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I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure

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"Now get in the kitchen and make us sandwiches!"
"My good sir, these are hard times," said Riose, with meaning, "and you have children and friends. You have a country for which you have mouthed phrases of love and folly in the past. Come, if I should decide to use force, my aim would not be so poor as to strike you."

If you are evil enough, one way to turn someone to your side or motivate him to stay there is to threaten to hurt someone he cares about. This "friend" might indeed be the target's best friend or a love interest; however, if the target is the kind who tries to protect everyone, almost anyone may serve as a hostage.

This trope is a signature tactic of a Bad Boss. It is also a form of Villainous Demotivator. Those who have their friends and loved ones under constant threat should they fail might be driven to greater efforts. In some cases, it may not be possible or feasible for the villains to harm the ones they are trying to "motivate." However, in the long run this situation can hardly be good for morale or loyalty to the Big Bad. The target may, and likely will, perform a Heel–Face Turn should the opportunity present itself (and it will) in a desperate bid to save their family and themselves from their circumstances. This can be a factor in convincing people that The Mob Boss Is Scarier than the police.

Can be Played for Laughs if the "friend" is someone the hero doesn't like.

Compare Even Mooks Have Loved Ones, where the Big Bad doesn't directly target his underlings' loved ones but merely shows callous disregard for them. If you actually punish his friend for his failure, that's a form of Revenge by Proxy. See also Blofeld Ploy. Compare and contrast with Guilt by Association Gag when someone is punished along with a group despite not actually having anything to do with the crime. Physical Fitness Punishment is a related trope, commonly associated with the military.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You, Mei (who is helping Mai practice for an upcoming idol performance) notices that Mai keeps getting distracted by something and slaps the culprit. Since Mai is getting distracted by Mei, the friend getting punished is herself. Mai, not wanting her beloved "big sister"note  to take her screw-ups out on herself, dances like her life depends on it.
  • A particularly brutal version happens to Yuri in Angel Beats!. When she was younger, some crooks broke into her house while her parents were away. They then took her 3 younger siblings, and told her that they would kill one of her siblings every 10 minutes if she didn't give them something valuable. She tries but fails, and the cops arrive 30 minutes later...
  • In Attack on Titan, Marley punishes disloyal Eldians, especially members of the Warrior unit, by not only having them turned into mindless titans and used as weapons of war, but also having their loved ones suffer the same fate. Colt and Falco barely avoided that fate after their uncle was outed as an Eldian restorationist, and Falco is warned that if he expresses misgivings about the Warrior program (particularly that his friend Gabi will have, at most, 13 years to live if she gets selected), he and his family could all be punished.
  • One Piece:
    • In the Water Seven arc, CP9 makes Robin help them obtain the blueprints of Pluton by threatening the lives of the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates.
    • In Luffy's flashback arc, Sabo's father forces him to come home by threatening Ace and Luffy's lives, and tries to get him to deny his involvement with them in that same way, but ends up having to bribe the official.
    • In the Fishman Island arc, Hody Jones claims that he has a kraken's brother hostage and will kill him if he refuses to fight against Luffy.
    • In a flashback in the Arlong arc, Nami is told at one point that if she doesn't do her work properly, Arlong will bring in and kill a villager in front of her like she did with Bellemere. He also gives her an ultimatum midway through the battle for Arlong Park; come back to him and he will spare everyone except Zoro and Sanji, or refuse and watch her entire village die.
  • In Sailor Moon, Queen Beryl threatens Zoicite that she will kill his lover Kunzite if he ever so much as fails her demands. It's also implied Kunzite gets the same threat in reverse.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, for the climactic battle of the Marik arc, Evil!Marik makes the board a setup which is basically this plus a Sadistic Choice. He pulls Yugi's soul and Normal!Marik's soul out of their respective bodies and hangs them up in the air. When the dueler loses life points, bits of the other's body are removed, and the loser's normal side vanishes. He loses when normal Marik regains control of the body and surrenders the match, erasing him instead.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, No.96 sets up a duel with Astral that if No.96 loses life points, Vector will set up another dangerous trap for Yuma to die from.
  • In the introductory arc of YuYu Hakusho, one of the teachers tells Kuwabara that if he and his friends don't stop fighting and get their grades up, one of his friends will have his work permit revoked. Then, after Kuwabara keeps his end of the deal, the teacher tries to deliberately misgrade his tests so that he won't have to honor his end, and possibly to force Kuwabara into hitting him and actually violating his end of the deal. He ultimately gets found out.

    Comic Books 
  • The Surgeon in Clean Room displays a man he rebuilt into an entirely new species and threatens to do the same to his target's spouse to secure a mole in Astrid's inner circle.
  • Smythe in the Secret Six likes to keep his slaves in line by slaughtering everyone around them to teach them a lesson. Do as he says or people totally unrelated to your failure will get horribly killed.
  • A variation is inflicted on Laura Kinney AKA X-23, after her mother/creator helps her escape from the Facility. Laura is hiding out with her aunt Debbie and cousin Megan, when Kimura tracks her down and recaptures her. Kimura then intends to punish Laura for escaping by torturing her cousin and aunt to death and making Laura watch. She even gives Laura a Sadistic Choice as to whether Megan dies quickly or slowly, before summarily deciding to slowly push her finger into Megan's chest intending to tear out her heart. Fortunately, Laura manages to escape and rescue them but there's no question Kimura would have gone through with her threat.

    Fan Works 
  • Children of Remnant: Whenever Jaune's sisters did anything wrong (such as fighting with each other, or stalking their mother through the halls, or asking for food), their mother would punish Jaune for it by locking him in "the Hole" for days or weeks. This has resulted in two clear consequences: Jaune's sisters are heavily dependent on him, seeing him as their shield and protector even though they are far stronger than him, and Jaune has gotten it into his head that everyone else can get what they want so long as he is punished enough. This results in him walking unarmed into a meeting with people who already tried to assassinate him once, because he thinks that once he's dead there will be world peace... not realizing that his death will drive his sisters insane and start a world war.
  • A Crown of Stars: Jinnai threatens to get his soldiers families killed if they underperform in the battlefield.
  • The Harry Potter fic Cruciamentum Eternus has Voldemort Cruciatus-ing and then killing Draco, ostensibly for failing to kill Dumbledore, but in actuality to Kick the Dog that is Lucius for being a general failure.
  • While the affected characters aren’t villains, the slave owner doing this trope certainly is in the Firefly fic Freedom To The Free. Simon, Kaylee River and Wash are enslaved and Simon takes a lot of physical and sexual abuse because the overseers keep threatening Wash and Kaylee if he refuses. Kaylee is threatened with rape if he won’t service the owner and he’s ordered to do a castration despite it being against his oath with a threat to do it without anesthesia and do the same to Wash. He’s also ordered to kill the injured Wash if Wash doesn’t wake up after being beaten, or Kaylee and River will die. Fortunately Wash does wake up. By the time the Big Damn Heroes come to the rescue, he’s recovering physically but River says he’s broken like her after he has a nightmare involving a lot of screaming and Jayne needing to shoot the door open to get to him.
  • The Emergency! fic "Hostages" has a variation with a group of criminals break into Station 51. John is cuffed to the squad, and the guys beat on him when things don't go their way, forcing the rest of the firemen to comply as best they can.
  • Light of the Moon: Gothel keeps Varian in the tower by telling him that, if he tries to escape or tell Rapunzel the truth about why Gothel brought him to the tower, she'll kill his father.
  • Haruka establishes a rule like this in Love Hina: Like It Could Have Been: if one of the girls damages the Inn, while she'll have to pay for the bulk of it, all of them will have to chip in.
  • Maria Campbell of the Astral Clocktower: When it comes time to teach Katarina etiquette for real, Maria puts Shana, one of her young wards who has been learning etiquette on her own, in charge of her education. She explains to Katarina that rather than punishing her when she makes mistakes, Shana will lose dessert privileges. Katarina is horrified. Of course, Maria doesn't tell her that Shana will retain her normal dessert, the only thing in danger is the extra dessert she earned by agreeing to teach Katarina.
  • The The Dark Knight fic Messed Up employs this. The Joker makes a rule that every time Rose argues or rebels, her friend Sparrow gets hurt. This is mainly used to break Rose, as she is very protective of those younger than her, which conflicts with her instinctual rebellious stance. Sparrow is not only younger than Rose, but suffers from anxiety disorder and is extremely shy.
  • My Immortal sees such a threat turn very strange later on. In Voldemort's first appearance, he tells Enoby to kill Harry "Vampire" Potter, warning her that if she doesn't, he will kill Draco, Enoby's boyfriend. Much later on, Voldemort reappears, this time in the guise of Darth Valer, and declares that he'll kill both Enoby and Draco for her failure, but when she begs him not to, he changes the terms, so instead Enoby has to kill Vampire "or I shall kill him anyway".
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Kluge warned Nakajima that if he fails him, Kluge will have his girlfriend and her little sister killed.
  • In Blue Sky (Waffles), GLaDOS uses Atlas and P-Body to capture the entire population of the town Chell has settled in, threatening to kill them if Chell does not cooperate and do the testing.
  • In The Prayer Warriors, Satan tells Percy Jackson that if he fails to kill Jerry, his best friend Grover will be used as a sacrifice, and Percy himself will suffer a Fate Worse than Death.
  • In Rainbow Factory, Rainbow Dash orders for Orion to be sacrificed to the Pegasus Device first due to him trying to comfort Scootaloo in her Darkest Hour.
    Rainbow Dash You can’t have happiness. You ruined me. Now I’ll ruin you. Workers! The brown one, there! Him first!
  • Scar Tissue: Dmitri warned Gendo that if he failed his assignment, he would disembowel his children in front of him.
  • Spy X Family: There's a fancomic by artist darazu1 featuring Anya and Damian as young adults (as in their early twenties) note . In the comic, Damian has been unable to sleep ever since Anya went missing a month before, when he's called into his father's home office, where he sees Anya handcuffed and wearing patient’s scrubs. Donavan explains that Anya is an escaped government experiment that's been recaptured after years on the run, and he has been unable to force her to use her Telepathy to further his goals. Since they know each other since childhood, Donovan tells Damian that he'll be in charge of making sure Anya uses her talents to spy on his foes. If Anya disobeys or provides bad intel, Damian will be punished for her failures, and if Anya escapes, then Donovan will have Damian killed. They agree to Donovan’s terms, and go to Damian’s private villa where he tells her she can stay until they think of a way for her to be reunited with her family.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Infinity War: After Thanos confronts Gamora with the fact that he knows she found the Soul Stone and claimed she didn't, he painfully tortures Nebula until Gamora reveals its location: Vormir. Later Thanos implies he'll do something even worse to Nebula if the stone isn’t there.
  • In Biloxi Blues, Sgt. Toomey routinely punishes Wykowski whenever Eugene fucks up. However, Wykowski is not Eugene's friend, but the biggest, most ill-tempered soldier in the platoon.
  • Happens to the Big Bad Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (2006). After squandering his client's money on a bad investment, the terrorists whose money he lost attacked Le Chiffre and threatens to cut off his girlfriend's arm. The only reason why Le Chiffre's own arm isn't on the chopping block is because, as the terrorist points out, he will need it to play poker and recoup his losses. Luckily for her, it was just a scare tactic—for now.
  • In Crimson Tide, the USS Alabama's Captain, played by Gene Hackman, needs the Weapons officer, played by Viggo Mortensen, to open the safe where the missile firing trigger is kept. When Weps refuses, the Capt gives him 5 seconds to comply, threatening to shoot him. Then he realizes that if he does, he still won't have the combination. So, he threatens one of Weps men, who doesn't know the combo. Weps complies but it gave the XO time to remove the firing key on the bridge.
  • In Die Hard, John McClane is messing up Hans Gruber's plans. John's wife's coworker (whom he met once) tries to get in Gruber's good graces by attempting to talk his "friend" McClane into giving himself up. McClane, fully aware of what kind of a person Hans Gruber is, tries to get the guy to admit he's lying but to no avail. Gruber smiles, shoots the guy for his trouble, and then tells McClane that even if he was lying, he can start putting bullets into each and every hostage "until I find someone you care about".
  • In DISCO (2017), Henrietta's plan is to kill Vince due to the enormous debt he does not intend to pay and make Lana pay them back through prostitution and pornographic films.
  • In the film Full Metal Jacket, the first part of the film is about the training of the new recruits in the US Marine Corps. One of them, nicknamed "Gomer Pyle," can't seem to improve in his training, so Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann stops punishing him and starts punishing everyone else. The other recruits take it out on him in the infamous "blanket party" scene, where they pin him to his bunk with a blanket and beat the crap out of him with bars of soap wrapped in towels. After this, Pyle starts to show improvement in his training, but also starts to develop a psychotic breakdown, ultimately culminating in the murder of Hartmann and his own suicide.
  • In The Grey Zone, the Nazis resort to interrogating a female prisoner in the death camps who smuggled in powder for the upcoming uprising of the Sonderkommandos by lining up all the other prisoners and shooting the women one by one unless she talks. The officer threatens to clean the entire block out and move on to the next one until she cooperates, but she kills herself by running into the electrified fence when they prepare to shoot a teenage girl.
  • In The Guns of Navarone, the team gets captured by the Germans and interrogated by Captain Sessler of the SS. When none of the men answer his questions, he threatens to use a Luger to beat the injured Franklin's gangrenous leg.
    Sessler: I want an answer now! Otherwise I shall personally rearrange this officer's splints!
  • In the climax of the Mexican film Matando Cabos, the big bad has the two protagonists tied down and he's trying to get them to confess where did they take his father (who they accidentaly kidnapped via a series of bizarre events that make most of the movie's plot). Unable to get any information out of them (because they have no idea they kidnapped his father), he threatens that any time one of them says something stupid, he's going to punch the other one.
  • The movie Money Train revolves around John and Charlie, foster brothers who work as cops in New York City's transit system. Near the start of the movie Charlie, who has a gambling problem, loses big in a poker game with a criminal named Mr. Brown, who's implied to be a Loan Shark, and winds up $15,000 dollars in debt. A little more than halfway through the film John clears out his savings and gives Charlie enough money to pay Mr. Brown back... except that while taking the train to go see Mr. Brown, a random pickpocket takes the money from Charlie. Naturally Mr. Brown doesn't believe Charlie, and his men begin to give Charlie a nasty beating. Charlie is so low down at this point (having recently lost his job, the woman he was infatuated with, his brother's savings, etc.) that he accepts and even possibly encourages the goons to kill him. Mr. Brown sees that hurting or killing Charlie isn't going to get him paid, so he has his goons stop, and then tells Charlie that if he doesn't get paid, Mr. Brown will start going after John instead. This gets Charlie so desperate that he decides to attempt a Train Job, to steal from the special security train that takes in cash revenue from the transit system and might as well be a rolling bank vault.
  • In Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo is captured by the Soviet "advisors" to the Communist Vietnam commanding officer. The advisor takes Rambo's knife and puts it into the charcoal fire heating his tea. When Rambo won't divulge the information requested, the advisor threatens to stick the now-glowing tip into the eye of the American POW with whom Rambo was captured.
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: He kills Irene Adler and sends men to kill Watson and Mary, even after Holmes personally tells him that Watson will no longer be a part of his investigation. Of course, this ends up biting the bad guy in the end, as Watson ends up stopping his assassin, which he wouldn't be doing if he was still on his honeymoon. It's also the same threat that ends up forcing Holmes to grab Moriarty and jump into Reichenbach Falls.
  • In Time Limit an officer has made propaganda for the North Koreans while a POW and is going to be court martialed. One officer wants to know why and finds that after the one POW who betrayed the other men was strangled by the man who drew the short straw, the Korean commander called in the ranking POW and told him that he was going to do everything he was told or the other sixteen men would be taken out and shot right in front of him. He gave in.
  • This is Keyser Soze’s entire strategy in The Usual Suspects. He makes it clear to each member of the group that “owe” him that if they don’t cooperate he will kill anyone they care about. He also makes a big point that to get ahead you don’t need to have more people or bigger weapons, just the will to do what the other guy isn’t willing to do.
  • In Under Siege, the bad guy is having his Mooks lead the crew of the captured battleship into the hold. On the way, one crew member assaults one of the criminals. Not only is he shot for his trouble, the Big Bad immediately shoots the guy next to him, claiming this is the price to pay for disobedience.
  • In Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, the bad guy uses this tactic to coerce the two intelligence officers (who are having an affair) into giving up their passcodes to the Grazer 1 satellite. He threatens to stick a red-hot needle into the other one's eye, describing in graphic detail what it would do to the eye in question. He kills them anyway after they give up the codes.
  • In Wishmaster, the Djinn resorts to threatening and torturing Alexandra's friends and loved ones (including her sister) to force her to aid his plan by making wishes. He even notes this tactic's persuasiveness.
  • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine Stryker forces Kayla Silverfox to conspire with him this way by threatening to kill her sister, Emma Frost.

  • Altered Carbon: Kawahara threatens to lock Kovacs' girlfriend into a mind-shattering virtual interrogation hell if he doesn't do as he's told.
  • The premise of Cahills vs. Vespers, the Sequel Series to The 39 Clues, is that seven Cahills have been kidnapped, and Amy and Dan Cahill have to fulfill bizarre ransom requests to get them back. If they don't succeed, one of the Cahills will be killed.
  • In Caliphate Al Khalifa allows her stepdaughter Besma to purchase the slave girl Petra as surrogate sister in order to invoke this trope - she hates Besma and resents Besma's influence with her father but cannot punish her directly, so she punishes Petra to harm Besma, beating the child regularly and eventually arranging her gang rape and sale to a brothel.
  • In The Dragon Revenant by Katharine Kerr, the head of slaves tells a tale of how when he was a boy, a slave in the house opposite killed his master. Every slave in the house was put to death, including mothers with babies-in-arms. That was one of the ways Bardekians controlled their large slave population.
  • The first Dune book has Na-Barron Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen attempt to assassinate his uncle Baron Vladimir Harkonnen by implanting a poison needle in one of his Sex Slaves. The Barron discovers this and makes the connection immediately. Since he is not going to harm Feyd-Rautha directly (as he is grooming him to be the next Barron of House Harkonnen) he has Feyd-Rautha go and kill his own favorite Sex Slaves.
  • First Family by David Baldacci begins with a kidnapping where one of the kidnappers, Darryl, accidentally kills a young girl's mother, to the outrage of their Tragic Villain boss, Darryl's father Sam. Due to their relationship, Sam can't bring himself to kill Darryl, but he feels that he has to kill someone over what happened, and so, despite his son's pleas, he shoots the man who accompanied Darryl on the kidnapping.
  • Fire & Blood:
    • With three enemy armies about to lay siege to King's Landing and depose him, King Aegon II tells Lord Corlys Velaryon, one of the few military commanders he has left, that if he and his son fail to defeat the incoming attackers, Aegon will have Corlys's granddaughter Baela (who Aegon had been keeping hostage) executed in retaliation. Unfortunately, Corlys responds to the threat by joining a conspiracy of like-minded nobles who promptly assassinate Aegon and negotiate a truce with the enemy commanders.
    • During the regency of Aegon III, he gets a Drill Sergeant Nasty (of the kind who much prefers making his charges suffer or die rather than bothering to teach them) who is faced with a problem when Aegon is mysteriously unenthusiastic about being forced to do stuff he doesn't want to do by such an unpleasant man, since he can't harm the king in any way. So instead, he harms the king's best friend Gaemon Palehair.
  • In The Green Mile, this is how Wild Bill Wharton kept the two little girls quiet while he kidnapped them - he told each that he'd kill the other if they screamed.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: True to totalitarian regimes, Offred is scared to join the resistance against the fundamentalist Gilead even though she hates her monitored life without freedom and would love to fight against it. She fears that if she is arrested, something bad might happen to her daughter (who she knows lives) or her husband (who might or might not be alive). It's also mentioned in the epilogue and historical notes: the scholars mention that the Gileadean regime was not above such drastic measures and actually used them to discourage adverse publicity in foreign countries from refugees.
    "More than one incautious refugee was known to receive a hand, ear, or foot, vacuum-packed express, hidden in, for instance, a tin of coffee."
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Bellatrix casts the Cruciatus Curse on Neville to try and get Harry to hand over the prophecy while Neville yells at him not to give in. Luckily the Order shows up very quickly at that point.
    • Draco Malfoy ends up being Forced into Evil by Voldemort and subjected to a Uriah Gambit to punish his father Lucius.
  • A common tactic of the People's Republic of Haven in the Honor Harrington books: commanders who lost battles could expect to be executed along with their families.
  • Routinely used by President Snow to intimidate the tributes in The Hunger Games. Katniss figures out that safeguarding her family and friends is important in order to be able to stand up to Snow. However her entire district is then razed in retribution for her and Peeta's stand against the Capitol.
  • In the Hurog duology, there is a king who kills the lovers of his wife to punish her, as he cannot kill her. He isn't jealous, it's a loveless marriage, he just wants to cause her pain. His "lover" Garannon is actually someone he has been sexually abusing from childhood on, and who submits to this abuse because he fears for the safety of his family.
  • In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, the members of the titular society are trapped by the Big Bad, Mr. Curtain, in a prison cell. Kate Wetherall escapes through a window because she's the only one of them who can, but she gets caught. When she is brought back, Mr. Curtain brings out the shiny silver gloves that he uses to inflict pain by delivering a powerful electric shock and uses them on Reynie. When Kate complains that this isn't fair because Reynie wasn't the one who escaped, Mr. Curtain responds that he decides what is fair and warns that if anyone acts up again, the punishment will be extended to all four of them.
  • In The Neanderthal Parallax series, serious crimes in the Neanderthal world are punished by castration of the offender and all others who share at least half his genes (parents, siblings and children).
  • In the Stephen King story "Quitters, Inc." the main character is shown a room with an electrocuted floor which will be used if he lapses back into smoking. But not on him. On his wife. And maybe his kid, if necessary.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Both Duke Nobel and Count Bricemer make it very clear that Hermeline will be killed if Reynard does not cooperate with them in Reynard the Fox. He mentally apologies to her when he comes to believe that the Quicksilver's mission will fail.
  • In The Shamer's Signet, Dina is forced to use her Shamer powers on anyone her captor sees fit, for trivial things. If she refuses, he'll kill Tavis, the random kid who was with her when she was kidnapped.
  • Space Glass: Marvelous says this to Bob after giving him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on the Albatross.
  • Star Wars Legends
    • The X-Wing series novel "Wedge's Gamble" reveals that not only was Captain Needa executed by Darth Vader for allowing the Milennium Falcon to escape, but that several of his family members disappeared as well in the following weeks. Needa's cousin Virar - who was in the Imperial Academy at the time — managed to survive the purge but was given a low priority dead-end assignment.
    • When Corran Horn is in an Imperial prison, he's goaded by a prisoner who is Imperial but was put there for his failures. Corran almost starts a fist fight, but another prisoner stops him, explaining that if they beat up any Imperial prisoners, then the guards will beat up a senior Alliance prisoner whom the prisoners all respect.
    • Later, in the novel "The Bacta War" Imperial Intelligence director Ysanne Isard targets the family members of freighter crewers who surrender to the Rogues, and when Sair Yonka and his star drestroyer defect to the Rogues begins killing the families of the crew members she could get her hands on. Horrorfyingly, she reveals this was not the first time she has killed families of Imperial soldiers when the soldiers defect or fail her.
  • Sergeant Grimshawe in Kim Newman's Alternate History novella "Teddy Bears' Picnic", being the setting's version of Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann, does this by punishing the rest of the platoon whenever Frank Spencer screws up.
  • Through Alien Eyes has the kidnappers hit Juna until Moki subsides and stops trying to help her.
  • Vanas Heritage: Vladr threatens As’Saif to kill one of his subordinates if he fails watching Nirvy. He fails and Vladr stands by his words.
  • Completely backfires in Well Of Darkness, where Prince Dagnarus is provided a whipping boy—but doesn't care about anyone but himself.
  • The children's book The Whipping Boy is based on the 15th century real-life practice of punishing a companion to a prince as the royal line was considered divine and only another from the royal line could do the punishing on pain of death. In real life, a whipping boy would be a lifelong companion to the prince so that their emotional bond would make the whipping a real punishment for the prince. In the book, the whipping boy was chosen to start a new life in the castle with the young prince, who was a Royal Brat. This trope is played with, however, as when the two are kidnapped, the whipping boy is more educated than the prince, so believing the prince to be the whipping boy, he is the one punished.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Toward the end of Season 7 of 24, Tony Almeida and his men break into a Muslim illegal immigrant's apartment, take his brother hostage, and tell him to do as he says if he wants his brother to live.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • In "Crawl Space", Gus Fring tells Walt that he will "take care of" Hank and threatens to kill Walt's entire family if he ever tries to intervene.
    • After Jesse attempts to escape the neo-Nazi compound, Andrea is killed for it, and they threaten to kill Brock if he tries again.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Anya wants to undo a wish she granted as a vengeance demon that killed an entire fraternity. D'Hoffryn, her boss, says it will require the death of a vengeance demon and Anya offers herself, as a way to repent for her sins. Then D'Hoffryn summons up Anya's friend Halfrek and casually kills her.
    D'Hoffryn: Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain.
    • Invoked as a threat in "Lovers Walk". Spike, distraught over his failed Unholy Matrimony, kidnaps Willow and Xander and forces Willow to make him a love spell. Made oddly terrifying by how heart-broken and depressed Spike is.
      Spike: And if at first you don't succeed ... I'll kill him, and you can try again.
  • Dexter: In Miami Metro Police Department, Captain Matthews exploits Lieutenant (later Captain) LaGuerta who is the head of Homicide. Her close friend and later lover, husband, and Amicably Divorced ex-husband Sergeant Batista is the one who suffers — or is to suffer — for her screw-ups.
  • Doctor Who: In "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", the bad guy doesn't even warn the Doctor—he just has his friend shot. The Doctor . . . doesn't respond well.
  • In season 5 of The Expanse, whenever a Belter faction agrees to join Marco Inaros's Free Navy, he insists on a crew exchange, sending on of his own trusted crewmembers to serve on a ship in that faction, while a member of that faction serves on Inaros's flagship Pella. The implication is that any betrayal or failure by that faction will result in the "hostage" paying for it. That's exactly what happens with Serge when Drummer betrays Inaros and saves the Rocinante.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Captain Sawyer gets angry at Lt Hornblower because he informs him that he's shortening sails (perfectly according to the orders), but Sawyer believes he should have asked for permission. He decides that he will teach Hornblower a lesson by getting men from his division punished. The last man to get down from the mast gets flogged. This causes panic and a lethal accident, as one poor sailor falls down. Horatio, Archie, Styles and Matthews must scrub him off the deck, and Sawyer then orders them to toss him overboard without a funeral.
  • Minnie in Lark Rise to Candleford has a stepfather who uses this tactic to brutalise and subjugate his wife and her daughters.
  • On one episode of Law & Order: SVU, the case of the week involves a group of human traffickers who would collectively punish all of their child slaves if one of them broke a rule. This ensured the kids wouldn't run away when sent out to work or prostitute, because they were certain the others would be beaten or even killed if they ran. It also ensured that if one of them did try to step out of line, the others would rein that one in for fear of punishment; one boy ultimately killed his own sister when she tried to run, because he was afraid of what would happen to him and the other children if she got away. (When detectives point out that she might have been trying not just to get away, but also to get help for him and the others, he's horrified.)
  • Malcolm in the Middle has Commandant Spangler, the head of the military school Francis goes to, punish everyone for the actions of Francis. It gets a Call-Back later when Francis gets him a job at a retirement home in Alaska where punishes all of the members when a woman with arthritis is unable to complete a collage.
  • The Mentalist: The new director of the CBI, Madeline Hightower, calls in Jane and Lisbon on her first day. She tells Jane that he's "golden," he can do whatever he wants with no repercussions. Then she tells Lisbon that if Jane does anything against CBI policy, Lisbon will be punished (since she's his supervisor). Jane doesn't take this well. She claims it's because Jane is more valuable, but given all of the factors involved as well as the fact that Hightower is later shown to be incredibly shrewd and cunning, it seems more than likely that she was intentionally invoking this trope, knowing that would be the only way she could keep Jane in line.
  • A minor example in the Red Dwarf episode "Meltdown": Lister and the Cat are captured by Caligula and Rasputin. Caligula's response to everything the Cat says is to slap Lister.
  • Heir To The Throne, an 80s Taiwanese series based on the life of the folk hero Zheng Cheng-gong, have one of the villains, Commander Shih, doing this. Notably, knowing how much Zheng Cheng-gong cared for civilains, Commander Shih would order large number of civilains massacred and have the survivors executed on an hourly basis, until Zheng surrenders.
  • Southland: This happens in the episode "Derailed". Marta Ruiz, the matriarch of the Avenue drug gang, wants Janilla dead for agreeing to testify against her sons for a drive-by shooting. Marquece, Janilla's ex-boyfriend and a member of the Grape Street gang, after being taken into custody, reports to Marta that the police have her and that he doesn't know where she is. Marta reminds Marquece that the Grape Street gang owes Avenue money, and after Marquece promises to fill her in on Janilla's new location as soon as he finds out, Marta threatens to have Marquece's entire family killed if he screws up again.
  • After Teal'c betrays his god Apophis in the pilot episode of Stargate SG-1 to help humans, he finds out that his wife and son were exiled from their home (which was burned and branded with the symbol for "shol'va" - traitor). They are forced to live on the outskirts of the village as untouchables. When his son reaches the age of joining, Teal'c wife has to beg the priests to allow Rya'c to undergo the ritual. It took her to finally divorce Teal'c and marry a friend of his in order to wash away his "shame".
  • Star Trek: The Original Series. In "The Cage", Captain Pike doesn't know Vina and doesn't especially like her, but he objects when she's punished for his lack of cooperation. This is all part of the Talosians' plan to make him breed with her, because it causes Pike to feel empathy for Vina over her unjust punishment.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the episode "Paradise", Sisko and O'Brien become trapped on a planet with a human colony built by the crew of a ship that was rendered inoperable due to some sort of Negative Space Wedgie. The leader of the colony is an Evil Luddite who rebuffs any and all suggestions of trying to get their technology to work and, when she catches O'Brien trying to find a way back onto a runabout in orbit, orders Sisko to be placed in a heat box, reasoning that he was responsible as O'Brien's commanding officer.
    • In "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night", Dukat tells Kira that her mother did not die when Kira was young, but left to become Dukat's lover. It turned out that Kira Meru was one of a number of Bajoran women selected to "work" as comfort women in return for food and medical supplies for their families, who were already suffering under Cardassian occupation and whose lives looked likely to get worse as the war progressed.
  • The Walking Dead: In "The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be" after Negan brutally murders Abraham and then taunts his ex-girlfriend about it, Daryl attacks him in a rage. Negan responds by executing Glenn too. Then he has Daryl taken back to his compound, threatening to torture and kill him if Rick doesn't comply with his demands.
    • Given Negan's Cult of Personality, the Saviors in general follow his example in this. Ranking Saviors usually force the compliance other survivors by threatening/punishing the people they care about.
  • In a double example, the White Collar episode "Front Man" has Neal being coerced to perform a series of tasks for a gangster, who threatens to kill his hostage (a young girl) if he refuses. While doing the first task, he is told that if he doesn't get the required information from a female travel agent in a certain amount of time, a sniper will kill her (the travel agent). You can even see a red dot appear on her head and clothing occasionally, reminding Neal of his deadline.
  • The X-Files: At the end of the episode "Drive", AD Kersh gives Mulder and Scully a scolding for trying to save lives. They had another assignment, completely pointless as they were Reassigned to Antarctica. He threatens Mulder that he will bill Scully for the unauthorised expense, which was mostly Mulder's fault.
    Mulder: Why don't you bill me?
    AD Kersh: I'll bill your partner instead. You too obviously relish the role of martyr.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook Book of Vile Darkness features the spell Love's Pain, which is likely based on this trope.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
  • During the final Two-Face mission in Batman: Arkham Knight, Two-Face states that every time a mook gets taken out by Batman, he's going to flip his coin: if it lands on tails, he'll execute the mook's family as punishment for failing to stop Batman. As you take out mooks, you can hear Two-Face calling out either "heads" or "tails". Presumably, however, it's subverted, as Batman arrests Two-Face just minutes later.
  • In episode 2 of the DLC Burial at Sea for Bioshock Infinite, Atlas threatens to torture Sally slowly if Elizabeth fails to get him what he wants.
  • In Black Closet, if you follow the clues to meet up with the Red Mask Society but get cold feet about actually joining them, they mention it would be a Shame If Something Happened to the girl you chose to be your Queen/partner at the Harvest Festival. If you don't carry out their assignment in time, your Queen is poisoned and removed from the Council for the rest of the semester, forcing you to play with fewer characters.
  • In Double Homework, Dennis eventually tells Johanna about the protagonist’s and Tamara’s roles in the Barbarossa incident in order to blackmail her into doing his bidding. He threatens to expose them if she doesn’t do what he says.
  • Bambi "Buck" Hughes is holding Jason Brody's friend Keith captive in Far Cry 3 as a Sex Slave, and if Jason botches up his Fetch Quest to find a rare Chinese knife for Buck, Buck makes sure to hurt Keith instead.
    Jason:I don't have your knife, all right?
    Buck: No... no, no, no, no! Jason, that's not all right! It's just a little fucking knife that I asked you to get me, but you're too bloody incompetent- too fucking lazy to get it for me! Too busy playing games, aren't ya?! Well, fine. I'll just go play a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey with Keith.
  • During the Hoshido/Birthright and Revelation route in Fire Emblem Fates, Felicia's sister Flora is forced to fight the Avatar as refusing to do so will result in Garon destroying the Ice Tribe.
  • Officers Tenpenny and Pulaski pull this in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, threatening to make sure Sweet, who has been incarcerated since the Wham Episode at the end of the game's first act dies if CJ doesn't do what they want him to do. Later Toreno pulls this as well but is less malicious about it, and ultimately frees Sweet once CJ has done enough for him.
  • There was a very old PC version of Hangman, back in the Commodore 64 days, in which the person about to be hanged had been convicted of all sorts of horrible crimes, as well as ugliness. The judge, however, "being a lenient sort," was willing to commute the crimes down to just ugliness as long as the accused had at least one friend - which was the player. If the player succeeded in winning the game, the accused could go free; if not, they would, of course, be hanged.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic this trope is used by Saul Karath when the party is captured and subsequently tortured for information. Seeing that the PC won't break, Saul switches to Bastila for male characters and Carth for females, and says you can end their suffering if you talk. You are given the option to talk, but doing so boosts your Dark Side points and is totally pointless since Saul says he already knew what you told him and promptly leaves the room with the torture machine still running on everyone.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, after exiling Talon of Lon Lon Ranch and taking the place over, Ingo the Stablehand threatens to treat badly the horses that Malon loves if she goes against him, which sets the stage for Link kicking his ass in a horse race on Epona, whom he had befriended as a kid earlier in the game.
  • In the old arcade game Legionnaire, your ally / Love Interest Judy (depending who you're playing as) gets abducted by the Big Bad Crimson King and his minions, as a threat for you to stop investigating his activities. Crimson King even name-drops the trope during a cutscene.
    Your friend here will be punished as a warning to anyone else who dares to ressist our rules!
  • In Metal Wolf Chaos, people Richard find to be Metal Wolf sympathizers are killed along with their family members within four separations, their old classmates AND their friends and coworkers. Kevin Bacon is understandably concerned.
  • Implied in Papers, Please: To be a border security agent, you must have a family: if they all die, you're fired. But don't worry, you'll be given a government-approved apartment! That you have to pay rent for. And you'd better do a good job, because your base pay isn't enough to pay rent, food and heat, so you'll need to work for those bonuses. You will be fine. Your family might die.
  • In Psychonauts, Genius Ditz Sheegor only works for Mad Scientist Dr. Loboto because he has her beloved pet turtle Mr. Pokeylope and threatens to make him into soup. You have to rescue him as part of the game, after which Sheegor will convert to your side and Mr. Pokeylope himself will come up with a plan to defeat Loboto.
  • The Warlord from Rebel Inc. can pass an initiative to assign responsibility for his soldiers' failing in battle to their families... This initiative greatly increases his soldiers' combat effectiveness by turning them into Cornered Rattlesnake... At the cost of decreasing his Support.
  • In Red Dead Redemption this becomes John Marston's primary motivator after his wife and son are kidnapped.
  • In the first Robopon game, Dr. Zero traps Princess Darcy in a mirror because Prince Tail lost to him and to Cody. However, if Prince Tail wins (while Robopon is plugged into an cheating device such as Madcatz's GameShark, PDP's Code Breaker or Datel's Action Replay), he might rescue Princess Darcy from Dr. Zero and convince Cody to go back to his good natured ways (as shown on Game Winners).
  • In Scribblenauts Unlimited, the game starts with Maxwell giving a man a rotten apple. As revenge, the man curses Maxwell's sister to turn to stone unless Maxwell collects enough Starites.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: In the Alderaan storyline for the Sith Warrior, when dealing with a House Organa general who is willing to give you necessary info if you help her men in a battle, you can instead start force choking her lieutenants until she starts talking. Eventually, she relents when one of them turns out to be her lover, afterwards you can either let them go or kill them all because they're still your enemies.
  • This prompts Leon's Face–Heel Turn in Tales of Destiny. Hugo threatens to hurt Marian if his son won't steal the Eye of Atamoni and even when he does, refuses to let her go until he betrays his friends. Made worse by the fact that she tries to commit suicide to get him out of it in the remake.
  • An implied example in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, where at one point, a Nazi soldier can be heard making a report to his superior. We can't hear the other end of the conversation, but the soldier mentions that his wife is pregnant, and that they already have two children. He then says that "it would kill [him] if anything happened to them." Read between the lines.
  • In World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, you find letters after killing mage-hunter captains of races on your faction (a human and a troll, respectively), reading the letters becomes a very poignant Player Punch when it says that they've been forced to work for the blue flight under threat of their family's death. The reason why Vol'jin is hesitant to openly defy Garrosh is because with the Darkspear Trolls so close to Orgrimmar, it would be easy for Garrosh to send in troops to exact retribution on them, and Vol'jin advises Baine, who has similar positions to him and who is similarly close, to also be mindful of what he says. Vol'jin proves to be correct; he nearly gets killed by one of Garrosh's assassins while trying to prevent Garrosh from bringing back information on making sauroks, and Garrosh has the Echo Isles occupied.

    Web Animation 
  • Girem 6 in Smashtasm does this a lot to Grant and Gront, as noted in this exchange:
    Grant: Why do I get hit whenever he says something?!
    Girem 6: Semantics. Hitting the partner of the offender encourages discipline.
    Grant: Oh... well in that case, those boots make you look fat.
    [Grant gets hit again]
    Grant: Why did I get hit that time?!
    Girem 6: Because I blame your friend for that comment.

  • In General Protection Fault, after Nick-Prime sees that Nega-Nick is lying to him about many things about the Nega-verse, including the real reason his plan to have Nick-Prime build Project Velociraptor for his MUTex, Nega-Nick shows him Nega-Ki, strapped to a torture device, and tortures her until he decides to cooperate, saying Nick-Prime can't know for certain that it isn't Ki-Prime he's torturing. Nick-Prime gives in, and Nega-Nick then tells Nick-Prime that one prisoner will be tortured to death in front of him for every hour he wastes. To make matters worse, it is impossible for Nick-Prime to succeed at his task due to Pandemonium's interference.
  • Homestuck:
    • Grimbark Jade tries to get Dave to comply with the Condesce's orders by kicking WV off a building and into some lava. It fails when Dave just swoops down and rescues him instead.
    • Meanwhile Caliborn gets Dirk to draw weird pornography for him by threatening to murder his own sister (who is a friend of Dirk's) — though Dirk was perfectly willing to do it anyway. He then reveals the "shitty twist" to his diabolical game: he had already killed her.
  • The entire plot of The Overture revolves around this. If Richard fails to become a hero, Sophie will kill every member of his family.
  • FUG from Tower of God coerces Viole to work for them this way.
  • Unsounded: When one of his thugs tries claiming he's injured and doesn't need further harm as punishment for disobeying Nary and hurting Sette the crime boss coldly grabs his sister to strangle her in front of him as punishment instead.
  • In Weak Hero, to stop Alex from getting away from him, Forrest grabs his new acquaintance Teddy and threatens to pummel him if Alex runs. He reluctantly allows himself to get captured, and then the two of them get beaten up anyway.

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League: Mongul forces his champion gladiator to keep fighting on the Warworld by threatening to blow up his home planet if he refuses. Mongul tries the same threat on Superman, only to be informed by him that's he's too late. Mongul brushes it off, correctly guessing Superman would still be forced to fight if he threatened to blow up any inhabited world.
  • Tirac from the My Little Pony pilot threatened to kill Spike in order to make Scorpan obey him.
  • In Recess, TJ is sent to the Dodgeball Wall for extra punishment, when his friends refuse to bow to the bully Randall.
  • The Ripping Friends are tank-like masochistic superheroes who crave torture, so Citrocet kidnaps and tortures their sidekick with weird punishments to get to them.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons. Homer gets tricked into joining the army, and when questioning his sergeant, he forces everyone in his unit to do pushups while he eats donuts, and gets a foot massage from the sergeant.
    Homer: I don't get it. How does punishing them teach me a lesson?
  • In Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Beyond The Furthest Star" the entity that has taken over the ship uses this technique to force the crew to obey. Instances involve turning an Agony Beam on Spock to get Kirk to surrender the navigation console and telling Scotty that if he attempts sabotage while conducting repairs, all the rest of the bridge crew will be killed.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars Due to the selfless paragon behavior of the Jedi, the Zygerrian Slavers of Kadavo managed to torture and torment Obi-Wan Kenobi by punishing the other slaves around him even when he tried to apologize for speaking out of turn.
  • Slade uses this tactic in Teen Titans (2003) to (temporarily and forcibly) convert Robin over to his side. He infects the rest of the titans with nano bots and threatens to kill them if Robin doesn't become his apprentice and follow his every order. Robin manages to Take a Third Option via injecting himself with nanobots, badly harming Slade's pride and forcing him to release everyone.
  • Though it's never directly stated, it is heavily implied in a few episodes of X-Men: Evolution that the only reason why Colossus is a member of Magneto's Acolytes is because Magneto somehow threatened his family members who are still in Russia.

    Real Life 
  • In retail jobs, particularly in businesses where employees work in shifts, if someone who is scheduled for that day calls out at the last minute, or just plain doesn't show up without informing their supervisor (also known as a "no-call, no-show"), said supervisor may force one or more of the other employees to cover that shift (either by making them work extra hours on top of what they're working for the day already, or making them give up a day off), which can not only be more tiring for them, but can also jeopardize any pre-existing plans that depended on their original work schedule. It's often the case that the employees picking up the slack feel like they're being punished for their coworker's absence. While this is at least paid (assuming the business is operating within local laws regarding the salaries/wages of employees, of course), in some cases overtime depending on the covering employees' existing hours for the day/week, it can feel like the extra money doesn't make up for the time they could've spent resting and recovering instead.
  • A well-known "motivational" technique for drill instructors and/or sports coaches is to make everybody run the same training (be it running laps and sprints, obstacle course, pushups, whatever) for the supposed failure of one member. Sometimes a whole group will be forced to run again until the slowest person makes it in the set time. This is presumably to increase peer pressure so the worst performing person improves, but it frequently is just counterproductive as the rest of the group get angry and the worse performers just get tired and thus slower.


Video Example(s):


Orson Krennic

Commander Orson Callan Krennic, the future Director of the Advanced Weapons Research division of the Imperial Military, originally fought for the Republic as a Lieutenant Commander in the Clone Wars, massacring even civilians whose only crime was being affiliated with Separatists. Krennic enthusiastically supported the new Empire in order to make his dream of creating the planet-killing Death Star a reality. At one point, Krennic orchestrates a war on one world, both so the Empire can end up brutally suppressing it and to distract his rival Tarkin. Krennic tries to obtain the research of his former friend, pacifistic genius scientist Galen Erso, for the sake of using it for the Death Star's superlaser, and massacres a group of engineers who ask to be released from their contracts by blowing up their facility. When Galen escapes, Krennic tracks him down, resulting in the death of Galen's wife before forcing him to complete the Death Star, which Krennic later tests on the civilian city of Jedha after his original proposal of destroying the entire moon is shot down, finding himself awestruck by the resulting mass casualties and destruction. After learning that one of his engineers leaked information on the Death Star, Krennic has them all executed just to hurt Galen—who had already admitted he was the leaker. Firmly dedicated to furthering his own career, Krennic will betray or murder whoever he has to in order to keep the command he feels is his by right.

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