The crime rate in the City of Adventure is on the rise due to a new criminal syndicate in town. Should people vote for more police funding and work on improving inner city economics so that fewer people turn to crime? No. Why should they? A Hero will take care of it.
The transportation system seems to be incredibly buggy. Every month there's at least one train/plane/subway crash that sends its passengers to apparent fiery doom. Should higher industrial standards be made to prevent these from occurring? Naah, as long as a hero catches it each time, it's not really a problem.
The Government is taking away people's rights; should people rise up against it? ...that's iffy, La Résistance is often either ineffective or will become just as bad should they actually succeed. Let's just have the hero take care of it.
Holding Out for a Hero is the deconstruction to the notion of a Superhero and a subversion of Big Damn Heroes. They've stopped becoming inspirations; and instead enable helplessness and recklessness. Muggles should stay out of things and let the special people do it. In fact, whenever the little people do try to change their own world, then they're either cannon fodder or else engaging in fascism out of fear. The Masquerade is often used by the good guys to prevent humanity from learning about the forces of the bad guys (even ones that are constantly killing them), because there's nothing they can do but get in the way anyways.
If someone is The Chosen One, that means everyone else isn't and shouldn't bother, unless they're taking a bullet for the hero. In any case, it's all up to the hero. If the main characters are common people, they may discover that he has Feet of Clay, and have to manage without him. If combined with All of the Other Reindeer, the people may start to look not only lazy, but ungrateful and hypocritical at that.
This is exemplified with any scene with a news report where the reporter ends with "...and the public wants to know, where is Superman?". Granted, cliché media (which lends fuel to almost all media in fiction) often tries to be hypocritical, regardless, to reflect on their shallow desire for ratings and such.
These arguments tend to fall flat, however, when used by an actual super villain. If the villain truly wants to help humanity progress, rather than trying to give philosophical angst to the super hero, they could probably improve matters more if they would just power down the death ray and stop being so damn villainous.
Cities holding out for a hero usually lack real heroes. The trope often includes an Achilles in His Tent or a Just Fine Without You moment. Happens when the characters take Think Nothing of It too seriously and the Hero Harasses Helpers. Contrast Badass Bystander and As Long as There Is One Man. Often the cause for/savior in an Easily Conquered World. The Paragon is out to prevent this. A fear of invoking this trope is commonly cited as a reason why Reed Richards Is Useless. Destructive Saviour is an inversion—the heroes end up making thing worse.
It does have the advantage that when the angry citizens demand The Hero persecute the Reluctant Monster or something equally wrong, and he turns the demand back on them, the trope Who Will Bell the Cat? often comes into play.
Perhaps you were looking for the trope called Big Damn Heroes. (Wherein the premise is played straight and the Hero is in fact the only person who can save the day.) When the townsfolk are actively delaying the bad guys or doing other things to hinder them till the hero can get there, it is Hold the Line. Also not to be confused with She Will Come for Me, as the person in that trope usually does need the help.
- Arguably, the Aesop of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz is "Don't wait for the heroes, do it yourself", a point emphasized by Relena abandoning her stance of Total Pacifism to encourage the civilians to stand up to the invading army, and by Dorothy Catalonia's rather effective Reason You Suck Speech to them when they still don't grasp what Relena was telling them.
Man: Shut your mouth, lady! You're looking at a man who shot down five mobile suits in the war a year ago!Dorothy: That's funny, I don't see any men around here. The only men I know are either dead and buried, or are up on that screen! (points at giant TV showing the Gundam Pilots fighting)
- The Aesop of After War Gundam X is similar: the finale is a brutal rejection of the notion that Newtypes (people with mild Psychic Powers) are in any way superior to ordinary humans, and that people cannot expect to rely on the guidance or assistance of Newtypes to solve their problems, they have to man up and do it themselves. This was a somewhat shocking reversal of one of the central ideas of the original Gundam series, that Newtypes were the next step in evolution and needed to use their power to guide humanity into a new golden age.
- Completely averted in One Piece. Luffy has made it clear several times that if he comes across a place that subscribes to this philosophy, he's perfectly willing to let it rot. Fortunately, most of the places Luffy visits is filled with people perfectly willing to fight for what's important to them. The closest the series comes to this is a good denizens of Thriller Bark, who are holding out for someone like Luffy to get their shadows back, but justified due to this being because they already tried on several occasions and utterly failed every time.
- Averting this actually becomes a problem in the Alabasta arc, in which Koza believes that he's solving the country's problems himself by starting a rebellion, but since he was tricked into believing the wrong person was the villain, all he does is create more problems that need to be resolved by the "heroes" (though in fairness, he becomes pivotal in resolving everything after he finds out what was going on).
- Ping Pong: Within the friendship of Peco and Smile. Smile's stoicism was in response to Peco's lackadaisical attitude. As such, Peco is the "hero" Smile continually fantasizes about.
- Invoked in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX; according to Nightshroud, he will continue to exist as the collective Heartless of humans because they refuse to solve their own problems and always look for someone else to shoulder burdens.
- My Hero Academia plays with and examines this trope. In the world (and future) it's set in, 80% of the population have some form of superpower or Quirk. Despite this, crime by superpowered criminals was rampant despite the efforts of Heroes (who have to be highly trained, licensed and regulated; they are effectively civil servants). However, All Might strove to change this by being The Paragon, not only to serve and inspire other heroes by example, determination and skill, but also to cripple the morale of the villains. The moment he retires, the villains start becoming more active, which was the goal of All Might's archenemy, All For One (a supervillain whose power is stealing other powers), though he is defeated and jailed and leaves it to his protege to continue this rise in villainy, setting him up to be the Arch-Enemy of the protagonist and All Might's successor/protege, Izuku "Deku" Midoriya.
- This is also deconstructed by All For One in Tomura Shigaraki's backstory to make him his disciple and potential successor. Heroes inspire and give people hope, but this causes people to become apathetic to the suffering of others. After all, with heroes out there to save lives, why should they bother to help anyone? It isn't their place to do so. Unfortunately, Tomura bought this and it spurred him on the path of villainy, helped along by his personal experience with this face-to-face. After his powers activated and killed his family, he staggered around the streets looking for somebody to help save him, or punish him for the action, but no heroes were around. Despite that, he was witnessed by plenty of civilians, but because of his ghoulish appearance after the horrifying experience he'd just been through, they could tell he was bad news, and thus all of them uniformly avoided him to avoid getting caught up in trouble, leaving it up to a hero to save Tomura instead. However, the only person who actually reached out to him was All For One, leaving Tomura eternally grateful to his 'saviour' and enraged at the callousness of the ordinary civilians who chose to ignore his suffering.
- The Rising of the Shield Hero has a lot of this among the general populace, since they expect the summoned heroes to save them from the waves and solve their problems. Unfortunately, three of the four heroes are utter twits who treat the world like an RPG game, and their carelessness tends to cause more trouble than good, with the titular protagonist forced to pick up the slack and clean up the messes they made. This comes to a head when the Church of the Three Heroes gets fed up with their constant failures and decides to kill them off and summon new heroes to replace them.
- Kingdom Come: Explored. It concludes with a UN rep telling Superman that they (normal people) saw meta-humans as gods. Superman replies that they thought of themselves as such, and they were wrong. The comic ends with meta-humans and humans becoming equal partners.
- His comics has explored this on many an occasion, Supes himself seems particularly worried that the world will grow overreliant on him and become unable to function if anything happens to him. As a result, he holds off on stopping most crimes and natural disasters; his general philosophy is that if humanity can handle it on their own, he's going to let them try. Lex Luthor pretends this is his beef with Superman... since Luthor wants humanity overreliant on him.
- In Superman: Red Son, wherein a communist Superman had no problems with using his abilities to prevent every bad thing possible (from each according to his abilities and all that), people did indeed grow too reliant upon him to solve all their problems. Eventually cars stopped being manufactured with seatbelts — the citizens expected Superman to save them if they got into a wreck. (Ironically enough, Lex Luthor opposed him on those grounds in that reality, too.)
- Superman's ultimate retort to Lex Luthor comes in All-Star Superman at the end:
Luthor: I could have saved the world!
Superman: You could have saved the world years ago if it had mattered to you.
- This explains Lois Lane's reckless behavior in many of the Golden Age comics and Fleischer Studios Superman Theatrical Cartoons. She gets in trouble so often because she's sure Superman will always come to save her, and in fact she wants the excuse to see Superman again. Highlighted in Elliot S! Maggin's novel Last Son of Krypton:
Professor Gordon: Say you were somewhere really out of the way, Miss Lane. In Zaire. In the abandoned shaft of a diamond mine. The mine caved in. You had about an hour's supply of air. Absolutely no one knew where you were, and even if they did there would be no chance of getting you out in time. What goes through your mind?
Lois Lane: I wish Superman would stop stalling. I've got a deadline to meet.
- The whole Superman holding back ordeal started in the Bronze age with Elliot S. Maggin's Must There Be A Superman? from Superman #247. In it, The Guardians of the Universe drag Superman to Oa and tell him, point-blank, that his superheroics are causing human evolution to stagnate and to cut it out. He's shaken by it and decides to hold back on the situations that regular humans would be fine with dealing.
- In Reign of Doomsday, the reaction of US Government to learning that a spaceship will crash into Earth at terminal speed within ten minutes is... broadcast a worldwide message to Superman or any hero, asking them to do something.
- In The Untold Story of Argo City, Supergirl informs Kandor's Science Council she has discovered her parents Zor-El and Allura are trapped in a parallel pocket dimension. Rather than devoting manpower, time and resources to rescue one of their most prominent scientists, the Kandorians wait for Supergirl solving the trouble.
- Commissioner Gordon often has the worry of relying too much on Batman to patrol Gotham, and points it out in Batman: No Man's Land by claiming that he can't get himself hired anywhere because his reliance on an "urban legend" damages his credibility. Usually though, he has to admit that the corrupt and perpetually-underfunded police department couldn't handle Gotham's crime rate before with normal mobsters and certainly not now in the face of a bunch insane supervillains (and the even more insane but Badass Normal Joker.)
- And, as Battle for the Cowl demonstrated, Gotham does indeed become a lawless warzone the moment Batman disappeared and only returns to something resembling normality (for Gotham) once Dick accepts that there must be Batman (and he's it).
- This happened LONG before Battle for the Cowl. A large portion of the "Knight" arc (Knightfall/Knightquest/Knightsend), apart from being a Take That! at people who wanted a Darker and Edgier Batman, was to point out that a huge part of the problem in Gotham was mostly psychological in nature, and that Gotham needs Batman, even a fake one.
- Gotham as a whole does this with its supervillains. Instead of investing in tighter security for Arkham Asylum, planning for what to do if a supervillain breaks out, or even just giving people like the Joker the death penalty after years of mass murder, Gotham relies on its vigilantes to stop them without doing anything to fix the problem.
- In the first arc of JLA, Superman explains why superhumans haven't done all the things the Hyperclan (secretly White Martians conning the planet into trusting them) are doing: it causes people to be even more unwilling to solve their own problems.
- Watchmen. The police went on strike until a Super Registration Act was passed.
- Actually a subversion because the police were trying to get rid of the heroes because the heroes were taking away jobs, and tended to work without the restrictions that police did. When the heroes try to keep the city safe all on their own, they learn that 5 men and a girl in tights can't police an entire city. The city suffers continual riots until the heroes all retire.
- Furthermore, you wouldn't exactly want the authorities to have the anti-social tendencies of characters like Rorschach or, god forbid, the Comedian.
- At one point, Rorschach, has a bit of internal monologue that sounds like something from John Galt (see Literature, below):
Rorschach: The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!"... and I'll look down and whisper "No."
- The US government has stopped finding ways to end the Cold War through peaceful means because they have Dr. Manhattan on their side. This sends them right up Shit Creek when Dr. Manhattan abandons the planet, leaving them with nothing except stubbornness, a nuclear arsenal and a Soviet adversary that's sick of being bullied into submission and eager to flex its muscles.
- Subverted in The Authority after The Authority retake the Carrier from their government-sanctioned replacement and have defeated the ridiculously overpowered hillbilly Seth. Because of the activities of the replacements, the world faces total obliteration in 48 hours. Jack Hawksmoor not only says they're not going to do anything, he warns every other metahuman hero that he'll kick their asses if the heroes try to help world's leaders from solving the problem they were ultimately responsible for creating. It doesn't actually show how the world is saved, though.
- In Y: The Last Man the leader of the Fish & Bicycle Troupe deliberately conceals the existence of a living male monkey (which implies the existence of other surviving males) to prevent false hope amongst women that some man is going to come along and save them.
- Averted in an issue of The Avengers where Jarvis goes to visit his mother, only to find a bully has been harassing the folks in her neighborhood. The rest of the neighborhood wants Jarvis to get his Avenger buddies to take care of the problem. Jarvis tells them that minor problems like this need to be taken care of by normal people. So Jarvis challenges the bully to a fight, only to start losing until the rest of the neighbors pitch in to help him.
- This trope was averted in the event of Marvel Universe's Dark Reign as the superheroes were quite hesitant to defend a public that entrusted Norman Osbourne and his band of supervillains as protectors along with the increased persecution of mutants in the event of House of M. Thus, society will have to depend more on themselves for protection.
- Similar is to be expected in the Ultimate Marvel Universe in the face of Ultimatum as a good deal of the superheroes are dead, the Fantastic Four and Avengeres are disbanded, Captain America is a fugitive, increased public persecution of mutants, and Gregory Stark's superhuman task force does not strike the readers as trustworthy.
- Somewhat averted in the Ultimate Secret mini-series, where the Ultimate Universe counterpart of Captain Marvel lends his scientific knowledge to NASA to help humanity save themselves by being able to flee from Galactus' destruction. Captain Marvel's efforts are cut short when the Kree sabotage the experimental spacecraft.
- Averted in Garth Ennis' The Boys, where a team of superheroes known as the Seven, try to prevent the comics version of September 11th. The Seven fail miserably, with the moral of the story being that there are no such things as heroes.
- Averted in District X where the New York City police department handles various superhuman threats throughout Mutant Town without help from the superheroes (although the X-Men member Bishop was a member of the police force).
- On various occasions, the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit has handled superhuman threats such as Metallo, and Parasite without help from Superman.
- During Mark Waid's writing of The Flash, it was revealed that one of the liabilities of having a superhero in your city is that people feel more at liberty to conduct dangerous experiments, thinking that a superhero will save them if things go wrong.
- That theme was also explored in Rick Veitch's Brat Pack where the presence of the True-Man encouraged humans to have lesser safety standards for nuclear power plants. This wouldn't present a problem, however... if True-Man hadn't been MIA for years.
- Somewhat averted in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, where regular troops are kept fighting in wars. When the Ultimates intervened to help the US government overthrow a rogue state government, a band of superhumans known as the Liberators (supported by various nations), invaded America in response for using superhumans to intervene in political affairs.
- Subverted in the the alternate Marvelverse, The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, which highlights how easy it is to kill a large number of both superheroes and supervillains (especially if you have Garth Ennis writing the comic). Punisher kills off the Avengers, X-Men, Brotherhood of Evil Mutants with a teleporter device and nuclear weapons. Imagine how much more peaceful the world would be if the public adopted the Punisher's common sense approach in disposing of supervillains.
- This very idea was fulfilled in another alternate universe The Last Avengers Story. The government used superheroes to capture supervillains and then executed them. After that most heroes retired and their replacement had stagnated without strong enemies until Kang killed them.
- Averted in What If?: Civil War where SHIELD, under the guidance of Henry Peter Gyrich, kills or imprisons all the superheroes and supervillains on Earth using an army of Thor clones. Gyrich then goes on to win the US presidency.
- Somewhat averted in Mark Waid/Barry Kitson's 2004 remake for Legion of Super-Heroes. The eponymous characters describe themselves as a social youth movement rather than a super-hero team. Cosmic Boy says that the Legion exists for the purpose of their teenage followers.
- In The Spectre #22 (third series) the title character removes all the pollution that was created from him destroying the country of Vlatava and hurls it into outer space. Superman asks Spectre why he doesn't do that with all of Earth's pollution. Spectre responds that it is too dangerous for humanity to become too dependent on superhumans to solve their problems.
- Spoofed in issue #0 of Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink. When Captain Omnipotent realizes that his never-ending superheroics are due to overachiever guilt at being the last son of Crypto, he cheerfully ignores people's cries for help so they won't be dependent on him.
- In John Ostrander's writing of Firestorm (DC Comics), the eponymous hero is blackmailing Earth into abolishing nuclear weapons. When President Ronald Regan asks Superman for assistance in defeating Firestorm, Superman declines ("I might stand for truth, justice, and the American Way, but that does not make me your enforcer.")
- Averted in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing where the eponymous character considers using his power to undo mankind's environmental destruction. Realizing that such actions would encourage further defilement of the planet and render environmentalism pointless, our hero declines to fix the environment.
- Silver Surfer:
- During the 1960s series, he was fighting an evil duplicate in outer space. The Kremlin was watching this battle and was wondering if it was time to ally with the United States in the fight against a common enemy.
- Subverted in Silver Surfer #5 where a space alien decides to destroy humanity. Silver Surfer's human companion sacrifices his life to diffuse a bomb set up by the space alien. The selfless sacrifice convinces the alien invader that humanity has enough nobility in them to be spared.
- Subverted in the DC Universe version of World War II, where Hitler's The Spear of Destiny blocked out superhumans from entering the Axis campaign, thus leaving regular humans to fight the war.
- Subverted with V for Vendetta, where V tells the public that they either take responsibility for taking down the totalitarian dictatorship or V will obliterate both them and the totalitarian dictatorship.
- Explored in The Authority: Revolution, where the Authority has been disbanded for three years. Member Jack Hawksmoor says that the world seems better off without the Authority.
- Justified in a late 1970s Incredible Hulk issue with the Hulk rampaging desperately through New York and all the regular authorities like the NYPD can't stop him. As a cameraman is getting this, he is wondering where are The Fantastic Four, The Avengers or Spider-Man to help stop the monster.
- Averted in the Manhunter (Kate Spencer version, 2004-2007), where titular character/prosecutor decides not to execute the Shadow Thief in hopes that the criminal justice system can ultimately deliver a just verdict/security.
- Superlópez: Inverted for great comedy, especially in the early installments: people actually hope Superlópez will not turn up, since he's such a Walking Disaster Area and his interventions tend to make things worse. He becomes more of a heroic figure as the series goes on.
Bystander #1: (seeing the Monster of the Week coming his way) Our only salvation is Superlópez!Bystander #2: Then... we have NO salvation!
- Deconstructed in Rat-Man: superheroes exist to be of example and inspire people to step up and solve their problems, but the existance of too many heroes leads to people becoming overreliant on them, and when the people lose faith in their superheroes they're quick to place their trust into the first apparent messiah with the power to back it up... That just happens to be the Big Bad, the Shadow. Hence why the Shadow created the many additional superheroes and the supervillains they fought and orchestrated their fall by exposing the fact they had all been created by the same agent of the Shadow.
- In Birthright, the world of Terrenos has been fighting a loosing war against God-King Lore, which only got worse when the Five, powerful magic users and the greatest champions of their land, decided that were fighting a Hopeless War and they abandoned Terrenos. Their desperation is so great they teleport a little kid from Earth with no powers whatsoever because he is believed to be The Chosen One. And then said kid becomes a Fallen Hero and things become even worse.
- The Trope Namer song is immensely popular for fan-made music videos
- Two Halves: Naruto calls out an entire clan of Bare Fisted Monks on waiting for someone to come along and solve their problems, when they can just as easily fix their own problems.
- In The Bridge, Princess Celestia worries that this has happened, that she's protected and coddled her citizens for so long that they always depend on her or a hero to protect them and solve their problems.
- Justified in Venus Flash: when the Japanese police discovers that Panther Claw has returned they're ordered to stop investigating by corrupt politicians with the excuse that the organization has already been destroyed and investigating on an alleged return would cause panic, hence why superintendent-general Sakurada gets Sailor V's help. Sakurada is also savvy about the consequences of being overreliant on a superhero, given that her request is not to take care of the organization but to find evidence that Panther Claw is back, thus allowing the police to intervene.
- This trope drives the four crazy in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, because they're always being asked to do something heroic that the city guards really should have done, such as search for a missing citizen or rescue a kidnapped baby. The official excuse is usually that the guards are not empowered to do much outside the cities proper, or that the gods themselves chose the four to perform this heroic deed. Eventually they start refusing every request they get and pointing at other nearby outworlders who could do the job.
- When he gets around to telling his history in I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Harry admits he accidentally caused this mentality back on Earth. For over a thousand years, he always stepped in to defeat the current magical threat facing the world and people became completely reliant on him as a result. When an accident sends him two hundred years in the future, Harry learns that a pair of dark wizards have been ravaging the planet for decades with their battles against one another and no one has even attempted to stop them. After Harry kills them both, the rest of the world turns on him for not stepping in sooner.
- Megamind deconstructs this trope by showing the effects of the mentality on the various parties involved when it seems the Villain Protagonist Megamind kills off the Hero Antagonist Metro Man:
- For the citizens of Metro City, they're so dependent on the hero to solve their problems that when the hero's no longer around, there's no one brave enough to stand up to the eponymous villain.
- For Megamind though, he is absolutely demoralized due to the fact that everything's so easy for him now that the hero's no longer around and practically everyone else is too cowardly to oppose him. Moreover though, he suffers an existential crisis because he has defined himself as a villain since childhood (he was raised in a prison albeit Happily Adopted and his antagonism with Metro Man happened since they were children.) As such, he has no idea what to do with his life after he wins.
- In a desperate attempt to allieviate this, Megamind gives someone else superpowers in an effort to find someone who'll challenge him, and when the newcomer kicks his ass, everyone flocks toward their new 'hero' Titan — unfortunately for them (and Megamind), they haven't considered the possibility that someone having superpowers and beating up a villain doesn't mean they're not a potentially worse villain.
- As for Metro Man himself? Turns out that he had been suffering his own existential crisis over whether his life was defined over what people want him to do as a hero that he came up with a plan to fake his death.
- Lampshaded in The LEGO Batman Movie: during Jim Gordon's time as commissioner, he seems to have responded to every problem by simply turning on the bat-signal, to the point he carries the remote for it and pantomimes pressing the button when accepting applause, indicating that this was his signature response. When Barbara Gordon takes over for him, she points out that Batman has simply not been enough, and that Gotham has the highest crime rate in the world.
- In Incredibles 2, Winston and Evelyn's father chose to try calling the superheroes for help and then just stood in place when his house was being burgled and was gunned down as a result. Evelyn notes that had he taken the more sensible route of hiding in the house's dedicated safe room, he would have been fine. Evelyn becomes a jaded cynical individual and later a supervillain, who blames superheroes as a result for her dad's death, believing that their presence was what led to him making his choice.
- In Hancock, this trope is exploited by Ray, a PR man, for Vigilante Man Hancock as part of a plan to improve his reputation. The first step was to have Hancock turn himself in for his vigilante actions and reckless destruction. The purpose was twofold; it first gave showed that he was willing to own up to his actions and show the city he was not above the law. The second purpose was to show how things would be like if he wasn't around. According to Ray, he believes the city takes Hancock for granted and it turns out he's correct given how without a super-powered Cowboy Cop like Hancock around, crime skyrockets and eventually the chief of police calls, thus beginning Hancock's work with them. Justified by Hancock being a powerful deterrent by his powers and him not afraid to pull cheap shots. Hell, when the criminals he put in prison try to harass him during his time there, he threatens two that if they don't back off, he will put one's head in the other's ass... and proceeds to do just that when they continue to taunt him.
- It's implied in Hot Fuzz that pretty much the only thing stopping London's crime rate from spiraling completely out of control is P.C Nicholas Angel... which makes it a bit of an own goal when his superiors, sick of him upstaging them and the rest of the force, transfer him to Sandford in the middle of nowhere and have to humiliate themselves by crawling there to beg him to return. And then he turns them down anyway. Whoops.
- Lampshaded in The Meteor Man. When the hero learns that his powers shut down for a time if he uses them too much, the entire community expresses their disappointment in him and decides to surrender to the Golden Lords. The hero then calls out all of his followers turned detractors, saying that they had no right to say he hadn't done enough to stop the gangs when they had done nothing. This shames the entire community into pulling a Big Damn Heroes moment during the final battle.
- Spider-Man Trilogy:
- The first Spider-Man movie features the song "Hero", by Chad Kroeger, which mentions this trope:
And they say that a hero can save us
I'm not going to stand here and wait
- In Spider-Man 2, when Peter Parker quits being Spider-Man for a while the crime rate in New York jumps by 75%. This isn't supervillain crime, this is stuff like two guys with shotguns robbing a bank then riding away. Either Spider-Man's presence was previously enough to deter petty criminals, so his absence has all the criminals coming out of the woodwork, or the NYPD has come to be waaay too reliant on Spidey's help.
- Averted later in the same film: Spidey is battling Doctor Octopus (read: getting pummeled) when he is knocked into a moving subway. When Doc Ock comes in to finish him off, the citizens aboard the train tell him that he'll have to go through them, first. He obliges. This was a callback to a slight aversion near the end of the first film, where the bystanders provide some minor (but useful) assistance by harassing the Green Goblin during his fight with Spidey.
- The first Spider-Man movie features the song "Hero", by Chad Kroeger, which mentions this trope:
- In the 1996 Made-for-TV Movie, Thrill, a bomb is rigged in the seats of a roller coaster. Our hero disarms it and stops the ride (at the top), just before the villain knocks him off onto the track. As he tries to re-arm his bomb, what do the passengers right next to him do? Sit there.
- Avoided in the Transformers movie series. The Autobots are protecting humans, sure, but the military isn't exactly cowering behind Optimus Prime. In fact, at some points it seems like the US military is better at fighting the Decepticons than the Autobots are. It helps when one remembers that in the movie series, most advanced military tech was developed from studying Megatron while he was frozen under Hoover Dam.
- Eventually in the original 1980's Transformers cartoon, human contact with the Autobots greatly accelerated Earth's technological development. As a result, by the early 2000's humans were able to hold off the Decepticons by themselves.
- This acknowledged in the Beast Wars series, where the new Megatron attempted to kill the original proto-humans knowing that it was due to their assistance that the Autobots were able to win the Great War.
- In Batman Returns, Catwoman chews out a woman for this after saving her from an attacker.
- Played straight at first in The Dark Knight Trilogy, but later invokedly averted. While heroes like Batman and Harvey Dent were needed to get there, better policing and new laws like the Dent Act have taken care of Gotham's huge problem with organized crime and corruption in the police force by The Dark Knight Rises.
- In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, while the Rangers are on Phaedos in search of the Great Power, Earth is left defenseless as Ivan Ooze finally unleashes his Eco-Morphicon Titans. As Alpha and a dying Zordon watch helplessly from the Command Center, you can hear a news reporter asking "Where are the Power Rangers?"
- The opening of Justice League (2017) shows people yearning for the return of Superman to the tune of Sigrid's cover of the Leonard Cohen song "Everybody Knows".
- Zack Snyder's Justice League doesn't include the above scene, but still brings up the need to revive Superman.
- In Animorphs, while they try to slow the invasion on their own, the kids spend the better part of the series waiting for Andalite rescue. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting... They finally go on the true offensive when they realize that not only is no rescue coming, but the Andalites have just decided to blow up the Earth, sacrificing the humans to kill the Yeerk forces on the planet.
- In Dragon Bones, the dwarves, after the dragons vanish (which negatively affects the dwarves) just sit around and twiddle their thumbs, and are only motivated to take action when one of them has a prophetic dream about a chosen one. In their defense, they didn't know what made the dragons disappear, and, as it turned out in the end, only one of the Hurog family could do something about the problem. (Of course, instead of sending a son to work as valet in Hurog to keep an eye on the family, they could have sent a spy to find out what was wrong. On the other hand there aren't many half-dwarves who can pass as human, and Axiel might have done some spying, though he doesn't tell.)
- In the Tower and the Hive installment Pegasus in Flight, Russia used an old law to forcefully draft the entire group of telekinetic talents. This caused a problem with some factories that were not upto safety regulations because these telekinetics were not available to assist in planet-side accidents.
- In Tales of an Mazing Girl, Sarah occasionally agonizes over the effects that her superpowers (including the superpuppetry skills she learned at Cal Arts from one of the original Muppet creators) have on the world and how they become dependent on her doing its dirty work.
- The Worthing Saga deals with this issue. An entire planet of telepaths and telekinetics has, from altruistic motives, eliminated pain on all the worlds. They heal any injuries instantly, they block grief at death (which is only from old age), etc. They finally figure out this has turned all of mankind into slaves, and commit mass suicide. Of course then when Pain returns, no one is equipped to deal with it...
- Sort of used in the sixth Sword of Truth book, when Richard decides that if he continues to force the fight against the Imperial Order with his amazing super-powers, he will cause his people to become what he is fighting to protect them from.
- The premise of John Ringo's Council Wars series is that humanity (well, the lazy dregs left on Earth anyway) has become utterly dependent on the all powerful AI Mother, and when that goes away they revert to panicked barbarism.
- This happens to John Galt in Atlas Shrugged, when the economy is about to collapse and the government asks for his help. He refuses.
- Like many tropes related to The Chosen One, this is deconstructed in The Annals of the Chosen by Lawrence Watt-Evans. Ultimately, it's why most of the heroes stop trying to save people, leaving them to save themselves.
- Andre Norton's The Crossroads of Time offered this as part of the explanation for the Wardsmen's non-interference directive: "We must not lend crutches and so produce cripples."
- The interactive book Thrusts of Justice has a rather nasty usage. It turns out the aliens invading the planet are also the ones who created all the comic-style heroes and villains in the world. They did so banking on this trope, figuring humanity would get complacent and not bother developing defenses capable of repelling an alien invasion, because if anything like that ever happened the superheroes would take care of it for them. Thus the human race would be defenseless when their heroes turned out to be under the enemy's control. They were right.
- Invoked in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Hagrid tells Harry that the reason wizards hide from the normal world is precisely to avoid this trope. People would request magical assistance for all their problems, so they'd never advance on their own. It's certainly demonstrated that it works in a roundabout way: magical society has become so dependent on their own abilities that its technology became stale centuries ago, and people who are born without magical powers (squibs) are either forced to live with normal people (muggles) or relegated to menial jobs, while being dependent on others for such normal things as transport.
- In Renegades, this is Nova's main problem with the eponymous superheroes: because the Renegades promise that they will take care of all the problems and protect everyone, no-one is trying to solve any of Gatlon City's innumerable issues on their own. People aren't interested in learning medicine because there are prodigies with Healing Hands; the economy is near-stagnant because Renegades make money by selling their skills abroad; the police force is non-existent because Renegades patrol the streets; and no-one's bothered about the city turning into a (well-meaning, but still) dictature, because everyone assumes the Renegades will take care of everything.
- Averted in Doctor Who episode "Turn Left": The episode shows an alternate timeline where the Doctor ends up dying and thus the Earth is robbed of its greatest protector in a hostile universe. However, humanity wasn't sitting around waiting for a hero but instead successfully fought off several threats that were defeated by the Doctor in the original timeline. Unfortunately, the methods and means used resulted in huge casualties that added up and led to devastating consequences.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In one episode, Jonathan casts a spell to make himself into a badass so great that the whole town worships the ground he walks on, and everyone remembers things as if Jonathan had always been that way. One consequence is that Buffy is less strong and confident than normal, since she remembers Jonathan rather than herself saving the town. It stands to reason that the Muggles must have suffered a similar loss of self-reliance.
- In general, Buffy tends to rely on this — it's hinted that most people in Sunnydale are aware of what's going on but choose to pretend to be oblivious in the hope that someone else will take care of it, and anyone who is aware of the town's "secret" other than the hero and her friends and actually does something about it is generally a malevolent schemer with their own sinister plans. Furthermore, in the early seasons especially, much is made of the necessity for keeping Buffy's mission a secret without it ever being made clear why this is necessary, especially not to fill in Buffy's mom on what's happening.
- In fact, Sunnydale was created as a subversion of this trope, as a place for demons to feed, with their police and such kept deliberately incompetent and with an extra-strength masquerade. When others step up and try to help, they're rarely punished for it, though they're told they shouldn't. That Buffy empowers people around her is part of the premise and shows up in the pilot, with Willow standing up for herself, and at the end of the series with the use of the scythe.
- Of course, part of her de-evolution into a person that the rest of the Scoobies can barely tolerate (and later kick out of her own house so they (and The Potential Slayers) can train in peace) during the last season is her getting this mentality in her brain, with her being the "hero" in question, and becoming The Neidermeyer because of it.
- Walker, Texas Ranger:
- There was an episode involving a Shop teacher in High School who was The Aggressive Drug Dealer sending out his students to send out drugs. The plot simultaneously tried to preach the strength to stand against the drug dealer... while having the drug dealer kill anyone who wasn't Chuck Norris or protected by Chuck Norris.
- A similar episode had another teacher, this time a student of Walker, stand up to and thoroughly trounce three gangbangers who had barged into his classroom and started harassing one of his students... only to be shot and killed by the trio later that day. Apparently only Walker's martial arts can stop crime.
- Xena: Warrior Princess: This is taken to almost absurd proportions in the episode "Been There, Done That". Xena and her entourage enter a town just in time for a feud between two noble houses to erupt into all-out war, with a tragic, bloody conclusion. But then, a "Groundhog Day" Loop starts, which threatens to start the battle again. Xena tries everything to stop the loop; she tries getting the two families to make peace, and succeeds, but that doesn't stop it; she makes them angry enough at her to get them to stop fighting, but still, the loop happens. Finally, a young man tells her why it's happening: he and the daughter of the opposing house were Star-Crossed Lovers, and made a deal with Cupid to have the day repeat itself until he finds a way to keep his lover from killing herself and their families from killing each other; until a "Hero would come along to save [the girl], make peace between the houses and end the loop." He had numerous chances to tell Xena, but the thing is:
- Despite this blow to her pride, and nearly being driven crazy trying to sort it out, Xena is able to save the day by using logic — and her trusty chakram — after analyzing the countless loops she had to go through.
- Power Rangers and its source material, Super Sentai:
- Even heroes aren't immune to holding out for other heroes. In Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger/Power Rangers S.P.D., the Rangers begin to slack off when their commanding officer becomes a Sixth Ranger and begins busting heads. As soon as he finds out, he begins answering calls for backup with "Suck it up and do it yourself."
- In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, there's an episode where Tommy is in a coma and the other Rangers lose their powers. The Monster of the Week keeps attacking the city, leading to a news caster asking the question, "Where are the Power Rangers?"
- In Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, when the Gokaiger makes their arrival on Earth, the first thing the citizens ask them are "Are you guys the new Super Sentai?" Justified in this case, since pretty much all of the active previous teams got depowered in the process of stopping the last invasion. Given that even the technology-based teams also couldn't seem to recreate their powers, they were Earth's only protectors, and the only other team that would emerge before the Super Sentai powers were restored happened almost a year into the Gokaiger's stay on Earth.
- This is frankly a recurring problem in many tokusatsu series. The civilians' only purpose is to be affected by the villains threatening them, and the help they provide is to cheer for the heroes. Many times, they've even proven themselves to be Ungrateful Townsfolk the very moment the heroes appear to act out of line, to the point of lynching five high schoolers due to one of their classmates getting injured during an attack or antagonizing the super-powered teens they believed to cause the monster attacks.
- Linkara actually expresses exasperation one time Apathetic Citizens and Adults Are Useless is in full play in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. In the introductory scene of the soon-to-be replacement Rangers, Rocky, Adam, and Aisha; they, the half of the team they're not replacing, and Bulk and Skull are the only ones attempting to stop a carriage rolling down a hill, and any person that could easily have halted it just dives out of the way as if it was a bullet train.
Linkara: MY GOD! These people deserve to be destroyed by Zedd.
- One very MAJOR aversion to this is the Grand Finale to the Zordon Era in Power Rangers in Space. The five remaining Space Rangers (Red had decided to sneak aboard the Big Bad's floating base to save the captured Zordon) make their Last Stand against the invasion force. Hot off the heels of their I Am Spartacus moment, Bulk and Skull rally the citizens of Angel Grove to join in the fray. While Status Quo Is God applies after this, it's implied by later series that this change of attitude resulted in Ranger tech becoming more and more widespread in varying degrees to allow the regular citizens to slightly more effectively fend off against any active forces of evil until any active Rangers can show up, most notably with the Lightspeed organization.
- In an episode of My Hero, Thermoman accidentally erases his own memory, forgetting all about his identity as a superhero and only retaining his George Sunday persona. Janet is reluctant in reminding him who he is partially due to seeing him so happy and partially due to Janet wanting a normal life for once. Of course, this causes crime and other disasters to sky-rocket (in fact, a news report even mentions that many firefighting and police services around the world have been shut down because Thermoman made them redundant). To make matters worse, a meteor is suddenly heading towards the Earth...
- Brother Tuck suggests the people of Locksley and surrounding areas are becoming like this in Robin Hood:
Tuck: The Lord helps those who helps themselves, Robin. Your protection weakens them. We're failing in our mission. We're supposed to be inspiring these men to stand up and fight for themselves, giving them real hope.
- LazyTown's Sportacus came to the town with the aim of helping the kids live more healthy and active lives, but he seems to be the only form of law enforcement in the town and ends up spending most of his time rescuing the kids from dangerous situations.
- This may sometimes seem that way in the Arrowverse, especially in Central City (Earth 1) or National City (Earth 38). In the former, the cops are simply unprepared to deal with the metahuman-of-the-week. On the other hand, they will cordon off the area in order to limit the collateral damage between the metahuman's fights with the Flash. In National City, it's pretty much the same, although the presence of DEO headquarters in the city does help. Lampshaded in Arrow, where some have pointed out that the Green Arrow fighting crime has resulted in people no longer trusting the cops to do their jobs.
- Ultra Series: This trope is sometimes given as the reason why "transform into Ultraman" isn't the response to the monster showing up and the Anti-Monster group helping that particular Ultra have to make an effort first — the Ultras don't want humanity to DEPEND on them, they want them to progress to the point they can fight side-by-side WITH them.
- Taken to a parodic extreme in The 10th Kingdom. The Fourth Kingdom is invaded by trolls, but have so much faith in their Prince (who is in no position to do anything about it) saving the day that they do absolutely nothing to fight back. The troll king remarks to an ally that war is much more fun when there's no enemy.
- On Criminal Minds people fall into three categories: The BAU and other law enforcement personnel, serial killers, and helpless lambs to the slaughter. It is exceedingly rare for the victims to (effectively) fight back, and in a country with more guns than people a lone gunman with a pistol can exterminate a whole bus or take an entire train car hostage. Even when people know that the local home invasion killers kill everybody, they will patiently wait for their turn to die instead of attempting to fight back in a last-ditch effort. One can only wonder if some of those UnSubs are actually doing the gene pool a favor.
- BIONICLE's Matoran villagers on the island Mata Nui halfway averted this, as they kept Makuta's forces at bay for nearly a thousand years, but were already tiring and losing people. The arrival of the Toa then tipped the balance of power into their favor. In what could be a subversion, the Toa only rushed to their help because they were a dandy lot of heroic chaps, and because due to their amnesia, they didn't remember that protecting villagers wasn't the reason they had been sent there.
- Deconstructed in the Rock Opera penned by The Protomen, where The Dragon's FaceHeel Turn is motivated by his realizing that the human race would rather wait for a superhero to save them than take any action on their own part. The suite's defining theme, indeed, is whether a people who refuse to fight for themselves deserve to live.
- It's an exceptionally depressing case. Protoman's Villain Song sounds less like him condemning humanity's refusal to fight and more like him pleading for them to get angry enough at his betrayal to finally act. When Megaman has to kill Protoman, he too abandons humanity to their own inaction.
- The Protomen's prequel album, Father of Death, also runs with this theme. Dr. Light believes humans are strong enough that they would refuse someone trying to wrest control from them, even if they do it "for their own good". Dr. Wily disagrees. Guess who won that argument?
- Also deconstructed/played with in "Hero" by Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, where he notes how everyone figures they just need a hero to come save them, but he's "not gonna stand here and wait"...ultimately becoming that hero.
- "Holding Out for a Hero", by Bonnie Tyler, the Trope Namer, only partly counts as an example. The lyrics imply the singer desires a heroic figure for a lover, but the original context counts against it: The song was specifically written for a scene in Footloose in which the protagonist is challenged to a Game of Chicken in a tractor, and finds himself the accidental victor (his shoelaces get stuck in the gearing, preventing him from bailing out), making him an Accidental Hero at best. (Although, the song has been used in many movies, television series, and even video games during Big Damn Heroes moments.)
- "We Don't Need Another Hero" (Thunderdome), sung by Tina Turner. Although written for Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, it argues against the idea that only Max's heroics are required to save everyone in an After the End world.
- Megadeth's 2001 album is titled The World Needs A Hero.
- "Liberate" by Disturbed:
Waiting, for your modern messiah
To take away all the hatred
That darkens the light in your eye
- "Voices Of Violence" by Billy Talent discourages this mindset:
Don't wait for a knight in shining armor
Your savior's reflected in the mirror
- "Skydweller" by Rave The Reqviem subverts this.
I need a savior
Deus ex machina
A celestial defender
No fear, no outcry
I'm the only hero left alive
- Skillet's "Hero" provides a subversion. After repeating, "I need a hero to save me now" over and over, they end the song with, "I've got a hero / Livin' in me."
- Eddie Kingston was still a rudo when Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes formed at the end of the 2009 CHIKARA Season Finale Three-Fisted Tales on November 22, 2009. However, when they were all standing shoulder to shoulder and Ares instructed Carpenter Ant (Pinkie Sanchez) to unmask, someone in the crowd chanted "We want Kingston!," as if he was the only one who could solve this problem.
- Rick Martel used the Trope Namer as his entrance music in the American Wrestling Association.
- The MMORPG City of Heroes plays this to multiple ends:
- On one hand, the presence of superpowered beings in Primal Earth doesn't stop the world's militaries and police forces from trying their best to handle things on their own. Until the Rikti War, for example, Paragon City's police department was confident in its ability to "serve and protect" without relying on heroes to do all the work. Even when the war's aftermath left the PPD barely able to function, Chief Conrad Bochco vowed to protect the city without seeking alliances or help from the numerous hero organizations—but the PPD is not above letting superpowered beings join the police force, as Blue Steel shows. (This is why the PPD's Awakened Division, comprised of officers who fused with Kheldians, is so controversial within the police force; some argue it's a form of relying on outside help.)
- On the other, the citizens of Paragon City often hold out for a hero when criminals and villains confront them (some of the purse-snatching gang members will even accuse their victims of this), knowing full well that a hero will (hopefully) step in and save them. Many are still ungrateful about it, though ("There you are! There's never a hero around when you need one!").
- And the trope is turned upside-down in the City of Villains expansion. There, the global criminal organization Arachnos has somehow legally become the government of what's now known as the Rogue Isles. The police basically exist to minimize the threat to the government rather than serve and protect the common people, and Lord Recluse has reduced the laws to "Do what you have the power to get away with". Crime is so rampant that, for the first 30 or so levels, a villain character only fights other villains to come out on top. The trope comes into play because most citizens have completely given up hope of proper law and order being reinstated, and rather than hold out for a hero usually just live constantly looking over their shoulder and ready to duck for cover.
- Averted in Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and its American counterpart, Elite Beat Agents. "Ouendan" can be roughly translated as "cheer squad"... and that's your job, my friend. The duty of the Ouendan and the Agents is to provide encouragement through song and dance - the person being aided does the actual work. The only exception in either series is the last level of either game, where the Ouendan/Agents act as the focus for the Combined Energy Attack.
- Averted in Ōkami: Although you, playing Amaterasu, have been helping the braggart swordsman Susano achieve fame by performing miraculous feats which he believes are his own, it doesn't take him long to realize that he's being "played with" by the gods. He then renounces any further help and goes off on his own. (Although you do get to assist him one last time, against Orochi, he deals the final blow all by himself.) Additionally, although Amaterasu is able to defeat Yami, the Lord of Eternal Darkness, it's only because the faith of all the people of Nippon granted her the divine might to do so.
- Ultima IX was strongly themed on this trope. The Avatar was originally intended to be a role model, an example to follow, but after saving Britannia so many times, the people simply held out for the Avatar to solve all their problems. This was Lampshaded by the Big Bad, and in Moonglow, the town of Honesty a cranky citizen laid down the most brutal truth.
- While the The Legend of Zelda series is a prime offender of this notion, it is subverted in the backstory for The Wind Waker, the first game in the "Adult Timeline". When Ganon eventually returns, the people of Hyrule are confident the Hero of Time will return to defeat him once more... but he doesn't. Helpless, the citizens desperately pray to the gods for assistance, who are left with no other option but to flood Hyrule to prevent Ganon from taking over.
- An aversion shows up in the beginning of the "Decline Timeline", in which Link is killed in the final battle with Ganon in Ocarina of Time. However, the knights of Hyrule and the seven Sages manage to thwart and seal away Ganon in the corrupted Sacred Realm themselves after a great war, forming the backstory of A Link to the Past.
- This is very much the state of Sylvarant in Tales of Symphonia, where everyone seems to be mostly reliant on the fact that The Chosen One will have to save them all. Nobody seems to think much about what having all these hopes and that responsibility shoved onto her this does for the Chosen's self-esteem.
- The Republic in Knights of the Old Republic had quite a lot of this, as Kreia points out in KOTOR 2. The Republic is incapable of handling the marauding Mandalorians until a few Jedi join them. Kreia even has a philosophy based on this. Helping people by solving their problems for them only makes them weaker by taking away to conflict that could have made them stronger. She's fine with the player "helping" people, but only so long as the player understands that what they're doing isn't actually helping those people, but helping themselves by making them dependent on the player.
- A Closed Fist argument against heroism in Jade Empire. The way to help others isn't to solve their problems, but to force them to suffer and grow strong enough to survive without some wandering PC solving all their problems.
- Dragon Quest:
- Dragon Quest I: Double subversion. Many warriors went out to fight the Dragonlord and retrieve the Ball of Light and the Princess, but neither of them returned; so the King and the Alefgardians had become reduced to hope that the prophecy about the coming of the descendant of Erdrick was right.
- Dragon Quest III: After Ortega's death, it feels like the whole world basically just waited for his heir to come of age. Certainly everyone in your hometown did. But heyno pressure, right?
- Dragon Quest VII picks this apart in small-scale with the Love Dodecahedron in Verdham. If Linda simply talked to Borlock and explained she loved Pepe and not his son Iwan, she could easily get him to abandon the Arranged Marriage and find some other way of repaying her late parents' debt. Instead, Linda expects Pepe to sweep in and fix everything, despite knowing that Pepe is an Extreme Doormat whom she's forcing to choose between her love and his family's welfare. Ultimately, this Fatal Flaw costs her everything when Pepe decides the only way to resolve the situation is to take himself out of the picture.
- Dragon Quest Builders: In the final chapter, the Builder is told by Rubiss that the life force she imbued them with has largely been used up in the process of crafting the three relics needed to defeat the Dragonlord. Knowing this, the Builder decides that instead of living out a long life holding out for a hero, they'll spend what life force they have left facing the Dragonlord to make things better for everyone else now.
- This trope gets discussed in Wild ARMs 2. In fact the whole question of what it really means to be a hero is a major theme of the game.
- In pretty much all Pokémon games, we see useless police and Apathetic Citizens who wait for some random 10-year-old to do everything for them.
- In Pokémon Ranger, the residents of Fall City needs Rangers' help for things like finding lost Pokémon, moving boxes, and lighting up dark rooms. Luckily, by the end, they become more self-reliant.
- Subverted and lampshaded in Pokémon Black and White. Subverted in that several authority figures, including most of the Gym Leaders and the retired Champion, are trying to curb Team Plasma's more criminal acts, but fail because they don't have the information (or destiny) that you do. The lampshading is mostly by Team Plasma members, who are pushing N to be the "hero" so they can outlaw Pokémon husbandry, and N himself, who wishes the Apathetic Citizens cared as much as you do.
- The quest-givers in World of Warcraft will sometimes fall into this. Sure, the racial capitals have level 80-something guards patrolling the streets, the throne rooms have level 80-something elites standing by, and the starter areas have level 90 elites standing around doing very little, but they can still send level 5 players to take care of the local orc problem. Some of the quest-givers are just people who send the players to collect those 20 Bear Asses, even though it's their jobs, but because they're either very tired or just too lazy to do it. You'll also sometimes run into a very high-leveled quest giver in a low-level area who asks you to take care of a problem they're perfectly capable of handling, sometimes not even seeming that busy.
- Happens in Spore's Space age, but it's only one way. If the player attacks another empire, a dozen or more ships which also continuously spawn more along with the turrets in each city will attack the player relentlessly, probably killing or driving off the player early on until the player gets the topmost upgrades. However, if one of the player's colonies or allies is attacked their planets offer only a token resistance expecially if they lack turrets while calling for the player to help them, and if the player doesn't show up, whatever planet was attacked is pretty much forfeit.
- Dragon Age: Origins has one point where the Warden has the option to do this after being captured and thrown in prison. You can either attempt to break out on your own (not terribly difficult, even without your gear), or simply say that you're sure your friends will rescue you and chose which two party members will attempt the jailbreak.
- Several of the quests in Mass Effect can come off this way, though the implication is that, no matter how long you take to get around to jumping on that quest, you got there just in time to help pull them back from the brink.
- An example of this being played straight is Liara's recruitment mission in Mass Effect: You find her trapped in a forcefield she accidentally activated when her research camp came under attack. Her dialogue changes based on how many quests you did before recruiting her, with the clear implication that she has been hanging there the whole time waiting for someone to come get her out. This doesn't speak too badly of her, she was unable to move after all, but it does make the would-be kidnappers who have been camping right on top of the equipment you use to save her this whole time without pushing the "on" button look pretty stupid.
- Subverted in Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime when Mother Glooperior asks two other slimes to help her move a heavy iron ball, because it would've been unfair of them to expect Rocket to do everything.
- Fallout: New Vegas: Due to a combination of contradictory orders, bureaucratic red tape, stretched resources, and General "Wait-and-See" Oliver's strategy, the NCR can't accomplish very much at all without the Courier's assistance. They need his/her help to run supplies, train soldiers and medical personnel, interrogate prisoners, catch Legion spies, assassinate Raider leaders, carry out diplomatic missions, and even retake towns that have fallen into Legion hands. If the player doesn't do them, they simply never get done, as the epilogue shows.
- In RuneScape, Major Mary Rancour gets upset and starts ranting during the quest Kindred Spirits about how her Burthorpe Guards have started slacking in their duties, as the World Guardian will just come along and undo any damage done by troll invasions.
- In Final Fantasy X the inhabitants of Spira have accepted over generations that the only relief they will ever receive from the city-destroying Sin is the Summoners and their pilgrimage to obtain the Final Aeon- at least until Sin inevitably returns again reborn from the Final Aeon itself. During Operation Mi'ihen, the Crusaders and the Al'Bhed team up for a unique attempt to subvert the trope by trying to destroy Sin themselves with a powerful machina cannon. It fails, almost all of them die, and the survivors are excommunicated from the Church of Yevon for their heresy, and the people of Spira had presumably tried (and failed) to fight Sin in the past, so to be fair you can kind of understand their complacent mindset.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- Played straight in general throughout the series. In many, many cases, it's almost as if Quest Givers are simply waiting around for the Player Character to come along. Granted, this can be considered Justified by the fact that the player character is always the Hero of the Age, foretold by prophecy and "blessed" with the ability to rule their own fate (also the justification for the players involvement), so effectively superhuman.
- Morrowind includes a prominent specific example in its main quest. The Big Bad, a Plaguemaster Physical God, has returned and, in desperation, the Tribunal have trapped him within his volcano stronghold using a magic Great Wall. While the divine powers of the Tribunal are waning (due to being cut off from their source of divine power which lies within the volcano), the Tribunal Temple which worships them had strong Church Militant and Church Police forces, as well as support from the Proud Warrior Great House of the Dunmer people. At no point are these forces used offensively to attack the Big Bad or his forces. Later, dialogue with one of the Tribunal dieties implies (and out-of-game developer written texts strongly support) that he truly believes that You Can't Fight Fate, and knew that the Nerevarine would eventually come along to save the day.
- Skyrim's Civil War plotline has this in spades. The two sides are effeectively deadlocked: the secessionist Stormcloak rebels in eastern Skyrim while the Imperial loyalists and their Imperial Legion forces hold western Skyrim. Other than some skirmishes in the countryside, the two sides are completely deadlocked. Only the involvement of the Dragonborn can break the stalemate. By joining one side, the Dragonborn will be instrumental in leading the attacks for that side on opposition forts and cities. Even if you do not choose a side, you'll still impact the situation during the main quest when you must call for a summit and a ceasefire to deal with the dragon crisis. It can make you wonder what would have happened if the Dragonborn never came along.
- 8-Bit Theater evoked this trope and named it "The Superman Complex", and then showed the problems of relying on it in this Crapsack World.
- The Gods of Arr-Kelaan when Mike, god of Honor/Valor, first gained his powers he worked as a superhero causing this effect. He decided he needed to change his strategy.
- In the Sluggy Freelance arc "Phoenix Rising," Oasis takes the role of vigilante protector for the town of Podunkton. Most of the citizens accept her either out of gratitude or fear of being next on her hit list, and the local police force thinks this is just peachy, since they get to collect their government paychecks without having to do squat. Officer Tod does prove himself able to hold his own against an expert assassin, though, having been a mob enforcer before Oasis cleaned up the town.
- Implied in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja when the new mayor is attacked by dinosaurs.
Mayor Goodrich: The police won't deal with this?
Driver: Yeah, we're all pretty used to waiting for Dr. McNinja to handle the weird stuff.
- Happens briefly in The Order of the Stick. After the city is overrun by hobgoblins, several of the fleeing soldiers accidentally become aware of the elf wizard who had fought alongside them also fleeing the invading army under a spell of invisibility. These soldiers actually stop their retreat and proceed to bombard the elf with demands to save them, turn them invisible, teleport them out of there, blast the hobgoblins, anything. Unfortunately for them, said wizard is completely out of spells by this point and can only watch as they are slaughtered by the hobgoblins.
- In Dubious Company, Sal plays this straight since she has the favor of a god and 1,025 kidnappings to justify it before meeting the pirates. She and the pirates then become accustomed to Tiren saving them, until they all get captured. Once they realize the severity of Kreedor's plan for Sal, the rest of the crew are forced to pull their weight.
Walter: We've still got Tiren! (Cut to Tiren chained up, in stocks, from a suspended metal box in a separate cell.)Tiren: My nose itches.
- In I Don't Want This Kind of Hero, Dana, the chief of the resident Heroes "R" Us, feels that this has become the case, making the 'heroes' a form of evil in disguise. That said, she then adds that regardless, someone in danger should always get help, and thus if someone else is in danger, they should help them.
- In El Goonish Shive, when Elliot gets captured by Damien, Tedd advocates waiting for his father instead of Ellen, Grace and Nanase going to rescue him themselves even though Mr. Verres is unreachable.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a deconstruction of this concept. The city worships its superheroes and relies on them to fight evil regardless of their personal qualities, which allows Captain Hammer to get away with being a total jerk to everyone who isn't as strong as he is. Captain Hammer's boorish behavior is what turns Doctor Horrible into a super villain, and their squabble over the one person who is genuinely trying to make the city a better place ends up killing her.
- Occasionally invoked in Jabootu's Challenge of the Superfriends recaps, when making a snarky comment on the (non-super) characters' stupid actions, for example:
Here, a passenger dirigible impales itself (!!) on what looks suspiciously like the Chrysler Building. You know, Im pretty sure theyre not supposed to be flying that low. On the other hand, if the entire human race is getting lazy and stupid because of superheroes always saving them, then Metropolis must be that phenomenons epicenter.
- Cell in Dragon Ball Z Abridged pretty much sums up what happened to Dragon Ball Z after Goku unlocks Super Saiyan, where the even remotely capable cast Can't Catch Up to the exponentially powerful Saiyans and their even more powerful offsprings and leave everything out for Goku to defeat and save the day. It's actually one of Abridged Vegeta's major berserk buttons.
So, 'prince', why don't you remember your place like the rest of them, and wait for Goku.
- In Welcome to Night Vale, everybody is perfectly happy to allow Tamika Flynn and her child army take on StrexCorp and their lack of help leads to them losing and being captured. Cecil gives everyone a disappointed lecture about this trope before he, too, is taken into custody.
- An infamous 4chan /tg/ post deconstructed this trope rather well by showing just why RPG townspeople rely on Player Characters to do everything for them: they just plain suck at doing things themselves. The DM forced the players into the role of various regular townspeople attempting to help out the town innkeeper with his rat problem. For regular PCs, this would be a trivial first quest to complete when starting a new campaign. For these schmucks? Total Party Kill. Then they rerolled different schmucks and suffered another Total Party Kill, and then two more before the session was over. Next session, they went back to playing a normal campaign, and several weeks later, their party came upon a devastated village in the wilderness, with all the townspeople long dead. They wondered what could have happened to the village to put it in this state, until they saw the unmistakable corpses of their third group of useless schmucks and realized where they were. Quote the poster, "We never bitched about helping out some random NPC with his rat problem again."
- In Justice League, Dr. Amanda Blake Waller, of the Cadmus group, is half of the time sympathetically depicted in her frustration at this; despite "extra-legal" (and in some cases, downright hideous) methods of dealing with it.
- The Powerpuff Girls:
- One episode was devoted to showing how the citizens of Townsville have become so used to the girls taking care of everything from invading monsters to fires to getting cats out trees that every problem is shrugged off with, "Oh, the Powerpuff Girls will take care of it." This causes the girls to go on strike. Subverted somewhat, in that they still had to help the townsfolk realize that monster+electrical wires+water>soggy toast. They didn't get the "toaster in the bathtub" analogy, and instead took it to mean they had to get the monster's toast soggy. The girls spelled it out for them. Then the townsfolk claimed total credit for it, and started exulting that they didn't need the Powerpuff Girls anymore.
- Reversed in another episode that had an obsessive collector of Powerpuff Girl merchandise capture the Girls themselves to add to his collection. The people of Townsville paid the girls back for helping them by going to the collector's house and ripping up all his merchandise, freeing the Girls in the process. Since he was a flabby, bald, overweight Otaku with no powers, there wasn't much he could do to stop them.
- Another episode had the girls replaced by a phony hero called Major Man, a Superman expy with genuine powers who was secretly setting up crimes so he could stop them and get the credit; the citizens of Townsville give him it because he's outwardly a more impressive and traditional hero than three kindergarten girls. When the girls find out what he's been up to (he literally kicks a dog onto the road to save it), they set a friendly monster called Fred on the city and he is completely overpowered, and useless as he never set it up and never fought real crime or monsters. When Fred first attacked, the citizens of Townsville happily ignored him as they thought "Major Man will take care of it"; they only panicked when he didn't.
- And yet another episode had a cop go nuts thinking that the reason he was fired from the force was because of the PPG taking all the credit for stopping crime and making the cops look bad and losing funding. He was actually fired because he was a corrupt, incompetent Jerkass (he's asleep during an armed robbery, and his apartment is full of seized merchandise), and he decides to take revenge on the girls using some of Mojo Jojo's old equipment that he stole from the evidence locker. He is thwarted by his fellow officers, leading the narrator to give the police department partial credit for saving the day at the end of the episode.
- The first episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold has Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes)'s scarab warp him and Batman to a distant planet that was once saved by a previous wielder of the Beetle powers. The amoeba-like inhabitants are being enslaved and want Jaime to rescue them, but he tries to convince them to stand up on their own two feet. It takes a while.
Jaime: And remember, it's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!
Batman: They don't have knees.
- This is frequent in Fireman Sam. In one of the most striking examples, a hob has been left on, and some paper napkins catch fire. Now, that's bad, but you'd think that someone among the half-a-dozen adults would be able to deal with it. Nope, they just panic and shout for help, calling out two fire trucks to save the day. Even worse, one of those present is actually a fireman himself, and his reaction is to yell "Call for Fireman Sam!".
- Averted in the animated film, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, where initially President Slade Wilson (one of the few heroes left on the parallel Earth) refuses to use nuclear weapons against the Crime Syndicate. At the end of the film, President Wilson leads an army of space marines to assist the Justice League in apprehending the Crime Syndicate.
- Earlier in the film, when the heroic Lex Luthor brings the Justice League to his earth, he asks Superman not to interfere in his fight with Ultraman, saying it won't mean anything if an outsider defeats him.
- Utilized in a very dark way in Superman: Doomsday. After seemingly coming back from the dead, one of Superman's first acts is to save a little old lady's cat from being stuck in a tree. However, he then gives an uncharacteristically cold lecture to the old woman that there were larger crimes going on and that he cannot always be there for the little things that he thinks people should take care of. At the same time, he sees Metropolis as his city and even mentions his actions are for their own good. It turns out this Superman is actually a modified clone created by Lex Luthor as part of an experiment to create an army of Supermen to serve him. However, said clone is still Superman at the core and he proceeds to stop Luthor's plan and he ultimately must be stopped by the real Superman (alive, but weakened) with help from Lois and Jimmy.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Mysterious Mare Do Well" has Rainbow Dash and the eponymous mare running around saving folks. At least two involved a road down a steep hill that led directly off a cliff. Nopony thought to build a crash barrier.
- The enslaved hares in Bucky O'Hare were waiting for the titular hero to rescue them. This annoys insurrectionist Mimi La Floo, who is trying to set up a resistance movement, to no end.
- In Superfriends, the American heroes are called upon around the world for emergencies, even for local issues. For instance, when a plane crashes in a remote region of Tibet, the local authorities call upon Superman and The Flash to help get to them in time even while they on the other side of the planet in America. It does help that they are each super fast.
- Batman: The Animated Series, "Joker's Favor": Charlie Collins is just a muggle everyman that yelled at a bad driver only to realize too late that it was the Joker and spent the next two years on the run from him. Even though Charlie eventually gets Batman's attention to help him, in the end, it's Charlie himself who faces down his tormentor, and does such a good job of it that by the end of it, the Joker is yelling for Batman to come help him.
- One U.S. Acres segment of Garfield and Friends involves a new rooster named Plato taking Roy's place. When the weasel invades the farm and steals the chickens, the rooster runs and hides. Orson vigorously attempts to shame and then forcibly drag the rooster to do his job. By the time he drags him there though, Roy (with some help from Wade) had sent the weasel packing (since in Wade's running away, he found Roy and informed him of the situation, before assisting in chasing away the weasel.)
- The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo: In the episode "It's a Wonderful Scoob," Scooby, having suffered a major Heroic BSoD while trying to capture Time Slime, quits the gang and leaves; to convince him to return, Vincent Van Ghoul shows him a Bad Future where Time Slime rules the world. In said Bad Future, Shaggy, the only member of the gang who hasn't pulled a FaceHeel Turn, has gone completely insane, adamantly insisting that one day, Scooby will return and save the world.
- Played with in SWAT Kats, the Enforcers combine law enforcement with being a full-time standing army as they have everything from patrol cops to assault infantry and battle tanks with air support from gunship helicopters and fighter jets. One episode even confirmed they have a navy with an aircraft carrier. However, while they do a good job apparently keeping Megakat City at a relatively good level of law and order, they are constantly outgunned by the villains of the episode being completely dependent on the Swat Kats to save them.
- In the She-Ra and the Princesses of Power episode "Flowers for She-Ra", the kingdom of Plumeria runs into trouble when the Horde uses machines to poison the Heart-Blossom tree that grants the Plumerians their Green Thumb powers. As they are largely a pacifist kingdom, their defenses are poor and they believe that karma will punish the Horde for their malfeasance in the form of She-Ra. When Adora, Glimmer, and Bow arrive to help, the Plumerians are overjoyed by the arrival of their savior, but quickly become disappointed in Adora when she is unable to use She-Ra's magic to heal the Heart-Blossom. Adora's team decides to destroy the Horde's machines by themselves, prompting an epiphany from Princess Perfuma and forcing her and the Plumerians to realize that they can't continue to rely on She-Ra alone, and that they need to stand up for themselves to protect their kingdom.
- As anyone who has worked at some sort of repair, warranty, or other help-related job can verify, people will do the most... inane things under the belief that simply calling Technical Support will solve everything or that "it's covered in the warranty".
- In general, science, technology, and other general ideas are sometimes treated this way too. Whether it's okay to do something silly because 'it can just be fixed' or reasoning that some things aren't needed because 'they' can always make it better later or what have you.
- Sometimes this trope is Justified if trying to solve the problem yourself will only make things worse. People who try to fix their cars or rewire their basements without knowing what they're doing can easily Doom It Yourself when waiting for a professional to do the job would actually ensure that it's done right.
- In general, science, technology, and other general ideas are sometimes treated this way too. Whether it's okay to do something silly because 'it can just be fixed' or reasoning that some things aren't needed because 'they' can always make it better later or what have you.
- It has also been studied and observed in psychology; when a group of people is presented with a crisis — someone in the next room screaming for help, for instance — an individual will act, but a group of people will freeze. Why? Because in a group, everyone is waiting for someone else to step forward, take charge, be proactive... be the "hero", in other words. And the larger the group, the worse the dithering and the longer the wait will be before someone acts.... However, this should probably be counted as a subversion, because it is the "hero" who steps up and takes charge who inspires the rest of the group to act (which is why 'taking charge' and giving out orders is taught to students in CPR classes. It jolts bystanders out of their freeze.)
- The important part of this is singling out individuals. You don't say "Someone call an ambulance", because this trope will often mean nobody will do so. You point at a single person and say "You, in the Red Shirt, call for an ambulance now!"
- This has since been labelled the bystander effect. It is also known as "Genovese syndrome" after the 1962 stabbing of Kitty Genovese in the Kew Gardens section of Queens where, according to a New York Times article published a couple of weeks after her murder, dozens of neighbors purportedly heard about the stabbing but no one did anything about it like call the police. The details of the article have since been criticized as inaccurate, but the event drew attention to the social phenomenon.
- Also inverted, in that many police departments tend to encourage something like this trope and discourage regular citizens from trying to take the law into their own hands or acting as heroes in dangerous situations such as crimes (beyond calling the emergency services when necessary, performing basic first aid if trained, or doing what's necessary to keep someone alive, of course). This is usually under the rationale that the emergency services are trained to deal with these situations, and an untrained citizen who barges in half-cocked trying to be a hero will often end up making things worse, putting themselves in danger, or even getting themselves killed.
- This trope describes the economic concept of "Moral Hazard", which is the idea that a party insulated from risk will behave differently than they would if fully exposed to the risk. The Ur-Example used in class is the "seatbelt law". Studies have shown that people who wear seatbelts tend to drive faster than those who don't, the idea being that because the seatbelts make them safer, they take more risks.
- This is also known as "Risk Compensation."
- Seen in many arguments about nuclear waste or global warming or overuse of antibiotics or the like. "Don't worry about it, future technology will be able to handle it, they will invent a way".
- Look at how many students do not do their schoolwork or turn in substandard work, thinking that the teacher will throw in a bunch of extra credit or other ways to boost the student's grades.
- Doubly funny when the extra credit work is usually harder or more tedious than the main coursework, defeating the purpose of slacking off and relying on extra credit work only.
- One wonders if more banks will be willing to offer irresponsible loans, and people will feel tempted to take them, thinking that the US government is going to bail them out as in the case of Lehman Brothers and General Motors... and the Savings and Loan crisis of the early 1990s.
- That depends on whether those institutions believe they will get another bailout, which seems rather unlikely given the unpopularity of the last one. It's worth noting that the last financial crisis didn't come about because the banks expected to be saved, but because they failed to notice the risks they were taking even when economists warned them. There was also an element of hot potato involved as the trades that caused the problem were extremely lucrative as long as you weren't stuck with them at the end.