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Lending a Backhand

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Sometimes a character in a story will want to inflict some kind of damage to someone else without arousing suspicion or losing good reputation. Lending a Backhand, or giving someone "help" that actually hurts them, is just the tool for this character. Reasons for this vary; perhaps a Starscream or Faux Affably Evil type wants to lull their target into a false sense of security, gradually weaken them, or gain their target's trust before making a power move, but whatever the motive, the Backhand is designed to hurt the recipient while appearing to help them on the surface.

Alternatively, if both parties are aware that the helper's up to no good, this could be used to mock someone in trouble: what better way to add insult to injury than offering "help" that really makes things go From Bad to Worse, claiming you're helping, and calling them an Ungrateful Bastard when they complain?

If a character made things worse but actually did intend to help, that's Unwanted Assistance or Well-Intentioned Extremist. If a character hurts another character to help them, that's Cruel to Be Kind or Tough Love. Compare Bait the Dog if it seemed like a character was about to help, but did the exact opposite instead. Also see Bad Samaritan.


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    Film — Animated 
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: After Shen lies to Po and tells him that his parents abandoned him because they never loved him, Po crosses the Despair Event Horizon and can't bring himself to keep fighting. Shen then lights a cannon and aims it at him, asking Po to "let him heal him" by killing him.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Karate Kid Part III: Terry Silver offers to train Daniel. During the training he gets Daniel to cause himself physical harm punching boards and steers Daniel away from Mr Miyagi's teaching, all to separate him from his support group and make him weaker for the showdown with Bad Boy Barnes.
  • Corrupt federal marshal Robert Deguerin from Eraser stages an alert to evacuate protected witnesses on the pretext that their identities have been exposed. In truth, it's a ploy to establish a Red Herring plot while Deguerin targets whistleblower Lee Cullen. Deguerin pretends to administer CPR to his witness, but in fact, he's suffocating her to cement the ruse.

  • The Name of the Wind: In an early meeting, Ambrose lends the protagonist Kvothe a candle to light his way in the University Archives. Unknown to Kvothe, a new arrival, fire is strictly forbidden in the Archives, and the furious Master Archivist bans him permanently. Kvothe's feud with Ambrose only escalates from there.
  • Discussed in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When Snape trains Harry in Occlumency, a method of Psychic Block Defense against Voldemort's mind reading, Ron theorizes that he's actually trying to weaken Harry's mind to make it easier for Voldemort to read it. This is quickly refuted by Hermione, who points out that they've made similar accusations against Snape every year, only to realize Snape was trying to help them all along.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Arrow, there was a Running Gag of Oliver shooting arrows at his friends and allies, with some of the instances where he did it for the 'good' of the person. In the crossover with The Flash, "Flash vs. Arrow", he shoots two arrows into Barry's back as part of his 'training' to be aware of his surroundings.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • In The Four Gospels, Jesus stated that he was thirsty while being crucified. Someone holds a wet sponge up to his mouth... that turns out to be soaked with sour wine and gall. Understandably, he was unwilling to drink any more after one taste.

    Video Games 
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Monokuma traps the students in a funhouse and denies them food until one of the students commits a murder. A few days later, the students are beginning to starve to death. Monokuma notices that the students look "unhealthy" and "helps them be healthier" by forcing them to participate in "Monokuma Tai Chi", an exercise which exhausts the students and leaves them hungrier than before.
  • Subverted with Saul in Daughter for Dessert. When Saul announces his intention to represent the protagonist legally, he is convinced that Saul is just trying to screw him over. Saul, however, actually gets him acquitted.
  • Double Homework:
    • Double subverted with Dennis's dealings with the protagonist. The protagonist is suspicious of Dennis from the start, but Dennis doesn't act hostile toward him at first. He first offers a deal, and then a way for him to sleep with Ms. Walsh, which works if he tries it. Soon, though, he starts acting devious and manipulative, all in the name of helping his "buddy ol' pal."
    • Implied when Dennis would previously fix computers for no apparent benefit. The protagonist suspects that it was all a front to get compromising pictures from his classmates.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: If playing for Mr. House, the 6th quest in his quest line has the player protect President Kimball, the leader of the NCR note  expedition in the Mojave Wasteland from three assassination attempts. This is ultimately done to ensure Kimball (who was already blamed for the seven-year stalemate between Mr. House and the Legion) lives to be blamed for the loss of New Vegas instead of Mr. House when Mr. House takes over, preventing all-out war between the NCR and Mr. House.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force, the episode "Ghost Town" has Vilgax teaming up with the heroes against Ghostfreak. After Ghostfreak possesses Ben, Vilgax cannot resist the urge to fight both of his greatest enemies in one body and goes all out on him. When Gwen tries to interfere, Vilgax knocks her out. After the fight is over, Vilgax claims if he hadn't taken Gwen out of the fight, then Ghostfreak would have killed her.