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Karmic Overkill

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"You deserve to die because the choices I made are your fault!"
Dan Gallagher (played by Peter Griffin) as he is drowning Alex, Family Guy, "Heart Burn"

A character gets what is treated as either Laser-Guided Karma or an otherwise appropriate consequence for their wrongdoing, but they end up suffering so horribly that even those who agree that they deserved punishment think they got more than they really deserved. While this typically applies to villains as most feel that The Villain Must Be Punished, this can easily apply to other characters if they get over-punished for a minor misdeed.

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The heroic version of this is Can't Get Away with Nuthin'. If done too often in a series, this can make a character a Butt-Monkey. Can cause the one doing the action to become a Designated Hero or Unintentionally Unsympathetic.

For in-universe cases of this, see Disproportionate Retribution, Evil Is Petty, and Dog-Kicking Excuse.

Compare Fate Worse than Death, Death Is Dramatic, Alas, Poor Villain, Alas, Poor Scrappy, Antagonist in Mourning, There Is No Kill Like Overkill, Unintentionally Sympathetic, Easy Road to Hell, Felony Misdemeanor, and Jerkass Woobie. Contrast Karma Houdini, Death Is Cheap, Death Is a Slap on the Wrist, and Joker Immunity.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bungo Stray Dogs: In the Cannibalism Arc, Chuuya is forced to kill Fukuzawa within two days or his own boss along with Fukuzawa will die, causing him to declare war on the ADA. While the executive makes it clear it's not personal and he hates the situation they're stuck in, Ranpo taunts him about Dazai to trap him in one of Poe's more brutal books containing one thousand characters, five hundred of whom are bloodthirsty murderers that must be identified to escape. On top of that, without access to his powers in the book world and not being especially good at puzzles, Chuuya is fully expected to die. Luckily, he eventually gets out, but one has to admit the trap was over the top.
  • Durarara!!: Izumii Ran had one in his backstory. When he was younger, he used to beat up his younger brother, Aoba, because he believed his parents favored him. How does Aoba get back at him? By starting a fire in Ran's room with a lit cigarette, which not only made their parents think Ran was smoking, but his father breaks his nose. To add insult to injury, Aoba grins at his expense and pretends he was glad Ran didn't get hurt by the fire. If anything, that justifies Ran's delusions of being The Unfavorite. Ran is no doubt a Jerkass to the extreme, but he didn't deserve to get violently beaten by his father for something he didn't even do, which isn't helped that the incident took place before some of Ran committed his more vile acts.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Diamond Is Unbreakable has Terunosuke Miyamoto, a one-off villain who ends up turned into a living book by Josuke for harming the latter's mother. Many fans find his fate to be too harsh since he's not as heinous as villains who suffered similar fates (like Kars and the Serial Rapist Anjuro), and is arguably less heinous than some of Josuke's reformed friends.
    • Golden Wind's Big Bad, Diavolo, ends up in a horrifying Fate Worse than Death where he's stuck in an infinite loop of dying in increasingly painful and humiliating ways (ranging from being stabbed by a homeless man who was addicted to the drugs his gang peddled, to tripping in front of a car). While he's a terrible person who burned his hometown to the ground and tried to murder his own daughter just to hide his identity, he's far from the worst character in the series.
  • In Muhyo and Roji, Zansetsu Hirata, the spirit of an artist who impersonated artists staying at the hot spring where he'd died in order to complete his final work, ends up being Dragged Off to Hell, rather than being sent to purgatory. This punishment comes off as too harsh for several reasons, since Zansetsu hasn't directly harmed anyone, makes no excuses for his actions and willingly leaves the task of finishing his work in the hands of Yontani, a washed-up author he'd come to sympathize with.
  • Naruto: The title character himself gets this in the third movie, Naruto the Movie: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom. Naruto spends the first third of the movie dealing with Hikaru's bratty behavior, even after he at least tried to make an effort to be friendly with him. The straw that breaks the camel's back for him was when Hikaru wanted to buy Naruto as a slave, but he hits him with a toy arrow after he rightfully refuses, prompting Naruto to bop him on the head and make him cry. Sakura punishes him by beating him up, is Denied Food as Punishment until he apologizes, and then taunts Naruto by waving food in his face when he sticks to his guns. Naruto was supposed to be seen as in the wrong, but it's hard to feel sorry for Hikaru when he constantly abused Naruto, only for Naruto to get punished for fighting back.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Initially, Jason Todd's death was treated as a tragedy. However, later writers portrayed Jason as the "bad Robin" for disobeying orders (something every Robin has done, including Dick Grayson, the original), which ended up giving off the implication that Jason deserved to be beaten senseless with a crowbar and caught in an explosion.
  • While Chick Tracts are already notorious for frequently having characters end up in Hell for not following the author's Christian beliefs, the most infamous instance is "Flight 144", where a missionary couple who have spent fifty years helping countless Africans by building schools and hospitals get sentenced to eternal damnation for believing that their good works would work more than Jesus' sacrifice. That same tract has a man who killed somebody in a drunken brawl (which he seems to have genuine remorse for, to be fair) end up in heaven because he helped his cellmate find Jesus.
  • Several Horror comics where the Asshole Victim gets an ironic death can elicit this depending on how extreme it is compared to the severity of the crime. An infamous example is Haunt of Fear #19's "Foul Play", where a Baseball player murders a rival player with poisoned spikes. Rather than informing the police when they figure it out, the rival's team takes vengeance by luring the killer to the stadium at night and brutally dismembering him (implicitly while he was still alive) and playing a macabre game with his body parts as equipment. It's supposed to be vigilante justice but given how needlessly gruesome and sadistic the method, the players just look like even worse psychopaths than their victim.
  • Green Arrow: In Justice League: Cry for Justice Prometheus had maimed Oliver's son, killed his son's daughter, and bombed Star City. At the end of this storyline, Oliver kills Prometheus and hunts down and kills any villains who had been allied with Prometheus. While the story treating this as him having fallen from grace is somewhat understandable given DC's unofficial "superheroes don't kill" rule, him being rebuked by his JLA teammates, his wife Dinah leaving him, and him being banished from Star City was considered by many to be overkill for his "misdeeds".
  • Teen Titans: This is the reason why the original version of The Judas Contract is so divisive amongst fans. The story depicts Terra, a teenage girl, as The Sociopath who revels in her deeds and gets killed when she loses control of her powers, while Deathstroke is treated as a sympathetic Anti-Villain. However, Deathstroke was the one who wanted to kill the Titans in the first place as revenge for his son's death (which wasn't even their fault) and was in a sexual relationship with Terra (who, mind you, is young enough to be his daughter). Modern adaptations of this story tend to excise the sexual relationship between the two and make Deathstroke the more evil of the two.

    Fan Works 
  • Apotheosis (MHA), a My Hero Academia fic, might as well be the definition for this trope, thanks to multiple characters that often get more punishment than they really deserve. The most prominent is All Might, who tells a Quirkless child that he shouldn't try to be a hero because it's dangerous (and showing the boy his own secret crippling injuries to show that he's being serious and why the job is too dangerous for someone without powers), and in return gets his reputation destroyed and quirk stolen by a Villain Protagonist. Most readers who aren't super into the story tend to find this to be overkill to the extreme, as it treats someone telling a kid a hard but honest truth as the ultimate act of evil that they must be destroyed over.
    • Another fic in the fandom that displays this trope is One for All and Eight for the Ninth, where Bakugo's canonical bad attitude, violent reactions, and issues with Izuku at the start of the series are used to set up a plot point where he's not only expelled, but labeled as not just a villain but an A-ranked Villain. For context, this is the same rank that, at various points in side materials, has been applied to Serial Killer villains like Dabi, Stain, Muscular, and Moonfish, and surpasses the ranking of villains like Overhaul note , all for being aggressive, jerkish, and inflating his mockery of Izuku's quirkless status (which is even stated in fic to have elevated his villain rank by an entire letter) to an extreme, and fairly literal, version of Jerks Are Worse Than Villains. The author eventually acknowledged this after the ranking discrepancy was pointed out, later retconning it so that his actual actions deserve a D ranking (increased to C because his victim was quirkless) and the A rank was an attempt by the government to strongarm him into working for them to avoid punishment.
  • In The Bridge, the Human Twilight is technically working for the Windigos, even badly wounding Sonata by stealing her gem. However, she does all this unwittingly, thinking Zephyrus is a kindly mentor guiding her toward a great destiny. Despite this, she suffers brutally for being an accomplice: Aria, furious at what happened to Sonata, beats Sci-Twi so badly, she is left with broken ribs and a broken arm. In fear, she becomes a horrifying fusion of Midnight Sparkle and Windigo. After she is defeated with a blast of the Elements of Harmony, Aria knocks her out, unsympathetically thinking she worked with the Windigos for power. Then Wallflower, strung along by one of the Windigos, erases Sci-Twi memories after the Elements reveal to her just how evil the Windigo really is, allowing Zephyrus to possess her body. This is a lot of punishment for a young girl who acted naively to go through.
  • In The Loud House fanfiction The Diary of a Loud, Lincoln punches Lola in the eye hard enough to send her to the hospital just because she read his diary to her classmates. This was meant to be portrayed as Lincoln punishing Lola for her prior behavior, but it became immensely unpopular due to Lola just being six (or seven) years old, along with it seeming disproportionate since she was sent to the hospital.
  • In the Teen Titans fanfic, The End of Ends, the villain, Count Logan, who is Beast Boy after getting a Superpowered Evil Side, sucks people who were mean to him or otherwise were just living happy lives into his book and kills them. He also has his minions blow up Tamaran because Starfire got together with Robin when Terra didn't get together with him. In fact, the entire reason why he was blowing up the universe was because of his getting "dumped" by Terra and slights, real, exaggerated or otherwise, from everybody else. All the horrific things he's done are presented as justified by the story.
  • One of the reasons that How I Became Yours, a Avatar: The Last Airbender fancomic featuring Zuko and Katara as a couple, gained infamy is because of this trope. The offending incident has Mai, who caused Katara to miscarry Zuko's child, gets gruesomely and painfully bloodbended to death by Katara (for those who don't know, "bloodbending" is when a waterbender takes control of the blood inside someone else's body, which means that the waterbender can control everything inside the person - and yes, it's considered to be a horrifying concept in the show). Even people who wanted Zuko and Katara to be together ended being disgusted by her actions.
  • This might as well be a running theme in the Infinity Train: Blossomverse series. The author admitting that they actively tried to invoke this reaction at times to help serve as a deconstruction of the usual Accusation Fic tropes, as some characters in-universe even question whether some of these characters actually deserve the punishments they get. But perhaps they did this a bit too well:
    • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: One of the biggest complaints about the story is the sheer lengths the universe goes to punish Goh. He becomes Vermillion City's personal scapegoat, with everybody pointing fingers at him and blaming him for Chloe running away, never even bothering to see past the cookie-cutter reality. Then he reaches a breaking point in Act 2, when Parker subjects him to the mother of all nightmares just to make himself feel better because of it, leaving Goh a shell of his former self with nary a hint of sanity left. Then, just as he's recovering from the previous event, he gets kidnapped by a lunatic who wants to use his Mew Tracker to get a Shiny Mew, with them even giving him an injured Mew as leverage, all while holding him at gunpoint. What did he do to deserve all of this? He searched for his best friend for days on end, growing sick with worry, only to be told to his face she wants nothing to do with him when they eventually do talk. Yes, Goh did need to be told off for taking Chloe for granted, but by the time the poor kid finally manages to see her again, it's hard not to feel bad for a kid who was so desperate to fix a friendship that they willingly enter a Death World with no promise of their own escape.
    • Infinity Train: Voyage of Wisteria: The Apex, especially Grace, did a lot of bad stuff (such as murder, injury, mental and psychological traumas, robbery, pillaging and generally being all-around assholes). But did it really have to end with them lost, separated, chased by understandably angry denizens, being dragged off to the Hazbin Car and Grace being killed and reincarnated as a mute music note? The author has stated that she actually welcomes debates from people over this, particularly where it started going from "ignorance" to "blind arrogance".
    • In the verse, nothing topped the abuse of this trope worse than Fury of Thistle. Said oneshot, since deleted, was a 'canon' replacement for an ending written by a co-writer where Parker admits his wrongdoing, is a cosmically powered character from Crocus deciding that, for the grand crime of confronting their abuser in a final conversation that is hard but necessary for all three of them (Ash, Goh, and Parker) to fully recover and move on, Ash and Goh should be mind raped as punishment for making Parker feel bad about himself and replace Parker in lock up as a result, with Goh's parents and Ash's mother narrowly averting this fate because said character wasn't at that point yet. Goh's parents crime to warrant mental torture: being busy and not always around for Goh and thus responsible for him. Delia: Being upset her son keeps getting mind raped by Parker and Parker related things. Parker, being the Creator's Pet, walks free without having to admit he was ever in the wrong for anything.
  • The Karma of Lies punishes Adrien for his refusal to act against Lila by having him unwittingly continue protecting her by suffering her karmic backlash in her place, on top of his own Karma Houdini Warranty running out. By the end of the story, he's effectively lost everything he once took for granted — his access to his family's fortune, his reputation, and his freedom. Meanwhile, Lila, who's even more manipulative and evil than her typical portrayal in Salt Fics, remains a Karma Houdini. While Adrien is shown to be self-absorbed and resistant to any lessons, digging himself deeper all the way to the end, debate remains about whether or not he deserved to suffer to that extent.
    • The Recursive Fanfiction Karma Overbalance lampshades it in the title. The story is about how Marinette encounters Adrien some time after the story ends and is horrified at seeing Adrien completely broken both from how his life has become hell and having murdered Lila when she came back to Paris seeking some way to try to blackmail Marinette after the Paranoia Gambit of Marinette's warning finally drove her over the edge, with him accepting that he's going to go to jail "where he belongs" and Marinette will continue living the perfect life that Karma gave her. Marinette is left wondering if Karma won't come gunning for her eventually because of her part in this mess.
  • The Last War, a quintessential Ron the Death Eater fic, has it with both Ron and Ginny (assuming the reader isn't of the Die for Our Ship variety).
    • While Ron is an abusive drunkard, readers agree that it doesn't really justify Hermione brutally and calculatingly murdering him, especially since neither she nor Harry (his best friend) tried to get him to seek help for his alcoholism. It gets even worse: after she admitted to having never really loved Ron and only marrying him to "get closer to Harry", many readers have speculated that she was what drove him to drink - this doesn't excuse the abuse but it would certainly make Ron be less of a one-dimensional asshole than portrayed.
    • Ginny has it even worse. She cheats on Harry, is (suddenly) a pureblood supremacist, and has put on weight since retiring from sports. This is supposed to justify Harry suddenly tell her that he wants to divorce her, and then tell her in the same breath to leave the house with nothing except what she's got on, along with forbidding her from seeing or even saying goodbye to her children. Naturally, readers criticized this, stating that even if the spouse is cheating and/or has become some kind of bigot, throwing them out like that without any prior warning, especially if there are children involved, is inexcusably cruel. Especially since Harry himself only married Ginny for her looks and has only ever loved Hermione.
  • In Pound and Pumpkin Cake's Adventures (and Misadventures) in Potty Training, the chapter "The 'Joy' of Flushing" is so-named because the Cake twins flushed a joyboy (a type of gaming device) down the toilet. As a punishment for this, Mrs. Cake spanks them, which some readers objected to this, especially since they're only toddlers. The author himself admitted that the spanking was a bit controversial and told readers that he would delete any arguments in the comment section.
  • Invoked in the Star vs. the Forces of Evil fanfic The Royal Protector. Brittney Wong issues a False Rape Accusation against Marco after they make out in a dark room due to them both mistaking the other for their date, but not only does the accusation fall flat due to everyone figuring out it was a misunderstanding immediately, Brittney suffers a Humiliation Conga soon after. Marco starts trying to keep her out of trouble as things fall apart around her because he wanted her to enjoy herself (admittedly just to boost his own reputation), and admits that she doesn't deserve what's happening to her.
  • In Two Sides of a Genetic Hybrid Human: Retribution (a Pokémon Adventures fanfic), Cyrus ends up getting discovered by, and subsequently mauled, by the titular Author Avatar. Not only does it imply that it won't end well for Cyrus either way (either he dies at the hands of the alien lady or he ends up in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, much to the apparent glee of the alien either way), the subsequent text in the image outright proclaims Cyrus had committed a 'sin too great' (by attacking the gym leaders who were attempting to stop his plans, and apparently not summoning two reality warping deities to destroy and recreate the world in the first place or literally attacking a small child), therefore drawing the attention of his would-be executor and 'suffering the severe consequences of his actions'. But not only does the sheer brutality of the mauling in the first place end up invoking more pity than catharsis, there are way worse villains within the same series that make Cyrus look like a saint in comparison, including Ghetsis, the Kanto Elite Four, the Masked Man and the like, so the alien's reasoning for attacking Cyrus and his former lackeys the way she does ends up holding even less water.
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    Film — Animation 
  • Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero: Dr. Belson's fate of getting crushed by the debris of the oil rig. He may have been an Opportunistic Bastard who willingly put Barbara in danger just so he could pay a debt, but he was still the lesser evil compared to Mr. Freeze, who murdered an innocent submarine crew for a complete accident and strong armed Belson into his plan to begin with.
  • In Chicken Little, Foxy Loxy is shown to be The Bully and a Jerk Jock, enjoying tormenting Chicken Little, and to a lesser extent, other unpopular kids. However, many found her fate in the end, where she's been hypnotized by alien technology to act like a stereotypical Girly Girl, as a bit much, as going through Mind Rape is a bit mean-spirited for a character who was a jerkass at worst. It doesn't help that the aliens offer to restore her to normal, but Runt of the Litter refuses, saying "She's perfect" in her brainwashed state.
  • At the end of The Princess and the Frog, Dr. Facilier gets his blood medallion smashed by Tiana. His "Friends on The Other-Side" emerge to gleefully drag him to his doom in their world while he desperately begs for another chance, the implication being his soul will either be devoured or tortured for eternity. While Facilier is definitely a terrible man for plotting to sacrifice countless other souls to save his own, and attempting to murder Charlotte's father so his henchman will be in control of the man's money, he's far from the most evil Disney villain. It doesn't help that he's basically a henchman working for his more ominous and powerful friends, and that he has a legit grievance with the system, considering he's a black man who has to deal with the racism of the 1920s.
  • Toy Story 2: Although Al McWhiggin stole Woody in order to complete his collection to sell to a museum in Tokyo, one might sympathize with him when he cries on TV over the loss of not just Woody, but also Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete, which, as far as we can tell, he acquired legally.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Carrie (2013):
    • Carrie's mother Margaret, just like in the first film adaptation, ends up dead when her daughter uses her psychic powers to impale her with sharp objects. However, in this version, Margaret is shown to be a lot less abusive, actually caring about the bullying her daughter goes through at school. In addition, she's clearly suffering from some unspecified mental illness, hurting herself with a scissor at one point. This can make this death seem a bit too gruesome, even by Stephen King's standards (notably, in the book, Carrie just telekinetically stopped her heart).
    • For some, the mean twins Nicki and Lizzy Watson, don't get nearly enough screen time to develop them as Carrie's bullies. Unlike Chris and Tina, who have active parts in tormenting Carrie and setting her up to be humiliated, the twins are just part of the Girl Posse and are only mean by association. They get a particularly gruesome death, where Carrie pins them to the floor so they can be trampled by the crowd. While certain moments in the film point to them being aware of the prank and possibly in on it (and they were in the original script), it can seem a bit much for two minor characters to die in such a cruel way.
  • The Final Boss of Kingsman: The Golden Circle is not Poppy Adams, but instead Agent Whiskey who makes a Face–Heel Turn at the last minute. His reasoning behind this however, turned out to be more sympathetic than the writers intended. His pregnant wife (who he had described as "the love of his life") was killed when two drug addicts started a shootout at a convenience store. Not only that, but his death via meat grinder was much more brutal than Poppy Adams' (who was a Complete Monster and would be much better fitted to such a fate).
  • Jurassic World: The kids' babysitter, Zara, is portrayed as being more concerned with talking on the phone and planning her wedding than actually watching the boys. Later, when a flock of pterosaurs escapes, she's grabbed by one and carried screaming into the sky, is dropped and then grabbed by another pterosaur, dropped into a lagoon and grabbed again by a third pterosaur, is nearly bitten in half by said pterosaur, and then is devoured by a Mosasaur. Many viewers, including Sam Neill, thought this was an overly cruel death for a character who was annoying at worst, especially since the Jurassic Park series usually saves its most gruesome deaths for truly evil characters. However, originally, Zara's death was meant for a random security guard, but Katie McGrath personally requested that her character died in such a spectacular manner.
  • Meredith in The Parent Trap (1998) embodies almost all the tropes of children's movie villains: she is a Gold Digger, Child Hater, and a (potential) Wicked Stepmother. However, some viewers feel that Hallie and Annie crossed a line when they pushed her mattress to float in the lake while she was asleep, which could have caused her to have drowned. Nick does say they're "punished until the end of the century", but once they're gone jokes that he should thank them.
  • Se7en: Theodore "Victor" Allen was a drug dealer and a pederast who was also responsible for armed robbery and assault, but his fate at the hands of John Doe (being slowly pumped with drugs, starved, dehydrated, and riddled with bedsores for an entire year) is so horrific that many viewers felt sorry for him. By contrast, while the movie treats his fate as horrific, both the police and the hospital doctor express No Sympathy for him, with one officer even stating "You got what you deserved".
  • In Twilight Zone: The Movie, one of the segments is about a bigot (played by Vic Morrow) being made to experience racial injustice himself by being teleported to several eras and locations in different bodies of minorities. He almost gets lynched as a black man in the Dixie South, nearly gets shot as a Vietnamese civilian by trigger-happy US troops during the Vietnam War, is hunted by Nazis in France as a Jew, and ends up being put on a train to a Nazi concentration camp. So, what did he do that was so bad that he deserved to live out all of this? He said something racist. Even people who disagree with bigotry found what he suffered during his segment to be severe overkill.note 

    Literature 
  • Near the end of The Belgariad, Zedar, a traitorous sorcerer who'd betrayed his brothers to God of Evil Torak, is attacked by Durnik and kills him in self defense, resulting in Belgarath sealing Zedar in stone for all eternity. Many readers consider this punishment more harsh than what he deserves, even those who don't believe in the Alternative Character Interpretation that Torak was controlling him all this time.
  • The bad kids' fates in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can be considered this. Violet chews gum constantly? She gets turned into a giant blueberry. Mike watches too much TV? He gets shrunk and then stretched out in a taffy puller.
  • In The Brothers Grimm's version of Cinderella, the stepsisters have their ankles and toes cut by their mother in order to fit the shoe. At Cinderella's wedding with the prince, birds peck out their eyes, rendering them blind and crippled for the rest of their life. While the stepsisters routinely bullied Cinderella, many found this punishment overly harsh since their behavior is very likely the result of bad parenting from the Wicked Stepmother.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Marietta Edgecombe is often viewed more sympathetically than intended. She betrays Dumbledore's Army to Umbridge and gets SNEAK written on her face in boils forever, thanks to Hermione's spell that she put on all the Army's members beforehand. However, many readers found that she didn't deserve this punishment for several reasons. First, Marietta never wanted to join them in the first place and was actually pressured to do so by her friend Cho. Second, her mother works at the Ministry of Magic, so Marietta could've been afraid that her participation in La Résistance would bring harm to her mother (though she could have cut ties with them without betraying them, implying that she actually wanted to curry favor with the authorities and not just protect her mother's job). Third, Marietta (along with the rest of Dumbledore's Army) was never warned about the consequences of her betrayal: if she had known she'd be revealed at once and scarred permanently, she likely wouldn't have betrayed them. Fourth, she later had her memories of ratting out Dumbledore's Army and her involvement with them erased, so she's permanently disfigured for a crime she doesn't even remember committing.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians does this to Gabe, Percy's abusive step-father. While he was no doubt an awful person who verbally and possibly physically abused Percy, definitely physically abused Sally, and told the authorities that Percy murdered Sally after her disappearance to get back at him for wrecking his car, some people felt that Sally murdering him by petrifying him with Medusa's head and being sold as a statue was too harsh of a fate for him.
  • The Railway Series (and its Animated Adaptation Thomas & Friends) frequently utilized these sorts of punishments onto the locomotives for their bad behavior.
    • One of the most infamous cases was "The Sad Story of Henry/Come Out Henry", where after the vain Henry refuses to make his runs in the rain and stays in a tunnel, the workmen lose patience and brick him up in there "for always and always". The narrative puts emphasis on the miserable state this has left Henry, though it assures the reader that he deserved his punishment.
    • In "Granpuff", to scare Falcon and Stuart into behaving, Duke tells a tale of a rowdy American engine who often derailed and toppled his goods trains. He ignored warnings over and over ("Who cares about a few spills?"), until eventually the manager got sick of his carelessness and had him rebuilt into a pumping engine.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: While they started out as malicious bullies, Bulk and Skull became harmless Butt Monkeys over their tenure on the show. Despite this, they were often subjected to numerous painful and humiliating experiences, no matter how badly they behaved. In one episode, the Rangers erase the evidence Bulk and Skull have acquired about their identities, humiliating them in public.
  • One episode of Night Visions had a crewman aboard a cargo ship discover some stowaways inside a crate. He does his job and informs his superiors about it, who ignore him. When it becomes clear the stowaways are trapped and that there may be something inside killing them, he tries to break them out. Suddenly, his superiors reveal the stowaways are cannibals that they transport around so the mob can use them to assassinate people and they stick him inside the crate, where the stowaways mock him and then brutally kill him. This would ordinarily be a Cruel Twist Ending, but the episode treats it as though he deserved it, with everyone (even the narrator) mocking him for the "crime" of being a Nice Guy who did his job to the best of his ability and didn't act selfishly.
  • In The Sopranos, Vito Spatafore is a Smug Snake who at one point murders a random civilian for trying to call the police after Vito crashed into his car while drunk driving, but it still doesn't really justify him being brutally beaten to death and sodomized with a pool cue in a homophobic hate crime by series Big Bad Phil Leotardo.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959)
    • "Living Doll" deals with Eric, a stepfather who is having a bit of trouble adjusting to his role as such, in part due to his own inability to father children and the fact his wife already has a daughter from a previous marriage named Christie. The titular Doll, dubbed Talky Tina, is purchased one day and adored by Christie. However, when Christie isn't present, Tina constantly harasses Eric — even beginning their disastrous feud by stating outright that she doesn't think she likes him very much. It culminates with Eric trying to destroy the doll (thus further alienating his family) and eventually being murdered by it when he takes a nasty tumble down the stairs.
    • A more famous example occurs in "Time Enough At Last". Walter Bemis is a kind man who absolutely adores reading. However, everyone in his life from his overbearing wife (who destroys his books after feigning interest,) to his boss seems to hate his habit. After a huge explosion destroys everything and everyone apart from him, he finds that there is time enough to read. Then his glasses break, leaving him completely unable to. Again, all of this was because he liked reading.
  • The Twilight Zone (2002) had a segment called "The Pool Guy", where the main character finds himself trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop experiencing his own murder over and over again. In the end, it's revealed that he's a murderer who was forced to undergo a memory wipe before being placed in a Mind Prison, and the man who kills him every time was his victim. According to his jailers and even the narrator, it's his just desserts, but many viewers felt that killing a confused, helpless man thousands of times until he goes insane is infinitely worse than killing someone once.
  • At the end of WandaVision, the villainous Agatha Harkness is brainwashed by Wanda into becoming the harmless sitcom neighbor, Agnes, that Harkness initially pretended to be. It's a convenient way to keep the character around for a possible return instead of the usual route of killing off supervillains, and Agatha had no qualms about killing children and puppies. However, to some viewers, it comes off as an unnecessarily harsh Death of Personality, especially since earlier it was revealed those Wanda brainwashed were still fully aware inside and every night had to psychically witness her nightmares.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place does this to Stevie. Her desire to put an end to the Wizard Competition so that all magic siblings keep their powers was already considered an act of Designated Evil by viewers, since it's been shown that the Competition has driven a lot of magic families apart. This at worst makes her a Well-Intentioned Extremist, but the characters all treat her like she's pure evil because of it, including her brother. Naturally, some viewers think that her fate of getting Taken for Granite and then having her petrified body shattered was too harsh of a punishment for her. Word of God tried to mitigate this by revealing that she was put back together and de-petrified, but since she never appears again in the show, many assumed she was killed.

    Theatre 
  • Mime's fate in The Ring of the Nibelung can seem way too harsh. Yes, he wants the Nibelung treasures and the Ring of Power for himself, but he decides to go after them after being cruelly taunted and beaten by his own brother who usurps power in Nibelheim (before that, as Mime recalls, life was wonderful). Then he takes in baby Siegfried in order to raise him to fight Fafner (who owns the treasures). He treats Siegfried decently (he clothes him, feeds him, teaches him, and makes toys for him), but Siegfried only taunts and humiliates him even more for years, even setting a bear on him For the Evulz. Then Wotan randomly drops in and bullies Mime a bit more, finally telling him he'll get killed. After that Mime snaps and starts planning to kill Siegfried, but with the Humiliation Conga he endures before that for no particular fault of his own, it's hardly a shock.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, many fans were upset on seeing Yuri Cosmos demoted in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue as even though he manipulated some parts of Case 4's crime scene and lied in court about it, it was all to protect his astronauts from a terrorist bombing, and he only resorted to these measures after he tried to tell the authorities and they didn't take him seriously.

    Web Animation 
  • GoAnimate: Whenever a troublemaker is punished for whatever they've done (i.e. killing someone or destroying something), they will often receive a Punishment Day. Depending on who you ask, the punishments they get from their parents may end up being too excessive, especially if they're killed or mentally broken for their actions.
  • Happy Tree Friends:
    • Whenever Sniffles tries to catch the ant family, they get back at him by tormenting him in gruesome ways, such as killing him via Psychic-Assisted Suicide. Even though he does try to eat them, they go too far in their self-defense.
    • Lifty and Shifty often have some of the prolonged and brutal deaths, at times almost on scale as Sniffles, when their thievery is often due to them being too poor to support themselves. And other times they do nothing wrong, but still die anyway.
  • RWBY: Jacques Schnee was a massive Hate Sink, a Dirty Coward, Smug Snake, and an abusive parent and Corrupt Corporate Executive with no real redeeming qualities, but his fate of being casually and unceremoniously murdered by General Ironwood in Volume 8 just because he was there was more than most fans felt he really deserved, and most were content with him merely losing his company and going to prison.
  • Helluva Boss: The members of C.H.E.R.U.B. were a bit self-righteous and seemed to care more about fame and glory than actually protecting and redeeming their clients, but some feel that them getting kicked out of heaven for the death of one human (who was revealed to have tested his inventions on children) that wasn't even directly their fault was worse than they deserved.
  • Pokémon Rusty: Despite Rusty causing untold amounts of death and destruction throughout the series, some viewers felt his punishment in the Grand Finale of being forced to work at his parents' deli for the rest of his life was excessive on the grounds that A. Rusty is only ten years old, and B. everything he did was out of stupidity rather than cruelty.

    Webcomics 
  • Most pages of Natty Comics are about various men wronging the title character (not always intentionally) and being humiliated, injured, killed, or worse in retaliation. Even though the victims always insist they deserve it, most people disagree and either worry about the author's sanity or wonder if the comic is actually satire. Word of God initially defended this by comparing it to the slapstick of Looney Tunes, but he eventually disavowed the comic after realizing that many women critics disliked the brutality of his portrayed ideology.
  • In Vegan Artbook, Shawn gets his food stolen by vegans, gets scalding hot tea thrown into his face, is on the receiving end of a Groin Attack, and is constantly bullied verbally by his sisters and other vegans. All because he is an omnivore. Most readers tend to think that Shawn is treated way more harshly than he deserves, especially since he isn't even against veganism in general, he simply doesn't want to become a vegan.

    Web Original 
  • SF Debris invokes this in his commentary on the Wonder Woman (2011 pilot), pointing out how the rule of law is supposed to protect the innocent and the guilty, the latter in particular being protected from getting more than they deserve. Otherwise, people would be saying that Willis' death from a drug overdose was well-deserved because he cheated to get his scholarship, or (by Wonder Woman's example), whoever Willis hedged out with his use of performance-enhancing drugs should break into the hospital and beat him up for cheating.
  • Cloud in Final Fantasy VII: Machinabridged was meant to be a Karmic Butt-Monkey for his Small Name, Big Ego and his status as The Millstone. However, most of Cloud's "fuck ups" were the result of either Barret's incompetence as a leader, Tifa lying to him about what Avalanche does, or just simple bad luck on his part. It reaches its peak in episode two, where Tifa viciously verbally abuses him when the Sector 1 mission already frustrated him to the point of crying, and she uses a Prison Rape threat to get him to stay with Avalanche. Many viewers were put off by this, feeling that for all of Cloud's mistakes, he didn't deserve to get ganged up on. Season 2 sought to rectify this, by making Cloud blow up at Tifa after one Rage-Breaking Point too many, making Tifa have a Jerkass Realization and work to be better about it, making Cloud's mental issues come to the forefront so that the party has a lot less justification for picking on him, and making it so that when they do pick on him it's because he did something geniunely stupid and/or tactless that pissed multiple people off.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Arthur episode "Arthur's Big Hit", Arthur hits D.W., then later Binky hits him. While it's meant to be a case of "what goes around, comes around", many viewers objected to this because Arthur didn't do anything to Binky, and the moral was meant to be "don't hit people". Plus, many people felt that D.W. really deserved some sort of punishment for what she did, including wrecking Arthur's model airplane and then getting mad at him that it couldn't fly. Arthur probably shouldn't have hit D.W, but treating her as a Karma Houdini wasn't much better. note 
  • The Urpneys of The Dreamstone spent nearly every episode suffering violent retributions from the heroes for helping their evil overlord try to steal their dream-making trinket so he can give them nightmares. The kicker is that most of the Urpneys don't even want to do that, but their Bad Boss abuses or executes the ones that don't. Despite this, the heroes are explicitly clear that they get exactly what they deserve. The later episodes tried to downplay the Comedic Sociopathy, but since they're still unwilling pathetic villains, some suspension of disbelief was still required.
  • The kids in Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids will often be killed or suffer a Fate Worse than Death for very minor "crimes" that kids will often do, such as talk when they are told to be quiet, or eat nothing but sweets, or do nothing but watch TV... basically things that could be stopped by simply telling the kids about it and explaining why it's bad.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Despite Mrs. Turner being an abusive and neglectful parent, Timmy giving her an allergic reaction to cats in Fairly OddPet just so she and Mr. Turner would buy him a dog seems a bit too mean-spirited to be Laser-Guided Karma for her.
  • Clayface from Batman: The Animated Series is an amoral Jerkass who didn't appreciate the people trying to help his mutant condition, and eventually "murdered" a part of himself with agency by reabsorbing her, but he's still one of the less evil Bat-rogues, and even the aforementioned murder happened after he spent god knows how long free-floating in the ocean before washing up with damaged memories. When he turns up in Justice League, he's also reluctant to join Grodd's Secret Society, only doing so out of gratitude and a chance to look human again. And when he faces the Justice League, he gets an unceremonious and brutal apparent death by being blown away with fireworks while his teammates were taken down non-lethally. What makes it worse is that Batman doesn't blink an eye at this, and how truly vile mass-murderers like Firefly and the Joker didn't get treatment this rough.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: Margot, Wolf's adopted sister from her days raised by Mute wolves, may have betrayed her human sibling in a deeply scarring way, but when she shows up again she is remorseful and tries to reconnect with Wolf. The heroes never forgive her, however, with even Kipo willing to trample her for hurting her friend, and Margot is blackmailed into luring the heroes into a trap. She's then "cured" alongside her brother by the villains, being transformed into mindless beasts and quickly forgotten about. Many fans felt this was way too harsh since Margot was just a child pressured into betraying Wolf by their parents and was far less heinous than characters like Scarlemagne and Dr. Emilia, who Kipo ironically wasn't as vengeful toward.
  • Elmer Fudd was an unpopular foe for Bugs Bunny with some Looney Tunes staff because of this trope (especially director Friz Freleng), since Elmer was such a meek and blatantly Harmless Villain, it became a delicate dance to have Bugs do his usual slapstick runaround without it turning into overkill and devolving Bugs from a Karmic Trickster into a petty bully. As a result, more menacing foes such as Yosemite Sam and Marvin the Martian were created so they could more properly provoke Bugs and rightfully earn his vengeance. One workaround they came up with was having Bugs more frequently paired up with Daffy Duck in Elmer Fudd's shorts, with Daffy being more blatantly antagonistic and Elmer more of a means to an end.
  • Tom and Jerry. Tom ends up the undisputed Iron Butt Monkey, even for committing a minor slight or when Jerry had actually started the feud. Allegedly, it was because of this that more shorts had Jerry hindered or outright lose to Tom altogether whenever he stooped to crueler levels of slapstick assault, in order to to avoid the Double Standard karma.
  • In the The Loud House episode "No Such Luck", when Lincoln's sister Lynn thinks that he's bad luck, Lincoln goes along with it and lies to get some free time. While he did deserve some punishment for this, his parents and sisters making him sleep outside was seen by many fans as too far.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Trixie elicited this response from a lot of fans. Sure, she was a lying egotist who humiliated people on stage, but getting her home and livelihood smashed in addition to getting run out of town and shown up by Twilight Sparkle was a bit too much. When Trixie returned in "Magic Duel", she was given an Author's Saving Throw by being more actively malicious due to a magical item's corrupting influence, then pulled a Heel–Face Turn later.
    • Among the fandom, it's highly contested whether or not the culprit went too far with their actions in the episode "The Mysterious Mare Do Well", where they were supposed to be trying to humble Rainbow Dash a little. People who dislike this point out that the culprit didn't try just asking first, and instead used a complex scheme to upstage Rainbow as the greatest hero in Ponyville.
    • In "Wonderbolts Academy", Lightning Dust getting expelled at the end was needlessly harsh in the eyes of some fans. While her reckless behavior did place numerous ponies in danger, there is the fact that:
      • At the time Rainbow Dash's friends were put in danger (their balloon having been wrecked by the tornado that Lightning Dust created), they had entered Wonderbolts airspace during a training exercise without permission — in essence placing themselves in danger.
      • Spitfire had freely condoned Lightning Dust's recklessness until after the tornado incident when Rainbow Dash explains to her what had been going on — which she would already have known if the cadets had been properly supervised during training.
      • After Spitfire finally realized how bad things had gotten, she immediately kicks out Lightning Dust without giving her any chance to chance her ways, where other episodes would see characters Easily Forgiven for much worse.
    • In "28 Pranks Later", the response of all of Ponyville to Rainbow Dash going on an unrelenting pranking campaign is to make Rainbow believe that one of her pranks has Gone Horribly Wrong and she had accidentally unleashed a Zombie Apocalypse. While they did try to tell her to stop and Rainbow refused, it was a bit much for some people.
    • Cozy Glow committed the same crimes as other villains and was wholly unrepentant despite being a child, thus she got the same punishments of being imprisoned in Tartarus and later permanently turned into stone. Many found this excessive, unable to buy a child being so irredeemable and evil without explanation in such an idealistic series, and believing the heroes have given more leniency and made more of an effort to reform adult villains. And without powers, she wasn't dangerous enough to justify such extreme actions instead of a less over-the-top punishment like sending her to regular prison. Jim Miller stated that "It seemed fun and subversive at the time" but acknowledged how some would take offense.
  • In the Pingu episode "Pingu Runs Away", Pingu's mother spanks him as a punishment for acting up at the dinner table. Many viewers consider this her worst moment as a parent, and the episode ended up being pulled from reruns due to this.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In "Moral Decay", Buttercup knocks out several villains' teeth unprovoked to give to the Tooth Fairy for money. At the end of the episode, Bubbles and Blossom have those same villains knock Buttercup's teeth out. Some fans consider this too harsh of a punishment, especially since Bubbles sticks her tongue out at her and Blossom is outright grinning at Buttercup during the ending.
  • Angelica of Rugrats is usually The Bully to the younger babies, and initially was a Karma Houdini. Later episodes addressed this by having her be punished for her actions, but some went a bit too far.
    • "Silent Angelica" - she wants a new toy, and Charlotte tells her she can have it if she remains quiet for a certain amount of time. Angelica does this obediently, even when Charlotte isn't around to hear her. The babies take advantage of this to make a mess, and Angelica gets blamed for it by both her parents. Her punishment is to get neither toy, even though she did nothing wrong for once.
    • "Chanukah" - her antagonism in this episode amounts to wanting to watch a Christmas Special that's happening at the same time as a play Grandpa Boris is in. She gets put into a daycare room during the play because of things the other babies did, meaning she was going to miss the special for nothing. She does trick the babies into helping her find a TV... that smashes just as she's about to watch the special, and she's even left crying at the hopelessness of it all.
    • "Word of the Day" - she overhears a Depraved Kids' Show Host saying a curse word, and assumes it's okay to say and that it's the show's new Catchphrase. Drew and Charlotte tell her not to say the word again, not explaining which one is the bad one even when she asks sincerely, and they punish her when she says it to ask if it's the bad one. She does get forgiven and brought to the audition she was up for...and then panics and says the word live on the air. It's presented as Laser-Guided Karma that she doesn't get to be on the show, even though no one around her would properly explain why the word was bad and why she shouldn't say it. Drew and Charlotte also don't seem too interested in finding out where she heard the word either.
  • Total Drama:
    • Few people take issue with the first part of Alejandro's downfall in World Tour, in which Heather manipulates his feelings for her, knees him in the groin, and knocks him off the volcano, as it felt like a fitting retribution for his manipulative tendencies throughout the season. However, this is followed up by a freak volcano eruption horribly burning his flesh, as he wasn't able to escape with the others in time, causing him to be placed in a robot suit as a Shout-Out to Star Wars. Most fans agree this element is too cruel and the first part of his karma was enough, especially since All-Stars reveals he was crammed in the suit for a full year, with a broken voice box to boot.
    • While Scott was an underhanded competitor throughout Revenge of the Island, his ultimate fate is quite cruel: he gets mauled by the mutant shark Fang and is left unresponsive in a "trauma chair," a Shout-Out to Star Trek. Even worse, almost nobody has sympathy and just laughs at his situation as a single tear rolls down his cheek. It's considered one of the most disturbing scenes in the series and prompted more sympathy for Scott than laughs. Luckily Scott physically recovers by the time of All-Stars, though his fear of sharks is Played for Laughs.

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