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Fighting Back Is Wrong

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If a bully attacks a kid and the kid fights back in a school environment, often both of them will end up being punished for "fighting", with the bully somehow getting ''kinder'' treatment.

This is an Aesop in which fighting back against a bully is portrayed as a bad thing. Often involves the message that sinking down to the bully's level will make you no better, or even worse, than they are and may be a way to maintain the status quo of the bullies picking on the main characters. Countless numbers of books and professionals about bullying will almost always say that fighting back is the wrong option.

This can apply to more serious villains as well, but fewer shows will take the extreme stance that fighting back against serious threats is wrong. Another consequence of this trope is that the bully fights back and may kill the good guy and eventually The Hero Dies, another aesop that you should stay away from making this. Also may lead to Arrested for Heroism. According to law, if someone attacks you, you have the right to defend yourself with equal force. Not so in schools - they're not teaching kids to resolve problems with violence, after all.

It's rare for the works to mention any alternatives to deal with bullying, or to say that bullying is something you have to stand against, even if you don't fight it head on. Most commonly it's to report to the authorities; for school settings, it's commonly the teacher. If Adults Are Useless, though, all bets are off - your only good option is to become a Badass Pacifist.

If a show like this features a Bully Hunter they will be portrayed as misguided or really just bullies themselves. Compare to Turn the Other Cheek, Actual Pacifist, Suicidal Pacifism, Made Out to Be a Jerkass and Crime of Self-Defense. See also Revenge Is Not Justice, If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!, If You Taunt Him, You Will Be Just Like Him, Perfect Pacifist People, He Who Fights Monsters, and Vigilante Injustice.

Since this is a controversial issue and could be converted into a Hate Sink if misused, No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Comic Books 
  • Batman. Bruce Wayne had promised his friend Thomas Elliot that his parents would be saved by his father (Dr. Thomas Wayne). After Dr. Wayne was only able to save Mrs. Elliot, Thomas lashed out and attacked Bruce for the false hope he gave him. When Bruce tried to fight back he was reprimanded by his father, who consoled Thomas.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The Amazons' backstory has them being drugged, raped and enslaved by Heracles. The Olympic goddesses free them under the condition that they do not retaliate against their aggressors. The Amazons kill Heracles's men in revenge anyway and are punished by being forced to guard Doom's Doorway for thousands of years.

    Fan Works 
  • Despicable vs. Devoted: While discussing the Antonio incident, Alex asks Margo why she didn't just punch the guy, with Margo responding accordingly:
    Alex: Why didn't you punch the jerk in the face?
    Margo: My dad says I shouldn't resort to violence because it's not ladylike, or something like that.
  • Kaleidoscopic Grangers discusses and rejects this concept in Chapter Three, A Knock at the Door, where it's revealed that its take on Hermoine knows taekwondo, and has used it to deal with her bullies, getting suspended for injuring them in the process.
  • Many fanworks for Miraculous Ladybug focus on picking apart this mentality, which is commonly represented by Mme. Bustier and Adrien.
  • Defied and rejected in Parting Words and its sequel The Great Alicorn Hunt. Celestia finds this mentality ridiculous and damaging for victims of bullying and notes that if this were the case, then Equestria would still be suffering under Discord's rule and a great number of other injustices throughout history would've continued to go on unanswered.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act III: A big part of the act is Tsukune and his friends being bullied and harassed by virtually everyone at Yokai Academy, and Headmaster Mikogami punishing them for fighting back against the other students while ignoring those who deliberately go out of their way to harass and torment them; it reaches the point that he threatens to separate them if they get in another fight. Deconstructed when the other students find out and use it to their advantage to actively harass and taunt Tsukune's crew without fear of retribution, gloating they can't do anything or they'll dig themselves in deeper with the headmaster; this climaxes when Nagare Kano exploits it to blackmail the girls into letting him take dirty pictures of them and nearly rape them. After Kano is dealt with and he learns of all this, Mikogami thankfully wises up and agrees that if the other students try to persecute them like that again, Tsukune and co. have every right to defend themselves.
  • The UA Girls: After Miruko points out to Midnight how UA seems to blatantly favor Bakugou, Midnight in turn questions the rest of the faculty while replaying footage of him beating the shit out of Midoriya during their final exams. In particular, Midnight points out that while Bakugou has constantly instigated every confrontation, the only punishment he's received was a single two-day suspension for one of his many assaults on Izuku... while Izuku got a one-day suspension for "fighting back".

    Film - Animated 
  • In Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Sherman bites Penny in retaliation to the latter tormenting him for being a "dog". Only he ends up in trouble for this (though the principal did seem to understand the situation), and this puts him in danger of getting separated from Mr. Peabody by Ms. Grunion.
  • ParaNorman: The Aesop of the story is that bullying is wrong even if they did it first. The villain is trying to get revenge on the people who killed her, but in the end Norman makes her realize that she has become as bad as they are.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Cruella: Ridiculously, Estella gets punished and sent to the principal's office during the prologue for defending herself from a bully. Even more absurdly, the bully doesn't get punished.
  • Hancock: When Hancock has dinner with Ray and his family, Ray's son Aaron talks about being bullied by a neighborhood kid. Ray's teaching him conflict mediation skills, but Hancock advises a Groin Attack which sends Mary through the roof. Ray later gets understandably mad at Hancock for throwing the bully about a mile into the air for calling him an asshole.
  • Iron Man 3: Parodied and subverted. When Tony meets a kid who tells him about being bullied at school, Tony starts talking about the best way to deal with bullies... which turns out to be a nonlethal flashbang-like weapon that he gives the kid to defend himself with.

  • In Dragon, Sethra tells Vlad that "it's the defender that starts the war"; if they would just hand over X, with X being whatever it is the attacking force wanted in the first place, there would be no need to fight. The particular war she was participating in involved a sword that was stolen (the 'thief' had a plan for it), and the original owner wanted it back. The whole thing could have been settled with a personal duel, but both sides considered war to be more entertaining/satisfying.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Averted (or possibly predated) in The Andy Griffith Show. Opie admits that he's being picked on by a bully in school, and Andy's advice is to hit him. At the end of the episode he comes back with a black eye and a proud story, and everyone is pleased by this turn of events. Obviously TV values have changed since then.
  • Cleanly averted in the Burn Notice pilot. Based on his experiences with an abusive father and as a soldier and spy, Michael gives his client's bullied son some basic self-defense tips on how to take out the bully ringleader.
    Michael (voiceover): As a spy, it doesn't matter if you're helping rebel forces fight off a dictator or giving combat tips to a third-grader. There's nothing like helping the little guy kick some bully's ass.
  • In the first Christmas Episode of Community, "Comparative Religion," Shirley tries to stress the Christ aspect of the Christmas holiday by attempting to forbid Jeff from fighting a group of bullies who picked on Abed. She gives Jeff and the other study group members an ultimatum: anyone who fights the bullies or attends the fight as a spectator will be banned from the Christmas party. Ultimately inverted when Jeff finally gives into Shirley's demands, saying "What Would Shirley Do?" and gets punched several times; Shirley joins the rest of the study group in beating the bullies senseless.
  • Cobra Kai plays with this: the first students of the reactivated titular dojo are all bullied kids looking for a method to defend themselves, and Johnny wants them to develop inner strength and not have it become a Thug Dojo like it happened when he was a student and Kreese was the sensei... but because the only way Johnny knows how to teach is based on Kreese's methods, most (if not all) of his students become raging bullies anyway who "fight back" against their own bullies in a severely escalated fashion.
  • An episode in the Chilean version of Lo que callamos las mujeres tells about a mother who had a son who went to the wrong side of the law, but eventually thanks to her love and teachings he reformed and stopped some of his former gang to prevent a murder. Before the episode ends, one of the members of his former gang kills the boy close to his house and died in his mother's arms, seeing the last scene of the mother in the cemetery with his son's tomb.

    Video Games 
  • Accel World: As Kuroyukihime is introducing Haru to Acceleration (essentially a mental time stop), they are interrupted by Haru's bully Araya. Kuroyukihime responds by taunting Araya, and Haru Accelerates for the first time with Araya's fist an inch away from his face. He initially suggests that he could use his new abilities to dodge the punch and fight back, but Kuroyukihime points out that this isn't likely to accomplish anything - instead she tells Haru to roll with the punch and knock over her table, then she slams herself into a wall and plays dead (complete with blood). Since they're surrounded by witnesses and security cameras, this results in Araya getting expelled and arrested. In other words, it is a reconstruction. Punching the guy, i.e. fighting, is not the answer, but doing something to punish the bullying is definitely okay. Unfortunately, he gets out on bail and tries to run them over with a car.
  • In Episode 10 of Ambition, when Duke takes over your taxi with the goal of kidnapping and murdering you, one of the options for the player to deal with this situation is to punch him in the face and try to escape. This gets the player immediately killed when the car collides with a speeding city bus with the word "KARMA" on the front display. (And lest the player assume this is Duke's karma, this doesn't happen if you choose to simply go along with being kidnapped and try to talk your way out of it later, which is actually the correct answer to proceed in the game.) It is at least true that punching out the person driving a vehicle that you're riding in is probably a dumb thing to do, but there aren't very many people who would try to argue that fighting (non-lethally, even) for your life against a serial murderer is an act of heinous evil worthy of a Karmic Death.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, this attitude is sometimes displayed on the Crimson Flower route, whose leader places the blame for the damage caused by their war on the countries they're invading, and laments that there wouldn't be a need for bloodshed if they would just surrender.
  • In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, the local delinquent gang Team Star is revealed to be Heroes with Bad Publicity: the Academy of Adventure had a serious bullying problem, so they became a group of Bully Hunters and confronted their tormentors head on. But when their bullies all dropped out, the previous administration covered the whole thing up, suspending their leader and letting rumors spread about the group. Their plotline revolves around the Non-Giving-Up School Guy new director trying to discover the truth and convince them to start attending class again.
  • In Shadow the Hedgehog, most levels have "Hero" and "Dark" characters Shadow can side with. The problem is, the Mooks of both factions will attack you regardless of whose side you're on, and yet their respective partner characters will yell at you for attacking their side.


    Web Original 
  • Jane The Killer, an alternate telling of the Jeff the Killer story from the point of view of a girl named Jane, features the titular character watching the confrontation between Jeff and Randy at the bus stop. Her reaction to Jeff beating up the school bully is to consider him a monstrous person hiding an inner evil. Bad Creepypasta pointed out how horrible this thinking is, pointing out that Jeff did nothing but defend himself and defeat the kid that everyone else, including Jane herself, is afraid of. The original story also uses this trope, as police show up at their door that afternoon to arrest Jeff for "attacking" Randy.

    Western Animation 

  • American Dad!: Played with and subverted in "Bully for Steve", where Steve is having bully troubles and Francine tells him that fighting back is not the answer... until she finds out that said bully is her own husband.
    Francine: Steve, I've told you that violence is never the answer. But it's just become the answer!
  • Animaniacs: In one Slappy Squirrel episode, Skippy is constantly being picked on by a school bully. Slappy suggests fighting back, but Skippy refuses because his counselor tells him that it's the wrong thing to do. When nothing the counselor suggests works, Skippy gives up and gets Aunt Slappy to help him get back at the bully, and the end result not only stops the bullying, but the bully also becomes Skippy's friend. When the chairman of the FTA and Skippy's counseler arrive to lecture Slappy, she deals with them too.
  • One episode of C-Bear and Jamal sees Jamal trying to deal with a bully and fighting back, only to fear that he's becoming a bully himself. C-Bear advises him to find a way to find common ground with the bully instead.
  • Danny Phantom: Danny is regularly bullied by Dash, but every time Danny uses his powers to retaliate it often backfires on him. One episode even has Danny apologizing to Dash and he gives Danny a wedgie before accepting the apology.
  • In one episode of Doug, Doug accidentally punches Larry, leading to Doug being challenged to fight him again, which Doug considers. However, his father finds out and isn't encouraging, giving him the saying "Show me a man who resorts to violence and I'll show you a man who's run out of good ideas". In the end, it turns out Larry doesn't really want to fight (he had pressure from the AV club since it embarrassed them), and Doug felt pressure from the rest of the school to go through with the fight, so they end up pretending to fight behind closed doors, with the other students watching on a deliberately bad monitor, thinking that they are actually fighting.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: One episode involves Timmy turning Vicky into a kid so he can bully her for once. Though his actions toward her were much less serious than her actions toward him, Cosmo and Wanda chew him out for mistreating her, and eventually become her godparents when he makes her miserable enough. Somehow, though, her using Cosmo and Wanda to get revenge on him isn't seen as wrong.
  • In an episode of Fillmore! the bullies are presented as being bad people. But the Bully Hunter targeting the bullies with pranks in a manner similar to a G-rated version of a serial killer is presented as being just as bad, if not worse.
    • It should perhaps be noted that this example actually calls out the potentially broken message of the trope. Filmore chides the Bully Hunters for taking extremes against their tormentors, they retort that he's telling them to just sit back and take their abuse. Filmore points out there are other more lawful ways to deal with these problems, like talking to guardians or seeking assistance from teachers.
  • In an episode of Hey Arnold!, Helga and Arnold were fighting over some paint to use in their art project. Helga spills the paint on Arnold and Arnold (uncharacteristically, but understandably) spills it back on her. The classroom gasps collectively and Arnold gets in trouble from Mr. Simmons. Helga gets away with it.
  • King of the Hill: The episode "Bobby Goes Nuts" zig-zags with this with Hank trying to make Bobby be defensive against bullies and Bobby succeeds at this with a Groin Attack, which Hank is more concerned about than Bobby fighting back. Heck, Hank seems to be a proud skeptic when it comes to this trope as when Bobby tells Hank that he got detention for fighting back, Hank actually rewards Bobby by taking him to see a Rated PG-13 movie.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Lila Rossi is the new kid and starts spouting tall tales of knowing celebrities and having several illnesses to ingratiate herself with her new class. She fools everyone except Marinette, whom she threatens and starts bullying. She sets up several gambits to discredit Marinette and isolate her from their peers. When Marinette tries to expose her lies, what does she get from her classmates and friends? Skepticism and accusations of jealousy (Lila pursues Marinette's crush). And, what does she get from Adrien, the only other person to know Lila is a liar? A plea to stay silent and play along so Lila doesn't get distressed enough to be turned into the next Monster of the Week.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The episode "One Bad Apple" displays this with Babs Seed, Apple Bloom's visiting cousin. Babs joins in with the local Alpha Bitches when they begin teasing the Cutie Mark Crusaders. The Crusaders come up with a revenge plan to get back at Babs, only to learn the reason for Babs' bullying was that she was being bullied herself back at home and didn't want to be the victim again. This makes the Crusaders realize that they were becoming bullies themselves in response.
    • This episode also plays with the trope at the end. After all of the above and saving Babs from their revenge prank, the Crusaders befriend Babs properly and, when the Alpha Bitches tear into them at the end of the episode, Babs stands up to them and makes them back off by threatening to tell on them. Probably meant to show that it isn't bad to stand up for yourself, but how you go about it is important.
  • In the The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode, "Schoolhouse Rocked", Truant Officer Jack Wednesday sends the Gangrene Gang to Pokey Oaks Kindergarten to give them an education. The Gangrene Gang bully the other students, and whenever Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup try to stop them, Ms. Keane reprimands the girls for fighting in class, allowing the Gangrene Gang to get away with their bad behavior, even to the point of making the girls stay inside the school for time-out during recess. When Ms. Keane discovers the Gangrene Gang beating up the other students during a game of dodgeball, she encourages the girls to play dodgeball to stop them.
  • On Rolie Polie Olie, an episode introduced the character Screwy who was being an arrogant bully to the other kids (and keeps that role throughout the series). After introducing himself as an all around jerk, Olie is reprimanded by his father and teacher when he commented about his rusty hands. Billy and Olie had to apologize while Screwy got away with his behavior.
  • Parodied in the South Park episode "Butterballs", as there's a derogatory status in school for nearly every way you can try to repel a bully:
    Stan: That's the third day in a row. You gotta tell the teacher.
    Butters: Naw, I'm not a tattle-tale.
    Stan: Well then write the principal an anonymous letter.
    Butters: Naw, I'm not no Anonymous Andy.
    Craig: So then just get a bigger bully to beat the bully up.
    Butters: Naw, I don't want kids calling me a Cliche Conflict Resolution Kevin.
    Cartman: He has a point.
    Kyle: Well, then you gotta ride it out, Butters.
  • In the Theodore Tugboat episode, "Theodore and the Boat Bully", Oliver the Vast, a Jerk Jock tug visits the Big Harbor to take Owan the Oil Rig out to the ocean to work there. During his visit, Oliver bumps Theodore in a hurtful way. At one point, Theodore thinks about bumping Oliver back, but decides against it. When he explains his problem to the Dispatcher near the end of the episode, the Dispatcher is proud of Theodore for not fighting back, and tells him that if he did that, it would only make the problem worse.