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Help Mistaken for Attack

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This is for when a character, or group of characters, intends to help another character, or group of characters, but because of what it seems like and the reputations of those who happen to be offering the help and any other circumstances, the very characters whom they are trying to help mistake it for intent to cause harm.

Not to be confused with Stab the Scorpion, as that's typically associated with giving the audience a misleading first impression as well. Can result in Made Out to Be a Jerkass. Compare Don't Sneak Up on Me Like That!.

Terrifying Rescuer is a subtrope.


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  • In Boarding School Juliet, some thugs from the Black Dogs ambush Juliet Percia of the opposing White Cats, blinding her with pepper spray and tearing open her shirt note  to intimidate her. It is at this point that Romio Inuzuka (who is also a Black Dog, but significantly more honorable, and secretly in love with Percia) notices what's going on and intervenes, picking Percia up, and running. So when Percia's vision clears a few minutes later, what she sees is her hated rival on top of her while she's half-undressed.
  • Hitomi-chan Is Shy with Strangers: After Hitomi saves Himari from falling down the steps (and scares away the guy who was harassing her), Himari's friends see her on her knees (actually getting up) in front of a standing Hitomi and assume Hitomi is forcing her into a dogeza.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: When Kaguya tries to help Ishigami study so he won't be held back a year, he comes to the conclusion that she's trying to torture him, even when she gives him some cake as a reward for his hard work.

  • Suske en Wiske: In the album "De Stemmenrover" (the voice thief), Lambik runs into a Japanese princess who is being attacked by bandits, and comes to her aid. While Lambik singlehandedly fights the bandits, the princess runs away. Lambik wins the fight but then sees another group of armed men coming his way. Assuming they are bandits as well, he defeats them too, only to learn afterwards that they were actually samurai sent by the princess to help him.

    Fan Works 
  • Boldores and Boomsticks: When Ruby asks a Golbat for directions to the nearest town, it responds by grabbing her and flying into the air. Her teammates ready their weapons until Ruby calls down that she can see one, as Golbat was hovering just above the treeline.
  • The Desert Storm: In Fever, after Aayla gets infected with Temple's Bane, Quinlan uses the Dark Side to purge the virus from her body. This creates a brief misunderstanding with the other Jedi, who hear Aayla's screaming and—sensing the Dark Side—assume Quinlan is attacking her.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act IV: In chapter 25, Jacqueline blows up Tsukune's house right in front of him just because she can, apparently killing Tsukune's mother inside as well. However, Gin managed to get her out in time; sadly, when the neighbors see the big werewolf carrying Kasumi, they automatically assume that he's trying to kidnap her. One even brings out a shotgun.
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K: Occurs during First Contact between the Galactic Republic and the Imperium of Man. The Republic first met the Imperium when one of their fleets encountered a lone Imperial refugee ship. Before they could communicate, a Brainwashed and Crazy clone captain (secretly acting under Palpatine's orders) rammed his Star Destroyer into the refugee ship at lightspeed, killing thousands of its passengers. The Republic fleet is naturally horrified by this and the Jedi General in charge immediately deploys hospital ships to board the attacked vessel and save as many lives as they can. When the rest of the Imperial fleet arrives looking for their lost refugee ship, they mistake the Republic's rescue attempt for a slave raid and attack, sparking off a major war between the two galactic powers.

    Films - Animation 
  • The Rescuers Down Under has Marahute the eagle trapped under rope, who when Cody arrives to free her, and takes out a knife, Marahute seems to (temporarily) interpret this as an attempt to wound or kill her rather than to free her.
  • In Lady and the Tramp, The Tramp kills a rat that got into the baby's room. During the fight however, the baby's crib gets knocked over. When Aunt Sarah comes in and sees the overturned crib, and not the rat's body, she assumes that the Tramp was after the baby, and turns him over to the pound to be euthanized.
  • In the first Toy Story, Sid's toys were seemingly trying to cannibalize Buzz when his arm fell off. Woody panics and tries to save Buzz, but it turns out they were repairing him and restored his arm.

    Films - Live Action 
  • The Karate Kid Part II has Sato trapped under a long piece of wood during a storm, and when Miyagi walks over, Sato thinks the idea is to finish him off while he is trapped, only to find out that Miyagi just wanted to free Sato from the rubble.
  • During Austin Powers in Goldmember, Austin returns to his hotel room to find Mini-Me grinning at him while holding up a letter opener. The audience knows that Mini-Me is here because he defected from Dr. Evil (the "help") and that he was just using the letter opener to open some mail, but Austin immediately reads it as an ambush (the "attack").
  • In National Security, when Earl tries to jimmy his car after he locked his keys inside, Hank thinks he's trying to steal it, and after a brief argument, a bee flies close and Hank tries to shoo it away with his night stick, and witnesses think Hank is beating Earl, The off-angle footage, and Earl's allergic reaction (which include swelling of the face), results in Hank going to jail.
  • Miss Congeniality: Gracie works out that the crown given to the winner of the Miss United States pageant is rigged with explosives. When Cheryl wins Gracie tries to snatch the crown off her head to protect her, but because Gracie came second everyone assumes she's jealous and trying to steal the crown for herself.
  • It's heavily implied that this is what's going on in Jacob's Ladder. Louis states at one point that if you're dying and reject your death, it looks like demons are trying to destroy your life. But if you make your peace with your impending demise, they look like angels freeing you from Earth instead. Jacob spends most of the film struggling to survive, and is thus surrounded by horrific visions. But when he finally lets go...
  • Many examples in RRR
    • When Bheem thinks Ram is trying to shoot him when Ram was aiming at the soldier trying to kill Bheem.
    • A lighter version of this happens during the Good-Times Montage, when they try to help a goat into its pen and the little goatherd thinks they're trying to steal it and chases them across the field.

  • In A Brother's Price something like this ensues when Cira offers Jerin her help. Unsurprisingly, as he had seen her working together with his kidnappers. She had been infiltrating them.
    • Another instance: when Eldest Whistler suddenly tackles Princess Ren, Ren initially thinks she's being assaulted, but Eldest had spotted a trap and was getting Ren away from it.
  • In Battle Royale, Hiroki tries to help save his crush, but the minute he approaches her in the game she shoots him down, mistaking it for attack.
  • In A Certain Justice by John Lescroat, Kevin Shea witnesses an drunken angry white mob lynching an innocent black man. He desperately tries to help the man by holding him up and passing him a knife to cut the noose. It doesn't work, and the photo that gets plastered on the news implies he was part of the lynch mob, trying to pull the man down to speed up the hanging.
  • In the Wings of Fire series, MudWing dragons help their siblings hatch by breaking open their eggshells. Other dragons, though, think of this as an attack.
  • Harry Potter:
    • This is a common mistake made concerning Professor Snape's interaction with Harry Potter, particularly in the first book; due to Snape's harsh treatment of Harry, everyone quickly assumes that such actions as Snape staring at Harry's jerking broom muttering to himself are Snape jinxing the broom, but it is finally revealed that he was actually acting to protect Harry from Voldemort's forces in memory of the debt he owed Harry's father and his own affection for Harry's mother.
    • In the fifth book, Harry and Dudley get attacked by Dementors who drain their happiness and energy. Harry fights them off and pulls Dudley to safety. But since Dementors are Invisible to Normals, Dudley did not understand what was happening and thought Harry was the one hurting him with his spells.
  • At the climax of Mr. Men: Adventure With Monsters, Mr. Jelly meets up with a friendly Sasquatch and when Little Miss Scary sees the aforementioned Sasquatch, she ends up believing that the Sasquatch had kidnapped him until it turns out that the monsters they had spent most of the story running away from just wanted the Mr. Men and Little Miss to have tea with them.
  • In The Wheel of Time, some adherents of the Prophet assaults some riders, believing that the men were pursuing the women riding in front of them with hostile intent, when they were in fact friends and members of the same group, and were just riding behind them. However, even after the situation has been explained, the adherents do not apologize for attacking or even acknowledge that they were mistaken, claiming that they are still obliged to kill the male riders for threatening a woman.
  • In the Sweet Valley High book Nowhere To Run, Emily Mayer's saves her baby half-sister from choking. Her father runs into the room afterwards and thanks to all the lies that his wife, her Wicked Stepmother, has been telling him throughout the book, assumes that she tried to hurt the baby and orders her out of the house.
  • In Renegades, when the headquarters are attacked, Adrian runs in and sees Nightmare standing over Max's unconscious body. He naturally assumes she tried to kill him, while the chapter from her perspective already showed she was actually attempting to rescue him.
  • West of Eden. One of the male Yilanè runs to warn Kerrick and Armun of danger, only to get stabbed by the latter. Kerrick was raised as a captive of the Yilanè and knows the males are harmless, but his wife has the mutual hatred that both species have for each other, and sees only a Yilanè charging towards her, shouting in an incomprehensible language.
  • In Lord of the Clans Thrall is doing some combat sparring in Durnholde (because of his skill, he fights several men at once) when an orc prisoner breaks free and angrily charges the group yelling something in orcish. He's quickly slain and Thrall is confused what grievance the orc had towards him. When he recounts the story to Grom Hellscream, Grom translates the orc's cries as him telling Thrall to flee while he distracts the guards and Thrall is humbled to realize that from his perspective the unnamed orc saw a young orc seemingly being menaced by humans and tried to give his life to save him.
  • In The Dresden Files book Summer Knight, Harry gets his ass beat after following a group into an alley. He tries to assure them he's not there to cause trouble, the beating causes his words to come out as gibberish. One of the people he was following, in his panic, assumes Harry is trying to cast a spell, and one of the others throws him into a dumpster.
  • At least twice in The Horse and His Boy, Aslan appears and chases the horses (they don't know he's their Big Good, as even Bree thinks "the Lion" is just a metaphorical title). Each time he's trying to either get them to work together or give them a push when they most need it, but they panic as if he's actually going to kill and eat them. Eventually he meets them face to face, and they understand what he was doing and why.

    Live Action TV 
  • NCIS: Minor recurring character Nikki Jardine had this as part of her Backstory. When her brother, Eric, was in Iraq he was injured in an IED attack and when a friendly Iraqi man tried to save Eric's life, the man was shot by US Forces who mistook him for a terrorist. Nikki has tried to help the Iraqi's widow and children ever since in gratitude for his sacrifice.
  • One Foot in the Grave: In the third episode of Series 1, Victor has just been hospitalised by some youthful muggers. Later on in the episode, his act of throwing away Mrs Warboys' hand grenade makes him fall over. Some young people, assuming he's had a heart attack, come and attempt CPR, but Victor thinks he's being punched in the chest and retaliates.
  • Blue Bloods has an episode in which a homeless man with mental issues is arrested after a surveillance tape shows him tossing a teenage girl into a subway train, killing her. On closer inspection, it turns out that the girl was trying to commit suicide and the homeless man was trying to drag her away from the tracks when she manages to push away from him and into the train.
  • In the Haven episode "Over My Head", a woman named Daphne is trapped in a crashed car and the tide is coming in. When Duke Crocker attempts to save her, Nathan Wuornos assumes he's going to kill her and almost shoots him before Audrey Parker stops him. When Duke draws a knife, Daphne screams and shields herself with her arms, but he uses it to cut her jammed seatbelt.
  • In the Kenan & Kel episode "Get the Kel Outta Here", Roger gets his back treated by a chiropractor after tumbling down the stairs due to Kel's incompetence. Kel returns to the house, in which he misinterprets this as a mugging and proceeds to shove Roger out of the way to fight the chiropractor. When the chiropractor explains himself to Kel, Roger gets hit in traffic.
  • Played for Laughs in The Mandalorian when the Child uses the Force to heal Greef Karga's fatal injuries and Karga briefly believes that the Child is trying to eat him.
  • One Life to Live: After Blair is set upon and mugged by two gang members, she is left lying unconscious on the ground. When another young man happens upon her and leans over her to see if she's okay, the cops come along and naturally assume that he is her attacker. Fortunately, Blair is able to clear his name once she recovers.
    • When gang-rape leader Todd Manning attacks his victim Marty again, her friend Luna happens upon the scene and whacks him on the head with a pipe. Unfortunately, thanks to the rape case being well known among the townspeople, the cops assume Luna was acting as a vigilante rather than defending Marty.
  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: In "Ghosts of Illyria", some energy entities try to break into a room where Pike and Spock have barricaded themselves. It turns out they simply wanted to shield the two from the incoming ion storm. Spock theorizes that the entities are what's left of Illyrians who were vaporized by an ion storm after running into it under the influence of a virus that made them crave light.
  • Third Watch. Sully and Davis spot a man being beaten in an alleyway and split up to trap the attackers. Sully slips and falls, dropping his gun. A well-meaning, completely innocent civilian happens along and asks if he's okay, reaching down to pick up the gun and hand it to him. At this point, Davis comes upon the scene, thinks that the man is going to shoot Sully and promptly empties his own gun into him. He's horrified to realize his mistake and feels even worse when he's cleared of any wrongdoing.
  • On the Soap Opera Passions, local Jerkass Julian Crane (who is actually a Jerk with a Heart of Gold) is trapped in an elevator with Whitney Russell. Julian tries to find a way out, only for glass to shatter and fall into the elevator. Whitney repeatedly screams at him to "Get back!", meaning for him to be careful (he's staying in place to protect her from the shards). Hearing this outside the elevator, her father TC, who loathes Julian, assumes that Julian is attacking her and proceeds to beat the crap out of him when the two finally get out.

  • Played with in Aloe Blacc's video for "Hello World". It focuses on a number of people in hoodies who are acting suspicious- but are actually trying to help people.
  • The song "Beep Beep" by The Playmates has the driver of a Cadillac mistaking a Nash Rambler's horn honking for being challenged to a drag race. When they reach speeds of 120 mph, the driver of the Nash Ramber catches up and rolls down his window to ask how to get his car out of second gear.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • John Mulaney has a bit about this (except that the person who he thinks is helping him thinks he's attacking them). He was waiting for a train in the New York City Subway at 2 am, when a woman starts walking away. He assumes that the woman heard the train on another platform and starts following her. They start walking faster and faster until she starts running and he runs after her. It's only then that he realizes that she thinks he's going to attack her and is trying to get away from him.

    Video Games 
  • In X3: Terran Conflict and X3: Albion Prelude, the player's space suit is equipped with a repair laser for patching up hull damage (otherwise you have to pay a shipyard to have it fixed, and that can be prohibitively expensive in the early game). Mechanically it works by going through shields and dealing negative hull damage. Thing is, the game still treats it as a weapon, so if you use it on ships you don't own they'll react as if they're being attacked, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Terra's penchant for saying "Unversed!" whenever said monsters show up gets him in trouble when he's trying to talk to Snow White. She mistakenly assumes that Terra is summoning the Unversed to attack her when actually he's trying to warn her that they're coming.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY Chibi: In "The Clutches of Evil", the Red Huntress (Pyrrha with a Paper-Thin Disguise) saves the Huntsman (Jaune with a similar Paper-Thin Disguise) from Roman Torchwick's death trap, but Jaune believes her to be a supervillainess. Given his declaration that he'll keep chasing her until he catches her, she doesn't complain much.

    Western Animation 
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers: One episode involves Humphrey the Bear saving a Straying Baby whose family is on a camping trip, but when he tries to return him to the camp, the family thinks he's attacking the baby and try to kill him, requiring the Rescue Rangers to try and save him.
  • The Critic: Alice's first appearance ends up this way. Jay passes by her and her daughter, Penny struggling to carry her groceries in the rain, when someone bumps into her causing her to drop them. Jay feels bad for them and goes over to offer to share his cab ride. When Alice sees him approaching, she douses him with pepper spray. Luckily, Jay is not fazed by it (he notes that it tastes like jalapeño), and Alice quickly apologizes when she realizes he's trying to help.
    Alice: I hate being unfriendly, but this is New York.
  • Doug: This is what triggers the plot of the Christmas Episode. When everyone is playing ice hockey, Bebe strays too close to thin ice. Porkchop tries to warn her about it, but she doesn't pay attention to him (not helped by the fact that the warning sign fell through the thin ice), so Porkchop grabs her by the leg to pull her away, inadvertently hurting her. This results in Porkchop being condemned as a mad dog and nearly sentenced to being put to sleep. Fortunately, Porkchop was able to prove himself innocent when Bebe ends up falling through the thin ice and he saves her life.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
    • "Boys Will Be Eds": Rolf's goat attacks Jimmy for his sandwich. As Rolf tries to pry the goat off Jimmy, Sarah appears and automatically thinks that Rolf is attacking Jimmy before slamming her racket down over his head and beating him to a pulp.
    • "If It Smells Like an Ed": The Eds discover Johnny hogtied. The Kids arrive shortly after and think their attempts at untying him are actually them tying him up themselves.
  • The Flintstones: "Dino Disappears": This is what lead to the main plot. When Pebbles crawled on the edge of her bed and caused it to wobble over, Dino races over and catches her before she falls. Hearing the noise, Fred comes in and sees Dino holding Pebbles in his mouth and assumes he tried to attack her, leading to him putting Dino outside. This causes Dino to run away.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Lesson Zero", Twilight Sparkle finds Fluttershy giving a bear a massage, but it's so violent that Twilight thinks Fluttershy is beating up the bear. Admittedly, so does the audience.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: "A Visit to Anthony": After the eponymous Anthony is beaten up by a bully, Ren and Stimpy try to help revive him, but his dad sees them and assumes they beat Anthony up.
  • Robotomy: "The Trials of Robocles": While stranded on the island, the robots are aided by winged tentacled monsters, but the robots mistake them for hostile creatures and just kill them off anyway because they look hideous.
  • Spider-Man Unlimited: In the first episode, Spider-Man has become an even bigger Hero with Bad Publicity than usual, being blamed for the apparent death of John Jameson. It's taken to the extent that when he saves someone from a burning building, the fire department promptly blast him with riot hoses and accuse him of being the one to start said fire, and when Spidey pushes one of the firemen out of the way of falling debris and ends up being buried under the rubble and presumed dead, said fireman later goes on TV, claiming that Spidey was actually trying to attack him, and the collapsing building saved his life.