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Malicious Slander

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"A lie can run halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on."

Rumor, gossip, tale-bearing. Ever present whenever people talk, and sometimes truly vile. And when they are malicious tales about The Hero, they are an unbounded source of problems for him.

Except in unusual cases, we already know in advance that the tales are false, usually by seeing the true events, or seeing his POV during them so we know his true motives so that the Infallible Babble effect is undermined. We just get to see the character wrestle with — and suffer under — them.

Sometimes the original slanderer can be identified (and sometimes punished), but often enough the hero has to deal with a cloud of unidentifiable nastiness. Who is acting out of malice, and who out of carelessness or indifference to the truth — or even desire to warn — may be ambiguous. It makes being arrested look easy: there, you can get through the trial and be acquitted. And often crucial people are really gullible.


The Hero with Bad Publicity often lives in a cloud of this. Wounded Gazelle Gambit is one way of launching them. Gossipy Hens are always launching or spreading them — with or without malice. The Green-Eyed Monster often inspires slander, and the envious person may even believe his own slanders. The Decadent Court is rife with it, but even there, the Evil Chancellor is particularly prone to it. In many situations, this helps fuel Divided We Fall. Gossip Evolution doesn't exactly help the situation for any of these. The Propaganda Machine often churns it out. Children are often the butts of the subtrope Loser Son of Loser Dad. Torches and Pitchforks are often stirred up with malicious slander.

When spread intentionally, the slanderer often acts with Chessmaster-like precision. Frequently he will tell the entire truth with only a few crucial omissions or alter the import of facts by subtle misrepresentations — knowing that Gossip Evolution will turn the hints into full-blown lies.


Compare Shrouded in Myth for another problem the hero can have with rumors. See also Bearer of Bad News, who may be accused of this, and Propaganda Piece.

No Real Life examples — suffice to say that all propaganda contains elements of this, but to what extent is highly debatable. Too much chance of Flame Bait — besides which, we don't want this to be a Self-Demonstrating Article. We should note that this trope is not exactly the same as malicious slander/libel/defamation in strictly legal terms; in the law of defamation, "malice" means (in most jurisdictions, including, most importantly,note  the United States) publishing/disseminating false information about another either knowing that the information is false (i.e., saying things you know are not true), or recklessly disregarding the possibility that it is false (i.e. saying things that might or might not be true but which you have no basis for saying, and if they happen to be true, it's an accident). The above standard, commonly known as "actual malice", comes from the 1964 Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan note  and applies mostly to public figures, such as politicians and celebrities. It's why it is extremely hard for a celebrity to win a libel suit in America — one of the few successful suits was one filed by Carol Burnett against the National Enquirer for falsely claiming she had been drinking heavily with Henry Kissinger in 1976. While malice is important in suits against non-public figures, more weight is given to the falsity of the statement and the effect it has on the defamed's reputation. Simply repeating something you heard doesn't generally count, so in general terms, ordinary town gossip isn't going to get you very far in a slander/libel/defamation suit.note  However, mere gossip can be enough to be this trope. Please note, however, that TV Tropes is not legal advice and so still proceed with caution.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Chivalry of a Failed Knight: Ikki was subjected to this by Ethics Committee, dispensing all sorts of lies to demolish his steadily-improving reputation during the qualifiers of Seven Stars Sword Art Festival. It gets bad to the point where Stella thinks that her relationship Ikki is the reason why he's under fire and considers breaking up with him to get the heat off of him.
  • DNA2: A classmate of Kotomi's attempts this by telling her teacher during class that Kotomi had spent the previous night in a Love Hotel with her boyfriend. The reader knows nothing happened and, since Kotomi stands up for herself and demands to know if her classmate has proof, the class realizes that it's not true.
  • I Had That Same Dream Again: After Kiryu's father is arrested for shoplifting, his fellow students get wind of it and a rumor starts circulating that Kiryu is also a thief. Nanoka is shocked to learn that Ogiwara, the only other boy she's seen talking to and who she seemed to like as much as Kiryu, was the one who started the rumor.
  • Monster: After Tenma rejects her (again), Eva follows him through the hospital shouting that she will tell everyone all about how he murdered her father. It doesn't help that the police already suspect him.
  • One Piece: Nico Robin's backstory. After becoming the only survivor of an incident where the World Government decimated her home island, said Government spread these about her to convince people to turn her in to them. Among these were that Robin was some kind of "Demon Child" and that she sank several battleships during the incident (those ships were sunk, but by a giant who had defected from the Marines, not Robin). What's more, said giant left the marines due to their callous treatment of civilians, which is why he was attacking the battleships in the first place.
  • Peach Girl: Sae routinely encourages the rumors that Momo is a homewrecking slut, and uses the Wounded Gazelle Gambit to convince everyone that Momo is bullying her on top of that. It all falls apart after Toji and Kairi, as well as several other people Momo has directly screwed over with her antics, expose her as the awful person that she is.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: Naofumi is the victim of a double-dose of this. On top of the Shield Hero facing prejudice as it is because of the Church of the Three Heroes declaring him an actual devil figure in the religion (due to most of Melromarc being human supremacists and the Shield Hero having aided demi-humans in the past), his very first traveling companion, Malty, also falsely accuses him of trying to rape her after his very first day in Melromarc, sending his reputation down the tubes, as well as trying to frame him for trying to murder her sister Melty (something she herself tried to do). Needless to say, when the true Queen returns and puts the King and Malty on trial, it is a very satisfying moment that ends up vindicating Naofumi.
  • Sailor Moon: One of the monsters in the second season had a power like this. Droid Giwaku (renamed Mistrust in the first dub) was capable of warping someone's perception to make them believe their friends and loved ones are badmouthing them. Ami found herself victim to this when Umino and several others, under Giwaku's influence, began accusing her of being a cheater. They even planted fake answer sheets in Ami's desk. Ami was later confronted by illusions of the other Sailor Senshi calling her a cheater as well. However, when Giwaku tried this on Usagi and attacked her with illusions calling her a stupid, flat-chested crybaby, Usagi shot back screaming she already knew all that anyway.
  • Shina Dark: The demon king Exoda awakens after a lengthy slumber to find his secluded island full of young girls claiming to be "sacrifices" - because someone came up with the idea that the demon king demands a thousand women to be his concubines. Exoda is not happy to find the libelous text going into detail about what he supposedly does to the girls, roughly ten each night. He is outright disturbed to find a prepubescent child among the crowd. At one point he laments that people come up with new slander every time he goes into slumber, which suggests this is only the latest in a long line of indignities.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! R entirely revolves around some protegee of Pegasus trying to avenge (and revive) his master after being told that Yugi murdered him. Ironically enough, in the manga, Pegasus WAS murdered...just not by Yugi. The murderer, funnily enough, doesn't even appear in the series.

  • In the Child Ballad Sir Aldingar, when the queen rebuffs the title knight, he puts a leper in her bed and accuses her of adultery to the king.
  • In The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward, when the young lord improbably shows up again the service of the duke, the steward posing as him tries slander. It doesn't dislodge him.
    "Will you beleeue me, lady faire,
    When the truth I doe tell yee?
    Att Aberdonie, beyond the sea,
    His father he robbed a hundred three."

    Comic Books 
  • A sizable chunk of the drek Spider-Man deals with can be blamed on J. Jonah Jameson's blatant libel in the Daily Bugle. He actually once took them to court over it, but unfortunately, his overenthusiastic lawyer then included Peter Parker in the suit.
  • Howard the Duck's enemy Doctor Bong got his start this way. After his mother told him how powerful written word could be, he was able to use slanderous writing to make anyone look bad. (For instance, he was able to make his entire school believe a teacher was some immoral drug fiend, when in fact, said teacher had used an illegal stimulant once in his life.) Exactly how he made the jump from "sleazy teen paparazzi" to "Mad Scientist with a knack for genetics and sonic weapons" is a mystery.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): The Earth Two Huntress (Helena Wayne) has her very own crooked reporter who insists on twisting the facts and outright lying to try and make Huntress seem like an out of control murderer in a cape despite Helena's very strict no killing or even seriously maiming rule. At one point Dedra Borrower blatantly misquotes a medical examiner on television. She turns to the camera and tells her viewers There you have it. A man's death due to the unchecked violence of an unsanctioned vigilante.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one series of Bloom County strips, poor Opus was accused of committing "penguin lust" by Bill the Cat (who had become a televangelical scam artist who called himself "Fundamentally Oral Bill"). Despite never even telling anyone just what "penguin lust" was, Opus became a pariah because of it (so much that the public library revoked his card) and was eventually driven out of Bloom County - until, that is, everyone got bored of Bill and stopped listening. Of course, by then, finding Opus and telling him he could come back was a challenge.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The Girl Without Hands, the Devil intercepts the letter telling the king of the birth of his son, and changes it to say that it was a monster (in The Brothers Grimm's first edition, it had been the king's mother who did it). Doesn't work, actually; the king says she is to be treated kindly, and so he intercepts again to order her and the child's deaths.
  • In The Six Swans, the king's mother kidnaps the heroine's newborn children and tells the king she killed them until he agrees to her execution.
  • The One-Handed Girl,
    • The heroine's sister-in-law tells her brother that the heroine had refused to sell her a pumpkin, which she sold to others, when in fact the heroine had given her one as a gift and had then run out.
    • The heroine's brother tells the king and queen that her hand had been chopped off because she was a witch, getting her driven off.
  • In Mary's Child, the heroine's children are taken from her, and rumor says that she killed and ate them.
  • In The Three Little Birds, when the heroine's sisters steal her children and tell the king that she gave birth to animals, he puts up with it twice and the third time throws his wife in prison.
  • In The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird, when the heroine gives birth to three Wonder Children, her sisters steal them and tell her husband that she gave birth to three puppies. He puts her in a treadmill as punishment for not having the children as she claimed she would.
  • In Dapplegrim, the king orders the hero to perform many tasks because his fellow servants falsely claimed he said he could do them.
  • In Ferdinand the Faithful, after being slandered, Ferdinand must get a bride for the king and then all the things she demands before she will marry him.
  • In "The Grateful Beasts", Ferko's brothers tell the king that he is a magician, and the king orders Ferko to perform three tasks in atonement; his own daughter the princess argues with him until he imprisons her in a tower.
  • In Esben and the Witch, an enemy of Esben and his brothers is always telling the king that they claimed to be able to do this or that, and then the king orders them to do it.

    Fan Works 
  • Back to the Future Prequel: Hank harasses Doc by spreading nasty stories about his sanity and activities.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami features this prominently- most notably Ami's power and cunning... and her incredible, jaw-dropping, suicidal deviancy. Actually lies, "Baseless rumours founded on misunderstandings". But Ami has a hard time convincing anybody. The rumor mill insists Ami has these tendencies. Anything That Moves / Extreme Omnisexual / Bestiality Is Depraved: She simply cannot catch a break.
  • Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past has a heroic example when Harry goes to Rita Skeeter and denounces the many Death Eaters who were found not guilty — although it's only because he knows that a villainous version is coming.
    Harry: I’m just striking first this time. Right now, Fudge barely goes to the bathroom without Lucius Malfoy’s permission. Both of them have got to go. And if they start their smear campaign second… well, then it just looks like payback — and people might not take everything they claim about me as the gospel truth.
  • Incredibly, Equestria of all places undergoes this in the Alternate History fic The Son of the Emperor. Because nobody who goes into Equestria ever leaves and as such nobody knows what's there, people assume that it's a wasteland and the existence of the country itself is a fairy tale. Of course, this is untrue.
  • Burning Bridges, Building Confidence uses Lila following through on the threats she made in "Chameleon" by convincing most of Marinette's classmates that Marinette is a horrible, awful person that threatened her in the bathroom and other terrible things, most of which Lila herself actually did. After her cousin Cole moves to Paris and transfers into their class, she gives her three days before she starts slandering her as well, accusing her of faking her vision problems. Unbeknownst to her, Cole’s been recording every gloat Lila has been making on her phone to gather evidence to expose her as a liar.
    • After the new heroine Vexxin debuts, Alya immediately writes a libelous piece accusing her of stealing the Fox miraculous and posts it on her blog. Ladybug later cites this as one of the reasons Alya has not only lost the Fox but will no longer be trusted with any miraculous in the future. Alya completely blows this off and continues slandering Vexxin, causing the Ladyblog to spiral further and further into disgrace.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Shouto Todoroki starts spreading out rumors in the U.A. that Izuku is the illegitimate son of All Might. While he does it partly because he believes it to be true, there are hints he also does it because he's sore at Izuku for getting in his way and lecturing him during the League of Villains attack in the U.S.J.
  • The Reason He Lies: Sigma's father is wrongly accused of high treason merely for disagreeing with Grande's plans.
  • A Moon and World Apart: When Luna hears that rumors are spreading that the visiting Equestrians were responsible for the Orion's destruction, it doesn't take her long to find out that Neighsay was behind it as part of his False Flag Operation to frame them.
  • A Thing of Vikings: Alvin and Delilah spread slander that the Hooligans of Berk are commiting atrocities against Christans in Eire. It resulted in the Archbishop in Normandy demanding the arrest of Hiccup and those traveling with him when they arrive in Rouen, Normandy. Fortunetly, Duke William of Normandy had them protected under hospitality.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bem Bom: Laura becomes the subject of a nasty rumor that she landed in the hospital from engaging in violent intercourse with a famous football player who she's never met in her life. The media have a field day at her expense and her band's reputation is undermined. The whole thing destroys her romantic relationship with Jota and nearly leads her to quit the band.
  • Big Eyes: Before the court date, Walter lies to the press about how Margaret needs psychiatric help and insists she's a bad mother for joining the Jehovah's Witnesses, implying that she's giving her daughter a poor upbringing because of it.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe: Jadis tells Tumnus, who is imprisoned next to Edmund, that he is here because Edmund betrayed him. While Edmund did provide Jadis the information that Tumnus helped Lucy, this was not betrayal as he said it very casually and had no idea this was sensitive information. It didn't matter anyway to Jadis as she used it to successfully break Tumnus's spirit.
  • Doubt: The plot revolves around a priest accused of misconduct with a young boy. No hard evidence is discovered to either prove or disprove the charge, fueled entirely by rumors, suspicions, and one nun's conviction of their truth. The priest himself makes a sermon condemning gossip and rumor-mongering, pointing out that even if the rumor is proved to be false it can never be unsaid. Eventually, the implication is that he was guilty, as he agrees to a transfer and coverup once the nun leading the attack reveals that she managed to track down a nun from his last posting who could corroborate the story...except she later reveals that she had never managed to find the old nun at all.
  • Enemy of the State: The bad guys' plot involves slandering Will Smith's character by planting a false story about him having an affair and being involved with organized crime in the news. The story causes his massively-gullible bosses to fire him and his wife (who up to that point had been a good, caring person despite her own affair in the past) to throw him out of the house.
  • First Girl I Loved: Sasha, under pressure from her mother, claims Anne forcefully kissed her (she actually had initiated it) when a photo surfaces. Her mother threatens to call the police if the photo isn't removed from their yearbook.
  • Fury (1936): The main character is arrested because "he seems to know suspiciously too much about a kidnapping". The rumor quickly morphs into him being the kidnapper, and before you know it an Angry Mob storms the prison, sets fire to it and he barely escapes being burned alive.
  • Gold Through the Fire: A lot of false claims are made against Peter in court, saying he had forced his religion on others and harassed them.
  • The film Gossip centers around three roommates who knowingly start a malicious rumor about a classmate in order to track how it spreads and changes for a Communications class.
  • The Hunt (2012): Lucas is wrongly accused of being a child molester which quickly ruins his reputation in the Close-Knit Community and sets off a nasty Pædo Hunt.
  • Little Nicky: Nicodemus (AKA Little Nicky) is framed for murdering a bunch of people in a five-star restaurant. The massacre wasn't even real. The film is so hideously doctored that a demon behind the times gets the reference:
    Nicky: What the heck?! That's just my face plastered in that scene from Scarface!
  • Seen in Mr. Deeds, when a sensationalist news anchor doctors footage of a rescue to make it look like the rescuer killed a woman's cats before raping her in the street. Why do this with a street full of witnesses (including the aforementioned woman) to testify otherwise? Because as far as news stories went the anchor reasoned "Hero is nice. Depraved and insane is better".

  • The Chivalric Romances Sir Triamour and Erl of Toulouse (among others) revolve about an innocent wife accused of adultery and delivered by a knightly champion.
  • In The Bible, Potiphar's wife accuses Joseph of raping her after he refuses to sleep with her. This continues the chain of events that led him to become Pharaoh's advisor.
    • Also, Jesus warns His followers that they will be subjected to slander, among other forms of persecution. He also tells them to count it as a blessing.
  • In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, a rebuffed lover kills a member of the family where Constance is staying, and accuses Constance, and is struck dead. The king therefore exonerates and marries her. His mother, annoyed, sent him a letter telling she had given birth to a monster (when that doesn't work, she has Constance and her son exposed in a boat).
  • In the Chivalric Romances Emare and Florence of Rome, the heroine is accused of having given birth to monsters and exiled.
  • In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the stories about Darcy are one of the things that turn Elizabeth against him. Only after she learns the truth does it occur to her that Wickham claimed to be reluctant to blacken Darcy's name out of respect for his father, but in fact, he spread the story whenever he had the chance. She also notes that he was careful to ask people whether they actually knew Darcy before starting his story.
  • Happens to another Austen heroine in Northanger Abbey. After Catherine Morland turns down John Thorpe's proposal of marriage (without realizing what it was), Thorpe goes to General Tilney — who thinks she is rich (because of Thorpe's previous exaggerations) and hoping his son marries her—and rails that the Morlands are poor as churchmice. The General immediately orders her packed off back home.
  • In Agatha Christie's short story collection The Labours of Hercules, one of the cases Hercule Poirot gets to solve deals with this. Poirot is approached by the doctor of a small village, whose wife died a year before. The villagers are all gossiping that the doctor did away with her. It turns out that she was indeed murdered, but not by her husband.
    • Christie also did a version of this plot where Miss Marple's niece Mabel is rumored to have poisoned her husband with arsenic. As in the above example, the husband was murdered, but not by Mabel.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series:
    • In Unnatural Death, a doctor recounts to Lord Peter how his suspicions about an old woman's death had been translated into wild accusations by the rumor mill, forcing him to leave town.
    • In Strong Poison, Harriet Vane is cleared of murder charges. In later works, she still has a problem with this.
    • In Gaudy Night, several people are targeted by a poison-pen, including the aforementioned Harriet.
  • In Deryni Rising, Charissa spreads lies and scary gossip about Alaric Morgan as part of her plan to undermine him. She's assisted by her lover, the traitorous Lord Ian Howell, who tells her, "I'd assumed it was an exercise in malice—not that you need the practice." Since Morgan is already a known Deryni, her efforts merely add to his bad reputation.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry is the butt of swarming rumors that he is behind the problem.
    • Later books deal with the same issue, but these can normally be traced back to one of three sources: the Ministry (under Fudge, working to discredit him by leaning on news sources), Rita Skeeter (mudslinging, sensationalist "reporter"), and Death Eaters.
    • Rita Skeeter has a side hustle writing salacious books about people, usually after they've died. More or less, she gets the big picture right but she's off on the fine details. In the book, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, she says that Dumbledore had a "friendship" with the previous Big Bad, Grindelwald, which is right. However, most of what she says about his family is more of this. His brother, Aberforth, who knows the whole story while still resenting him (very understandably) says it's a load of BS. Snape also got one written about him after his death called Snape: Saint or Scoundrel that said he wasn't actually a deep-cover agent for the good guys that cast in doubt the truth that he was. Newt Scamander is the only subject who is still around to defend himself from her. His book is called Man or Monster? The TRUTH About Newt Scamander. In the re-release of his textbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, he defends himself against what she said in the forward. She'd claimed that he wasn't actually a mazoologist but rather a spy for Dumbledore posing as one and he says that he was actually a mazoologist and at the time, no one would pretend to be one because they were seen as weirdos. He also says the President of the American Wizarding World kicked him out of the country because he destroyed half of New York City, not because he broke her heart. Although he doesn't deny working for Dumbledore but rather says he is not elaborating to respect his privacy.
    • In The Goblet of Fire, Frank Bryce is named a suspect in the murders of the Riddle family since he had access to their house. That's it. When the townsfolk catch wind of it, it takes them all of one night to believe that he's a ruthless murderer. Even when the police let him go due to lack of evidence, the townsfolk never stop believing his guilt, and he is made a pariah for life.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, wherein the Ministry of Magic and The Daily Prophet both do basically everything they possibly can to make people believe that Harry is either lying or insane and what makes it even more ridiculously slimy is that they don't even decide which of the two he is, making clear that all they care about is disproving him.
  • The later books in A Series of Unfortunate Events have this as a major plot point — the Baudelaire orphans have been accused of murder by the villain (of murdering the villain, in fact).
  • Prunella Hooper is the source of a vile rumour in Aunt Dimity: Detective: namely, that Kit Smith, the Harrises' stable master had encouraged their adolescent daughter Nell's crush. The worst version had him being caught in the act of abusing her. Naturally, when Prunella is found dead, the police concentrate on Kit as a prime suspect. In fact, Nell is a remarkably self-possessed and mature young woman (like her brother, she finished her university studies early), and though she did set her cap for him from the age of fifteen, he actively resists the idea for several years.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Horus opts for the "misleading truth". He tells Russ that Magnus has engaged in sorcery forbidden by the Emperor and eggs him on until Russ does not think it necessary to capture Magnus alive — but his actual motive was that Magnus's loyalty to the Emperor would interfere with his own plans.
    • In James Swallow's The Flight of the Eisenstein, Grulgor, bitterly envious, accuses Garro (behind his back) of thinking himself above the rest of them because he came from Terra, and that is why he will not join a lodge. In fact, Garro objects to the secrecy of it.
    • Later in The Flight, Dorn accuses Garro of having made up his story and says he should have him flogged and spaced for telling it.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel The Traitor's Hand, Tomas Beije seems to convince himself of his own slander against Cain. The first hint of just how far he's taking an admittedly less-than-friendly rivalry comes when he tries to send a message back calling Cain's competence into question- just his competence, he swears, read nothing into his choice of Thought For The Day: "The traitor's hand lies closer than you think." But he's not drawing any conclusions. Really.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign, Miles is surrounded by rumors that he killed Ekaterin's husband in order to woo her.
  • In Terry Pratchett's The Truth, William de Worde hears an endless stream of unfounded rumors, culminating in his demand that his fellow boarder who is always saying "You know what they say," actually tell him what they say and who they are, anyway, before revealing that he works for the newspaper — which is after the truth.
    • The second of the page quotes (that one with the boots) is a recurring line in the book. It's also his father's favorite saying. William de Worde, eventually, turns it around:
      The truth has got its boots on. It's going to start kicking.
    • In Wyrd Sisters, Felmet commissions a play to slander the witches and make it so that people recognize him as king. Naturally, the witches can't be having with that.
  • In Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, Chronicler attempts to get Kvothe to tell him his story, and Kvothe is indifferent to his Shrouded in Myth status. It's when Chronicler repeats some of the slanders that Kvothe is moved — and persuaded.
  • Basically what the whole plot revolves around in Ian Mcewan's Atonement.
  • In Simon Spurrier's Night Lords novel Lord of the Night, large chunks of the Back Story are about Malicious Slander. Whether the Emperor slandered the Night Haunter or the Night Haunter slandered the Emperor to Sahaal is unclear. Especially since the person claiming the latter is unreliable, and the claim is convenient to him, but it would explain a great deal.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files novel Turn Coat, the White Council claims that Morgan, who died heroically stopping a traitor, was in cahoots with him. Harry disapproves — and also thinks that it might not do what they wanted.
    • In Grave Peril, Justine threatens to claim that Harry and his friends were plotting to kill Bianca if Harry won't protect Thomas. Unusually, this only underscores how desperate Justine is.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's A Princess of Mars, Sarkoja, who also bears true but malicious tales.
    "Sarkoja told Sola that you had become a true Thark," she said, "and that I would now see no more of you than of any of the other warriors."
    "Sarkoja is a liar of the first magnitude," I replied, "notwithstanding the proud claim of the Tharks to absolute verity."
    • In Chessman of Mars, E-Thas repeats the tales that accuse the jeddak O-Tar of being afraid to go into rooms reputed to be haunted, and quickly assures him that it's all "foul slander".
  • In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 short story "Renegades" after the company goes renegade, Rykhel takes a saviour pod in hopes that he can Bring News Back; he tells the captain, Gessart, that he cannot be party to this evil. They had gone renegade to escape the danger approaching that planet, and Rykhel is going right back into its path. Nevertheless, when Gessart tells his company that they are true renegades and can not return, he claims that Rykhel deserted in fear of the punishment they would receive if caught.
  • In Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, having put the most malicious interpretation on her actions possible, Madame Defarge plots to slander Lucie, her father, and her young daughter, denouncing them for conspiracy.
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Thirteenth Child, Eff's uncles, aunts, and cousins are continually interpreting her acts in the worst possible light and spreading the tale.
  • In G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown story "The Scandal of Father Brown", the scandal comes from a journalist's slander — all predicated on "you are so incurably romantic that your whole case was founded on the idea that a man looking like a young god couldn't be called Potter."
  • In Piers Anthony's Spell for Chameleon, Evil Magician Trent declares that he had turned people to fish — but only with water; despite the stories, he had not left them flapping about on land. He then points out that if he had won the war and the current king had lost it, they would be telling horrible stories about that king.
  • In John C. Wright's The Orphans of Chaos, Miss Daw explains that being Made a Slave in Hera's household was not bad; when you remember the myths, remember also that the Muses — Zeus's bastard children — inspired them.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel The Hour of the Dragon, The Plague is blamed on the king because of this. When he dies and a great storm immediately blows away the plague, everyone takes it a sign of divine favor.
  • In Josepha Sherman's The Shining Falcon, a man slanders Maria's father to the prince, which is why she and her family have to flee.
  • In The Railway Series, Diesel spreads slander to try and get rid of Duck. The Fat Controller sees through it, however, and manages to expose Diesel when he tries to do the same to Henry.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club had to deal with this in one book when a diamond ring disappeared from a house where Stacey was babysitting, the couple in question assumed Stacey had taken the ring and threatened to tell all of their other clients about what had happened. The club's business drops to practically nothing, and Stacey feels that even though she didn't take the ring, it's her fault none of the other girls have jobs. Although it turns out that the couple had never gotten around to telling everyone about the ring; the club was just going through a natural slow period, and they were paranoid enough to attribute it to the non-existent rumor.
  • Helen runs into this a lot in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, up to and including accusations that she's had her son out of wedlock.
  • The Body in the Library: a young girl was found dead in the library of Mr. and Mrs. Bantry. Soon after this discovery, rumours began to spread that the victim was Mr. Bantry's mistress and that he probably had murdered her too. Poor old guy was cold-shouldered by most of the other villagers and became a recluse until the real murderer was found.
  • Wolf Hall portrays Lady Jane Rochford as a malicious gossip who is prone to creating rumors wholesale out of spite, since she's trapped in a horrible marriage with George Boleyn and that's how she chooses to deal with it. Thomas Cromwell doesn't necessarily believe her, but her stories are handy when it comes time to break Henry's marriage with Anne.
  • In The Goblin Emperor, it is hinted at that several very unflattering rumours regarding Maia's person and the reasons for his relegation circulate at court. It does not make his job any easier, especially since these rumours were started by his father, the previous emperor, who had said some things that could be interpreted very unfavourably. In truth, his father just resented Maia for being the result of an unhappy arranged marriage.
  • Guy de Maupassant's short story A Piece Of String centers on a notorious miser going to a community gathering, and picking up a piece of string from the road en route. A rival tradesman sees the miser pocket something plucked from the road, but says nothing. Later, the sheriff announces that the local regent has lost his purse, and anyone that finds it should turn it in for a reward. A second call for the missing purse is made, this time with the sheriff looking pointedly at the miser. Though he was never formally charged, scuttlebutt pegs the miser as snagging the purse and keeping mum. The man died in poverty because no one would believe his only prize that day was a piece of string.
  • Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating: Aisling cheats off Ishu's quiz, then falsely claims that Ishu is the one who cheated from her to destroy her chance for becoming Head Girl. However, this is exposed, although Aisling gets off with a slap on the wrist for doing it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Tyrion Lannister is often on the wrong end of it. Littlefinger claims that the dagger found on Bran's would-be assassin belonged to Tyrion, starting a conflict that eventually snowballs into the War of the Five Kings.
  • Little House on the Prairie: Mrs. Oleson's favorite activity was spreading gossip, and more than once, it crossed the line into malicious gossip big time … especially when her targets were Charles Ingalls and his family, particularly adopted son Albert. Prime examples included a story she printed in the town's newspaper that claimed Charles had snuck around and fathered Albert out of wedlock and, a few seasons later, spun a rumor where Albert got a local girl pregnant.
  • In the BBC show Sherlock, the episode "The Reichenbach Fall" revolves around Moriarty gradually destroying Sherlock's credibility, eventually leading the police to suspect that he made every case up just so he would look good when he "solved" them, and ending heartbreakingly with Sherlock's apparent suicide. Quite the depressing episode.
  • Downton Abbey has this as the driving force behind some of the conflicts, especially when O'Brien and Thomas Barrow are involved.
  • The infamous Wonder Woman (2011 pilot) has it to where Wonder Woman has a press conference to accuse a rival businesswoman of illegally selling steroids with bad side effects, then openly admits she has no proof to back up this claim. Made even worse is the fact she admitted to committing a crime to stop a crime she can't even prove was committed. But thanks to her 100% Adoration Rating she gets away with this without any legal troubles.
  • In Wolf Hall, this is how Anne Boleyn gets disgraced, mainly at the hands of her sister-in-law Lady Jane Rochford—she accuses her husband of having an incestuous affair with Anne, and Thomas Cromwell works up a rationalization to make it plausible for the court.
  • The Society: Campbell, Harry, Lexie and the Guard all make up a story that Allie plotted to steal the election, which results in them arresting her on this supposed charge. Harry and Lexie are plance in charge as co-mayors, with Campbell running things behind the scenes.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Genevieve of Brabant, the wife of palatine count Siegfried of Treves, was accused of adultery by a rebuffed would-be lover and had to live in the woods with her son (She had actually been put on death row, but the executioner took pity on her and let her go). Fortunately, she had magical help from a magical roe deer, who helped Fallen Princess Genevieve get food while residing in a cavern. When her husband finds out about the deceit, he goes to search for Genevieve and their kid, and thanks to the roe, he finds them and asks for forgiveness. It's apparently based on the real-life story of Marie of Brabant, only that Marie wasn't as lucky as Genevieve and did end up executed.
  • The Devil roughly translates into "The Slanderer", as opposed to Satan, which is merely "one who opposes".
  • In the Book of Nehemiah, when the wall surrounding Jerusalem was near completion, Sanballat and Geshem try to lure Nehemiah away from his work to have "a little chat", and Nehemiah keeps telling them that he's busy and can't answer their summons. They get to the point of deciding to spread some of this about Nehemiah, that he was planning a rebellion against the king by declaring himself to be king and that he has set up prophets to make the proclamation. Nehemiah responds that he isn't and that they're just making stuff up about him to discourage him and his workers.

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "April Fools' Day", Miss Enright writes to a romance columnist using Miss Brooks' initials. She plans to use it to humiliate Miss Brooks in front of Mr. Conklin and his dinner guests.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution
    • This tends to happen to espers who turn down or resist a recruitment offer. Did you refuse an offer from The Shop and manage to escape from their agents? In the process, did some of their stray bullets hit passers-by? Now your face, name, and whereabouts are plastered all over the news and you’re wanted by the FBI in connection with a terrorist attack.
    • Every conspiracy will maliciously slander espers from other conspiracies.
    • Eschaton paints all espers as demon-possessed abominations. Their own espers are no exception.

  • In the musical 13, after Evan plays matchmaker for Brett and Kendra, Brett's jealous ex-girlfriend spreads a rumor that Kendra is cheating on Brett with Evan.
  • Iago does this to Desdemona in Othello.
  • In Hamlet, Hamlet says to Ophelia "Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny." And Hamlet tests the ghost's words; he appears to fear that the ghost slandered his uncle and mother.
    • Rule of Symbolism: The older king Hamlet was poisoned by Claudius Through the ear! That could very well symbolize the power of malicious slander. In that respect, the trope guides the entire play, because each character is taught to mistrust one another (apart from Horatio, that is).
  • This happens to Elphaba in Act 2 of Wicked when the Wizard gets his press-machine up to full steam to demonise her as an enemy of the state.
  • In Aleksandr Griboyedov's Woe from Wit, Sofia (the female lead) spreads a classic piece of Malicious Slander during a ball by hinting that Chatsky, the main character, has gone insane. It's a critical part of the denouement.
  • In Richard Wagner's version of Lohengrin, female lead Elsa is falsely accused of killing her little brother Gottfried, the child-Duke of Brabant (who had actually been turned into a swan by the Evil Sorceress Ortrud. Then the eponymous Knight in Shining Armor comes to her rescue.
  • Used as the main plot device in The Children's Hour. At a 1930s all-girls school, a bratty girl mad at her teachers conjures up a lie about them being lesbian lovers. Considering one of them was engaged, and this was the early thirties, it single-handedly ruined their lives.
  • Accusations of witchcraft in The Crucible drive the plot, causing the deaths of many innocent people.

    Video Games 
  • Crusader Kings II: A ruler can spread vicious rumors about another character, lowering everyone else's opinion of them which makes their armies weaker, as their vassals and commanders dislike them, and their realm more likely to experience internal strife.
  • Dragon's Dogma: After defeating the titular dragon that has been scouring the land and was prophesized to perform a ritual with a Fallen Hero that would bring the apocalypse, you return home only to discover that the apocalypse has occurred. The Duke, who was famous for dealing with the last dragon, has speed-aged into an old man. He reveals that last time, he made a deal with the dragon, who did NOT destroy the world but simply slept until now. By rejecting the Deal with the Devil and defeating the dragon YOU have signaled the end of the world. In spite, the Duke publically slanders YOU as the Deal Taker, justifying his claim with the destruction that surely would not have come if you destroyed the dragon as the prophecies (and common sense) foretold. They side with him.
  • Fallen London: One of the many weapons a Persuasive character has at their disposal. By the time you've talked your way into the Palace, you can start horrific rumors about practically anyone, and casually hinder any rivals you have through rumourmongering.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, if you're working for the NCR and choose to negotiate a truce with the Brotherhood of Steel rather than destroy them as Colonel Moore ordered, Moore will take it out on you by going on a smear campaign against your character, which in-game means you gain some negative NCR rep.
  • In Final Fantasy VII the news calls AVALANCHE a terrorist group. Which is entirely accurate.
    • In the remake, Shin-Ra intentionally overloaded the generator that AVALANCHE blew up, in order to ramp up their criminal charges from saboteurs to mass-murderers. They also blame Wutai for funding AVALANCHE so they can start another war against them.
  • Final Fantasy X: After Tidus and company crash Yuna's wedding to an insane creep of a priest, the church of Yevon brands the party heretics. Mostly to discredit the party from revealing the supposed luddites of Bevelle are gun-toting techno-hedonists.
  • In inFAMOUS the "Voice of Truth" does this to Cole at the behest of the Big Bad in order to toughen him up. Whether it sticks depends on what you choose to do.
  • At the beginning of the arson cases segment in L.A. Noire Cole's partner sets him up protect his superiors from a scandal, using the fact he had an affair with a German woman (a refugee from Nazi Germany) to brand him a traitor who ran out on his wife (she threw him out). This is lampshaded by the description of the default outfit for the arson cases;
    "Don't believe everything you read in the papers."
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider: Trinity did this to Lara father, Richard Croft, when he started researching for certain mythical phenomenon that they were also searching for, turning the press, the public, his academic peers and even long-time colleagues against him until he was assassinated by them and died in disgrace. By the time the game starts, they've started to do the same thing to Lara, who is picking up where her father left off.
  • In Saints Row: The Third, midway through the story, Killbane releases a doctored video, framing the Saints for the destruction of a bridge at its grand opening, during a live interview to turn public opinion against the now-celebrity Saints Gang. In reality, the attack was carried out by Killbane and his Luchadores against the Saints, who just happened to be on the bridge when Killbane attacked. That the Saints reacted to this by calling in and issuing death threats to Killbane during the interview, then storming the building and killing the security probably didn't do them any favors either.

    Visual Novels 
  • Mystic Messenger: Echo Girl tries to pull this on Jumin and Zen for turning down her romantic advances in one of the routes. Her claim that Zen sexually harassed her nearly tanks his career, although the other rumor (that Jumin is gay) gets shrugged off.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, Phase is a Goodkind. That means his family is the most famous, most important group of mutant haters on the planet. Phase is a mutant at Superhero School Whateley Academy. Pretty much everybody there assumes he's still a mutant-hating monster. At the beginning of "Ayla and the Mad Scientist", people are gossiping about him supposedly kicking Bladedancer out of Team Kimba, and all the horrible reasons that might be behind it. To make matters worse, Bladedancer asked to be tossed out of Team Kimba (as part of a gambit to place her as a mole in another group), so it's hard to deny.
    The gossip mill at Whateley, which was really less like a mill and more like a large factory complete with loading docks and rail lines for optimal transmission of goods, was saying that I had kicked Chou out of Team Kimba, and the rest of the team was going along with that. Oh, there were other rumors. That Chou had gotten seriously hurt in Boston and had quit the team like a big crybaby. That Chou had decided she was tired of getting in trouble with Carson just for being on our team and getting dragged into team shenanigans. That the team voted her out in a Survivor-esque tribunal, with a clear majority wanting her gone. And my personal least favorite: Chou had gotten tired of being my personal geisha love-pillow and had bailed. I managed not to cringe when I heard that one.
  • In The Doctors of the Cat Family Jonathan Cat, a businessman, is falsely accused of abusing his wife and getting wealthy through stealing by people who are jealous of his wealth and don't understand how business works.

    Western Animation 
  • In Central Park, in an effort to sabotage Central Park so she can buy it, she slanders the park manager, Owen, so he can be fired and replaced.
    • In Season 1 "Hot Oven", Bitsy releases a smear letter in the newspaper about Central Park falling apart and they need a new management for the park to improve. She brings up the time when the park was full of trash and graffiti from previous episodes, which she was responsible for in an attempt to sabotage the park. Owen does not take this well.
    • In Season 1 "A Fish Called Snakehead", after Dick Flake caught the snakehead for Bitsy so she could improve her public image, she also uses this opportunity to slander Owen's management skills and tells the media that someone like her is needed to take care of the park. This leaves Owen upset after everyone leaves.
  • In the Goof Troop episode "Talent to the Max", an evil magic hat uses this against PJ. PJ wanted to tell Max that the hat was evil, and clearly, the hat couldn't allow that, so it told Max that he was trying to steal his act and briefly possessed him to "prove" it. PJ denied the accusations when Max "saw" him upstage him, but Max got very mad at PJ for "trying to steal his act." PJ is one of the two least selfish and most loyal characters in the cast, and a Bad Liar. Max still believes the lies.
  • Thomas & Friends:
    • It adapts The Railway Series Reconstruction "Dirty Work", in which Diesel creates Malicious Slander about the tender engines to frame Duck.
    • Also performed, albeit inadvertently, in "Thomas And The New Engine", after Thomas sees a new diesel-esque steam engine, Neville, hanging around with troublemakers 'Arry and Bert (in reality being bullied by them) he assumes he is another troublemaking diesel, this is passed around the other engines until the story is blown into Neville being a steamie-biffing racist. After finding out Neville is, in fact, a Nice Guy, Thomas immediately rectifies his mistake and befriends him.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Malicious Libel


Park Management is Lacking

After Dick Flake caught the snakehead for Bitsy so she could improve her public image, she also uses this opportunity to slander Owen's management skills and tells the media that someone like her is needed to take care of the park. This leaves Owen upset after everyone leaves.

How well does it match the trope?

4 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / MaliciousSlander

Media sources:

Main / MaliciousSlander