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"I'm a professional beach bully. I pretend to steal your girl, you punch me, I go down, she swoons, you slip me 50 bucks."
Beach Bully, Futurama

So, there's someone that you need to impress. Maybe it's a pretty girl that you'd like to date, or maybe it's someone that you need on your side. What's the best way to get their attention? Show off your hero cred, even if you have to fake it.

Basically, this trope is for when a character sets up a situation that seems like a spontaneous feat of derring-do, but is actually a deliberately concocted circumstance, possibly with friends taking the role of a fake "aggressor". The situation can go horribly wrong if the situation becomes one of real rather than simulated danger, such as a genuine aggressor showing up.


This is the inverse of a Wounded Gazelle Gambit. Compare Framed for Heroism and Make It Look Like a Struggle. Subtrope of Publicity Stunt, and supertrope of Monster Protection Racket. It's a perennial favorite of the Fake Ultimate Hero. Related to Rigged Spectacle Fight.

Contrast Heroism Addict, a Real Life disorder where a villainous character puts someone in genuine danger (and occasionally kills them) to make themselves look "heroic" while trying to save them, and usually on a serial basis. Do not confuse with Heroic Engineers.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach, Ginjo tricks Ichigo into trusting him by saving Ichigo's sister from a Hollow attack he and his partner Tsukishima arranged. For added verisimilitude Tsukishima alters Ginjo's memory so that he'll even believe his own engineered scenario.
  • Case Closed: One case involved a house catching on fire when a girl was inside. It turned out the culprit set the fire so he could pull a Heroic Fire Rescue Romance. He didn't anticipate getting caught or that Ran rescued the girl before he could.
  • In Dragon Ball Super, Frost is a Villain with Good Publicity who secretly starts destructive wars which he later resolves before profiteering from the destruction entailed through real estate. This stands in contrast to his multiversal counterpart Frieza, who is a Card-Carrying Villain in regards to achieving the same ends.
  • Kinnikuman: In the second chapter, Kin wants to get the attention of famous singer Takahar Nana, so he hires a monster to pretend to attack her so he can "save" her and get some Rescue Romance. The monster immediately decides that he doesn't want to take a fall for an idiot like Kinnikuman and decides to kidnap Nana for real, forcing Kin to actually work at his rescue. He succeeds, but Nana, having fainted and missed most of the action, believes that her manager Hitoshi saved her.
  • In Chapter 5 of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Kanna's Daily Life, Saikawa defeats a massive beast in order to prove her karate skills to a group of adults that had insulted her. What she was unaware of was that the beast was actually Tohru in disguise.
  • One Piece:
    • Done in conjunction with a Frame-Up in the Dressrosa arc. A flashback shows that Doflamingo came to King Riku Dold II, the former king of the country and tells him he'll sell the island to him (Doflamingo is a descendent of the former rulers that preceded King Riku you see). King Riku begs the citizens for the money fully intending to pay it back. But once he had it, Doflamingo used his string powers to take control of Riku's body as well as his army to attack the citizens. Once the people hated Riku for "tricking them", Doflamingo and his top lieutenants swooped in to "save the day".
    • Done by the heroes in the Fish-Man Island arc, not for fame but to help undo the Fantastic Racism between Fish-men and humans. The New Fish-man Pirates have captured most of the island's royal family, and call out a challenge to the Straw Hat Pirates. Luffy's all for it, but Jimbei stops him; if Luffy were to just beat up Hody Jones, it would merely be seen as "another human beating down a fish man". Instead, Jimbei plans for himself and the mermaid princess Shirahoshi to be captured, and for Luffy to pull a Big Damn Heroes when Shirahoshi calls for him. It works, and the spectacle also buys the time for the rest of the Straw Hats to reunite.
  • Overlord (2012):
    • This is how the main character Ainz Ooal Gown gains more renown in the New World. A demonic invasion led by a powerful demon named Jaldabaoth begins attacking the Re-Estize kingdom and throws it into a panic. Under the guise of the human adventurer Momon he finally drives off Jaldabaoth after a bout of intense combat. In actuality, Jaldabaoth is really Ainz's loyal subordinate Demiurge, and one of the reasons for putting on such a performance is to bolster Momon's reputation.
    • An accidental version earlier when Shalltear is mind-controlled into rebelling against Nazarick. Momon declares he'll take care of the vampire, but after ensuring there are no witnesses, takes her out as Ainz (since he needs all his spells for it). The victory is credited to Momon anyway.
    • The entire Holy Kingdom arc consists of Jaldabaoth curbstomping their forces with conscripted demihumans, requiring them to ask Ainz for help. He declares that he can't use his army to help them for diplomatic reasons... so he'll go by himself (and there's a scene where he has to talk with the Nazarick forces posing as the demons, telling them to actually fight back). It ends with the Holy Kingdom nearly destroyed, some survivors starting a cult dedicated to Ainz, several of the demihumans now serving Ainz, and the Holy Kingdom's ruler replaced by a doppelganger who plans to play up internal rivalries until the people beg Ainz to take over.
    • After Ainz kills the Giant of the East and subdues the Serpent of the West, he has their monster minions attack Carne Village, which is one of his own Protectorates. Then he sends his envoy to the village, Lupusregina Beta, to swoop in and help repel the attack, thus putting the villagers even further into his debt.
  • Clembot from Pokémon the Series: XY gets framed for a rash of incidents. When Ash and friends investigate, it's revealed that the Frame-Up was just Phase I of the true culprit, Belmondo's, scheme. Phase II is for Belmondo to use his own Clembot to "solve" those same crimes and be hailed as a hero.
  • In Rappi Rangai, to get the main character accepted in a princess's kingdom, his party of Kunoichi had him pretend to beat them to become a bodyguard for the princess.
  • In one episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Nanami continually finds herself in danger, only to be saved each time by a young boy named Mitsuru. He later reveals to Utena and Miki that he caused those dangers so he could impress Nanami and make her think of him as a big brother.
  • In one episode of Sgt. Frog, Paul runs Momoka through a VR simulation of various plans to get Fuyuki to declare his love for her. One such plan involves him saving her from some thugs, thus sending adrenaline to his brain and heightening his emotions. Paul forgets to take into account that Fuyuki is a Grade-A wimp, and the simulation ends with Fuyuki running away, albeit taking Momoka with him, and calling for a police officer (which Momoka admits is probably the wiser course of action). Paul then hypothesizes that Fuyuki would leap into action if it were an alien attack, and changes the simulation accordingly. However, after initially spazzing out over the alien, Fuyuki again runs away. Throughout all the simulations, someone else always saves them before Fuyuki can, until literally everyone in town is moved out of their way.
  • Slayers: Zig-zagged in "Jeffrey's Knighthood". Lina and Naga are hired to accompany young Jeffrey as he goes on a quest to defeat some bandits in order to earn himself a knighthood. Unknown to him (but known to Lina and Naga), the bandits are actually actors hired by his mother to create a situation where he can prove himself. Unknown to all of them, real bandits moved in and drove away the fake ones before they get to the hideout. Of course, Jeffrey still fails to prove himself (not that he realizes this), because he's so utterly useless that the girls have to do all the work (except for when his mother shows up and clobbers people with a warhammer for daring to point that out in his hearing).
  • Discussed in Spy X Family. Due to complicated reasons, the spy Loid needs his six-year-old daughter Anya to earn Stella Stars (badges given out for exceptional achievements) at her school. Anya earns one Stella Star by alerting adults around her to a drowning child, saving his life. Loid later mentions that the spy agency could arrange for similar "accidents" for Anya to intervene in, but they find it too risky to implement.
  • Ushio and Tora: shortly after the introduction of Kirio Inasa, the fourth possible successor to the Beast Spear who actually boasts about wielding a weapon superior to the Spear and advocates its destruction, the main Kouhamei Temple is attacked by an avatar of Hakumen no Mono, who nearly kills all the monks with her power. Then Hizaki Mikado, the order's leader shows up and uses all her Dharmic power to land a powerful attack which seemingly immobilize the avatar as Kirio jumps in and effortlessly slays her in one swing of his scythe, showing that his weapon can be used even against Hakumen and even mass-produced... except that it really isn't, as not only Mikado's technique was already killing the avatar, but it is confirmed that the entire event was a plan of Hakumen itself to trick the monks into destroying the Spear.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: One chapter of the manga featured a boy who loved superhero comics but wasn't strong himself. His father wanted to make him more self-confident so he hired some kids to pretend to attack someone while the boy was in a superhero costume. It worked, but then the hired kids turned it around and started really hurting the boy in order to get more money out of the father.

    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City:
    • The Conquistador's plan is to gather numerous criminals to simultaneously commit crimes across Astro City so he can use his heroic identity to Kill Them All as part of his heroic debut.
    • In his previous identity as El Hombre, he teamed with one of his enemies to create a giant robot for him to destroy, boosting his sagging profile. The enemy betrayed him and the robot ran amok, and when his plan was revealed, he resigned from the Honor Guard in disgrace.
    • Invoked by some of Winged Victory's female enemies: They claimed to be students of her self-defense classes, and later committed crimes so she could stop them and enjoy the publicity.
  • Ant-Man: In one of the lowest points of his superhero career, Hank Pym attempted this in order to redeem himself in the eyes of The Avengers after his unprovoked attack on a surrendering Elfqueen led to a court martial. His plan was to create an indestructible robot to attack the Avengers Mansion that was only vulnerable to his stings so that he could swoop in and save the day. He doesn't even manage to pull this off, as The Wasp defeats the robot after discovering Hank's plan, and his attempt at doing this gets him kicked out of the team until he eventually redeems himself. It also led to Janet divorcing Hank due to him hitting her when she tried to talk him out of that plan.
  • Booster Gold has spent his entire career trying to redeem himself because of this trope. Traveling back through time with advanced weaponry, he set up a disaster to allow people to see his heroics. In an inversion, in his current time-traveling series, his real heroics are erased from history, and people rarely see him doing good. During 52, he hired an out-of-work actor to stage a robbery so that he could intervene and raise his profile. It backfired after the check bounced and the actor publicly confronted him.
  • Part of what fuels The Antichrist (better known as Harry Potter)'s school shooting rampage in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the reveal that all his exploits had been faked for him by order of the Headmaster (a Body Surfing Aleister Crowley in the body of Tom Marvolo Riddle), leading him to murder students and faculty alike.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Deconstructed in issue #112. Antoine feels the need to impress his dad, so he and Sonic arrange for Sonic to dress up like Evil Sonic (long before his upgrade to Scourge) and have Antoine pretend to defeat him. Then the real Evil Sonic shows up, and Antoine knocks him out with one karate chop. Antoine's so stunned when he finds out what happened, that he faints.
  • Superman:
    • One early comic zigzagged this trope like crazy when Clark Kent, bemoaning how Lois Lane never had the time of day for him because she was too focused on Superman, had a friend suggest to him that he should talk Superman into dressing up in his clothes and doing something heroic to impress her. Due to his super-senses, he noticed Lois Lane was eavesdropping on them and wisely dropped the plan, only to be forced into pretending he'd gone with it after all when she happened to catch him changing into Superman a bit later. By the end, this game of mistaken identities had her utterly befuddled, and he was not doing much better at sorting out the situation for himself.
    • The Supergirl-Batgirl Plot: As posing as Supergirl, Mr. Mxyzptlk takes Superman's powers away right when he is trying to prevent a building from collapsing, so that "Supergirl" can show up and save the day.
    • The Super Revenge Of Lex Luthor: As part of a plan to drive Superman crazy, Luthor builds a robot to return stolen money to a bank, expecting Superman to misinterpret the robot's purpose, destroy it, and then being criticised by the public.
  • Teen Titans: Bumblebee's first appearance has her pretending to be a villain so Mal Duncan could impress the Titans. They eventually find out, but aren't too upset with either of them.
  • In The Tick, there is a professional service that sets up engineered fights so fledgling superheroes can build up their reputation. The Tick stumbles into one of these fights and tries to help, never realizing that the villain is just an actor.
    • In a later arc, Chairface makes a deal with Barry Hubris in which his minions flee from Barry on sight to build up his rep, while Barry only makes the effort to pursue and capture criminals working for other gangs, leaving Chairface as the top criminal in the city by attrition. It fails because Barry is so utterly insane that he doesn't remember his half of the bargain, and indiscriminately brutalizes everyone. Chairface ultimately decides that he needs to bring the Tick back to get rid of Barry.
  • In Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Silk Spectre's pre-Minutemen superhero career consisted almost entirely of staged heroics to raise her profile. Naturally, she resented teammate Silhouette, whose pre-Minutemen career consisted of hunting down pedophiles and rescuing children.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Some of the White Magician's victims are led to believe they're going to be in a mock fight with him that'll help him maintain his false public identity as a hero, so are mislead to think this trope is in play when he's really just going to kill them. The White Magician's shtick is to sell stolen STAR Labs tech to low-level criminals and then fight those same criminals as a hero, which leads to the perp's death in all cases where they'd have any hope of identifying him as their supplier.

    Fairy Tales 
  • Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth's "Nine Bags Of Gold": Since Marie needs nine bags of gold to be allowed to marry her boyfriend, her elven friends make the kingdom's prince fall ill so Marie can cure him and be paid for her "deed".

    Fan Works 
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
    • Played straight in Act IV. Early on, Kyouko is beaten up and nearly raped by human thugs in her neighborhood and rescued by Falla, winning some degree of good favor with Tsukune and the others. As revealed in chapter 11, Falla deliberately lured said thugs toward Kyouko so she could rescue her and make herself look good, thus setting the foundation for Luna to eventually be duped into restoring her chrono magic.
    • Discussed in Acts V and VI; Jenner Rythmore, the openly anti-monster head of the HDA founded in the wake of The Unmasqued World, is firmly convinced that Tsukune and his friends deliberately set Alucard loose on the world just so they could kill him and make themselves look like heroes, which couldn't be any farther from the truth.
  • In X-Men fanfiction Devil's Diary, Magneto earns Wanda and Pietro's reluctant loyalty by saving them from a riot secretly instigated by him.
    "She and Pietro owe me their lives. I made sure of that. They will never know that I paid the instigator of the riot against them. They will certainly not learn that from the party himself I sent a pitchfork through his body at the site."
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: The Diary-construct plans to permanently take over Harry's body and dishonestly take credit for killing the basilisk so as to gain greater political influence.
  • Scarlet Lady: Chloe already has a tendency to create akumas with her bullying and gross entitlement. In a world where she became Scarlet Lady after stealing the Ladybug earrings out of Marinette's purse before she had a chance to meet Tikki, she continues to be just as cruel — and while locking Juleka in the bathroom, gloats to herself that she hopes Juleka gets akumatized, purely so that she can 'show off' while humiliating her further. It ends up backfiring on her when Reflekta shows up when she's in the middle of confronting Marinette.
  • Chasing Dragons: At one point, Donys Ratheon arranges for a slave revolt in Volantis, and for all the city's native groups that could put it down to be neutralized. This therefore allows Viserys to lead the Exile Company in ending the revolt and saving the city, which makes him beloved of the general populace and grants him enough leverage to force his way into the city's political leadership.
  • Boldores And Boomsticks: Faba planned to create wormholes to summon Grimm, then use Type: Null to defeat them in front of witnesses and become famous. Gladion rescuing Null and Lillie saving the Pokémon he used to create the wormholes scuppered the plan.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Incredibles: Syndrome has as his Evil Plan to create the Omnidroid which he pits against retired superheroes to kill them and collect the data as well as to eliminate any potential competition which he will pretend to defeat as a publicity stunt, becoming the ultimate hero and eventually selling his technology to make everyone super and render the term obsolete. Unfortunately for him, the robot outsmarts him and he is quickly and publically defeated.
  • Oscar and Lenny from Shark Tale stage a public brawl that results in Lenny's apparent death, in order to give Lenny (a vegetarian shark) an opportunity to drop off the radar and start a new life, and to allow Oscar to keep up his charade/image of being a 'shark slayer' while scaring off any fear of retribution from The Mafia.
  • Tangled: In her pursuit of Rapunzel, Mother Gothel strikes up an alliance with the Stabbington Brothers. She tricks them into thinking they'll get Rapunzel, whom they plan to sell to the highest bidder, and when they advance on the girl, she knocks them both unconscious, making it look like an impromptu rescue.
  • Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo: It is revealed towards the end that Brushogun, the mighty Japanese supervillain the Titans are investigating, was actually defeated and captured years ago by Commander Uehara Daizo of the Tokyo police department. But instead of turning Brushogun in, Daizo hooked him up to a printing press and industrialized his power to create living art, forcing him to create a host of fake villains so Daizo could earn fame and fortune by "saving" Tokyo from staged crises.
  • Downplayed in Town Musicians of Bremen. The musicians disguise themselves as robbers and capture the King, only for the Troubadour as himself to free him and pretend to defeat the robbers afterwards, so that the King allows the Troubadour to marry the Princess. However, before setting the whole thing up, the musicians frighten off real outlaws who have been planning a real attack on the King.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Happens a couple of different ways in 50 First Dates. Among the ploys Adam Sandler's character uses to get Lucy (Drew Barrymore) to notice him are a penguin he places in the road (which she nearly kills), and his friend staging an attack on him (she beats him within an inch of his life with a baseball bat she keeps in the car). Basically, he's engineering chances for her to be heroic.
  • Marty McFly attempts to get George and Lorraine together in Back to the Future with this, by telling George to find him "parking" with Lorraine in Doc's car, appearing to take advantage of her. He is to pretend to give Marty a vicious beating for trying to "hurt" Lorraine. It couldn't be simpler. But instead, it becomes a double subversion — the first subversion is that while Marty is planning to pretend to harass Lorraine so George could "save" Lorraine from Marty, the plan goes horribly wrong when Biff shows up, throws Marty to his friends, and begins to molest Lorraine for real. The second subversion is that the plan works anyway, as George manages to find enough courage to punch Biff out cold when he does come by on his cue, which wins Lorraine's heart.
  • In The Batman (2022), the Riddler's crime spree reveals that twenty years ago the mobster Carmine Falcone masterminded the arrest of his rival Salvatore Maroni and the largest drug bust in Gotham history. Nearly the entire upper echelon of the Gotham city government owe their success to this single event which is why Falcone controls the entire city.
  • In The Beastmaster, Dar has his tiger attack Kiri and then pretends to drive it off in an attempt to seduce her.
  • In Dragonheart, Bowen and Draco reach an agreement in which they travel together and Draco pretends to attack any villages the duo might come across, allowing Bowen to heroically show up and feign to kill Draco by shooting him with a giant ballista, at which point Draco fakes being mortally wounded and intentionally falls into any nearby body of water to sink and swim away while Bowen gets his reward. This goes well for a while until the duo and their new allies stumble upon a town with a lake that's too shallow for Draco to submerge in. When the starving inhabitants descend upon the seemingly dead dragon while chanting "Meat! Meat!", Draco understandably flies away, exposing the scam and causing the infuriated villagers to turn on our heroes (while still screaming "Meat! Meat!", no less). Interestingly, this deal was done out of necessity. Bowen is a real knight but had run out of dragons to kill in his quest for vengeance, turning Draco into the Last of His Kind. By working together, Bowen keeps his job and Draco continues living.
  • Filibus: The Sky Pirate of the title has her Mooks kidnap Leonora Hardy, sister of the famous Inspector Hardy. Filibus's reason? So that she can show up in genderbent disguise as the Count de la Brive, save the day, and sneak with her new identity into Inspector Hardy's social circle.
  • In George of the Jungle a little capuchin monkey complains to George that the other monkeys bully him because he's a runt. In the next scene, the monkeys are attacked by a large lion; Little Monkey steps forward, pounds his chest and yells at the lion, fending it off and earning the other monkeys' respect. The lion, hiding in the bushes, winks at George, implying that it was him arranging the whole scene.
  • In Godzilla vs. Kong, this was Apex Cybernetics's plan. It's revealed they are directly responsible for instigating Godzilla's rampage due to Ghidorah's remains that are incorporated into Mechagodzilla's brain, signaling to Godzilla that Ghidorah is still alive. With humanity now turned against Godzilla, Apex intended to publicly unleash Mechagodzilla, kill Godzilla and be credited as humanity's saviors.
  • Occurs at the start of Hitch, Will Smith entices a dog away from its owner so that his client can appear to have jumped in front of a car to save it so that the client can get a date with the owner.
  • In The Magic Sword, the evil sorcerer Lodac kidnaps the Princess with Sir Branton vowing to save her. It turns out Branton and Lodac are in cahoots so Branton can win the Princess in marriage by "saving" her. Too bad for him that A) brave George and his band of knights insist on joining the "rescue" and B) Lodac has no intention of honoring the deal.
  • Maverick (1994, Richard Donner) beats several baddies in a fistfight to scare Angel, only to later pay them money for throwing the fight.
  • Subverted in Mr. Deeds, where the girl stages the fake attack with one of her friends. The guy beats said friend up.
  • Johnny in My Boyfriend's Back tries this by having his friend gear up to pretend to rob the convenience store where his crush works but is unaware that an actual robber shows up until it's too late.
  • Attempted by Ignacio in Nacho Libre, but he ends up picking a fight with a random passer-by instead, who kicks his butt.
  • In Spider-Man: Far From Home, the Elementals turn out to be highly convincing holographic illusions (with added drones to create real property damage) created by Mysterio and his crew so Nick Fury and Spidey could believe he was a dimension-hopping hero.

  • In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident Big Bad Duumvirate Opal Koboi and Briar Cudgeon plan to stage a coup in faerie society by secretly arming the Bwa Kell goblin triad with illegal weapons while sabotaging the weapons of the Lower Elements Police. They then intend to restore the LEP's weapons at the last moment so that the coup fails, and manipulate the events that follow so that they end up looking like heroes while Opal's rival Foaly gets the blame for the coup.
  • One of the Babylon 5 novels features Garibaldi hiring a bunch of thugs to "mug" Talia so that he can step in and "save" her. It fails to impress her.
  • Played with in "The Case of the Discontented Soldier" by Agatha Christie, in which the situation is engineered by a third party playing matchmaker, and both the guy and girl are left with the honest belief that he genuinely saved her life.
  • Encyclopedia Brown — Encyclopedia catches a guy in the act when he notices that his glasses emerge unscathed despite putting them in a place that supposedly took a lot of punches. Encyclopedia whispered this in Sally's ear. She wasn't pleased.
  • In the children's book The Gruffalo, the Guile Hero mouse plays this trope brilliantly, fending off various predators by pretending that he's going to hang out with a bigger and more dangerous predator than them, which he's invented, and which he says preys on each of them. When he then, to his surprise, meets said Big Bad and realises that Big Bad wants to eat him, he succeeds in persuading it to follow him through the forest, in the course of which he meets all the predators he earlier scared off, and they are duly convinced that he really is the Big Bad's friend. The mouse having thus demonstrated that he's the scariest creature in the forest, the Big Bad runs off in terror.
  • Journey to Chaos: In A Mage's Power, This is Plan A for the Big Bad, Duke Selen Esrah. He's hoping a Rescue Romance will rekindle the relationship between his son and his ex-girlfriend, Princess Kasile. He hires some rogues to do the kidnapping, infiltrates them with a couple of his own guards to guard against betrayal, and then sends down his son. The problem is that his son is captured despite his efforts, and someone else gets the credit.
  • Happens in P. G. Wodehouse's Love Among The Chickens, but backfires upon the 'hero' when the guy he paid to upset the boat spills the beans.
    • Bertie Wooster has tried to set this up on several occasions to make one of his friends look good, usually the chronically lovesick Bingo Little. In one story, he shoves the young brother of Bingo's latest love interest out of a boat so Bingo can save him; it fails because a) Bingo has fallen for a completely different girl in the meantime and didn't feel that informing Bertie of the change of plans was needed, b) the brother is perfectly capable of saving himself anyway, and c) the girl misinterprets the whole thing as a particularly bad attempt for Bertie to play the hero but falls for him because he's so adorably inept.
  • The main characters of The Saga of the Noble Dead are a pair of con artists who stage fake vampire hunts to scam people out of money. The plot is kicked off when they accidentally blunder into the lair of an actual vampire clan and have to become hunters for real.
  • Sam Holt: In What I Tell You Three Times is False, the villain-a struggling actor who is passionate about playing Sherlock Holmes-commits a murder just so that he can solve it and the publicity will give him an In-Universe Career Resurrection.
  • In Christopher Pike's Spellbound, the heroine's boyfriend, who is suspected of killing his previous girlfriend, decides to rescue his reputation by setting the heroine up to fall in a river and then dramatically saving her. It doesn't work out; another character rescues her first, and then the heroine figures out what happened and reveals it in open court.
  • In the Star Wars Legends novel The Last Command, starship thief Niles Ferrier contrives to infiltrate Talon Karrde's nascent Smugglers' Alliance by bribing Imperial soldiers into attacking the group's debut gathering, so that he can maneuver himself into a position to help repel the attack. It works, although Karrde remains suspicious.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock:
    • Dennis became the Subway Hero after pushing a woman in front of a subway car then saving her.
    • Parodied a second time when Tracy has Kenneth kill a "Hero Cat" who saved his owner's life by dialing 911. When Tracy forgets the whole thing, Jenna ends up "rescuing" the cat (who then dials 911 to save Kenneth).
  • Batman (1966) had this when the Penguin was running for mayor of Gotham City. He'd send his mooks out to commit crimes so he could thwart them and come off as a hero.
  • Sheldon tries to set this up in The Big Bang Theory. He pretends to be unable to open a jar in order to make Leonard seem like an alpha male. It then fails because Leonard can't open it, despite Sheldon having loosened the lid.
  • The Boys (2019):
  • Burn Notice pulls this in almost every single episode. With some exceptions, Mike's plans generally follow the same structure: First, Mike causes a problem (or exacerbates an existing problem, or creates the illusion of a problem) for the target. Second, he poses as someone who can solve that problem. Third, he uses this problem-solving persona to get closer to the target, usually while covertly making the problem worse the whole time, so that the target becomes more desperate for Mike's help. Finally, Mike uses his position to get what he wants, which is almost invariably either destroying the target's operation, making the target look like a traitor to their boss, stealing something, or blackmailing the target into doing something Mike needs.
  • An episode of CSI: Miami is eventually revealed to have started out this way, with the brother of a repressed family man hiring a company to set up a real-life game for his brother involving defending an attractive waitress from a jerk in a club. He's then supposed to discover said jerk dead in the men's room and have a brief adventure, complete with running away from the cops and making him think he slept with the waitress. Somehow, though, the "waitress" ends up dead for real, and the guy is freaking out, thinking that everyone is out to get him. Then it turns out that the guy's suspicious wife showed up to the hotel room, saw him passed on in bed and, naturally, assumed he cheated. She forced her way into the room, accidentally pushing the "waitress" to fall and hit her head on the coffee table, killing her.
  • Deconstructed in an episode of CSI: NY where the Victim of the Week and his buddy set up a mugging similar to one that happened several months beforehand to impress his girlfriend only for the plan to collapse in on itself. First, the victim's gun was loaded with simulation rounds intended only to be shot at targets which he had stolen from a firing range. When the two 'struggled' for the gun it went off and the bullet struck the victim, disintegrating on contact but still causing a lethal wound. Second is the biggest problem with this plan - failing to properly predict what the patsy will do. She attacked the mugger and ripped his mask off, forcing him to strike her over the head nearly killing her. Third is what happens when the scheme is exposed. She is angry and upset that her boyfriend would do something so stupid. Had he survived she'd probably break up with him.
  • In one episode of Diagnosis: Murder, the Villain of the Week is a mentally unstable former Air Force pilot who was given a dishonorable discharge for disobeying orders and has been trying to find work as a commercial airline pilot. He drugs the flight crew of a plane he's traveling on, knowing that as the only passenger with cockpit experience, he'll be chosen to land the plane safely.
  • The classic Doctor Who serial "The Enemy of the World" played this straight not once, but twice.
    • To infiltrate Salamander's security, Jamie stages an attempt on Salamander's life so that he can save the man at the last minute, earning jobs for both himself and Victoria.
    • Salamander's whole plan to sway public opinion in his favor hinges on causing natural disasters so that he can "predict" them and save people by warning them and evacuating affected areas.
  • In the Dollhouse episode "Haunted," a character describes how her childhood nanny once baked cookies with ground-up glass in them so that she could discover them and be the big hero. Unfortunately, the character sneaked her dessert early and had to go to the hospital.
  • Subverted in an episode of Drake & Josh. Drake accidentally let it slip that a girl he was dating was part of a competition between him and his brother...only he actually liked her. One of his several attempts to show her that he's "honest" involves two nerd "friends" that he constantly takes advantage of to make it seem like he found one of their wallets and returned it to them. The girl clearly sees through this and walks off...and then one of the nerds come back and asks Drake if he stole his mom's credit card from the wallet. He did.
  • Father Brown: In "The Theatre of the Invisible", Jeremy Mayhew-Bowman's engineered heroics result in Accidental Murder. He arranges a house fire while the boarding house is empty, so he can dash in and save some kittens and impress Bunty. However, the landlady had returned home early as was caught in the trap and killed.
  • In an episode of Flight of the Conchords, Bret is trying to woo a lady who works at a pet store and convinces Jermaine to pretend to mug them so he can impress her. Jermaine has his friend John, an actual mugger, help out, but he doesn't get the concept and actually steals her purse.
  • In Frasier, Daphne's dad had a money-making scam that involved him making crude passes at women in Manchester pubs, then getting pretend beaten up by their dates.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air:
    • Subverted when Will has his friend hire a thug to 'rob' a store, and he'd beat the robber to impress his girlfriend. But then a REAL robber holds up the store, and Will nearly gets himself killed hamming it up before he does take down the robber. His girlfriend ends up pissed that he stood up to a man with a gun. When Jazz explains the guy Will took down was a crook with a real gun, Will instantly faints.
    • Another episode had Will have a friend go to a girl and act like a total sleaze before he came in and dismiss him to impress said girl.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys: In "The Mother of All Monsters", Demetrius rescues Alcmene from a mugging arranged by his men so that she'll fall for him and he can lure her and Hercules into a trap.
  • Married... with Children had an episode of Peg saving Al from a robber, and worse, having it caught on the news, which as you can imagine is a major embarrassment to him. Jefferson tries to help by having Al take Peg to a seedy bar, where a contact would insult Peg, Al would knock him out and Bud would get it on film. Unfortunately, when it comes time to deal the blow, Peg punches out the man herself just as Bud takes the photo. However, the end of the ep has Al successfully pulling this off using one of Kelly's dates.
  • In Men Behaving Badly Gary hides behind a paper when his girlfriend is being threatened while driving and spends the whole episode worried about his reputation. So he rings up an agency to send over a big bloke in a leather jacket to his local pub for him to beat up. He finds a big bloke in a leather jacket who he quickly beats up. Then a much smaller, skinnier guy in a leather jacket appears wanting to fight Gary. He runs away shortly after.
  • Monk:
    • In the episode "Mr. Monk and the Billionaire Mugger," computer billionaire Sidney Teal apparently has a nervous breakdown, and tries to mug an ex-cop named Archie Modine with a knife, only for Modine to fatally shoot him, and witnesses see a uniformed cop running away from the scene, who soon becomes known as "Fraidy Cop." Monk is suspicious about why Sidney was wearing knee and elbow pads at the time like he was expecting to be knocked down. Furthermore, a similar incident is described by Sidney in his autobiography about how in college, a mugger tried to rob him and his girlfriend in a parking garage. As it turns out, Sidney and Modine had been roommates, and Sidney, wanting to impress his girlfriend, asked Modine to pretend to mug him. It worked, and for a moment, Teal got to be Superman. In return, twenty years later, Modine began to have an affair with Sidney's wife, and found a way to kill Sidney: he contacted him, reminded him of the first prank, and asked Sidney to return the favor, knowing Sidney would never refuse the opportunity to relive one of the best nights of his life.
      • What further provides proof that the murder was deliberate is that Sidney always went the extra mile. In fact, he not only planned to get knocked down, but the so-called "Fraidy Cop" was an actor that Sidney had hired, who, after Modine "fought" off Sidney, was supposed to run up and congratulate Modine for his heroism.
    • In "Mr. Monk Visits a Farm," Monk does this to raise Randy's spirits after he loses confidence in himself. After solving the case, Monk uses Randy's Sleep Learning routine to subconsciously tell him how his uncle was killed. This works and Randy miraculously solves the case, regaining his confidence and returning home to rejoin the force.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Loves of Hercules. When the riffers reach the scene where Hercules rescues Queen Deianira from a rampaging bull, they speculate that Herc and the bull arranged this beforehand to impress Deianira.
    Jonah: (as Hercules, to the bull) Good job, Elmer. She bought it. We'll split the money later.
  • Prodigal Son: In the episode "Q&A", another inmate at Martin's asylum stabs a guard and Ainsley's boyfriend/cameraman, causing a lockdown while both Ainsley and Malcolm are visiting Martin. Martin uses his surgical skills to save Jin, which impresses Ainsley, but as Malcolm figures out by the episode's end, Martin goaded the inmate into doing it in the first place during one of their group sessions, all so that he could present himself as the hero.
  • This is the plan of the United States government in the second season of Revolution. Their initial step started with Randall's actions at the end of the first season. After that they pulled the same gambit on a smaller scale: put people in danger through an intermediary, then ride in at the last minute to save the day.
  • Cyrus Beene of Scandal is a master of this, either for others or occasionally himself.
    • Thinking Frankie Vargas might be a good president, Cyrus gives the low-level governor a boost by arranging for a troubled man to attack the state government building and Vargas is seen on video confronting the man, offering himself up before the attacker is killed by security. Just as Cyrus had planned, Vargas' name is instantly all over the news, giving him a push for his campaign.
    • Cyrus is forced on a trip on Air Force Two when it's hacked and soon headed toward Washington. Cyrus gives a big speech to the passengers on how they might be shot down and that's a sacrifice he's willing to make. A reporter on board records it and manages to get it out online, supposedly on her own. But in the final scene of the episode, Liv confronts Cyrus who admits he was behind the whole thing to make himself look Presidential.
  • Scrubs deconstructs a version of this, where J.D. pays a hobo to fake a heart attack in front of his new girlfriend so he can rescue him. The hobo then proceeds to demand more money when J.D. tries it again and again.
  • An inversion in the second season finale of Sherlock as Moriarty makes it appear that Sherlock has been setting up these crimes so he can "solve" them and look like a genius. It works thanks to how Sherlock has put down the police and reporters are being so stupid and people assuming it's impossible someone could really be so brilliant. The next episode (after a Time Skip) reveals that it fell apart almost immediately and only improved his reputation.
  • In the Smallville episode "Splinter", Clark Kent gets infected by silver kryptonite and suffers from hallucinations and paranoia. When he is about to murder Lana for "cheating on him," Brainiac shows up, stops him, and cures him. Later, it is revealed to the audience that Brainiac sent the kryptonite so that he could save Clark and gain his trust.
  • On Stargate Atlantis, Lucius Lavin goes into the engineered heroics business after his Mind Control empire falls through. Then he tries to haggle on the payment after the hired villains did their part... When the protagonists show up, the hired villains, as their sworn enemies, perform some actual villainy.
  • Supergirl (2015):
    • In "Mr. and Mrs. Mxyzptlk", Mxyzptlk tries to woo Supergirl by summoning Parasite, having him rampage through downtown, then showing up in a Superman costume to defeat him. Supergirl is not impressed, especially since he freely confesses what he was doing.
    • This is Lex Luthor's big Evil Plan in Season 4 — he helps Kaznia train the Supergirl clone Red Daughter and prepare to invade America, just so that he can swoop in and defeat them, thus presenting himself as a national hero.
  • Attempted in Ted Lasso, Rebecca Welton's fundraising gala is thrown off-track when the main entertainment, Robbie Williams, cancels unexpectedly. Her anxieties only worsen when her sleazy ex-husband Rupert shows up to upstage her and virtually takes over the event himself. In an attempt to show his sincerity to Ted, Rupert tells him that Robbie is a personal friend of his and offers to convince him to return just in time to save the event. Ted, however, has caught onto Rupert's true nature by this point.
    Ted: Hey Rupert, something just occurred to me. If you could've texted Robbie Williams asking him to come tonight... you could've probably just as easily asked him not to come.

    Video Games 
  • In Fallout 4, the quest "Confidence Man" involves the Sole Survivor teaming up with the Bobrov brothers to give a confidence boost to Diamond City Radio's DJ, Travis. The brothers hire two raiders to give him a hard time until he defends himself with the aid of the player. Vadim Bobrov is later kidnapped by raiders and the player must free him from their hideout...with the aid of the newly empowered Travis. And just like that, Diamond City Radio no longer sucks.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, there are several bodyguards for hire at each entrance to Freeside (the area of Vegas surrounding the Strip, and somewhat of a Wretched Hive) allowing people to safely get to the Strip without getting mugged. One quest tasks you to go investigate a particular bodyguard since for some reason he's making a killing in repeat business. Once someone hires him, they never hire anyone else again, and it's putting all the other bodyguards out of a job. You hire him pretending to be a regular customer and follow him around, with nothing seeming out of the ordinary... until he suddenly runs ahead of you to heroically take out a group of muggers. You then have the option to point out that he only fired his gun three times but there's four dead guys (to which he will claim that he killed two with one bullet), or if you have a high enough Medicine skill, you can examine the "bodies" and realize that they are just playing dead.note  He was staging fake muggings so he could look like a badass in front of his customers and make them too scared to take a chance on a different bodyguard in the future.
  • At the end of Luca's Blitzball tournament in Final Fantasy X, Fiends suddenly started pouring into the stadium, attacking spectators until recently-crowned Maester Seymour (one of the main villains) shows off his power and annihilates the Fiends. Later in the game, a remorseful Guado (one of Seymour's men) admits that the Fiend invasion was done on the orders of Seymour himself.
  • In Hometown Story, Clarissa, the town self-appointed sole law enforcement worker, decides to do this to impress the town. She buys an expensive ring from the Shopkeeper Player Character and asks him/her to claim it was stolen so she can "find" it. There happens to be an actual thief in the town at the time, who steals a ring from a villager to pass as the "missing" one. Clarissa is able to catch the thief, thus subverting the trope and providing her with a genuine act of heroics.
  • Hidden City: "Guest from the Past" introduces Mr. Goodman, who is first seen defending Clarissa Storke's house from a group of marauders attempting to rob it. However, it is later revealed that the marauders have been hired by Goodman to stage the fight so that he could win Rayden's trust and use him to bypass his grandmother's protective charms.
  • In inFAMOUS 2 Nix's plan to help Cole gain public trust has her attack people at a rally so that Cole can conveniently show up and stop her. This is lampshaded on the opposing good karma mission, where Cole and Kuo compare it to something out of a cartoon.
    • Cole eventually discovers that Bertrand, who is secretly a conduit, has been creating the swamp creatures attacking New Marais. Allowing him to seize power with his militia under the pretense of protecting the city.
  • In FAMOUS Second Son: With the DUP in danger of being shut down, Brooke Augustine engineered Fetch, Eugene, and Hank's escape. Creating a crisis to prove its necessity and gain public support. Her plan will either fail or succeed depending on Delsin's karmic path.
  • If you get 100% Completion in McPixel, you can get a scene in which McPixel ships a bomb to one of the stages in the game, along with a business card offering his services to defuse the bomb.
  • Central to the plot of Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. Qwark, disgraced due to his actions in the first game, puts in motion a plan to provide cute pets to the galaxy that are really vicious monsters, with him saving the day after the pets go on the rampage (Qwark is in disguise as the head of the company that makes them). Since Qwark is an idiot, the device that's supposed to cure the monsters makes them grow really big instead, and the titular characters have to fight this supersized monster as the final boss of the game.
  • In The Sims Medieval, the Monarch has a quest where they can try to court the Prince or Princess of Effenmont. Part of the courtship process involves recruiting one of the other hero characters to pose as a robber so that the Monarch can "rescue" the Prince or Princess from them.
  • Downplayed in Star Wars: The Old Republic, where the Sith Inquisitor can introduce themselves to their future apprentice Ashara Zavros by rescuing her from a gang of thugs they themselves hired to harass her. She figures out that her savior is actually a Sith Lord soon enough, but the Inquisitor is firmly entrenched inside her mind by that time.
  • In Undertale, Dr. Alphys reactivates traps and puzzles that had been shut down, and convinces her friend the robot Mettaton to play the role of a human-killing monster, all so she can help the player character overcome them and feel good about herself for a change. Things go bad when Mettaton, growing tired of the charade, sabotages traps to make them genuinely dangerous and attacks the player for real.

  • In a downplayed version (i.e. the danger was quite real) from Alfie; it is revealed that the d'revo attack on the largely human trade caravan just as it was arriving outside of Red Fort was secretly set up by Speaker Aghavni in the hopes that one or more of the diminutive, hornless, tailless folk would acquit themselves well enough to justify inducting them into the resident Voch'khari tribe. Why?
    "Tribe elders elected me to speak with humans, but then all they do is complain! 'Humans are too weak!' 'Can't trade with the weak!' 'Can't learn to grow food from the weak!' I gave the humans the opportunity to prove their worth! And they took it! Everybody Wins!"
  • In Darths & Droids, during the "The Enemy Let Slip" Story Arc, when Han is about to be frozen in alcohol, he confesses that he is the traitor of the Rebellion and that he kept selling it out for money.
  • The entire Dragonslayer deal in Dragon Mango.
  • In Girl Genius Father Gerät accuses Martellus of engineering the escape of something from their vaults in order to conveniently show up to help save the Corbettites' Depot Fortress and earn their good graces. While he's wrong Martellus is a little disappointed he hadn't thought of it and offers Gerät a job which the Abbot turns down.
  • Kaiten Mutenmaru: Crocell Xylel, from Sea of the Beginning, is seen in the television promising to wipe out monsters in Megapolis with costumes he creates for heroes as the CEO of Megadis. When Mutenmaru's group and Shinobu infiltrate Megadis to verify Father Brasse's suspicion, Crocell reveals that he's the one who creates monsters in Megapolis with the help of Thia to keep heroes fighting.
  • TwoKinds: In Trace's backstory, he decided to fight a dragon to impress Saria, his future wife. So he decided to enlist his dragon friend Nora. Unfortunately, they got in trouble for destroying the Grand Templar's garden, and Saria never even noticed the incident.

    Web Original 
  • An attempt at doing this in Broken Quest results in an entire village being burnt to the ground.
  • In the DC Super Hero Girls Season 1 finale, "Saving the Day", Cheetah falls while attempting to save Lucius Fox, and is saved by Wonder Woman catching her with the Lasso of Truth, resulting in her confessing in front of Principal Amanda Waller that she rigged his jet pack so that she could save him... and then confessing to all the other things she did over the course of the season.
  • The whole point of "The Flanders Company" webseries' setting: The Flanders Company is an agency which rents Superheroes their necessary Nemesis, who is bound by a contract to lose fights in order to ensure the heroes' status — and their subsequent wealth, which is more than necessary to pay the Company's outrageously high fees. They need to pay their villains with all their equipment of mayhem, after all.
  • Red vs. Blue: In Season 11, the Reds and Blues are attacked by Locus, but saved by Felix. In the 12th season, Felix reveals that not only is he Evil All Along, but he and Locus are partners and what happened was an orchestrated charade to win the Reds and Blues' trust. Felix even lampshades how implausible his help really was;
    Felix: How many times have I jumped in front of a bullet for you, Wash? Three? Those are some... pretty great reflexes, huh? Most people would have to...plan that sort of thing.

    Western Animation 
  • In the American Dad! pilot, Stan stages a purse-snatching at the mall so that his son can save the day and be more attractive to the ladies. He unfortunately goes overboard, completely forgetting to let Steve catch him.
  • Atomic Puppet: Mookie frequently tries this in order to gain the adoration of Mega City, usually by releasing a monster on the city or causing damage he pins on a supervillain, which he then declares he will save the city from. However, Atomic Puppet always ends up having to come in and rescue both him and Mega City, due to Mookie's ineptness at being a hero.
  • Bob's Burgers: In "Motor, She Boat", Tina discovers that Troop 257 is planning to cheat in the Thundergirls' cardboard boat race by switching out their legal boat with one that has a remote-controlled motor hidden under the side. But she eventually learns they're in cahoots with Karen, an ambitious scout leader who's looking to get promoted to Regional Leader by catching them in the act, and that Karen has offered to give Troop 257 all the best cookie sales routes in exchange for taking the fall.
  • Family Guy has an episode in which Peter's shenanigans cost Quagmire his pilot's license, so Peter hatches a scheme where he and his friends drug the flight crew of a plane, then Quagmire steps up to the controls, lands the plane safely and gets his license back. The plan works (though not in the way Peter was expecting), and Peter is arrested for hijacking and thrown in prison.
  • In the Futurama episode "When Aliens Attack", Fry and Leela are on the beach when a muscular, handsome man flirts with Leela. He explains to Fry that he's a professional beach bully who steals the girlfriend of some weak guy, then goes down in one punch to make the weak guy look good in front of his girl, for a price. Fry says that Leela isn't his girlfriend so the bully is free to date her if he wants, but he says he's actually gay and walks away.
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series: Implied in the episode "In Love and War". At the start of the episode, a monster attacks the Interceptor, and the heroes have a tough time fighting it until the Star Sapphires arrive to aid them. Later on, when the Star Sapphires turn out to be Well-Intentioned Extremists, it's revealed that the monster is actually under their control, and they most likely had it attack the heroes in the beginning so that they could earn their trust by helping them "defeat" it.
  • One episode of Iron Man: Armored Adventures has Stane creating two new "heroes" by outfitting a pair of ex-cons with counterfeit versions of the Iron Man armor, and then giving them some engineered crises to solve, all so that Iron Man would look obsolete.
  • Kid Cosmic: After seeing how his grandson is depressed because he can't score any victories against the alien invaders, Papa G uses his cloning abilities to orchestrate a fake robot attack so Kid can win a medal and feel good about himself. This ends up giving Kid a big head. Unfortunately, Kid finds out in the next episode about Papa G's lie and takes the revelation poorly.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • The villain Volpina uses her illusion powers to stage herself stopping a falling meteor in order to gain Ladybug and Cat Noir's trust so that she can manipulate them.
    • Shortly after finding the Bee Miraculous, and attempting to impress her mother, Chloe/Queen Bee paralyzes the driver of a subway train so that she can then save it. This backfires: she can't stop the train on her own, and after Ladybug and Cat Noir stop it for real, Ladybug discovers how the train lost control in the first place.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "The Best Night Ever", Rainbow Dash tries to get the attention of the Wonderbolts at a crowded party by bucking a guest, and then rushing in to "rescue" him. It doesn't work.
    • In "Lesson Zero" Twilight Sparkle needs a friendship lesson to write about to send to Princess Celestia and when she fails to find one decides to brainwash some kids into fighting over a toy to solve it. It works a little too well.
    • In "Spike at Your Service", Spike insists he owes Applejack a life-debt, but AJ doesn't want his help. She and the rest of the ponies set up a fake Timberwolf attack so Spike can "save" AJ and free himself from his debt. Spike immediately sees through the deception—then a real Timberwolf attacks, and Spike actually does save AJ.
    • Played for Drama in the series finale, "The Ending of the End", when Discord reveals that he deliberately brought back a number of villains and planned to have them attack Twilight's coronation, with their defeat resulting in her confidence being boosted. However, this ends up backfiring horribly, as not only did Discord have his magic stolen from him by said villains (meaning he can't act as her safety net), but Twilight begins doubting whether any of her recent victories were real, causing her to have a crisis of confidence at the worst possible time.
    • In the same finale, this is Chrysalis' plan for the Windigoes. Instead of dealing with them immediately, she'll wait for them to turn Equestria into a frozen wasteland, and then destroy them, to put all Equestria's citizens in her debt.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998):
    • In "Major Competition", a Fake Ultimate Hero-type metahuman named Major Man sets up some crimes and disasters for himself to stop so that Townsville would make him their new superhero. The Girls eventually discover his ruse and set up their own engineering, with a monster that Major Man can't handle on his own.
    • They pull off their own scheme in "Candy Is Dandy", when the Mayor promises them a piece of candy each time they stop a crime... only for a crime drought to ensue. Cue the girls breaking Mojo Jojo out of jail to commit more crimes for them to stop. Things go south when Mojo trolls them by stealing the candy from the Mayor.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power: In "A Lesson In Love", Shadow Weaver summons a Giant Spider to attack Flutterina and her mind-controlled minion Kevin saves her from it, causing Flutterina to trust him and lead him to the Rebellion. Kevin eventually shakes off the mind control and becomes a hero for real.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Homer Goes To College", Homer plans to get his nerd friends unexpelled by having them save the dean from being hit by Homer's car... unfortunately the nerds distract themselves considering the impact of wind resistance on their calculation and miss their cue, leaving the dean to get run down.
    • In "Dark Knight Court", Mr. Burns is inspired to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a superhero: Fruit Bat Man. While Burns believes that he's been successful in stopping crime, it actually turns out that the supposed "crimes" were actually engineered by Smithers. Burns does get the chance to stop a real crime though, when he helps prove Bart is innocent of a prank he didn't commit (it was Groundskeeper Willie).
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Sandy has Patrick dress as a gorilla and pretend to attack her in a ploy to get SpongeBob out of his house. SpongeBob sees through the ruse, but then a real gorilla appears (in a clever subversion of Mistaken for an Imposter, the gorilla comes dressed as Patrick, while the real Patrick has on the gorilla costume), and SpongeBob has to come save them.
    • In another episode, the "weenie" SpongeBob, wanting to get into the Salty Spitoon, stages a fight with Patrick in front of the bouncer. Patrick somehow manages to telekinetically beat up himself. The bouncer is duly impressed.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Pre Vizsla and Darth Maul's plan to take over Mandalore is to have the Black Sun invade and terrorize the capital so that the Death Watch can swoop in to save the day.
  • Star Wars Resistance: In "The Doza Dilemma", the First Order cements their position on the Colossus by arranging for the Warbird pirate gang to kidnap Torra Doza, daughter of the platform's owner. When their representatives arrive to give the pirates their "payment", they instead turn on the pirates and rescue her, earning Captain Doza's gratitude.
  • In one episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), the Shredder approached the retired super-hero Gadget-Man, who was trying to make a comeback, and claimed to be a "Super-Hero Agent", promising to do something like this to help put him in the spotlight. (Naturally, it would also be a strike against the Turtles.) Unfortunately for the Shredder, he underestimated how clever Gadget-Man was; he caught on and helped the younger heroes bring the villain down.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): In the episode "Aliens Among Us," Agent Bishop, needing funding for the Earth Protection Force, bio-engineers a race of aliens and sics them on New York as the president visits to make a speech. Though the Turtles realize the trick, their presence only further convinces the president of an alien threat, and Bishop successfully saves the president and receives unlimited funding. Sadly, the plan also backfires when genetic residue from the fake aliens makes its way into the sewers, leading to a mutant outbreak.
  • In the ThunderCats (1985) episode "Pumm-Ra", first the Mutants capture Cheetara and knock her out. Then Mumm-Ra shapeshifts into a Thunderian called Pumm-Ra and Cheetara wakes up in relative safety with Pumm-Ra claiming he rescued her. It was a ploy to gain entry to Cat's Lair.
  • In The Yum Yums, to stop Sour Sue from getting in trouble for helping them escape, the Yum Yums have her sound the alarm and chase them, impressing the Sourpusses.
  • In Young Justice Season 3, It's revealed that some of the heroic missions of the Outsiders were deliberately engineered to make them and by extension other heroes look good. Which was done to counter the Villains manipulating the media to make the heroes look bad.

     Real Life 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Engineered Heroism


Batman's Greatest Villain

Dorky gives their take on who exactly is Bruce Wayne's greatest Adversary... Himself...

How well does it match the trope?

4.7 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / EngineeredHeroics

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