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Humble Pie

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This is a single, significant humiliating event that deeply affects a character. The subject is typically a particularly obnoxious and/or self-important character who makes a serious mistake or suffers a defeat that forces them to reflect on their failure and their ego. This happens most often to antagonist characters and is usually portrayed as being well-deserved.

Sometimes, just to rub it in some more, it can be followed by a Humiliation Conga and might result in Breaking The Haughty. In more obvious cases, the character will actually be called out for his arrogant attitude, but usually the situation is more subtle and the realization is more personal.

There are many ways for a character to respond. Oftentimes the character will simply accept their failure, realize the error of their ways, and change themselves to become a genuinely more tolerable person. Other characters simply cannot handle eating Humble Pie and may react with anything from a Villainous Breakdown to something much more drastic.

The trope name comes from the phrase "to eat humble pie," meaning for someone to be humiliated. The phrase is derived from umble pie, which was a food made of offal (that is, the internal organs and other "throw-away" parts unwanted by the wealthy) during the Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern Periods (basically until the 1960s-70s in Anglophone culture) that was the often only form of non-seafood meat eaten by the lower-middle classes unless they happened to own any livestock. Similar dishes included oysters, lobsters, and salmon which were likewise regarded as dishes for the poor because of the animals' commonness (and thus cheapness) and their meats' strong taste.

A similar phrase is "eating crow", a bird known for being particularly unpalatable.

Compare with Humiliation Conga, which is what happens when a character is forced to eat several Humble Pies all at once, and Break the Haughty, which is basically this trope on steroids in regards to the event(s) the fallout from them.

No relation to Humble Pie, the band led by The Small Faces singer Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ace of the Diamond: Following the Spring Koshien, Satoru Furuya starts believing that the Seidou team needs him more than he needs them. This results in him making plenty of blunders due to breaking under pressure and losing control, which culminates in a match where he gives out five runs to Ichidai Sankou and destroys Seidou's lead in a single inning, forcing Coach Kataoka to send Sawamura in to clean up his mess. He later loses the ace number to Sawamura because, unlike Furuya, he relies on the rest of his teammates to back him up.
  • Assassination Classroom:
    • Karma is too confident in his abilities to study for the finals which leads to him having low grades for the first time. Koro-sensei rubs it in his face causing Karma to blush in embarrassment, knowing that this will spur Karma into trying harder next time.
    • There's also the time when Karma gets a little too proud of his early successes against Koro-sensei. However, all he really managed to do was to draw his full attention, causing him to put Karma in his place by dealing with his attempts in the most offhanded and humiliating ways
  • The protagonist Ange in Cross Ange was a Norma-hating Fallen Princess who thinks she should not be at the no-man's prison island because she's a princess and that she claims that she's not one of them. Then she inadvertently causes the death of three of her squadmates including the captain and wishes that she would die because she feels powerless. After finally activating a rusty and old machine and bringing it back to its pristine condition and killing her first DRAGONnote  she finally gets her Important Haircut and hardens her character thanks to the circumstances involved, becoming someone who is willing to do anything to survive.
  • Dragon Ball Z: After suffering heavy Aesop Amnesia most of the series, and a Break the Haughty at least Once a Season, Vegeta receives one of these during the final battle with Kid Buu, acknowledging that Goku is better than him and always will be and making peace with that decision. Come Dragon Ball Super, he's still trying to surpass Goku, but his attitude towards it is much healthier and he manages to get much closer.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Sting spends most of the Grand Magic Games boasting about how he's so powerful and could easily handle a monster that bested Natsu. After Natsu beats Sting at full power without even breaking out some of the more powerful spells that Sting had seen him using, he shuts up.
    • The anime adaptation adds one for Faust, the King of Edolas, after he suffers a serious Humiliation Conga when he's beaten by Natsu, Gajeel, and Wendy for trying to use their guild and hometown as a sacrifice to replenish his world's dwindling magic supply. Once his son banishes him from the royal capital, he accepts punishment without complaint and makes amends with Coco, one of his minions on whom he previously Kicked The Dog.
  • Happens twice to Erina's secretary Hisako in Food Wars!, once in a bad way and then in a good way. She nearly worships Erina and believes that only someone perfect can be at her side.
    • However, she loses in the first round of the tournament to Hayama Akira, who chides her for being content with being second to Erina, stating that someone who isn't doing their best couldn't hope to defeat him. Hisako is so upset that she immediately leaves Erina's side despite the latter's protests, not understanding that Erina does not really care if Hisako is perfect since she doesn't need a subordinate, she needs a friend.
    • Later, she has an assignment with Souma. Though Erina's dismissive attitude towards him has rubbed off on her, she realizes that he can do a lot of things she can't. She's forced to swallow her pride and take orders from him until she can get the current workload under control and get used to the pace of things. While this is clearly humiliating for her, it also earns her respect and when he takes the opportunity to suggest that she rethink her relationship with Erina and gives an excuse to return to her side, she realizes the obvious truth of what he's saying and thanks him with a smile.
  • Yoki from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood embodies this trope wholesale. The Elric brothers ruining his comfy gig as the corrupt ruler of a mining town directly results in him becoming the resident Chew Toy of the series. Even his final fate at the end of the series is a joke: he joins the circus.
  • Nuriko from Fushigi Yuugi starts out as a cross-dressing Rich Bitch, treating Miaka like shit due to jealousy over Hotohori's crush on her. Miaka turns the tables by slapping him and calling him out on his selfishness after a rather bad prank... and this happens in front of Hotohori. She finishes this by offering him a sort-of peace delivery in the form of a cute pebble, which makes Nuriko cry in humiliation — from then on, he becomes the charming Boisterous Bruiser and Big Brother Mentor we know and love.
  • Hoo boy, Katsuki Bakugo of My Hero Academia is a doozy. Showered with constant praise about his wits, quirk, and prowess in battle, it came as no surprise that he developed a nasty superiority complex. This attitude came back to bite him in several ways. He gets beaten in a mock battle by the kid he bullied since elementary and middle school, is forced to come to terms that he's no longer the Big Man on Campus as there are others who have greater quirks than him (and nicer to boot), he gets ignored by The Ace of the class who believes said bully victim is The Rival that he must overcome, and to add the icing on the cake he gets kidnapped by villains and needed to be rescued. The final straw is when he learns that he was one of the only two members of his class (and, as later revealed, year) to fail the Provisional License Examnote . He finally accepts that his ego is holding him back and that he needs to improve, and undergoes some major Character Development to compensate.
  • Paul from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl after a long streak of getting rid of any of his Pokémon that dares lose a battle culminating in abandoning his Chimchar receives one of these from Pyramid King Brandon. Brandon actually calls him out on his cruel treatment of his Pokémon while Curb Stomping him with Legendaries which causes Paul to panic and suffer a Anti-heroic BSOD. After this event, while still rather cocky, Paul slowly starts to develop into a better person, and starts to treat his Pokémon with respect even if they lose a battle.
  • The Prince of Tennis: Ryo Shishido's loss at the hands of Tachibana and being kicked out of the regular team. Both trigger his Important Haircut and Character Development into a still harsh, but more kindhearted person.

    Fan Works 
  • moral of the story (Nyame): Laurel's suicide and its aftermath (which includes his civilian reputation being ruined and all of his loved ones, including a resurrected Laurel, cutting ties with him) proves to be this for Oliver, as it reinforces that becoming a hero and redeeming himself takes a lot more work than just giving up killing as he assumed. And because of his actions, he has made the road to redemption much, much harder than it had to be.
  • Shadows over Meridian: Vathek starts out smug that Phobos and the Knights of Vengeance are behind bars and so trusting of "the Mage" that he refuses to question her story that Jade, whom he disdains, is a shapeshifting monster created by Phobos. However, after he gets subdued by the Shadowkhan and Jade exposes "the Mage" as a backstabbing fraud while revealing herself to be the Shadow Realm's ruler who has decided to ally with Phobos due to all the mistreatment she and her friend Raythor have suffered from the heroes' part, he can only watch as Jade frees all the prisoners and places him in a cell instead, and his attempt to get free and stop her only leads to him getting himself incapacitated by the electric bars. After doing some self-reflection following this humiliation, he concludes that he's deserving of Jade's ire and resolves to redeem himself by ensuring the behavior he displayed won't corrupt everything the Rebellion fought for.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, Kuzco is quite the Karma Houdini until he dismisses and insults Pacha (okay, that happens quite a few times, but this time he means it), only to find out that Pacha was in fact looking out for him, and now he's all alone.
  • In Ferdinand, Valiente loses his right horn in a scuffle with Ferdinand and, as a result, is sent to the slaughterhouse. This sends him a step closer to the Despair Event Horizon, shatters all of his preconceptions, and deals a heavy blow to his ego. It took him a while to recover and pull a Heel–Face Turn.
  • This exchange between Megamind and Roxanne Ritchi:
    Megamind: I need your help...
    Roxanne: [irritated] Why do you need MY help?
    Megamind: [sighs] Because you're the smartest person I know.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Alpha Bitch Sunset Shimmer is given such a helping of humble pie that in the sequel her Fatal Flaw is that she doesn't feel it's her place to call out her friends even when their petty arguing dooms their band.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bicentennial Man: When Andrew asks for facial upgrades to help show emotions, the NorthAm CEO hands him an exorbitant price tag, which Andrew dismisses as merely a month's pay. The CEO admits that the price is more than his annual salary. Sir gleefully rubs the disparity of wealth in the CEO's face.
    Andrew: That is roughly one's monthly salary.
    CEO: ...It's more than I make in a year.
    Sir: Not bad for... what did you call him last time we were here?
    Andrew: "Household appliance".
    Sir: Household appliance.
    CEO: [thoroughly humiliated] Household appliance, yes.
  • At the end of Chicago, Roxie is acquitted, but literally moments later, a new heinous crime is committed and all the reporters rush out of the courtroom, leaving her all alone and without the fame and adoration she had been seeking.
  • In The Devil Wears Prada, after being chewed out by her boss, Andy storms out of the office and goes down to Nigel to complain. Nigel answers with a thorough "The Reason You Suck" Speech, forcing Andrea to admit that she doesn't appreciate her position enough.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Mark Russell, who is angry because his son was one of the casualties when Godzilla saved the world from the MUTOs five years prior, chews the Monarch scientists out because he thinks they're being world-threateningly moronic by not trying to kill all the Kaiju around the world ASAP, and he hisses and raves at them because they won't indulge his rage by killing Godzilla most of all. When the military detonates the Oxygen Destroyer in the middle of Godzilla and Ghidorah's battle in Mexico, the bomb seemingly kills Godzilla (who by this point had circumstantially saved Mark's and many other people's lives twice), but it leaves Ghidorah free to take control of the other Kaiju around the world so he can destroy humanity: at this point, Serizawa calls Mark out in front of everybody, telling him that he's gotten what he wanted, and Mark is forced to recognize that he was wrong about Godzilla and the Kaiju.
  • The Last Command: Revolutionaries making captured general stoke their train to Petrograd.
  • In The Philadelphia Story (and remake High Society), Tracy is intolerant of others' moral failings, particularly her ex-husband's alcoholism and her father's perceived infidelity. Then, on the eve of her wedding, she gets drunk on champagne and makes out with another man. The next morning, her attitude is penitent.
  • The ending of Real Steel: Tak Mashido and Zeus technically win the big match, but only because Zeus was (just barely) saved by the bell, and while Charlie and Atom lose by a hair, they don't especially care since they went the distance and made the champs sweat. The previously invincible Mashido and Zeus are utterly humiliated in front of the entire world by almost losing to two nobodies, with Mashido smashing his control console to pieces and storming out of the stadium in a rage.

  • In the latter two books of Inheritance Cycle, the great elder dragon Glaedr swears up and down to Eragon and Saphira that there is no way, not in a million years, that the Vault of Souls could possibly contain Eldunari, Soul Jars that contain the consciousnesses of dragons. When it turns out to contain not only those, but dragon eggs as well, he is at once overjoyed, triumphant, and shocked, but also has to eat a heavy amount of crow. It's unclear exactly why the possibility of how they were hidden the way that they were (deep underground) never occurred to him.
  • At the conclusion of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Yellow Face", Holmes discovers that his deductions about the case in question were almost entirely erroneous. Consequently humbled, he asks Watson to use the word "Norbury" — the place where the events of the case transpired — to bring him down a peg or two should he ever start getting too boastful about his deductive powers.
    • The above is parodied and subverted in the Hercule Poirot story "The Chocolate Box", in which Poirot — who has made a similar blunder to Holmes above — asks his companion Captain Hastings to similarly use the words "chocolate box" in order to deflate him if he should start boasting again. Hastings finds himself using the words mere seconds later, much to his amusement and Poirot's irritation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In American Horror Story: Asylum, Sister Jude has a helping when she is locked up in her own asylum as a patient.
  • In the TV adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, Anne, who had been forbidden to see her best friend, Diana, after she accidentally got her drunk on currant wine, goes and saves Diana's young sister who was dying from croup. The next day, Marilla says that Anne is invited to eat at Diana's house and wryly notes that humble pie is likely on the menu.
  • Happens fairly often in Frasier, mainly because the main character is a psychiatrist with a huge ego and a love of self-analysis.
  • Played with and then averted in Glee 2x14: Rachel promises to take Kurt to 'a bakery of his own choosing for a piping-hot slice of humble pie' after proving that Blaine (the boy Kurt's in love with) is actually straight with a non-drunken kiss. When the kiss in question actually confirms to Blaine that he's really most sincerely gay, Kurt starts warming up to deliver that slice of pie to Rachel, but she completely fails to notice, due to being struck by the realisation that dating a boy who 'turned out to be gay' is perfect material for her new songwriting career...
  • In the pilot of Justified Boyd Crowder is an arrogant criminal who runs his own neo-Nazi gang of rednecks. He firmly grabs the Villain Ball and decides to shoot it out with a group of US Marshalls including his old friend Raylan Givens. His gang is easily captured by the marshals and Boyd himself barely survives getting shot by Raylan. This experience causes him to have a Heel–Faith Turn, give up his criminal ways, and start his own church. However, his arrogance causes him to go against his crime kingpin father Bo who teaches Boyd a lesson by murdering all members of Boyd's church.
  • This happened to Major Winchester in an episode of M*A*S*H. After spending the whole episode insulting three South Korean doctors who used archaic methods, he threw his back out, and the very forgiving Korean doctors offered to help him, which Colonel Potter consented to (after ordering Winchester to comply). When their method - acupuncture - worked like a charm, he actually apologized.
    • Another episode saw BJ Hunnicutt getting upset that his wife back home had to take a job to make ends meet. He spent the episode trying to raise money to help her, but this slowly devolved into a kind of shamed arrogance (for example, he'd only let Hawkeye taste some of Mrs. Hunnicutt's "award-winning" crumb cake after Hawkeye paid $5 for the privilege). It was only after Major Houlihan pointed out that "the only reason you've lost the most is because you've GOT the most!" that BJ realized his error.
  • Red Dwarf had Ace Rimmer be subjected to this when he was a child, as he was held back a year in school. As a result, he buckled down and applied himself far better, eventually becoming The Ace. Arnold Rimmer, by contrast, relied on his father to get the school to push him ahead anyway, and became the annoying ponce we all know and tolerate.
  • A very literal version appeared in Sabrina the Teenage Witch in which Sabrina, desiring a little more attention for her efforts, unintentionally chomps too much of a magic cake that increases the attention she gets and is overloaded with meaningless admiration. Humble pie is the counter-spell and it tastes terrible.
  • Mentioned by name in The Thick of It: after Nicola has "laid [her] first great, big egg of solid fuck", Malcolm explains that there actually is a way to limit the fallout from her incredibly stupid mistake, but it would involve her "eating an entire concrete mixer full of humble pie". While Nicola clearly didn't enjoy having to give an interview to the smug journalist who was causing the trouble, this particular humiliation was pretty mild compared to the things the characters normally end up doing on this show.

  • Tears for Fears: In "Sowing the Seeds of Love", a politician is told to eat her humble pie for all the mistakes she has made while in office.
    Time to eat all your words
    Swallow your pride
    Open your eyes

  • At the end of Inherit the Wind, after Matthew Harrison Brady wins the case he wants to talk some more about God, the evils of evolution, and how good Christian folk have to be on their guard in today's permissive society, but the people in the courtroom were kind of sick of the whole business so they ignore him. Ironically, the only ones listening to him beyond his wife are his enemies, growing concerned at Brady becoming hysterical at his desperate orating.
    • For clarification, he had prepared this brilliant monologue about all the stuff mentioned above, intending to use it as his closing statement. Unfortunately for him, his opponent realized that he would never be able to produce a better statement, since Brady was a more experienced lawyer and a better public speaker, so his opponent pulled a fast one by declining to give a closing statement himself. Under the laws of the time, this meant that Brady wasn't allowed to give a closing statement. He tries to give the monologue after the trial, but by then the spotlight isn't on the case anymore, so no one really cares.

    Video Games 
  • Both "eating humble pie" and the variant phrase "eat crow" come up occasionally in the Phoenix Wright trilogy. This deserves special mention, synonym or no:
    Godot: Looks like, this time, I've been forced to eat crow.
    Maya: I wonder what recipe crow-flavored coffee is...
  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn features one with one of your allies, Alphinaud, and his independent Grand Company, the Crystal Braves. Alphinaud's hidden desire for glory blinds him to the corruption that takes hold of half of the Braves. The repercussions that inevitably follow — the Scions being blamed for the sultana's assassination, and most of said Scions staying behind to hold the corrupt Braves back that you can escape — shake Alphinaud pretty badly, as he realizes that he'd been using the Braves and the player as pawns for glory. It gives him all the more reason to get better during the Heavensward expansion.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, during Hubert and Linhardt's C support, Hubert expresses his contempt for Linhardt, saying that Linhardt is a talented individual who doesn't apply his skills to any useful pursuits, and Hubert wishes Linhardt would be of service to Edelgard, heiress to the Adrestian throne. In their B support, Hubert is humiliated when he overworks himself into exhaustion, resulting in Linhardt taking care of him.

  • Weak Hero:
    • Teddy starts out as a greedy bully who's manipulated into tormenting Gray, the ruthless and pragmatic protagonist who ruins his prized possession and thoroughly beats him in front of a classful of students. When this results in him getting mocked and abandoned by the people he called "friends", Teddy comes to realise that being a bully has no real benefits and slowly finds himself helping out Gray and his group until his Heel–Face Turn is complete and he's considered one of the gang.
    • Forrest is introduced as a Combat Pragmatist and overall brute, and is then thoroughly put in his place when he attacks Alex to anger his friend Ben and gets more than what he bargained for when Ben comes at him in an Unstoppable Rage. After his vicious loss, he does a complete 180, meekly taking his orders from his superiors and doing nothing to stir the waters.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Angry Beavers episode, "Oh Brother", Norbert all but disowns Daggett after learning he might have been switched at birth and sets off to find his real brother. Then said brother, Byron, shows up and quickly proves to be an even bigger pretentious asshole than Norbert (on top of being Always Someone Better). After being subjected to the same treatment he usually gives Dag, Norbert is forced to admit he was wrong and accepts Dag as his real brother.
  • In S1E4 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, "The Kiyoshi Warriors", Sokka undergoes major Character Development as a result of this. He started the series as a Straw Misogynist (due to the Water Tribe's patriarchal customs), but after the Gaang is ambushed by the titular Amazon Brigade he attempts to mend his pride through a duel with their leader Suki. He gets his ass handed to him, and not only accepts his defeat gracefully but asks her to teach him how to fight so he could protect his friends. Suki even ends up falling for him over his humility and the two become an Official Couple later on.
  • In DuckTales (2017) episode, "The Richest Duck in the World!", this is how one is meant to defeat Bombie the Zombie. The richest duck in the world must admit that their wealth can't solve every problem and humble themselves before the Bombie (in Scrooge and Louie's case, by shining his boots) in order to be spared his wrath.
  • In the Little Dogs on the Prairie short "Have Gum, Will Travel", Scout, who has been prideful about his ability to blow huge bubble gum bubbles, is beaten in a bubble-blowing duel by another prairie dog and gets fired from the circus. He then returns home and apologizes to Darcy and Sport for having been too prideful and humbled by the experience.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Boast Busters", The Great And Powerful Trixie doles out these to those who challenge her claims, by taking whatever task they challenged her with and twisting it to her own ends. And at the end of the episode, she stoutly refuses to accept the slice that's served up to her, running away instead.
    • Twilight serves her another slice at the end of "Magic Duel". This time, she accepts it and becomes Twilight's friend.
    • In "Sweet and Elite", Jet Set and Uppercrust get this thanks to Fancypants on two occasions. First by him taking Rarity into his reserved balcony seat at the races, right in front of them, and second, when he endorses Rarity and her friends, who'd they'd just spoken down to, forcing them to suck it up and praise her.
  • The Simpsons:
    • This exchange between Bart and Lisa in the episode "Krusty Gets Busted":
      Bart: I know Krusty's innocent, and I think I can prove it, but... I need your help.
      Lisa: You do? Why?
      Bart: Oh, come on, you know why.
      Lisa: No, why?
      Bart: I'll never forgive you for making me say this, but... you're smarter than me.
      Lisa: [smug chuckle]
    • This was only the first time. Lisa lives for occasions like this.
    • In "Homer vs. Patty and Selma", Patty and Selma act high and mighty to Homer when he is forced to borrow money from them to keep his house. When Homer, despite all the ridicule he suffers, saves them from being fired for smoking, they are quick to apologize and even agree to cancel the debt.
  • Brainy, Vanity, and Snappy literally serve humble pie to the other Smurfs who have been affected by Chlorhydris' self-love spell in The Smurfs (1981) episode "Love Those Smurfs".
  • This happens to Raimundo in an early episode of Xiaolin Showdown when he loses a battle to Tubbimura, who uses the Sword of Storm to defeat him. (It had been Raimundo's fault because he had ignored the lecture on the Sword's powers. Even worse, the Sword of Storm was a Wind Shen Gong Wu, Wind being Raimundo's element, which made it really humiliating.) Raimundo spends much of the rest of the episode studying and was able to win a rematch with Tubbimura at the end.

    Real Life 
  • Actress Kristen Stewart was described by several celebrity gossip mags as "eating humble pie" after she was forced to apologize for remarks in which she equated being famous with being a rape victim.
  • Aging tennis star Bobby Riggs acted the male-chauvinist lout during the run-up to the "Battle of the Sexes" between him and Billie Jean King. After King beat him soundly, he had to eat a lot of humble pie...
  • Older Than Steam: The expression derives from "umble pie", which was a pie filled with liver, heart, and other offal. It was popular among British commoners in the 15th and 16th century. Something of a subversion, as umble pie can actually be quite delicious (assuming you like offal); however, it was considered humiliating for someone who could previously afford "real" meat (e.g. a nobleman) to have to eat the stuff.


Video Example(s):


Muffy's peers call her out

The episode "Spoiled Rotten!" is one big sequence of this for Muffy, as her peers are finally calling her out on her spoiled attitude and behavior.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / BreakTheHaughty

Media sources: