Follow TV Tropes


Dog-Kicking Excuse

Go To

"I have two rules I follow," Saren explained. "The first is: never kill someone without a reason."
"And the second?" Anderson asked, suspicious.
"You can always find a reason to kill someone."

Sometimes, a character just can't bring themselves to Kick the Dog. Maybe their target is a Friend to All Living Things, painfully cute, comically Wrong Genre Savvy to the point of being pathetic, or so obviously helpless that even a Card-Carrying Villain has a pang of conscience over attacking them.

So they look for something about the target to get mad about.

This can be shown as either something the dog-kicker is saying or doing beforehand while actively looking for an excuse, or after the fact, as part of the internal monologue of an Unreliable Narrator or a justification given to someone else. In most cases, the excuse is a flimsy one; the person wants to kick the dog for reasons unrelated to the dog itself but feels bad about targeting someone undeserving of being kicked.

Can be a subversion of a Pet the Dog moment, by setting things up to show that they aren't without decency - but then they undo that by finding the excuse and kicking the dog anyway.

Conversely, the would-be dog-kicker might be a nice person, but have reasons to think they should want to Kick the Dog, or at least act like they did. The Dog-Kicking Excuse tries to assuage their guilt at doing something to the dog that they know the dog doesn't deserve... or more dramatically, which they deserve because of their past actions, but which have been overshadowed either by atoning for their sins, or because they have won their dog-kicker's heart.

Compare Give Me a Reason (where the character wants to lash out so badly that he goads and provokes the target into providing the excuse), and Caper Rationalization (when an author wants to write a "kick" scene and shapes the plot to get there).


    open/close all folders 

    Fan Works 

  • Dirty Laundry: Goldtooth, in the short amount of time this short takes place, is shown to be a vicious gangster who will use any flimsy excuse to do something terrible. When first introduced, when one of his prostitutes has apparently forgotten to pay him, he rapes her as punishment; moments later, he catches a kid and tells him he can either run drugs for him, or risk getting beaten or killed. When the kid refuses, Goldtooth grins and says "I was kinda hopin' you'd say that." before he and his thugs begin manhandling the kid.
  • Love's Sacrifices: Throughout Mircalla's childhood, her father Count Falco made it no secret that her birth was responsible for her mother's death. Though it's not because he actually cared for her mother, but because he resented having to raise Mircalla despite himself being a teenager. In fact, other characters wonder if Falco poisoned her mother in an effort to induce a stillbirth, and his only response to Jana's death is disappointment that Mircalla didn't die with her. Carmilla herself concludes that Falco was using her mothers death as a flimsy excuse to put her down all the time.
  • Unlife Is Strange:
    • In Route B, following the "Redemption" ending of Life Is Strange 2, Sean Diaz was found innocent in Officer Matthews death, to the chagrin of his detractors. However, the prosecution was all too eager to make a case against him for multiple other — albeit smaller — felonies and misdemeanors he and Daniel got up to do during their journey. For this, even when Sean was found innocent of Matthews' death, these smaller crimes were used to get him a fifteen year sentence. Luckily, he's let off after two years thanks to a deal he made with the FBC, but Sean is a little cynical at how people wanted him to be guilty of something, and looking for anything to pin him down for. It was less about getting justice for Matthews, and more about making an example out of Sean.
    • As part of her Hero with Bad Publicity status, the same media outlets that try to elevate Rachel or Nathan's victimhood, also look for any and all details to try to demonize Chloe to the public; taking her history of delinquency and troubled relationship with her family, almost making them out to be worse than the kidnapping, torture and murder that Nathan was involved in. It's implied this has less to do with what Chloe actually did, and more about what Chloe's is; being a lower class, rebellious girl with a troubled home life, who needed to be made an example of. This is used to make Chloe a "Bad Victim" in a Good Victims, Bad Victims dynamic the media tries to push, with Rachel or Kate being "Good Victims".

    Live Action Film 

  • Godzilla vs. Kong: Walter Simmons, head of Apex, presents himself as a well meaning executive trying to stop the "threat" of Godzilla, seemingly creating Mechagodzilla to that end. It’s soon revealed that he was working on Mechagodzilla for years, hoping to kill and usurp Godzilla, putting humanity - specifically his corporate empire - on top of the food chain. All Godzilla's attacks did was give him the opportunity. It’s more pronounced in the novelization; while Godzilla's initial rampage was a genuine accident on Apex's part, Simmons was glad it happened as it gave him a chance to turn the world against Godzilla; furthermore, Simmons would purposefully engineer Godzilla's attack on Hong Kong, hoping to maximize the destruction for Apex's Engineered Heroics.
  • Halloween Ends: Most of the townspeople who bully Corey are just using Jeremy’s death as an excuse to channel their cruelty at an easy target. Even Jeremy’s father mentions that they took his son's tragic death and made it about themselves. In particular, Terry uses it as an excuse to physically attack and torment Corey regularly, and as Corey implies, distract himself from his own daddy issues.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Iron Man 3: Aldrich Killian's whole schtick with his faux Mandarian conspiracy. After being snubbed by Tony Stark over a decade prior to the film, Killian has held onto this grudge ever since. Acting as part of the conspiracy, Killian tries to sell the Mandarin as a Knight Templar out to punish America for it's corruption, as justification for various terror attacks. When Killian takes President Ellis hostage, he sums it up thusly.
    Killian: Ever hear of an elephant graveyard? Well, two years ago, the elephant in the room was this scow.
    Ellis: This is the Roxxon Norco.
    Killian: And, of course, you'll remember that when she spilled a million gallons of crude off Pensacola, thanks to you, not one fat cat saw a day in court.
    Ellis: What do you want from me?
    Killian: Uh, nothing, sir. I just needed a reason to kill you that would play well on TV.
    • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: Discussed. When Steven is tried by the Illuminati on Earth 838, this world's Baron Mordo, who was made sorcerer supreme after 838!Steven was executed, ostensibly fears that Steven will repeat his mistakes. It's revealed 838!Steven used the Darkhold to defeat 838!Thanos, accidentally causing an incursion that destroyed another universe. As Mordo becomes more insistent on killing him, Steven notes Mordo's ego, suggesting that Mordo was jealous and glad 838!Steven caused the incursion, allowing Mordo to kill and usurp him. Steven even suggests that Mordo gave his Steven that Darkhold in the first place, hoping it would come to that. Mordo doesn’t deny the accusation, and it gets under his skin enough that he attacks Steven on the spot.
  • Scream 3: Mixed with Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse. When Ghostface - Roman Bridger - reveals their sad past of being rejected by his mother for being a product of her rape and a reminder of her trauma, Roman goes on a rant about how he's a tragic victim lashing out at the world. His half-sister Sidney, whose life was uprooted by Roman orchestrating the original Ghostface killings, has had enough of hearing these killers self pitying rants, and angrily tells Roman to his face that he (and the other killers) are responsible for their own choices. If anything, Roman just enjoys killing and is just using his sad past an excuse to do so. This prompts Roman to go on a vitriolic Villainous Breakdown, as his delusions shattered, and he and Sidney fight.
  • This often comes up with Art the Clown. He will invoke Disproportionate Retribution in his murders, with his victims often being slightly rude to him for his own off putting behaviour. Given what a sadist Art is, chances are he wanted to kill them anyways, and it’s implied was purposefully looking for an excuse. Notably, in Terrifier 2, he grins in excitement before butchering a cashier who snaps at him, and makes a show of mutilating Allie after she initially turns him away while trick or treating.

  • In one of Aesop's Fables, "The Wolf and the Lamb", a wolf comes upon a lamb and wants to eat it, but is struck by its innocence and feels he has to have an excuse for the killing. He therefore shoots off a number of accusations, which the lamb disproves one by one. The wolf then decides it doesn't matter if he doesn't have an excuse and eats the poor lamb anyway. In the Russian adaptation by Ivan Krylov, the wolf finally comes up with the now memetic "You're guilty by virtue of me being hungry!". In any case, the moral of this particular tale is "tyrants need no excuse."

    Live Action TV 

  • Doctor Who: In "Utopia", within seconds of restoring himself, the Master sets about ruining the life's work of his amnesiac self for no other reason than because he can. His lab-partner, having no idea what's happening, draws a gun on him and begs him to stop, at which point he gets gleeful at having an excuse.
    Master: Oh... (picks up a live wire) Now I can say I was provoked...
  • Game of Thrones
    • Ramsay’s whole act with Theon. Throughout season two, Theon betrays House Stark at the behest of his father, a deed that sees Theon murder two innocent boys to pass off as Bran and Rickon. Following his downfall, Theon is filled with regret and self loathing over betraying his adoptive family, for which Ramsay takes Theon as a hostage. Ramsay tortures him throughout season three through various means such as flaying his fingers, to castrating Theon, and leaving him a mentally broken wreck, slavishly devoted to Ramsay. Initially, Theon is under the impression that Ramsay is someone seeking to punish him for his crimes, which Ramsay briefly plays along with. Ramsay quickly admits to not caring about Theon's sins or remorse, and he's simply torturing him because he’s enjoys it.
    • In season four, following Joffrey's assassination, all eyes are on Tyrion as the prime suspect. Despite Tyrion's obvious innocence, he was very unpopular among the Lannisters and Kings Landing, and thus is used a scapegoat. Thing is, virtually no one liked Joffrey (save for Cersei) and the Lannister patriarch, Tywin, is no exception. However, Joffrey was still the king, and Tywin also made his disdain to Tyrion obvious his whole life. As Tyrion is subjected to a Kangaroo Court, it becomes clear that Tywin is just using Joffrey's death as an excuse to get rid of Tyrion. Jamie, one of Tyrion's few supporters, tells Tywin this to his face.
  • In The Sopranos, Tony kills his nephew Chris after he crashes his car with the two of them in it and Tony sees the crushed child seat in the back. Tony in the moment rationalizes that he's a danger to himself and others, but later admits that he was a screwup and he's glad to be rid of him.
  • Teen Wolf: In season two, Gerard Argent invokes Avenging the Villain for his daughter, Kate, declaring the hunters code forfeit and that all werewolves in Beacon Hills will be hunted and killed; ignoring that Kate was supposedly killed because she broke the code on multiple front, on his orders. Throughout the season, Gerard commits several feats of cruelty to that end. In the season finale, we learn that Gerard's real agenda was that he was dying from cancer, and was looking to become a werewolf himself to cure it, as well as become an alpha. With all that, it's all but spelled out Kate's "death" was just an excuse for him to do so.

  • Lee Ann Womack's song "I'll Think of a Reason Later" is about a woman wishing she had a more justified reason to hate her romantic rival and excuse her "childish" spite antics like drawing a mustache and horns on a photo of her.
  • Carla Ulbrich's "Please Do Something Stupid" is about a woman trying to find a reason not to date 'the perfect man' at a time when she is trying to focus on other parts of her life.

    Video Games 
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the Wretched Hive of Nipton traded with both the New California Republic and the escaped convicts known as the Powder Gangers, and tried to double-cross them by offering them as slaves to Caesar's Legion. The Legion then brutally kills the entire town in a Lottery of Doom, with Soft-Spoken Sadist Vulpes Inculta justifying it by stating they were simply Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves. Even if you disagree with his actions, you can at least understand his goals... until even closer inspection shows he lied about the town's Dirty Cowardice to make it seem more deserving than it really was. And if that wasn't enough, he plans to massacre the civilian population of Vegas in an onslaught so brutal it disgusted even the ruthless Blood Knight Legate Lanius. As a result of this, he's one of the only five characters in the game to be labeled as "Very Evil" on the Karma Meter.
  • Far Cry 4: This is something Pagan Min admits too. While he was already a murderous dictator, he genuinely fell in love with Ishwari Ghale, even fathering a daughter with her named Lakshmana. When Lakshmana was murdered by Ishwari's husband, Pagan became more of a murderous warmonger ostensibly to avenge her death. However, over time Pagan realized he was using Lakshmana's death as an excuse to do whatever he wanted.
  • Grand Theft Auto V: In one mission, Steve Haines has Trevor torture Ferdinand Kerimov, a man connected to Tahir Javan, who is suspected of having ties to a terrorist organization. Despite Kerimov's obvious innocence and willingness to cooperate, Steve does not let up on the "interrogation", sometimes even interrupting Kerimov before he can give any answer. After Steve tells Trevor to kill Kerimov, Trevor sneaks Kerimov to the airport, during which Trevor tells Tahir that the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique is bullshit.
    Trevor: The media and the government would have us believe that torture is some necessary thing. We need it to get information, to assert ourselves. Did we get any information out of you?
    Kerimov: I would have told you everything!
  • In I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, the evil omnicidal AI AM has subjected his five human playthings to neverending torture for the past 109 years ever since he wiped out all other life on the planet, using his belief that Humans Are Bastards as justification. During the game, he places them each in their own Ironic Hell based off the crimes they committed in life — Benny, Nimdok, and Ted's misdeeds are all pretty clear, but when it comes to Gorrister and Ellen, AM's reasoning falls short. Gorrister struck his wife Glynis in a fit of anger during an argument, and the shock of it, combined with the emotional stress of their difficult marriage, caused her to suffer a mental decline so severe that she was soon placed in an institution and died there. The regret has haunted Gorrister ever since and he's tried to kill himself numerous times to atone. Ellen never hurt or deceived anyone and was plagued with misfortune throughout her life, the most severe being the brutal rape she endured that left her with a debilitating fear of yellow, the color of her rapist's clothing. AM is aware of Gorrister's sincere guilt and Ellen's innocence but tortures them nonetheless, showing that a person's actual character doesn't matter to him, just the fact that they're human.
  • Life Is Strange 2:
    • In episode one, Hank Stamper initially acts like a concerned citizen when he finds the Diaz brothers at his gas station. This quickly goes out the window when Hank knocks out and kidnaps Sean. While Hank's going on about Sean putting his brother in danger, and both brothers being suspected cop killers, Hank also shows his racism towards Hispanic people, and indicates that his racism is his reasoning for attacking the brothers, more so than his civic duty.
    • In episode four, Sean accidentally finds himself on the property of two hillbillies, Chad and Michael. If they were annoyed that he was on their property and forced him to leave, that would be one thing, but Chad uses it as an opportunity to racially, verbally attack Sean, as well as humiliating him or beating Sean senseless.
  • Saints Row:
    • In the first game, mayoral candidate Richard Hughes has plans to redevelop and clear out the slums of Stillwater, which is met with criticism as he would be displacing the poor and low class within the city. However due to the gang wars, and the Saints coming up on top, Hughes is thankful for their actions, as it now means he can spin his plans as dealing with a hotbed of gang and criminal activity.
    • Saints Row: The Third: The STAG initiative is an organization of militant extremists, sent in by Senator Monica Hughes to deal with the rampant gang activity in Steelport. Throughout the game, STAG's leader, Cyrus Temple, keeps advocating for the use of the Daedalus, a warship that would raze all of Steelport to snuff out the Saints. Hughes keeps shooting down these plans out of pragmatism. Soon, STAG to go behind her back and set up a mass suicide bombing to frame the Saints for domestic terrorism, forcing Hughes to finally permit the use of the Daedalus. In the non-canon ending, Cyrus' sarcastic taunts to The Boss during their fight indicates he was in on the plan. 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Boondocks: In Stinkmeaner 3: The Hateocracy, the titular group are, like their ostensible friend Stinkmeaner, are a group of bitter and hateful elderly persons who like to torment people and cause mischief for its own sake. Following Stinkmeaner’s death, they soon go after the Freeman family, with the apparent goal of Avenging the Villain. Towards the episodes end, when Robert gives a sincere apology for killing Stinkmeaner, not only do they reject the apology, they admit they don’t care that much about Stinkmeaner himself, but are using his death as justification to torment and try to kill the Freemans.
    Rufus Crabmiser: Hell, y'all just gave us an excuse. If it wasn't you, we'd probably just pick someone random and ruin they life.
  • Halloween Is Grinch Night: Grandpa Josiah says that the noise of the animals disturbed by the Sweet-Sour Wind riles up the Grinch, but given that the Grinch is actually disappointed when the wind dissipates, it seems likelier that terrorizing Whoville is just something he likes to do and he uses the noise as an excuse.