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Gotta Have It, Gonna Steal It

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Rocket: Question: what if I see something that I wanna take and it belonged to someone else?
Rhomann: You would be arrested.
Rocket: But what if I want it more than the person who has it?
Rhomann: It's still illegal.
Rocket: That doesn't follow. No, I want it more, sir, you understand me?

Everyone else has the hottest toy of the year, the latest trendy fashion, or some other MacGuffin. A character wants the MacGuffin badly but is unable to obtain it, as he has no money, his parents say no, or the MacGuffin is otherwise inaccessible. So what does the character do? He usually just gives in and steals it.

Usually the character eventually gets caught in the end and suffers the consequences of his actions. This functions as An Aesop about why you should never give in to stealing, let alone wrongdoing, no matter how tempting it might be. Don't expect any sympathy or exoneration if you try to argue that you just had to have the MacGuffin or how everyone else has one; it won't work. May overlap with Trend Aesop.

See also It Must Be Mine! and Peer Pressure Makes You Evil. Subtrope of Green-Eyed Monster.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Fairy Tales 
  • Rapunzel has the mother of the title character wanting special herbs so bad that she sends her husband to steal them. He gets caught by the witch who owns the herbs; in return for the plants, the witch eventually claims their daughter when born.

    Fan Works 
  • Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily: While in the Toy Brick Car, Gladion's bag and Pokéballs get swiped by another passenger. Once caught, the thief insists he was just "taking what I deserve!", complaining about how many of the other riders come from worlds way more interesting than his own, and that Gladion can just catch more 'Mons once he makes it home.

  • In Raising Arizona the protagonists steal a baby after their attempts to conceive a child and adopt one both fall through.
  • In Get Out (2017), it's revealed that old white people admire the the bodies of young black people so much that the Armitage family have perfected the Coagula procedure, a combination of hypnosis and neurosurgery that allows said old white people to take advantage of their new young black bodies' new perks.

  • The 1989 children's book Arnie and the Stolen Marker by Nancy Carlson has the title character wanting a brand new set of markers in a store. However, he has already spent his allowance and can't afford them. Arnie gives in and steals the markers—but gets found out by his mother and has to confess his crime to the shopkeeper. He eventually has to work for the store as he opened up the markers.
  • The Computer That Said Steal Me (1983, unknown publisher, paperback novel) is a story about a teenage boy whose parents can't afford a chess computer. He gives in to temptation and then discovers the problem of explaining how he got such an expensive toy.
  • Autobiography of Red includes a scene in which one of the characters takes a shine to the wooden tiger figure on a merry-go-round and talks his two companions into helping him steal it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • This was part of Buffy's short descent into semi-darkness along with Faith, who was a bad influence on her. Faith taught Buffy the following simple plan: "Want. Take. Have."
    • Later in the series, Buffy's kid sister Dawn goes through a brief kleptomania phase. After Buffy finds out Dawn points out to her all the shops in town where she's been banned.
  • Charlene from Dinosaurs does this under the influence of an expensive talking coat she bought. The coat (voiced by Tim Curry) convinced Charlene to steal her father's credit card so she could shop at expensive stores. Charlene does this against her better judgement but ends up getting found out and ultimately punished.
  • Family Matters: Season 6's "The Gun" detailed Laura having her expensive leather jacket stolen by gang members, upon which they are arrested for their crime, but let out on bail, delivering her the threat of shooting her if she testifies at their trial, also upon which it has Laura considering buying a gun herself. Later, Laura, Steve and Maxine's friend, Josie, gets a pair of super cool high-top sneakers that are all the rage among teenagers. Then she gets shot by those gang members when they try to steal the shoes despite being armed herself.
  • Double Subverted with the Ghostwriter second season story arc "Am I Blue?" Subverted initially when Gaby Fernandez wants a Galaxy Girl costume bad—but rather than steal it directly, she decides to steal money out of her family bodega's cash register to pay for it. Subverted again when she planned to return the money she took by trying to get a refund for her Galaxy Girl costume. Gaby is unable to do this because she bought the costume on sale. She is eventually caught and punished.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • A week's worth of strips in FoxTrot had Paige and Nicole thinking about shoplifting the latest CD of the hot new boy band. Ultimately they decide to put it back, which is just as well as the Mall Cop had been watching them the whole time, due to the way they were Acting Unnatural.

    Video Games 
  • The first Mario vs. Donkey Kong game takes the trope a step further—the Mini-Mario toys that DK wanted so badly sell out, so DK decides to break into the factory producing the toys. At the very end, Mario decides to let DK have a toy anyway.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Edwinna Elbert, Stewardess of the Ald-Ruhn Mages Guild Hall, considers herself to be an expert on the extinct Dwemer and their Lost Technology, specifically their centurions. When another mage within the Guild acquires a rare Dwemer book but refuses to let Edwinna read it, Edwinna tasks you with stealing it for her. It turns out that the book is useless to her research, so she then tasks you with secretly returning it.

    Visual Novels 
  • When the protagonist and title character of Melody go to a karaoke bar, they find out that they can’t be served food in a booth due to the risk of damage to the equipment. A hungry Melody steals food from the kitchen, making up an excuse to the protagonist about why she has it. It ends up getting Xianne, who was their waitress, fired.

    Web Original 
  • Minilife TV: In "Robots, Wizards, and Rock 'n Roll", Clair runs into a magic teacher named Professor Lander who's looking for a new assistant and offers to buy her robot friend Archie. After Clair refuses his offer, Professor Lander is forced to steal Archie from her when she's not looking. However, Archie refuses to be his assistant because he'd rather be with his friend Clair, who quickly pieces together that Professor Lander stole him and comes to take him back. Clair promises not to tell anyone that Professor Lander stole Archie and in exchange, he offers her a position in his class.

    Western Animation 
  • The Raccoons episode "Stealing the Show!" has a B-plot involving the Pigs' obsession over Mudman comics. Floyd, the third pig, can't afford the comics and finally gives into his desire to have them by stealing them from Mr. Willow's store. He ends up getting caught and is punished by having to make restitution in the form of working at the store.
  • Arthur:
    • This happens to Arthur and Buster in the episode "Nerves of Steal". Buster wants a CyberToy, but can't get one. At a local store, Buster steals one and slips it into Arthur's backpack. Buster is wracked by guilt after his theft and Arthur flips out when he learns what Buster did. They attempt to return the CyberToy anonymously but get caught and are punished.
    • In "Arthur's Treasure Hunt" one of the daydreams has Arthur's dad forget to pick up charcoals and decide to cancel the barbecue since the store closed; Arthur used the secret passage he dug and discovered in the previous daydream to get through a closed store to pick up a bag of charcoals and leaves money on the checkout counter and leaves.
  • Subverted on The Flintstone Kids. Freddy is about to steal from his mother to get a new Captain Caveman gizmo, but after watching a Captain Caveman and Son cartoon titled "Greed It and Weep", he decides not to go through with it.
  • Inverted in a Father's Day episode of The Powerpuff Girls (1998), in which Professor Utonium very much wants a set of fancy, yet incredibly expensive golf clubs, but can't afford them. After Mojo Jojo has damaged a great deal of Townsville in a fit of rage, Blossom finds the clubs unattended, and is tempted to get them for the Professor for Father's Day—this unfortunately causes problems when the clubs are reported missing, and Professor is arrested since the clubs are found in his possession. Not wanting to get in trouble herself, Blossom tries to blame Mojo for selling the clubs to her, until pressure from others causes her to crack and admit she stole them because Professor wanted them so badly, and she wanted to make him happy.
  • One episode of The Simpsons, "Marge Be Not Proud", focuses on Bart getting caught while trying to steal a copy of ultra-violent videogame Bonestorm, and how this changes Marge's relationship with him.
    Nelson Muntz: "Shoplifting is a victimless crime, like punching someone in the dark."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. In the episode "Read It and Weep", Rainbow Dash breaks her wing, is stuck in a hospital, is introduced to an awesome book from the hospital library, and gets over her Anti-Intellectualism to read it. RD falls in love with it so badly that she needs it back, but can't allow herself to be seen asking for it, so she decides to go Tactical Espionage Action and steal it. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the Adventure Time episode "City of Thieves", everyone in the titular city indulges in this. Everyone. Including Jake, who steals a pair of red boots. The only one who fights the urge is Finn, who is instead tricked into stealing.
  • An episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot appropriately titled "Girl of Steal" used this plot. A new do-anything gadget that pastiches a high-end MP3 player called the Musique comes on the market, and everyone seems to have one before Jenny does, including her friends and her mother. She eventually steals one, but while wearing a disguise everyone dubs the Ruby Rocket.
  • Futurama. Bender does this constantly. A specific example being, when given a tax refund he goes to a store and sees a super fancy cigar. It's way out of his price range, but a set of burglar's tools isn't.
  • Family Guy has Lois going on a shoplifting spree, at first because of how she can't afford things, then "for the thrills."
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara becomes enthralled with a Water Bending scroll she discovers pirates are selling. So she steals it. Despite the ensuing chaos this decision causes, it's okay because stealing is wrong...unless it's from pirates.
  • In Boyster episode: "Shelby, the Art Lover", the titular character in this episode falls in love with a lady in the painting and decides to take it from the museum, but later, things get worse when it became lost, leading Boyster, Rafik, and him to made another one to return it.
  • In Gravity Falls, this is Grunkle Stan's response to almost everything; Rogue that he is, he has no qualms about committing larceny to get something done. In "Soos and the Real Girl" he decides to steal an animatronic badger from a local Suck E. Cheese's for the Mystery Shack when the restaurant owner refuses to sell it. This gets him in HUGE trouble in "Not What He Seems". Stan steals nuclear waste from a government waste disposal to power the Universe Portal, which gives Agents Powers and Trigger the evidence to arrest him and launch a full investigation of the Shack.