Like many Real Life conventions, a restraining order in fiction is only as effective as the Rule of Drama or Rule of Funny need it to be.
So you've slapped your Stalker with a Crush with a restraining order? Guess what — it won't do a thing to protect you. It just encourages your stalker to get creative (for instance, getting a helicopter license). So you're a Heroic Comedic Sociopath who's been told never to go in that bar again (don't ask — it involved noodles)? You'll be shot on sight if you go anywhere near it.
Unfortunately, even in Real Life, restraining orders work on the honor system (think of it like the Amish computer virus). A restraining order cannot physically separate one person from another (unless the offender is fitted with an electronic implant that delivers traumatic shocks whenever he or she gets too close, but that's usually only in futuristic or dystopian stories — or, more realistically, an ankle monitor used for electronic tagging, which has often happened); it just means the other person can call the police and have them arrested on sight if they're violating it.
Also, restraining orders on TV usually require the person to maintain a minimum specified distance from another, such as 500 feet, and a common comedy gag is for the person to be dog-piled by an army of police officers the very microsecond they cross some invisible line in the sand and get "too close" to the person in question. In reality, restraining orders usually just order the person to generally refrain from contacting, harassing, following, or stalking the other person, something that doesn't deter a determined stalker (otherwise the offender could violate it entirely by accident just by, for example, being unfortunate enough to go to the same Starbucks at the same hour as the victim). Another such gag involves the person for whom the order was issued torturing the restrained person by continually approaching them, under threat of the order being enforced (another reason they aren't given specific distance limits). In reality, if you approach someone against whom you have a restraining order, they are not considered to have violated it, and if you do so continually, you may find yourself in legal hot water for abuse of the order.
See also Persona Non Grata.
- Nao Sadatsuka of Food Wars! is not allowed within fifty meters of Erina, so she has to settle for sending countless letters and watching her through a pair of binoculars. Notably, this isn't enforced by a court order; its a penalty inflicted on her for losing a Cooking Duel (which is very much a case of Serious Business in this series) against Erina's assistant, who still regrets that she didn't think to ban those behaviors at the time.
- In a MAD article about student athletics, one suggestion is made that football field yard lines can be used as measurement for a restraining order. A police officer, using this method, finds that one parent who holds a sign saying "Go Artie! Die Coach!" is not violating the order.
- Spider-Man: One story had a young woman named Vanna Smith get a restraining order against Spider-Man, thinking he was stalking her. The ruling judge explicitly observed that he was just doing this for her state of mind, and also observed that he was restricting the range of the order so that she couldn't complain if Spider-Man just happened to swing overhead her current location. A flash-forward at the fic's conclusion had a woman (all but explicitly confirmed to be Mary Jane) point out to Vanna that her and Spider-Man interacting as much as they did was never anything more than a fluke, and the restraining order would never have stopped him from getting close if he was in the vicinity and she was in danger.
- Shawn claims to have one of these in Carlton's Worst Inhibitions. It's probably not true. Probably.
Shawn: I only have eyes for you, Lassypants. Well, you and Val Kilmer, and he's not returning my phone calls. Although I have been getting letters from his lawyer. How far away is 150 yards?
- In Intrepid, there's a restraining order against Sophia, Madison, and Emma being near Taylor after they hospitalized her. Only each one of them has a power that allows them to sneak in and out without being detected, so there's no way they can actually enforce it. In fact, its Played for Drama when Emma breaks into her hospital room only to find her own father there and learn Taylor had been withdrawn by Danny and lost their home.
- In This Gonna Be Good, Harri gets one against Dumbledore. If he comes closer than fifty meters, the magic involved will physically push him away.
- In the Lucifer (2016) fic "The Devil and His Urchin", at one point encouragement from Chloe to cut himself off from his hostile family prompts Lucifer to deliver a restraining order to Amenadiel and even request that he pass on a similar order to God (Lucifer notes that he had to call in a few favours for that one and he's fairly sure the officials are just humouring him anyway). He acknowledges that it's unlikely either can be enforced, particularly since God is omnipresent, but it's still a fun excuse for Lucifer to troll his family.
- Die Hard 2. The reporter Holly punched out in the first movie has a restraining order against her: she's not allowed to be within 50 yards of him. Too bad they're on a plane together.
- Played for laughs in National Security. The white cop who got jailed for beating up a black man (long story, there was a bee) gets hit with a restraining order when he leaves prison, saying he can't get within a hundred feet of the black man. For most of the film, the black man is following the white cop around, trying to help him solve his partner's murder. When the white cop gets angry about something, the black man responds: "Need I remind you that you are currently in violation of a legally binding restraining order?"
- The latter later asks a police captain if he could "hook a brother up with another restraining order" after remembering that he left a girl chained to a ceiling pipe in the warehouse (they were in the middle of foreplay).
- In Next Friday, Day-Day has one for a thousand feet on a woman who's been going around saying she's pregnant with his kid (she was already pregnant when she met him, so it is clearly not his). Of course she regularly ignores this, routinely damaging Day-Day's property and showing up at his work to harass him. The vandalism she causes forces this into Values Dissonance and Karma Houdina, as she's not punished in any way for it.
- In Osmosis Jones, after Frank unwillingly vomited on a teacher, not only did the incident cost him his job, the woman also filed a restraining order just for that mishap.
- In Anger Management, towards the end of the film Buddy ends up dating Dave's girlfriend, Linda and the court issues a restraining order so that Dave can't come within 500 feet of either of them. Played for Drama. But it turns out to have been a rouse to give Dave the courage to finally stand up for himself and propose to Linda at a Yankee's game.
- On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon gets a restraining order from Stan Lee, which he plans to put next to the one he got from Leonard Nimoy. He later added Bill Nye the Science Guy to the collection.
- An episode of Black Mirror, White Christmas, features a technology called "blocking," which makes it impossible for the blocked person to see you as anything but a gray blob, or understand anything you say. This applies to any pictures of you, as well as your close relatives. If they still try to contact you they get a "legal block," which is basically the same thing as a restraining order. Not only that, but getting on the sex offender registry means that you're blocked to everyone, and are marked out as red instead of gray. A big red target...
- In Community, Professor Duncan gets one against Chang, and uses it to chase him around, keep him in the back of the classroom, and prevent him from getting lunch. He refers to it as his Chang-repelling force-field. Chang later gets a restraining order against him for his abuse of the original restraining order to harass Chang.
Professor Duncan: [Admiringly] Mutually assured destruction. Well played, Chang.
- The Drake & Josh episode "Josh Runs Over Oprah" has the titular TV personality put a restraining order out on Josh for running her over, then trying to get into her hospital room to apologize. He's handed the restraining order at the end of the episode and is despondent... until Drake reveals that Oprah herself signed it.
- Referenced in Friends. Ross gets Phoebe tickets to see Sting; she has to ask him, "Will these seats be within 50 yards of Sting or any member of his family? Then that's not illegal!"
- In one episode of House, the title character has a restraining order put on him for violating a DNR. He has the patient moved to a room directly above the clinic so he doesn't have to do clinic duty.
- In NCIS, Abby got a restraining order against her stalker ex-boyfriend, which he repeatedly violated over the course of the episode. Toward the end, while he's sitting in an interrogation room and waiting for Gibbs to come in, he starts complaining that what NCIS is doing to him qualifies as harassment, and that maybe he should file a restraining order against them. Abby, who's watching him through the two-way mirror, mutters sarcastically about how that tactic "worked wonders" for her.
- Played for Drama in The Practice when exonerated serial killer William Hinks (Michael Emerson) tries to get around his restraining order against Lindsay by studying her routine, showing up where she goes and pretending he couldn't have known she was going to be there.
- Law & Order: SVU had an episode where four witnesses asked for orders of protection against the man they were about to testify against. These would work on similar principle to a restraining order, forbidding the man from going to their workplaces, homes, etc. or he'd be tossed in a cell until trial. Unfortunately, as was pointed out in the show, the law requires that any such orders state specifically where he is not allowed to go, so when the orders were issued, the man now knew where the witnesses lived, worked etc., information he had not had before.
- Another episode had an accused rapist getting slapped with an order of protection to his accusers... Which turned out problematic since they lived in the same neighborhood. True to life, the restraining order did forbid him from directly contacting her, not a specific distance away. It got weird when it looked like he might be stalking her by always being nearby, but he pointed out that since they live close to each other it's not unreasonable to go to the same grocery store.
- The Criminal Minds episode "The Road Home" has an Asshole Victim abusive husband that violated his restraining order to try to kill his wife in broad daylight just after their children had left for school (as she sarcastically points out, "you can see how 'restrained' he was"). You can guess why he became an Asshole Victim.
- CSI: Miami played it mostly straight in a third season episode. One of the suspects had a restraining order against another suspect but since it was only for 150 feet, the second suspect had quickly worked out she could still be within his general vicinity at all times without violating her restraining order.
- In another episode, Boa Vista's former (and abusive) husband gets one against her and then gets a job in a crime scene cleaning company, taking advantage of it to prevent Natalia from doing her job.
- Referenced in an episode of MythBusters, where Adam gives a laundry list of comparisons to show what 500 yards of distance is, capping it off with "the distance of your average restraining order".
- In the episode where they successfully re-tested the Scope Snipe myth, Adam jokes that they no longer have to get one mile restraining orders against angry snipers.
- An episode of The Sentinel had a man who had been harassing Detroit. Ellison file a restraining order against him. He then used it to taunt Ellison by showing up at places where he was, and threatening to call the cops if Ellison reacted to his taunting. Ellison shot back that the restraining order works both ways, and that the man wasn't allowed to come near him, either.
- Teen Wolf has Jackson get his father (a lawyer) to get one against Scott and Stiles in retribution for them kidnapping him and holding him hostage in a police van and tied up in chains (Long story, he's a supernatural lizard creature, but doesn't realize it himself). Because all three of them are attending the same high school, there is a distance imposed between them, which he takes great pain to announce at every possible opportunity.
- Wiseguy. Hollywood music mogul Winston Newquay decides to cramp Vinnie Terranova's style with a restraining order. To his shock, Vinnie quickly produces a court order (issued that very day) stating that he first has to show probable cause. Although Vinnie implies that his Mafia connections are responsible, it's actually because he's an undercover federal agent.
- Reba: After Brock plans to sell his house and move to Las Vegas, Barbra Jean mentions that she can't move to Vegas because she's not allowed within 500 feet of Wayne Newton.
- In the Pilot of My Name Is Earl, Kenny mentions a restraining order against Earl, who bullied him as a child. Earl points out that that restraining order is 20 years old, and was written by the school nurse on a paper bag, in crayon. (i.e. It has no legal standing.)
- In Making Money, after Pucci has pushed into Cosmo's study:
Cosmo: ...and you are forbidden to come within fifteen yards of me. I have an injunction.
Pucci: And you're not allowed to be within twenty yards of me, so you broke it first.
- In For Love of Evil, the Dominican friar Parry asks the Lawful Evil succubus sent to corrupt him to leave him for a day. When he begs, she does leave him, for precisely one day. When he objects to her return, she says calmly "I have left you for a day, Parry."
- In the Dixie Chicks song "Goodbye Earl," when Wanda filed for divorce against her eponymous abusive husband, she had a restraining order put out against him. It didn't do a thing, as Earl "walked right through" it and sent her to the hospital. When Mary Ann, her best friend and Blood Sister heard of this, she dropped everything to be at Wanda's side, and they decided to get together and kill him.
- In "You remind me of a car" by Professor Elemental the object of the professor's affections seems to somehow both have a restraining order against him (requiring him to sing the song through a megaphone) and not know who he is.
- One verse of the "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Do I Creep You Out" mention that the object of the singer's affection has filed a restraining order against her creepy stalker.
- In one storyline, Stephanie McMahon took out a restraining order against The Undertaker. However, there was no restraining order against Kane...
- In another storyline, Owen Hart took out a "TRO" (Temporary Restraining Order) against Steve Austin.
- Booker T finished his feud with The Boogeyman when he revealed he and his wife Sharmell had taken a restraining order against Boogeyman.
- In 1999, Triple H had a restraining order against Vince McMahon (who was a face at the time), leading to one angle where numerous men in Vince McMahon masks came out to go after Helmsley.
- Sting had a restraining order against Karen Jarrett to stop her from interfering with his matches. At one point, he abused it by moving towards her, forcing her to run away before she got arrested.
- Reputedly, a judge somewhere handed one of these out against a woman's ex-husband, requiring him to among other things refrain from setting foot on the street where she lived... Except on Wednesday mornings, because he was a garbage collector and his route took him past her house.
- In the end of Blue Estate, Cherry Popz finally found her cat, Vincent. She then angrily reminds Roy of the restraining order she places on him, telling him not to call her ever again.
- In a rare case of a hero getting some, Rosa from The Blackwell Series is mentioned to have accumulated over a dozen restraining orders, which doesn't really help her standing with the police. As it turns out, investigating strange locales, collecting items for puzzle-solving and talking to ghosts are viewed by mundanes as breaking&entering, theft and general lunacy.
- In Ctrl+Alt+Del, Lucas takes one out against his first girlfriend (who was starting to get a little creepy, may or may not have run him over with her car to meet him and was showing Yandere tendencies). Oddly enough, she's never seen again (apart from once as a hallucination).
- In The Order of the Stick, Miko Miyazaki gets the lawyer Mr. Rodriguez to get a restraining order put on Belkar so he'll stay away from her horse, who he has a deep-seated hatred towards. The problem? Belkar's Chaotic. Belkar had earlier gotten one against her Detect Evil ability, which she's so Lawful Stupid she actually goes along with.
- xkcd gets creative with it.
- In Homestuck, John points out that Cirque de Soleil got a restraining order against his dad due to what can only be considered a Noodle Incident. This may however be a simple ruse on Mr. Egbert's part as he's not that serious about the clowns.
- In General Protection Fault, Mercedes de la Croix, Trent's lawyer, puts a restraining order on Fred, forcing him to work tech support from home while he's on trial for libel against Trent. When Dwayne hands out bonuses, Fred has to come to work to get one (apparently no direct deposit system exists at GPF), and while there, uses his remote control ability to force Trent to do humiliating things and get arrested.
- In Sam & Fuzzy, Earl gets a restraining order against Fuzzy. And a can of bear repellent just in case.
- In Sandra and Woo, Larisa has received an enormous number of orders (from individuals, not courts) on the subject of "You are not to go within X yards of my home ever again". She has them all plotted out on a map of town, and at one point mentions that if she gets any more, she'll have to plot out a new route to school.
- The short-lived lesbian comedy web series 3 Way included two episodes in which a Psycho Lesbian named Leslie was determined to follow ex-lover Geri to the ends of the earth. Geri did everything she could, even going so far as to have her fingerprints sanded off - but Leslie still found her (exactly how this was accomplished is never explained). Leslie befriended Geri's mother, started calling Geri at the most unexpected of times, and seemed to appear from everywhere at once. When Geri finally ran out of places to run and she had to confront Leslie face to face, she warned Leslie that a restraining order had been issued against her. Leslie responded that she knew there was a restraining order; she simply waited for it to expire.
- In "Mario's New Girlfriend", Mario gets a restraining order from Princess Peach, stating that he is not to go within five miles of her. When Peach drops by to pick up her missing thong, Mario asks her if she sent the restraining order by mistake, but Peach assures him that she meant to send it. At first, Mario is desperate to have Peach back, but with help from Black Yoshi, he starts dating Princess Rosalina, and the two continue dating in later episodes. Also in the same episode, Black Yoshi tells Mario that he has his own restraining order from his ex-girlfriend, stating he is not to go within six miles of her.
- In "The Restraining Order!", Chef Pee Pee has had enough of Bowser and Junior tormenting him, so he calls Brooklyn T. Guy to get a restraining order. However, rather than limiting his restraining order to just Bowser, Junior, Joseph, and Cody (as they and nobody else was bothering him, and the numerous residents of Mario's house don't normally antagonize him like they do), Chef Pee Pee has the restraining order declare that nobody can go within ten feet of him. This backfires immensely, particularly when Chef Pee Pee tries to order pizza and recieve a package. Eventually, Chef Pee Pee nearly chokes to death on three Jolly Ranchers, and the restraining order makes everyone unable to rescue him. After an alien saves Chef Pee Pee's life, Chef Pee Pee has Brooklyn call off the restraining order for good.
- In Episode 65 of The Most Popular Girls in School, it's revealed that Cameron van Buren has a 800-yard restraining order against Lunch Lady Belinda. Not that it helped at all.
- The Scott The Woz episode "Launch Titles" sees Scott getting one after trying to set up bets on "which pregnant woman will square one out first" at a local hospital. His punishment includes staying 50 feet away from any pregnant woman and talking about console launch titles for 14 minutes as community service. At the end of the episode he gets another restraining order for heckling dogs at a local pound.
- In an episode of American Dad! Stan kidnaps Greg and Terry's newborn child to be taken out of the country to prevent the baby from being under their custody. At the last moment, Stan decides to return the baby, immediately getting beaten up and has a restraining order to stay far away from the child.
- In the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "The Cubing", while the Aqua Teens are dealing with the Wisdom Cube, Carl has been trying to file a restraining order on the team so he doesn't deal with them anymore. Since he doesn't have enough evidence to properly get one, it's tied up in the courts.
- The Fairly OddParents!: Timmy Turner got one against his Stalker with a Crush Tootie in one episode. It expired by the end of the episode, though.
- The Family Guy Presents: Laugh It Up, Fuzzball reimagines Obi-Wan Kenobi as an elderly pedophile (namely, Herbert) and Darth Vader as a toddler (namely, Stewie). Just before their lightsaber duel, "Vader" reminds "Kenobi" that there's a restraining order in effect against him.
Darth Vader (Stewie): So, Obi-Wan, we meet again. What part of "Stay 50 yards away at all times" don't you understand?
- In Futurama, Bender says "I'm going to go get Calculon's autograph! To hell with that restraining order!"
- In one Cartoon Network short, Mr. Jinx from The Huckleberry Hound Show is handed a restraining order (or rather, he gets it pinned to his chest) that reads "Whosoever wears this order is not to stand within three feet of Pixie and/or Dixie." Every time he does he's beaten up by cops in a Big Ball of Violence, even when Pixie and Dixie are the ones to come near him, which they abuse. Jinx resolves the situation by unpinning the restraining order and sticking it on a grandfather clock in the Wraparound Background, letting the cops have at it.
- In King of the Hill, Dale gets a 100-feet restraining on Hank after his finger was accidentally sawed off as a result of his goofing around. The judge also forced Hank into anger management class.
- The Looney Tunes Show song "We Are In Love" regarding Lola Bunny's obsession with Bugs includes a threat from Bugs to get a restraining order... which she promptly points out is rather difficult to enforce.
- Samurai Jack provides the page quote (from the husband in an estranged bounty hunter couple who are both after Jack). Notice how he has a restraining order against her, and her actions at the end of the episode give viewers a clue as to why that is.
- The Simpsons
- In "On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister", Lisa gets a restraining order against Bart after he pulls some pranks on her during a field trip that is physically enforced with a giant pole that she uses to poke Bart should he get too close to her. Lisa, of course, quickly abuses this and begins moving closer to Bart and poking him for kicks (it's implied that Bart has permanent nerve damage because of the amount of times Lisa has poked him), which forces him to move further away and out of the house and having to be taught by Willie in the school's shed. Also, if Bart had brought up in his appeal to Judge Harm that Lisa was following him around and poking him completely unprovoked (which is actually illegal) instead of insulting her, the restraining order would have easily gotten removed instead of it being increased from 20 to 200 feet.
- In "Lisa the Skeptic" during a court case where Lisa stands accused of destroying what might be the bones of an angel, Judge Snyder orders science to stay 500 yards away from religion at all times.
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Restraining SpongeBob", Squidward gets a restraining order against SpongeBob. This causes much difficulty due to the fact that they work the same shift at the Krusty Krab and have to interact with each other to get anything done during working hours (rearranging the shift schedule so that they don't have to work the same shift is never brought up as a solution, as that would make sense). The other problem is, Mr. Krabs isn't willing to honor the restraining order (which could've gotten him into serious trouble, too) and Squidward isn't willing to take a customer's order even though SpongeBob prepared it without having to go up to Squidward directly.
- Total Drama:
- Izzy spots her ex Graham Cracker in the audience of the Aftermath in "Aftermath I: Trent's Descent". She explains to Geoff and Bridgette that he hit her with a restraining order last year that forbids her from coming closer than 200 meters near him. Despite acknowledging that he is her "old boyfriend", she views the situation as a long-distance relationship and advises Graham to get blinds she can actually see through.
- In "Finders Creepers", Dakota mentions that Chris put a restraining order on the paparazzi. Not specific individuals, just the paparazzi. So now she's angry that she has no cameras on her.