So, this guy has been a total Jerkass to you and you've finally had enough and snap. You stand up to him, give him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, and tell him off for everything he's done to you. Should be a Moment of Awesome, right? Well, guess what? You were so harsh on the guy that you hurt his feelings. Even worse, your display was witnessed and the only thing that everyone saw was you being mean to him! Congratulations. Everyone thinks you're the jerk instead of the guy you just told off!
This can be a Family-Unfriendly Aesop, except that Values Dissonance makes it widely accepted, where being a jerk back is even worse than what the original Jerkass did to you. Can result from being a Bully Hunter. A villain, especially a Villain with Good Publicity, may use this to give a hero bad cred. If the victim of this trope were friends with anyone who witness this scene prior to this moment, it probably triggers an Et Tu, Brute? and We Used to Be Friends situation. In some cases, the ones who believed the retaliater is in the wrong may force them to apologize to the insulted jerk, and end up finding out that the calling out they were given was justified after all.
Contrast Engineered Public Confession. Can also happen with Hypocrites who don't like being given A Taste of Their Own Medicine. When it's the viewers that feel this way, it's Rooting for the Empire and Accentuate the Negative. If your own pet turns against you along with everybody else, that's Even the Dog Is Ashamed. Common constructors of the trope are those with Head-in-the-Sand Management especially with a Villain with Good Publicity, or Principles Zealots by blindly preaching peaceful options especially when they are not the solution.
This trope is Truth in Television. Sometimes bad timing means only the retaliation and not the original Jerkass behavior being witnessed by peers or authority figures; other times it's because they don't care what wrongdoings are going on so long as things stay quiet, or there's a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing at work.
There are some tropes that are comparable to this:
- Arrested for Heroism
- Avenging the Villain
- Crime of Self-Defense: When a character gets punished for defending himself.
- If You Taunt Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: This is the plausible idea why the character is called out for dealing with someone who is harassing him.
- Informed Wrongness: When the author deliberately puts someone in the wrong but the person didn't do anything wrong.
- Miscarriage of Justice: Where an innocent man is convicted for a crime he didn't commit.
- Moral Myopia: Where the person being the jerk is treated as in the right while the other person calling that person out is treated as in the wrong.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Being punished for doing the right thing.
- No Sympathy for Grudgeholders: Where a character gets called out for not forgiving the wrongdoer, especially when they're not repentant of the crime.
- Playing the Victim Card: A villain tries to get sympathy by claiming to be a victim.
- Selective Enforcement: Where one person does something immoral and doesn't get in trouble but the opposite happens when someone else does it.
- What the Hell, Hero?
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: When one pretends to be hurt by another in order to make him look bad.
- Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: When the character who hit you acts like the victim.
- One episode of Bleach has Ichigo's little sisters demanding that he apologize to their cousin Tsukishima after he punches him. That wouldn't be wrong except that Tsukishima is really a villain and he messed with their memories to make them think he's their cousin. So, basically he had that punch coming.
- In the beginning of the Myotismon arc of Digimon Adventure, his lackey DemiDevimon tells lies to TK about his brother Matt in order to break his hope. When Tokomon tells him to stop lying, DemiDevimon mocks him cruelly, causing Tokomon to fire a bubble at him. Unfortunately, this was a Batman Gambit by DemiDevimon as TK saw Tokomon strike (not knowing that DemiDevimon started it) and abandoned him along with his crest and digivice.
- One episode of Freezing sees Satellizer el Bridget attacked and sexually assaulted by Alpha Bitch upperclassman Miyabi Kannazuki, who wants to make Kazuya Aoi her newest Limiter. Against the odds, Satellizer and Kazuya manage to fight back, only for Satellizer to get in trouble for the equivalent of attacking a superior officer. Adding insult to injury, Miyabi's peers then decide to send the resident Ax-Crazy Knight Templar after Satellizer, while Miyabi faces no penalties for her role in the violence.
- In one episode of Pokemon Chronicles, an Azuril sabotages Meowth's attempts to woo a Skitty, causing Meowth to justifiably chase him in anger. The Pichu brothers and their friends come to Azuril's aid and blow Meowth away.
- In WORKING!!, Inami is so terrified of men, that she instantly punches out any man who is unfortunate enough to be near her, with her regular victim being Souta. Eventually, he gets fed up, calls her out on this, and everyone treats him as the bad guy and acts as if Inami didn't deserve his calling out.
- One Piece:
- A crazy situation occurs when the Straw Hats arrive at their first stop along the Grand Line. The crew is greeted by the island's inhabitants with open arms and a party is thrown. After the Straw Hats fall asleep, however, it's revealed that the islanders are really bounty hunters working for Baroque Works. Zoro, having suspected something, was still awake and managed to take them all down. When Luffy woke up needing to use the bathroom, he discovered what had happened and attacked Zoro with intent to actually kill him for being an ingrate to the 'kind people', refusing to listen to Zoro's explanation, believing it to be lies. The truth does eventually get through to him eventually, after Nami smacks some sense into him.
- For a more heartbreaking example, in Sabo's backstory, when he got into a fight with a boy from a noble family after the latter made a cruel insult, Sabo's own mother, upon learning of what happened, ignored her son's injuries and in fact slapped him before apologizing repeatedly to the boy's family, seeing the social connection as more important than her own son.
- Ultimate Spider-Man "Growing Pains": After Peter accidentally broke Flash Thompson's hand by blocking one of his punches, his parents sue Aunt May and Uncle Ben for the medical costs.
- In a Flashback scene in Watchmen young Walter Korvacs is being harassed by a couple of older kids because his mother is a prostitute, so Korvacs takes one kid's cigarette and stabs him in the eye with it. Korvacs is sent to juvenile hall while the bully receives no official punishment.
- During the Sterling Gates' run, General Sam Lane and his minions Reactron and Superwoman used this tactic against the eponymous heroine over and over again: they harass Supergirl and try to murder her, and when Kara defends herself, she gets in trouble for aggravated assault and battery, and attempted murder.
- In Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, Linda Lee's classmates glare at her when they hear her recorded voice calling them "shallow, petty, mean and bad-smelling". That would be understandable, except that she was venting after spending several weeks putting up with their bullying and their mocking.
- Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
- In Act III chapter 12, after Mizore and Felucia explain to the others that Dark's claim that he's only keeping Tsukune alive long enough for Kokoa to repay her debt to him was merely a Jerkass Fašade to fool the headmaster and buy time to find out how to repair the Holy Lock, they outright accuse them of being Ungrateful Bastards and giving Dark too little credit. Of course, the rest of the gang had good reason to take Dark's words at face value, since he had openly stated on more than one occasion that if he even suspected that the Holy Lock wouldn't hold and the ghoul would roam free again, he would kill Tsukune without hesitation.
- In Act VI chapter 17, Mizore and Arial get into a fight over Dark that leads to Mizore pinning Arial down and literally beating Arial to a bloody pulp all while screaming at her to stay away from Dark and outright calling her a bitch. It's only after she's beaten Arial senseless and flat-out tells the other girls that "the bitch had it coming" that she realizes that during the fight, she broke into the boys' room and beat Arial to an inch of her life right in front of Dark, who considers Arial his guardian angel; by that point, Dark was the only one in the group who was unaware that Arial was obsessively in love with him to the extent that she nearly killed Mizore in front of everybody in a jealous ragenote , so to him, it appears that Mizore attacked Arial without provocation. With this, Mizore is forced to reveal the Awful Truth to Dark.
- Played with in Story of the Century. No one else is there to see Erin verbally tear L to shreds and toss him out of his chair (and one wonders that if they were whether they would have agreed with her argument at that point if put off by her, ahem, intensity), but L's response to it is so kind and graceful that she beats herself up over the incident for some time afterwards.
- In Stephen King's It, when Ben is tormented by his stepbrother over his crush on Beverly, he retaliates. Ben's stepmother then comes in to pull Ben off her son and scold him, not even reprimanding her son when he tells Ben he hates him and he's only with them because it's their duty to house him.
- In The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Sam can only lash out at Gollum's false accusations. It doesn't help (though it's actually the Ring making Frodo to be more sympathetic to Gollum).
- In Ender's Game, Ender is ostracized by his peers because he retaliated against a bully but misjudged his strength, making it seem as if he broke the kid's arm for the offense of poking Ender in the back. While the teacher present doesn't technically punish Ender, Ender knows full well that the bullying and ostracizing is the punishment, as the teacher set him up to be resented by deliberately overpraising him to his classmates.
- In one of the later Twilight books, Leah tells off Bella for the way she's been treating Jacob. Bella then bursts into tears and everybody, including Jacob, gets mad at Leah for upsetting her.
- In The Zombie Knight, on Cisco Elroy's first day at a new school, he beat up a kid who tried to bully him, and since they were both unknowns the teachers concluded that Cisco was the bully. The reputation unfortunately stuck, and since then all the good teachers have been biased against him and all the wrong people want to be his friends.
- In Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray used to hate playing ping-pong with Frank due to his Unsportsmanlike Gloating, but holds proud memories of the one time he beat him, so when Frank reveals that he let him win, he demands another game to settle the score. Frank wins again and rubs it in Ray's face like he usually does, until Ray tells him that he let him win. Frank storms out in a huff and Marie immediately tells Ray off for humiliating his father.
- An episode of Friends has Ross move into a new apartment. A resident tries to get him to give $100 for the super's retirement, but Ross only just moved in and doesn't feel obliged. Everyone in the building treats him like a pariah.
- In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Season Six episode "Stress Related", Carlton shows up (in Uncle Phil's place) to give a speech at Ashley's school for Career Day, but everyone at the assembly quickly determines that he doesn't have a job, despite what he says about career success in general. And after one student quips that Carlton is a bum (causing laughter among the students present,) another student actually has the nerve to raise her hand to question if that is, in fact, the truth. "Excuse me, sir. Are you really a bum?", she "politely" inquires. He angrily snaps, "Back off, sister!", she is genuinely shocked as to WHY he would react so defensively in the first place, and then a third student in the audience has the nerve to stand up for her and put Carlton in his place as if to say that he was being insensitive to her feelings, not vice versa. And to add further insult to her brother's emotional injury, Ashley reinforces this trope at the end of the episode when she laments to her father that, while she can understand that he was too busy to make it to the career fair himself, she can't understand why, of all people, he'd send Carlton in his place. As far as she's concerned, Carlton's defensive reaction towards that girl was COMPLETELY out of line!
- One episode of Good Luck Charlie features Amy trying to get the family prepared for a singing contest. Seeing them underachieving, she uses a fake family in the performance. When she gets home, the family is upset over the deception, but Amy's fast talking results in the family apologizing to her for being terrible at the routine.
- In one episode of Grounded for Life, upon learning that Eddie had an adult movie shot at their house, Claudia bans him from the house. When the kids find out, they get upset that they'll never see their uncle again. Claudia even lampshades it as shown in the page quote.
- The Home Improvement "Some Like It Hot Rod" features Jill putting Tim's car outside, only for it to get covered in snow. When Tim gets upset with her, she turns it around about how all the times he ruined her things, she forgave him, only for him to not do the same, ending with her storming out of the garage upset. It's then that Tim realizes what just happened.
Tim: Wait a minute! You are really good. You screw up, and I'm getting yelled at! You are really, really good!
- In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Columns", Ted deals with a worker (his former boss) who keeps belittling his ideas and being a jerk, prompting him to fire him. However, he finds himself unable to do it due to circumstances: his birthday, his wife left him and served him divorce papers, and his dog died. Finally, Ted has enough and decides to fire him at last. However, as he does, the worker has a heart attack. Ted thinks he's faking it and fires him anyway. The worker is then carried off in a stretcher and everyone despises Ted, including the paramedics.
- Used infamously in the iCarly episode "iFred", when Freddie make an innocent comment about not liking the act of Fred, a web host, which Fred apparently overreacts to and shuts down his show, causing Freddie (along with Carly and Sam) to be scorned by everyone in school and Freddie to be beaten up by Sam more than usual. Eventually, Carly and Sam force Freddie to apologize to Fred, who then reveals that it was all just an act for publicity. Even after it's revealed that Freddie was shunned, beaten, and forced to go against his own opinion for nothing, he's still treated like crap and Fred gets away with it with no consequences.
- In the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Alien", the detectives are brought in to investigate a stabbing at a Catholic school. While there, they find that the stabber in question had been the victim of a vicious bullying campaign that the school had done nothing to quell because they wanted her parents, a lesbian couple, to pull her out.
- In the Madam Secretary episode "The Ninth Circle", the McCords' son Jason is expelled from a Quaker school after he breaks the school bully's nose for insulting his mother Elizabeth and refuses to apologize. Admittedly Quakers are big on nonviolence, but Dean Ward blames the whole thing on Jason without addressing the prior cyberbullying by the Spoiled Brat rich kid, and Liz and Henry McCord are way angrier at Ward than at Jason.
Liz: If I ran the State Department the way you run this school, the world would be a smoldering ember!
- Wonderfully inverted in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle. Lois grounds Malcolm for not helping move a couch even though he was doing some school work. Then when the family is forced to evacuate due to a train wreck releasing toxic fumes, she says the grounding still stands and makes him stay on a cot. When he finally stands up to her, she humiliates him in front of everyone. This results in her being forced to stay outside with the others for things they did (Reese creating a black market for supplies, Dewey lying to everyone to get sympathy, and Hal for causing the accident that forced the evacuation in the first place), resulting in the one time Malcolm came out on top.
- Newhart: Dick hosts a new talk show with bubbly, vapid co-host Buffy Denver (Julie Brown). At a history museum, he gently tries to get her to tone down her giggly airhead comments while interviewing a curator. She immediately breaks down crying, and the curator tears into Dick for crushing her enthusiasm, and shouts "Go to hell, Mister Loudon!"
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard tells Wesley to shut up when he tries to warn the captain about Lore.
- The Big Bang Theory:
- In one episode, Raj has Howard and Bernadette babysit his dog, only for them to lose it. Raj manages to find the dog and decides to make Howard and Bernadette squirm for a few hours. When the pair calls Raj to cover up they lost his dog, Raj reveals he found it a few hours ago, resulting in Bernadette getting on his case about making them worry sick about the dog, resulting in Raj being the one to apologize, with Howard and Bernadette's losing his dog forgotten.
- There's also the one where Penny finally loses it with Howard and sends him into a downward spiral of self-loathing despair because of the scathing put-down she gives him. It doesn't help that she was pretty much in the right and it's remarkable she waited so long before calling Howard out on his boorish clumsy chat-up lines. She is still made to feel like a jerk by the others for being so brutally candid. She feels she has to go and apoogise. But still ends up breaking his nose.
- Two and a Half Men features an episode where Charlie gives his mother a Calling the Old Man Out speech but then she turns it around and treats him like he's being a brat.
- In Ozy and Millie, Millie has been physically bullied by Jeremy for years, but the one time Millie hit back was the one time her teacher was watching. And the school only punishes what its teachers personally see, even if the "aggressor" was visibly dripping mud water at the time, a policy that the teacher all but admits was born of sheer laziness.
Millie's mom: Was it painful, having your soul extracted?
- Arthur: The episode "Arthur's Big Hit". No matter how you look at it, Arthur Read's anger towards D.W. (his sister) was completely justified, albeit extreme. D.W. also gets a meta-example of this; The audience is supposed to feel sorry for her when Arthur punches her for playing with the model plane. Unfortunately, she came off as unsympathetic because of a) repeatedly annoying her brother by disturbing him in the midst of him building his model plane, b) her own fault for throwing the model out of the window, and c) blaming her brother for "building it wrong" instead of apologizing. All in all, the situation came off as a case of Take That, Scrappy! instead.
- In effect in the Danny Phantom episode "Splitting Images". Tired of resident Jerk Jock Dash picking on him, Danny decides to use his powers to get some payback. Unfortunately, he catches the attention of Bully Hunter Sidney Poindexter who thinks that Dash was an innocent kid (somehow missing when Dash picked on Danny), so he takes over Danny's body and sends him to his realm where Danny gets picked on by Poindexter's bullies. While the message in the episode is Comes Great Responsibility, it's laced with this trope as well.
- Donald Duck in the short "Crazy Over Daisy". It has the moral where using chipmunks as a source of transportation after they torment you and destroy your bike results in you losing your girl.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy:
- The ending of Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show has an inversion of this. At the beginning of the movie, the Eds' latest scam caused massive damage and severely hurt the children, resulting in them being hunted down. After the encounter with Eddy's brother, everyone got over it, except Johnny who didn't arrive until afterwards. Therefore, when he attacked the Eds, the children beat him up.
- In the episode "Boys Will Be Eds", Rolf's goat, Victor was attacking Jimmy to get his sandwich, with Rolf trying to pull him off Jimmy. When Sarah came onto the scene, she thought Rolf was attacking Jimmy and pulled him away from Jimmy before he could pry Victor off before beating him to a pulp.
- One episode of Family Guy combines this with Karma Houdini when a trio of bullies take Peter, Joe, and Quagmire's booth at their bar. When they try to fight back, it results in them being bruised and bloodied. Then when the bullies reveal they're American soldiers, everyone in the bar actually cheers for them while shunning Peter, Joe, and Quagmire.
- An infamous example is Futurama episode "Benderama". An ugly giant appeared in the first act and got upset when Fry accidentally insulted his mother. In the third act, he came to Earth to apologize for his behavior, but unfortunately, everyone's so intoxicated (due to all the fresh water on Earth being turned into alcohol) that they inadvertently pick him on and call him a monster, causing him to go crazy and start attacking the town, ending with him being killed by Bender's copies.
- An episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy features Billy being tormented by Sperg. In a rare heartwarming moment (for her), Mandy stands up to Sperg on Billy's behalf, only for Billy to get on her for picking on him.
- In the Hey Arnold! episode "Girl Trouble", Helga spends the entire episode tormenting Arnold as usual. When he finally snaps and throws paint at her, Mr Simmons, who paid no attention to any of Helga's antics, gives a forlorn speech about how disappointed he is seeing Arnold harassing another student and punishes him. Grandpa earlier related to Arnold's treatment with his own childhood bully, who he states always managed to turn the tables and make him look like the bully. As it turns out, she was Grandma.
- A Looney Tunes cartoon entitled "Feline Frame-Up" features a dog that was defending a kitten from a mean cat, only for their master to get the wrong idea and think the dog was being mean to the cat, resulting in him getting thrown out of the house. Fortunately, the dog managed to force the cat to confess the truth in the end.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- An interesting Deconstruction happens in the two-parter episode, "A Canterlot Wedding" (Season 2 finale). Twilight Sparkle accuses Princess Cadence of being evil after seeing how much of a Jerkass she was being towards her friends. Cadence breaks down in tears and runs away, causing her friends to be upset with her, Shining Armor (her brother) to change his mind about her being Best Mare, and Princess Celestia to be disappointed in her. Turns out that it was really the Queen of the Changelings, impersonating Cadence and the real one was trapped in an abandoned mine below the castle. Because of Twilight's friends shunning her, Canterlot became overrun with an army of Changelings and nearly destroyed, and Queen Chrysalis gleefully points this out. Nice Job Breaking it, My Little Ponies!
- The episode "One Bad Apple" also had this. After spending an entire episode being ceaselessly bullied by Applebloom's cousin Babs along with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, the Cutie Mark Crusaders make a float for a parade and deliberately engineer it so that Babs will steal it and end up careening into a lake. However, Applejack comes along and tells them that Babs was being bullied back in her hometown of Manehattan. This causes the CMC to think that by getting back at someone who's bullied them for no reason the entire episode, they have also become bullies. Much like "Arthur's Big Hit" above, fans were very divisive about this episode.
- Inverted in Over the Hedge where the animals shun Verne partially for calling RJ out (which he, of course is right about, at first), but mostly for calling them stupid for listening to him, something that Hammy takes very harshly. This plays part into RJ's Heel Realisation and he actually works on settling things between them.
- The Simpsons:
- One episode features Gill staying with the family after losing his job on Christmas. He stays for months and defiles the house to the point where Marge can't take it anymore and decides to stand up to him. By that time, Gill had gotten a new job, so Marge takes the family to his new workplace to tell him off. Unfortunately, when she does, he loses the respect of his workers and his boss fires him. Marge feels so guilty that she and the family buy a vacation house from Gill.
- In a segment parodying The Count of Monte Cristo, Homer (playing the role of the Count) sets up an elaborate revenge scheme for the man (Moe) who stole his love (Marge) and had him sent to prison, which ends with Moe being killed. Unfortunately, Marge gets upset with him for killing her husband. Granted she also lampshades the fact he spent all this time formulating a murder scheme over actually reuniting with his family.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- Surprising enough, a most egregious example of this occurs in an episode entitled "Stuck In A Wringer". SpongeBob has an accident that gets him stuck in a wringer, and thanks to Patrick's stupidity (pouring permanent glue on the wringer), he can't get out. SpongeBob feels he'll never be able to do anything now, but Patrick gives him a Rousing Speech that he can go on. Unfortunately, Patrick's speech is proven unfounded as the wringer causes SpongeBob a ton of bad luck no matter how much Patrick tries to inspire him. Finally, in the middle of an amusement park, SpongeBob snaps at Patrick, telling him his life is over and that it's all his fault. Patrick runs off crying while everyone who was watching call SpongeBob a jerk and say he got what he deserved.
- In "The Bully", Flats the Flounder menaces poor SpongeBob, threatening to "kick your butt". When he actually does, however, SpongeBob's soft body just absorbs the blows, and Flats keeps punching away until he falls from exhaustion. SpongeBob then gives his fellow students a speech against violence, raising his fist for emphasis. That's when Mrs. Puff comes in, sees Flats on the floor and SpongeBob with his fist up, and accuses him of beating up Flats, then tells him "I'm going to kick your butt!"
- In the episode entitled "Plankton's Pet", Plankton disguises himself as a baby to steal a Krabby Patty. However, Mr. Krabs sees through his disguise (and it's a pretty good disguise) and attacks him. Everyone is horrified that Mr. Krabs is seemingly attacking a baby, until he reveals it's Plankton. However, when Mr. Krabs kicks him out, a bunch of senior citizens that were watching attack him.
- Another infamous example was in Taz-Mania episode "Here, Kitty, Kitty", where Molly found an adorable kitten. Unbeknownst to her, however, the kitten was secretly vicious and mean, and was attempting to eat Molly's fish with Taz being the only one who was aware of the kitten's true colors. Unfortunately, Molly kept assuming that Taz was picking on the kitten and wouldn't listen to Taz's explanations. Eventually, Taz managed to get rid of the kitten and save the fish, but when Molly came up on the scene, she thought Taz was messing with her fish and still wouldn't listen to Taz's explanations, accusing him of doing something to her kitten. The episode ends with poor Taz being given a bath, which he hates.