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Easily Condemned

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"Men's evil live in brass; their virtues we write in water."
Griffith, Henry VIII

An Easily Condemned character is one who has proven his goodwill and built an incredible reputation as an outstanding citizen who everyone loves... and suddenly has his previous actions forgotten by all, from the people he's saved to his friends and family, who'd sooner believe him a monster than accept his claims that he's being set up or that everything was a misunderstanding.

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For a broad example, think about The Hero, whose reputation as an upstanding citizen and paragon of justice is known throughout the land. People love him, kids look up to him, the king bows down when he enters the room, and even cats don't scratch him when he rubs their bellies. Then one day, the Big Bad takes a picture of him while he is playing soccer in the Beneficent Center for Disabled Children, and crudely photoshops a puppy in place of the soccer ball.

But wait, everyone knows the hero loves dogs right? Cats, too and rabbits, and he pets them every day, and feeds them, and buys them chew toys out of his own pocket money even when he is starving. Everyone knows that, everyone sees him doing that everyday, everyone has a pet dog that at least once he took care of while they were traveling, only for them to return later and find the dog was healthier than ever!

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Silly villain with his silly plots, there's no way anyone would fall for - oh wait, there the populace is, running The Hero out of town with torches and pitchforks.

Well, this might fool the ignorant populace, illiterate fools that they are, I suppose, but surely the hero's True Companions will help him clear his good na- nope, they're saying they can't believe the hero did that while they obviously believe the hero did that.

It sucks and the hero will certainly rub their noses in it when this all blows over, but at least the love interest, his soul mate, after all those episodes and hardships that only strengthened their bonds, certainly she ... is now crying in a corner, cursing the Hero's dog-kicking name between sobs, and asking herself how he managed to deceive her all these years.

Simply put, any situation where someone is given no benefit of doubt despite previous actions. It doesn't matter how obviously out-of-character he or she acts, or how many times he/she has been the victim of Frame-Ups and unfortunate coincidences; everyone will often conveniently forget those important details when the plot demands it, which the latter can't justify realistically under normal circumstances.

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Please note that even though the victim is usually The Hero, it doesn't mean the victim must always be the Hero. Any character who has a reputation overturned by a single mistake or lie counts, even a Villain with Good Publicity who gets boo-ed after a single flimsy evidence from The Hero is being Easily Condemned.

If a character never had the public's trust, it's not this trope, he's just a Hero with Bad Publicity. That is not to say a Hero with Bad Publicity can't be this trope; if a tight group of True Companions trusted him implicitly up until that point despite the public's general opinion and were swayed by the villain's lie, then he is both; an Easily Condemned Hero with Bad Publicity.

This Trope is quite often combined with Ungrateful Bastard and Frame-Up, for obvious reasons. Can easily cross Pet-Peeve Trope territory if egregious enough.

See also: Villains Never Lie, Never Live It Down (for when a character actually did something bad, but not bad enough that it should overshadow his past good deeds and yet somehow it does.), Then Let Me Be Evil (for when the Hero eventually becomes what exactly he was condemned for because of how the others treat him.) Compare Mistaken for Murderer.

Contrast Easily Forgiven, though it is possible for both tropes to overlap. See also Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life.

Examples

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    Anime And Manga 
  • In Kitchen Princess, Najika is bullied...then her Blithe Spirit triumphs and she is adored...then a disaster strikes for which she was in no way to blame and everyone despises her again.
  • Love Hina: The Hinata girls, especially Naru and Motoko, are always fully prepared to believe the worst in Keitaro and beat the crap out of him at the slightest provocation, especially when they suspect him of doing something perverted. Honestly, after the first few misunderstandings, one would think they'd actually realize that it's Not What It Looks Like.
  • Happens consistently in Great Teacher Onizuka, where the students and/or teachers keep falling for faked evidence of Onizuka's wrongdoing, despite his history of regularly being framed for bad behavior and being vindicated and found to be completely well-intentioned every time.
  • Bleach: The Soul Reapers are very grateful to Ichigo for both saving Soul Society and sacrificing his power to defeat Aizen. The anime's Gotei 13 Invasion Arc is set immediately after Aizen's defeat and just before the Lost Agent Arc. One piece of evidence implicates Ichigo in villainous events, and Yamamoto promptly orders Ichigo's arrest without bothering to look any deeper at the situation or talk to Ichigo. The Lost Agent Arc debunks the filler's portrayal of Yamamoto; when the canon Yamamoto learns Ichigo's fallen in with the wrong crowd, he cites Ichigo's past deeds as justification for breaking the rules of Soul Society to save him.
  • Code Geass: The Black Knights turn on Lelouch, the man that has led them to victory after victory over Britannia and is very close to helping them liberate their homeland, because of an unproven statement from their worst enemy without any sort of proof.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • The short Sonic the Animation including in Sonic Jam features Eggman successfully deceiving the public into thinking he's a vandal, by dressing up in a very bad Sonic costume and causing havoc on rollerskates.
    • An episode of Sonic X has Eggman convince everyone he has turned good and created a man-made form of sunlight after his artificial moon eclipses the sun. When Sonic starts destroying the satellites powering it, the public come in angry mobs to confront Sonic's friends. This turns out to be a subversion however, since Eggman's sunshine globes in fact had brainwashing technology so people worshiped him instead of Sonic. Only Chris, Knuckles and the President's staff genuinely doubted Sonic (though both Chris and the President himself catch themselves on this in the original Japanese edit, while Knuckles makes the defending argument that Sonic didn't help his case by not telling anyone, thinking it should have been obvious).

    Comic Books 
  • Happens far too often to Asterix. In at least four comics (Asterix and the Soothsayer, Asterix and the Roman Agent, Asterix and Son and Asterix and the Secret Weapon) he is framed, shunned, or at least badmouthed by the Gaul village, despite being known as the village's official best-warrior-and-nice-guy.
  • This is what happens to Spider-Man all the time. No matter how many times he saves the city it only takes one smear campaign or mistaken action seen by the public to turn New York against him and declare he's a criminal.
    • The "Superior Spider-Man" zig-zags with this trope so hard it's not even funny. On one hand, Peter explaining that his mind was taken over by Doctor Octopus provides him with Easy Forgiveness from The Avengers... and that's about the only people who forgive him, or wish to stay on speaking terms with him/be within a hundred miles of him (or don't do a Face–Heel Turn and want him dead/humiliated) in the aftermath.
  • Lucky Luke got accused of working with the Dalton once, being an outlaw using them as hostage when they faked amnesia (granted the town was somehow unfamiliar with the cowboy and the Daltons but one aware of the situation condemned Luke immediately) and is easily framed for robbing bank by the culprit who simply accuses him in front of the town and no one being able to remember he was sitting next to them when the robbery happened. It get subverted during his adventure with Jesse James, where the townspeople condemn him instead of Jesse's cousin for taking over a train as a way to arrest the gang and warn him to shut it if he doesn't want to be prosecuted. The truth is that they were too scared of retaliation and they feel deeply ashamed of their cowardice when he is released. Luke even exploits it one time where after trying to have the town standing up to Billy the Kid he decides to pretend he suddenly became an outlaw, nevermind that he is known to have never killed anyone in years and one of the biggest hero in the West, so that they fear him more and Billy feels upstaged.
  • In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnik succeeded in framing Sonic for treachery more than once. Granted these were often very elaborate acts of deception, but surely Sonic's closest friends at the very least should have known better, especially considering they've frequently seen what Robotnik is capable of themselves (and have even been a fellow victim in at least one case).

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • In Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Mystery Inc. is so famous and beloved that they have an entire museum exhibit dedicated to them, but a reporter turns the entire city against them with Manipulative Editing.
  • Despite very publicly saving the city at the climax of the first movie, the Ghostbusters are hated and destitute by the beginning of the second movie, because the public was so easily swayed against them.
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. When Veronica Corningstone fixes Ron's teleprompter to say "Go fuck yourself, San Diego!", he instantly becomes a pariah.
  • In the first Toy Story, Woody starts off as The Leader of Andy's toys, a position earned in part by just being Andy's favorite but enforced by the fact that he actually is level-headed, responsible, and has a good friendship with most of them. When he accidentally push Buzz out the window, they easily believe he's become a murderer—although this is also because Woody had made no effort to hide his resentment and jealousy over Buzz taking Andy's attention. (And he had been trying to knock him out of Andy's sight, but only to the floor under the desk.)

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter. Books two, four and five basically follow the formula of "Harry is a good guy, but gossip says he is crazy, and everyone thinks he's crazy after a while."
  • In T.J. Klune's gay fantasy novel The Consumption of Magic, the way the populace is turned against Sam of Wilds by baseless rumors of his arrogance and ambition contains elements of this, though the truth is more complicated.

    Live Action TV 
  • Batman (1966) episode "Deep Freeze". Mr. Freeze frames Batman for crimes such as accepting a bribe and stealing Commissioner Gordon's watch. The people of Gotham immediately conclude that Batman is a criminal and lose faith in him. Oddly enough the episode ends without any indication that the truth has been revealed to the public, but they're back to worshiping Batman the next episode.
  • During the fourth season of Babylon 5, Captain Sheridan, now the leader of La Résistance, is lured out to Mars and into a trap by his former Security chief, Michael Garibaldi. An unusual example in that while the character identified as being responsible did do what he was accused of, he did so as an unwitting Manchurian Agent, and the station's command staff learned about it from ISN, which wasn't exactly a reliable source of information at this point. A later story arc centered on the accused character's Redemption Quest.
  • Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger: One of the last filler episodes have the Bandora Gang unleash a monster that impersonates the Zyuranger to cause chaos, and that's enough for the townspeople to turn their backs against the Zyurangers and drive them away, in spite of them spending all the time protecting their kids. Only one grandma did not buy this crap, allowing the Zyuranger a chance to strike back and prove themselves.
  • Denji Sentai Megaranger also did this, but as a plot point: A monster attacks their school and exposed themselves as Megarangers. At that point, everyone drove away the Megarangers, it doesn't matter if they're model students like Kouichirou, or a decent genius like Shun, everyone gets driven off. From that point on, the Megarangers' battle elevate from not just saving the world, but also restore their status. They succeed in both.
  • House of Anubis: KT, despite having been a loyal Sibuna member and a genuinely nice person up to that point, was easily believed to be The Mole working for Team Evil, mostly because Frobisher-Smythe was her great grandfather. When she tried to truthfully warn them that Patricia was the Sinner, rather than her, it only made things worse, to where they locked her up and stole the key her dead grandfather gave her. She nearly ran away because of it, but she decided she couldn't abandon her friends no matter what.
  • In The A-Team episode "Showdown!" a group of criminals pose as the A-Team in order to intimidate the owner of a wild west show into selling his show so that they can use his upcoming European tour dates to smuggle drugs from the U.S. to Europe. Naturally, all of the A-Team's allies instantly buy the story that they've turned bad; we see Face banned from his favorite night club, Hannibal kicked off a studio lot, and a particularly heart-wrenching scene in which the kids at BA's youth center show him the newspaper proclaiming his guilt before dejectedly walking out on him. Of course, this ends up being the inciting incident to get the team to go stop the imposters.
  • In the fourth season of Supergirl (2015), Lex Luthor uses the clone Red Daughter to attack the White House. President Baker (Luthor's pawn) declares her a traitor and institutes martial law. Despite how she has risked her life saving the world for four years (and the public knows about things like Martian shapeshifters and image inducers) everyone instantly accepts this. It takes Supergirl and Red Daughter seen together and Kara writing a story exposing Luthor and Baker for Supergirl to be accepted as framed.

    Video Games 
  • In the fourth game of the Ace Attorney series, Phoenix, the hero of the previous game himself, has his reputation sullied and is disbarred by a single piece of fake evidence nobody believes he didn't forge himself, despite his near-perfect record of justice-making. Fans were less than pleased. Justified because a recuuring theme of the fourth and fifth games is that the legal system has become an outright Crapsack World where being an Amoral Attorney is just about the only way for anyone to get ahead, not to mention the fact that he really did still ultimately just spend the last seven years building up a case against the Big Bad who set him up and acting as his False Friend. Ultimately also mitigated heavily by the latter game revealing that Edgeworth, though absent in the previous game like nearly all of Nick’s supporting cast, had been fighting to get him reinstated as he tried to combat this same dark age of the law, eventually rising to chief prosecutor between acting as the Hero of Another Story. When Phoenix actually tries to get his badge back, he gains it again very quickly.
  • In Super Mario Sunshine: Mario is imprisoned and forced to clean up graffiti he didn't create but an Evil Twin of him did. He doesn't get a word to defend himself despite saved a nation a couple times, Princess Peach RULER OF THE MUSHROOM KINGDOM gets her attempted defense overruled, and nobody notices that said doppelganger is completely blue!! In fairness, the residents of Isle Delfino didn't seem to be aware of just who Mario was, the liquid blue look could've been seen as a power transformation (and in fact it was, just not of Mario's), and everyone who did know Mario knew full well he was innocent, making it less an example of this trope. What's truly heinous, though, is that the doppelganger's attack came before Mario had even arrived on the island.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic is mistaken for Shadow stealing a Chaos Emerald with the military instantly starting an almost lethal chase after him (granted it was Knight Templar group GUN).

    Western Animation 
  • Averted in the Justice League cartoon. At least two episodes have to do with league members being framed for a crime they didn't commit, but in both cases the remaining league members decide to believe their side of the story first.
    • Before that, Superman: The Animated Series ends its run (with the "Legacy" episode) with Superman being heavily distrusted by the people of Metropolis because of his stint as a Brainwashed and Crazy soldier of Darkseid, a distrust that is the cornerstone of many people's excuses to be part of the Cadmus Project in Justice League Unlimited (several years afterwards, In-Universe and out). Somewhat downplayed since Superman and the League has been under a longtime campaign of slandering from Luthor, and the Justice Lords gave a helpful demonstration of how possible it was for Superman to cross the Moral Event Horizon and become a tyrant.
  • Played straight in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, when an evil Doppelgänger of Batman from an inverted morality Alternate Universe takes advantage of his absence to don Batman's costume and go on a crime spree. Every hero the real Batman runs into says they would never have believed him capable of it were it not for his doppelganger's many public crimes. And of course, the one character who does believe Batman is innocent? The Joker.
  • This happens in the The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! cartoon. Captain America gets his reputation ruined due to a Skrull taking his place. This despite the fact that he's been an upstanding Avenger, and the Skrull showed many clear uncharacteristic behaviors.
  • In the fifth season of Avengers, Assemble!, while trying to stop an unstable crown from exploding, Captain America puts his shield on it, at the cost of his own life. Soon after, Black Widow (who is actually Princess Zanda in disguise) accuses Black Panther of killing Cap, and the rest of the Avengers are quick to believe her. As a result, Black Panther's reputation is destroyed, and the nations of the world pledge unity against Wakanda with Atlantis included. Of course, this was all part of the Shadow Council's plan to turn the world against Black Panther and start a war between the surface and Atlantis, and Captain America did not die, as they originally thought.
  • In the Thomas the Tank Engine episode "Dirty Work/Diesel's Devious Deed" (and The Railway Series story it is based on) Diesel rather easily convinces James, Gordon and Henry that Duck is a bully spreading bad names about them to the trucks. Arguably played deliberately given the trio's trademark arrogance and earlier insisting that Duck would never spread names about Diesel.
  • The Transformers
    • A two parter in had Megatron convincing Earth, with trivial ease, that the Autobots had really been the villains the whole time. This is after around thirty episodes of the Decepticons not hiding their actions or intentions and the Autobots helping whoever asked.
    • In the Stunticons first appearance, they steal an experimental fuel from a military base. The general, seeing self-driving cars, immediately assumes it's the Autobots. He never even thinks they might be new Decepticons, even though they all have Decepticon emblems.
  • Totally Spies!, this happened a few times, the reason each time being Jerry jumping to conclusions:
    • In "The Fugitives", Jerry wrongly accuses the heroines of bank robbery (it was actually clones of them) and they spend much of the two-part episode being pursued by other WHOOP agents under his orders. (His apology when he finds out what actually happened...They don't take it well.)
    • In "Return of Geraldine", Clover is framed by the returning villain for several crimes that harm the rest of the main cast (stealing Sam's report and submitting it as hers, stealing Alex's car and trashing it, and stealing classified WOOHP weaponry) and is condemned by all three of them.
    • The three protagonists were guilty of this too, in "Spies vs Spies" where they're quick to label Alice, Crimson, and Pam - their older predecessors who have been presumed dead for seven years - are traitors when they find out they're working for an enemy. (Seeing as they themselves tend to be Brainwashed a lot, you'd think they'd have given the older spies the benefit of the doubt. Of course, Jerry firing the three simply so he could rehire his older Spies didn't do much to help the two groups like each other.)
  • In one episode of The Jetsons, Elroy's incredibly annoying, disruptive, and disobedient classmate tries to get out of trouble by switching his justifiably terrible report card with Elroy's, which has all A's. George is way too quick to believe the bad card is Elroy's, and this becomes even worse when he finds out what happened from the brat's father. (Who is far better at telling lies from the truth than George, it seems, despite his son being far worse.) Unfortunately, by then he's already scolded poor Elroy and sent him to bed without supper, and his attempt to apologize comes after Elroy has run away. (Leading to the main plot.)
  • Happens a few times in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, ironic considering how it's more infamous for the opposite.
    • In the episode "Ponyville Confidential" the Cutie Mark Crusaders become the wrath of Ponyville after spreading gossip about them for a while when their secret identity of "Gabby Gums" is revealed to be them, including their own family and friends! And yet for some reason, nopony asked why a normally good-intended group of fillies would resort to exposing embarrassing secrets about them. (Diamond Tiara was forcing them to publish these articles.)
    • In the season 2 finale, Twilight accuses her brother's bride of being evil and brainwashing him (hysterically, admittedly, and without real evidence). However, she gets quickly disproven and banned from the wedding by said brother after the bride runs away in tears. Everyone in the room then ditches Twilight without giving her a chance to properly explain herself, despite all the good she has done for them over the two seasons, has had freak outs several times in the past, and the fact that they learned at the beginning of that same season a moral of not to easily brush off someone's concerns. The revealed Big Bad takes pleasure in mocking everyone for assisting her plan with their distrust during her Near-Villain Victory, leading Applejack at the very least to shamefully apologise to Twilight.
    • The Cutie Mark Crusaders become the victim of this once again in the Season 8 episode "Marks for Effort" when Twilight accuses them of sabotaging a student's test that they helped that student study for, and subsequently bans them from the school... despite the fact that she knows that their special talents are helping other ponies out with their cutie marks.
    • The comic spinoff has a Christmas special where Sunset Shimmer get easily condemned when someone links her to an account that's been leaking secrets about her friends, even when it's established that she's reformed and has nothing to gain by being evil again.

     Real Life 
  • Sad to say this is Truth in Television. An old saying is "we write men's virtues in sand, their sins in stone", meaning we're quick to look past all the good things someone's done and only focus on one bad thing they've committed. Anger-managing tactics like counting to ten or just walking away are effective in part because of this: rather than escalating a quarrel to the point it's going to be hard to get past, simply going quiet and really thinking about it give time to cool off and realize it's probably not worth outright condemning someone for.
  • Another related (Dutch) saying is "trust arrives on foot but leaves on horseback", meaning that a single stupidity can ruin trust or reputation that took yeras to build. It can apply to companies as well, not just individual people.

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