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Inspirational Insult

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Crubbs: Don't listen to them, Wright. You're a teacher and not cut out to be principal.
Wright: It... it's not that. I just don't want the job.
Crubbs: Because it's too demanding. I'd hate to see you humiliate yourself. Mr. Wright equals Principal Wrong.
Wright: (shows doctorate degree) That's Doctor Wright.
Crubbs: Oh. All my negative prodding is actually motivating you, isn't it?
(Wright, Ned, Mose and Cookie all nod their heads)

Normally, people gain inspiration and motivation from encouragement. Sometimes though, being insulted works better as a motivating source, as now the person is going to try and succeed in whatever task it is they are going to do just to spite the insulter.

There are two common variations of this trope.

  1. The insulter did not intend for their target to draw inspiration from the insult given to them.
  2. The insulter did intend for their target to draw inspiration from the insult given to them.

The first variation is not to be confused with Insult Backfire, since that is about the insulted party getting flattered, not motivated.

The Compassionate Critic will give out lots of these, while The Trickster Mentor might give out only some of these, and it's part and parcel of a Drill Sergeant Nasty training montage.

Could be part of some Enforced Method Acting attempts. A tiny character who deals with lots of height insults might feel motivated by them and try to prove themselves capable of achieving things that are typically for tall people.

Supertrope to Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!, which is specific to insulting a person's courage and often used to make the person do something against their better judgement. Compare Quit Your Whining, in which a character on the verge of giving up is hectored back into action, and Dare to Be Badass, for straight encouragement to do awesome things. Also see Teach Him Anger.

Examples must note the insult part and the drawing-inspiration-from-the-insult part.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Claymore: After Teresa comes Back from the Dead, she calls Cassandra the Dust Eater, a fellow former number one of her respective generation, out on her letting herself be devoured by Priscilla, who has never risen above the second rank. She proceeds to question whether Cassandra has lost all her pride, until she literally breaks out of Priscilla's body to show just who exactly she was messing with. This proves to be a sound strategy on Teresa's part, serving both to weaken Priscilla considerably and to let Cassandra finally Face Death with Dignity.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Edward became fully determined to win an arm wrestling contest while in Rush Valley when the promoter insulted his short stature and said he wouldn't win anyway. Edward won but Alphonse says it was because Ed used Alchemy.
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?:
    • In Volume 1 of the main novels, a drunk Bete mouths off Bell, not knowing the latter was in earshot. Humiliated, Bell runs off and enters the dungeon to stat grind as much as possible to prove him wrong.
    • In the spinoff Sword Oratoria, when the Loki Familia are in danger of losing to a Spirit/Monster hybrid, Fynn managed to get them to rise back up again by saying they can't compare to the aforementioned Bell. Of course, the familia who are high-levelled take issue with being called inferior to the then level one Bell, who is just a newbie.
  • Naruto: During the Fourth Ninja World War, a zombified Asuma Sarutobi tries to motivate his student Choji Akimichi by insulting him as a "fatso", otherwise a major Berserk Button for him, as he wants him to continue fighting him. Choji is briefly provoked into a blind rage, until he realizes just who the target is and stops the attack, forcing the others to motivate him the traditional way.
  • One Piece:
    • In the very first chapter, Shanks gives a young Luffy a good-natured jab about how Luffy will never succeed as a pirate, which prompts Luffy to declare that we will succeed and be a better pirate than Shanks. Shanks gives his hat to Luffy in encouragement after that, starting off the whole story.
    • Much later, we're introduced to Belo Betty, who has this as an explicit superpower. She ate the Pump-Pump Fruit, which allows her to rally others; she does this by insulting people until they decide to get up and do something about it, at which point she can buff them with a wave of her flag.
  • Skip Beat!: The plot starts off because Shou, on dismissing his childhood friend Kyouko, calls her a plain, boring, worthless girl with no talent, and that the only method of revenge she could use against him would be beat him in the entertainment world, which for a girl like her would be impossible. Kyouko, furious for having been duped into being his servant by him exploiting her devotion, has since set herself into proving him wrong on all of those points, so far with a certain degree of success.
  • In Wasteful Days of High School Girls, Baka unwittingly causes one to Hime's father four years before Present Day. She hammered down on his ramen so mercilessly (saying it's so bad that she doesn't even need to eat to know it's bad) that in anger, he decides to try to improve his product, improving his self-esteem and his culinary capabilities. This ends up cementing his drive as a restaurateur, opting to move away to build his food a better reputation. This touches his daughter, who has more than a bit of body-image issues, so much that she strives to improve herself in any way she can.
  • My Hero Academia: Main protagonist Izuku Midoriya was given the insulting nickname "Deku" (which means "useless") by his former friend and current bully Katsuki Bakugo. During the entrance exams for UA, Izuku meets Ochaco Uraraka, who hears the nickname and tells him that it doesn't have to be an insult, since "deku" can also mean "never gives up". Izuku ends up embracing "Deku" as his superhero alias, including a moment where he proudly and defiantly tells Bakugo "My 'Deku' doesn't mean useless! It means I'll never give up!"

    Comic Books 
  • Invincible: Mark Grayson is told by Principal Winslow to not confront bullies on his down because Mark Grayson is not invincible. Once Mark Grayson hears the word "Invincible" he uses the word as his official superhero hero name.
  • A particularly base-breaking scene of Ironheart is a flashback to Riri in kindergarten, where she stands up and announces to the whole class that she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. The teacher responds with words of encouragement, which actually causes Riri to get upset since she expected to be discriminated against and told that she couldn't become one due to her race and gender, which would then inspire her to prove the naysayers wrong out of spite. The teacher tells her that those days are over, and anyone of any race or gender is now free to pursue whatever career they want. Riri does not accept this answer and remains standing, giving the teacher an unblinking Death Glare until she finally rolls her eyes and tells Riri that she'll never be the next Tony Stark. Despite the teacher's blatantly insincere tone, it's still good enough to fuel Riri's spite as she sits down and begins making plans to do just that.
  • S.W.O.R.D. (2020): The first issue has Abigail Brand state that her What the Hell, Hero? speech to Carol Danvers at the end of Empyre was an attempt to make Carol step up her game. Since the result was Carol quitting being Earth's "ambassador extraordinaire", it's safe to say that backfired.
  • During Secret Wars (1984) while the Hulk is holding a 150 billion ton mountain up so the rest of the team can survive, when he starts getting fatigued Reed Richards insults him, inspiring him to hold the mountain up a while longer. Hulk calls Reed out on this later.
    • Insulting the Hulk is a fairly common tactic that friends and teammates resort to when he seems to not be strong enough to overcome the task at hand. This isn't simply because Hulk is stubborn, but because Hulk's strength is directly proportional to how angry he is.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animation 
  • Cars:
    • Doc tells Lightning who fell into the cactus that his driving is as lousy as his ability to fix roads, giving Lightning more motivation to do a proper job in fixing the road he damaged. Lightning even says "I'll show him."
    • Also McQueen calls his more arrogant rival Chick Hicks "Thunder" since thunder always comes after Lightning, much to Chick's annoyance. However, Chick later shows off with this new nickname after Lightning disappears in Radiator Springs, wooing his fans and stealing Lightning's.
      Chick Hicks: You want thunder? You want thunder?! Ka-Chicka! KA-CHICKA!
  • Monsters University: After Roar Omega Roar pulls an embarrassing prank on Oozma Kappa, Chet jokingly suggests that Mike's frat "just aren't cut out for the big leagues". This gives Mike the idea to sneak his Oozma Kappa members into Monsters, Inc. and raise their morale before the next Scare Games events.
  • Mulan: Shang begins the Training Montage by insulting the troops, including "You're a spineless, pale, pathetic lot, and you haven't got a clue!" and the rather ironic "Did they send me daughters when I asked for sons?" Additionally, Mulan is inspired to improvise a way to climb the pole after Shang tells her she's unfit for battle and tries to send her home.

     Film - Live Action 
  • Down with Love: Towards the end, Peter finally gets the courage to make a move on Vicki when she, upset with him over something else, slaps him and tells him that he's "just like every other man!" So he realizes that he needs to stop overthinking it, just "be a man", get out of his head and into her pants. So he does.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Done as a matter of course by pirate captains when giving orders. It tends to send their crews scurrying to obey.
    Captain Sparrow: On deck, you scabrous dogs!
    Captain Barbossa: Bloomin' cockroaches!
  • Shaun of the Dead: An angry rant by Pete, the main character's frustrated roommate (even more frustrated than usual after having been unknowingly bitten by a zombie and having his dumb flatmates play records extremely loudly in the wee hours of the morning), ends on "Sort your fucking life out, mate!" The next morning, "Sort your life out" is on Shaun's to-do list, and becomes the film's theme.
  • She-Devil: The very scorned Ruth derived the inspiration for the Roaring Rampage of Revenge and the related personal improvement from "The Reason You Suck" Speech her cheating husband gave to her before abandoning her.
  • Space Jam: Occurs twice with Lola Bunny. During the tryouts at Schlesinger's Gym, Bugs Bunny puts the move on Lola, asking, "You wanna play a little one-on-one, doll?" Lola's Fireball Eyeballs signal that she severely dislikes being regarded as a pretty face and nothing more. She quickly leaves Bugs in a ridiculous knot at the foul line, and throws down an impressive jam. Later, during the Ultimate Game, the Monstar Pound challenges Lola, "Try to get by me, doll." After disarranging Pound's face, Lola throws down another strong jam. Notable in that these are the only times that Lola Bunny is seen scoring points.
  • In The Karate Kid Part III Daniel gets up to face Barnes again after Barnes yells, "Your karate's junk. You're nothing. Your slope teacher's nothing!" This gives Daniel more motivation to win.
  • In Suicide Squad (2016) Deadshot does this to El Diablo before immediately backtracking once it looks like he's genuinely furious.
    :''' I was just trying to get you there.

  • Redwall: The Bellmaker, several of the heroes are trapped in a tower, with their only hope of rescue a rope brought to them by a shrike (a.k.a. a butcher bird). Unfortunately, the rope is too heavy for the bird, so the hare starts insulting, a previously noted Berserk Button. The shrike makes it to the tower, fully intent on proving its nickname, but is convinced to leave instead.
  • The Dresden Files: This is how Harry defines the difference in the Fae Courts. A Summer Court fae will help you by being nice, giving you a sandwich, and generally putting you back on your feet. A Winter Court fae will help you by shouting insults at you until you pick yourself back up in order to punch them in the teeth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad:
    • In an early episode, Jesse finds an old test paper marked by Walt, on which he's written "Ridiculous - apply yourself." Jesse takes the advice and applies himself to making meth.
    • In a later episode, Jesse proudly shows off to Walt that he can successfully duplicate his signature 99-Percent-Pure blue meth. Walt is less than pleased to see Jesse can copy it, and insults him for it, inspiring Jesse to push harder into the meth business.
  • Cobra Kai: In the Season 3 finale Kyler is beating up a barely-recovered Miguel in his back and is winning, but then he begins calling him by the malicious nickname of "Rhea" and taunting him, which gives Miguel the motivation necessary for him to overpower and defeat Kyler.
  • Doctor Who: "The Ark In Space", the Doctor intentionally insults Sarah Jane and hurts her feelings in order to help her achieve the Air-Vent Passageway escape. Needless to say, he doesn't mean it.
    • In "The Lodger", the Doctor insults Sophie in order to trick her into believing in herself and doing what she wants to do.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: In the "Guide to Principals" Vice Principle Crubbs tells Mr. Wright who wasn't going to try for the principal position anyway after asked by Ned, Mose and Cookie that he wouldn't make a good principal. This irks Mr. Wright and he decides to go and try for the principal position. This even gets lampshaded.
    Crubbs: Don't listen to them Wright. You're a teacher and not cut out to be principal.
    Wright: It... it's not that. I just don't want the job.
    Crubbs: Because it's too demanding. I hate to see you humiliate yourself. Mr. Wright equals Principal Wrong.
    Wright: (shows doctorate degree) That's Doctor Wright.
    Crubbs: Oh, all my negative prodding is actually motivating you, isn't it?
    Wright, Ned, Mose & Cookie: (all nod their heads)
  • Seinfeld:
    • "The Cartoon", in which washed-up actress Sally Weaver takes Jerry's criticism (actually said by Kramer) of her acting abilities (or lack thereof) and applies it to her new stand-up rountine she calls Jerry Seinfeld is the Devil, in which she basically just mocks everything Jerry does or say to her to make him seem like a bigger Jerkass. Her new act launches her into celebrity status overnight.
    • Mocked in another episode; George is trying to get fired from his job at the Yankees so he can get a new, lucrative job with the Mets, but his attempts to get canned are all backfiring. Jerry gives him a "Pep-Talk".
    George: Who'd have thought I could fail at failing? I can't do anything wrong-
    Jerry: Nonsense! You do everything wrong.
    George: You really think so?
    Jerry: Absolutely. I have no confidence in you.
    George: Alright... I guess I just have to pick myself up, dust myself off, and throw myself right back down again!
    Jerry: That's the spirit. You suck!
  • The Love Boat: The second variation was in play during an episode when Jimmy Osmond played a novice actor shooting a scene, who just couldn't get it right. The director wasn't satisfied with his believability. He wasn't conveying enough anger and hurt. After repeated tries, the director called a break, during which the captain's daughter Vicki ripped into him about how he might as well give it up. He was a horrible failure of an actor, and he wasn't ever going to succeed. On the next take, he nailed it. Vicki had insulted him deliberately to make him angry and produce that result.
  • Discussed on Arrested Development when Buster is having trouble with basic training and asks why his drill sergeant isn't yelling at him and using insults like "homo" to motivate him. Turns out a recent lawsuit put the kibosh on that.
    "It'll be a long time before Sergeant Wendell Baker calls anyone 'Private Homo' again."
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Enemy", Geordi is trapped on Galorndon Core with a Romulan soldier, Centurion Bochra. After Geordi's VISOR stops working, he gives up hope of locating the beacon, leading Bochra to sneeringly ask him, "Do all humans give up so easily?" The example is somewhat ambiguous; it's unclear whether Bochra was prodding Geordi to keep trying or just venting his own frustration.

  • Eminem's diss track against Canibus, "Can I Bitch", was an attempt at trying to get Canibus to start acting like a Worthy Opponent. It was a response to an entire diss Concept Album from Canibus, C! True Hollywood Stories, in which Canibus rapped in character as Stan from Eminem's famous song, dumbing down his signature Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness into a pastiche of Eminem's flow as part of the process. Unlike Eminem's typical diss tracks, which are pretty abusive, "Can I Bitch" is a deliberately childish-sounding track, designed so that Canibus wouldn't take the insults to heart, and tells the story of Eminem and Dr. Dre driving to fight Canibus in the Batmobile while mourning Canibus changing his distinctive style. When they meet him, Canibus won't fight back, culminating in a long speech from Eminem in which he begs Canibus to stand up for himself, implying 'Bus could have a dedicated fandom like him if he got his act together. Canibus got the message, releasing several albums in something closer to his original style and allowing the beef to cool off. Until 2009, anyway.
    Hold up! 'Bus, quit foldin' up!
    Punch me in the chest, make my shoulders touch!
    Do something! At least one punchline!
    Come on! 'Til the meter reads Nine! Nine! Nine-note 
    -ty nine percent of my fans are blond! note 
    'Bus, come on, answer me, man, respond!
    Tell me 'bout the sun, rain, moon and stars!
    Intergalactical metaphors from Mars! note 
    Raw to the floor, raw like Reservoir Dogs!
    Bite another line from Redman's song! note 

    Video Games 
  • In Mass Effect 2, there's one point where you encounter a sick krogan. The Paragon response is to encourage him to get up and return to camp. The Renegade response is to shout at him, Drill Sergeant Nasty style, until he gets up to prove that he's a strong krogan warrior and not a whiny quarian with a tummy ache (which will provoke an I'm Standing Right Here response from Tali if she's in the party).
  • Zigzagged in Baldur's Gate II. In the beginning of the game, you find Minsc trapped in a cage with no lock. You choose to use insults to make him mad enough that he bends the bars of the cage and escapes, but any other dialog option will have the same effect.

  • Penny and Aggie: In Penny And Aggie Campaign Trail, Penny's slamming of Aggie, for talking to an interested Sara about endangered species, has an unintented motivational effect.
    Penny: If you like making speeches so much, run for president.
    Aggie: Fine! I will!
    Sara: That has to be the best comeback in the history of conversation.
  • The Order of the Stick: Roy nearly breaks down and gives up on the whole quest after hearing that Durkon had been turned into a vampire. Belkar proceeds to really lay into him verbally, which enrages Roy enough to steel his resolve. Belkar's comments afterward imply that, rather than insulting Roy for the hell of it, Belkar was deliberately invoking this trope.
    Belkar: Of course, it would mean that your best friend got horribly killed for absolutely no damn reason at all. Me, I'm a heartless little bastard. I can shrug that kind of thing off. But you seem like maybe that might bother you at some point down the road.
    Roy: You- You of all people- You have no right to-! (Beat) Fine. We keep going.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: In "The Cryonic Woman", Fry's girlfriend tries to motivate him by saying "My mother said you'd never amount to anything, now get out there and prove her wrong!"; Fry's response is a very hurt "Beth said that?"
  • The Simpsons: Invoked in an I Meant to Do That way in "The PTA Disbands". Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner have a heated discussion in the cafeteria during lunch about the teacher union's demands.
    Mrs. Krabappel: Seymour, by doing this you're denying these children's future.
    Seymour: Oh, come on, Edna. We both know that these children have no future!
    [everyone stops and stares at Seymour]
    Seymour: Prove me wrong, kids. Prove me wrong!
    • Similarly, in "Three Gays of the Condo" when the Simpsons complete a giant jigsaw puzzle after days of work, Homer calls it "the only worthwhile thing I ever made that wasn't Lisa." This nets him a reproachful look from Maggie.
      Homer: Prove me wrong, Silent Bob!
  • Kaeloo: In the episode "Let's Play Catch the Mailman", Kaeloo receives a letter in the mail from someone claiming to be a fan of the show, who says that Stumpy, Quack Quack and especially Mr. Cat are the best characters on the show and that she is annoying, boring, serious and easily offendednote . Kaeloo decides to use this as advice and never get angry again and be calm, easygoing and cool. Of course, she gets angry beyond words at the end of the episode when she finds out that the letter was written not by a fan, but by Mr. Cat himself.

    Real Life 
  • This Tumblr post shows some women who chose a career in science specifically because people told them women can't be scientists.
  • This is part of the controversial and seldom used "attack therapy". Success is not guaranteed, and can backfire dramatically.
  • One of the more famous Rooster Teeth Animated Adventures features this trope
  • In 1976, on the eve of the West Indies Cricket team's tour of England, English captain Tony Greig (an expatriate South African) commented, "If they're down, they (the West Indians) grovel, and I (...) intend to make them grovel." The comment incensed the West Indians, who proceeded to annihilate England in the series. West Indies captain Clive Lloyd commented:
    "The word 'grovel' is one guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of any black man. The fact they were used by a white South African made it even worse. We were angry and West Indians everywhere were angry. We resolved to show him and everyone else that the days for grovelling were over."