPV. General agreement is after that, there was no way the audience would ever buy another public retirement speech from him again, even if it was legitimate.
  • The Satanic panic and the ritual satanic abuse scandals could be an example of this. During the 1980's and early 1990's there was a movement of Moral Guardians who would call anything not explicitly Christian "Satanic" (especially dungeons and dragons) . This eventually escalated to completely bogus mass accusations of child abuse (ritual satanic abuse) being lobbed at various daycare workers and teachers. Some parents would even coach their kids to make false abuse accusations. As a result many people take claims of "ritual abuse" or "satanism" with a grain of salt.
  • A variation of this happens with children growing up with some overprotective parents. Some overprotective parents would try to "protect" their kids by telling them lurid stories about how dangerous the outside world is and how everyone is out to kidnap, rape them (especially if the child is female), kill them or subject them to a Fate Worse than Death Once the children realize that their parents' warnings about phantom dangers are bogus , they are more likely to ignore warnings about actual dangers.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Boy Who Cried Wolf


Never Tell the Same Lie Twice

Dr. Bashir tells Garak the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," telling him that the moral of the story is that if you keep lying eventually nobody will believe you even when you're telling the truth. Garak ask if he's really sure if that's the lesson and Dr. Bashir asks what else it could possibly be. "That you should never tell the same lie twice," Garak tells him and walks off, leaving him shaking his head.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / AlternateAesopInterpretation

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