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Misdirected Outburst

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Icheb: Why is she angry at me?
Doctor: She's not angry at you. She's just... angry.
Star Trek: Voyager, "Imperfection"

There's getting mad at someone who hurt you. There's getting mad at someone who frustrates you. And then, there's the Misdirected Outburst — in which a character lashes out at a character who is being at worst mildly irritating because they are already angry at the world. This event can be a death, a divorce, a disabling illness, or something else, but whatever it is, the character can't lash out at it. This can happen for three reasons:

  1. They're angry about something that cannot be yelled at, such as a death or illness.
  2. They can't (or at least feel they can't) lash out at the person who angered them. This can be because the person is dead, away, in a position of authority over the character, or otherwise someone they do not want to piss off, no matter how angry they are.
  3. They're angry at themselves.

Afterward, the character might apologize, saying something like "You didn't deserve that." or... not.

Can overlap with The Chain of Harm. Compare Misplaced Retribution. Often triggered during the "Anger" stage of the Five Stages of Grief. It might result in an Anger Montage, an Angry Dance, or an Angry Collar Grab. This often comes with an "Anger Is Healthy" Aesop where they learn to express their anger in better ways or in smaller, controlled bursts rather than bottling it up and directing it at people who didn't deserve it.

Truth in Television. Some people are more prone to this than others, some are more embarrassed afterwards than others, but we've all done that.


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    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfiction set after the film, Mark Russell is introduced lashing out at Monarch just as much as at Mariko when he thinks Mariko is making up a tasteless lie about Vivienne Graham's death, until Mariko shuts him up and tells him to get in line with an absolutely scathing "Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Friendly Foreign Exchange Student Spider-Man!: This something that Bakugo Katsuki constantly does to Peter Parker in the early story, mainly due to the latter ranking first in class and whose fragile ego taking any personal slight whenever someone else unfavorably compares him to the arachnid-hero. Deconstructed as this doesn't do him any favors in Peter's eyes, which leads to his personal Pride Before a Fall in the U.A. Sports Festival.
  • Junior Officers: In "Even the Best Fall Down Sometimes", Captain Barnacles is ashamed of himself for unintentionally being the cause of Shellington's mental breakdown. Deborah comes over and he gives her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for trying to stay optimistic at a time like this, making Deborah cry and compare him to her abusive father. He later apologizes.
  • Pokémon: Equestrian Champions: In "The Pokérus Training Ground", Flash is still suffering a Heroic BSoD from his crushing defeat against Lightning Blitz in the Hoofington Battle Tournament. He spends several days straight training his Pokémon when they are infected with Pokérus to make them as strong as possible, barely stopping to eat or sleep. When his friends are worried about how hard he is pushing them and himself, they try to get him to stop and take a break. But Flash, in his sleep-deprived state and already on edge, lashes out at them that he is sick of them always acting like know-it-alls and trying to boss him around and get in his way, even saying that maybe he would be better off on his own without them holding him back. His friends are actually stunned silent by this, and Spike is afraid that Flash will actually leave them behind. Luckily, Flash apologizes for his outburst when he finally gets ahold of himself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Captain America: Civil War, War Machine is accidentally shot by Vision and falls to the ground. Iron Man, already angry about the fight among the superheroes and concerned about his friend, knocks out Falcon, Vision's intended target, with a repulsor blast after Falcon approached and expressed his concern for War Machine.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Mark Russell has a nasty habit of taking his rage at Godzilla for supposedly killing his son out on any and everyone else around him, including the Monarch scientists whom are trying to help him find his missing daughter and ex-wife. It seems to go away once he seemingly gets his wish of Godzilla being dead and wishes he hadn't.
  • Pulp Fiction: While preparing to flee Los Angeles after scamming Marsellus Wallace, Butch discovers his girlfriend Fabienne forgot to pack his late father's gold watch when she left their apartment. He goes completely berserk, screaming, cursing, and trashing their hotel room... Then just as quickly calms, admits he should have told her how important the watch was, and leaves to retrieve it.

  • Katniss in The Hunger Games lashes out at a few characters after her sister Prim dies, even the cat.
  • Rumi of Summer Bird Blue lashes out at her aunt Ani because of her grief for her sister, Lea.
  • Theo of It Wasnt Me gets angry at Alice after his photographs are ruined a third time.
  • In an official book based on Sesame Street, titled "Why Are You So Mean to Me?", Grover causes his team to lose a game during a sports match. His teammates are mean to him, which causes him to angrily call Big Bird's drawing stupid, making the latter cry.
  • At the beginning of the Doug chapter book "A Picture for Patti," Patti lashes out at Doug and tells him to leave her alone. But a little while later, she admits that it wasn't his fault; she's just feeling sad because the next day is the anniversary of her mother's death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The George Lopez Show: In the episode where Angie's mother dies, George reveals that he failed to reserve a third burial plot next to the one for him and Angie so her mother could be buried next to them despite telling her he had reserved the plot years ago. Angie is furious at George for this deception but Ernie suspects there is something else making her angry. When George confronts her about it, Angie reveals that she is really angry at herself because her last conversation with her mother had Angie calling her a "selfish tramp" for cheating on Angie's father.
  • How I Met Your Mother: The episode "The Chain of Screaming" discussed the titular phenomenon in which people take out their anger over being yelled at on other people instead of the person who yelled at them in the first place.
    Barney Stinson: That's why there's a little thing in corporate America I like to call the chain of screaming.
    Marshall Eriksen: The chain of screaming?
    Barney Stinson: Yes. The chain of screaming starts at the top. Arthur's boss's boss screams at Arthur's boss. Arthur's boss screams at Arthur. Arthur screams at you. You go home and scream at Lily. Lily screams at one of the kids in her kindergarten class. Then that kid screams at her dad: Arthur's boss's boss. And the whole thing starts all over again; thus completing the circle of screaming.
  • In the prequel season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Batiatus has a habit of doing this to his best friend Solonius, unloading his feelings of anger and humiliation onto him time and time again, sometimes making rather spiteful remarks in the process. Batiatus usually apologizes for his outbursts and Solonius initially forgives him, but eventually he gets sick of it and it's one of the reasons they go from friends to mortal enemies.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Invoked when Neelix notices B'Elanna is more stressed than usual. He offers to help her vent by being on the receiving end of such an outburst and promises not to take it personally. The offer is so sweet, B'Elanna knows she couldn't do it.
  • The Witcher (2019), "Rare Species": Immediately after Geralt's lover leaves him, his Only Friend Jaskier walks up, unaware, and starts chatting. Geralt rounds on him, blames him for all his problems, and wishes to have Jaskier out of his life — so Jaskier does just that.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In Becoming Part 1, the first part of the second season finale, Buffy wants to re-ensoul Angel, but Xander is angry because he thinks Buffy just wants her boyfriend back. Cordelia says she agrees with Xander, and Xander snaps at her because she usually disagrees with him or snarks at him; when he realizes Cordelia is actually agreeing with him, he apologizes and goes back to being angry at Buffy.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, once the protagonist gets used to Dennis popping up out of nowhere, he snaps at Lauren once when she surprises him.
  • Fate/stay night: In the Heaven's Feel route, after Rider is easily beaten by Saber in their first encounter, her master Shinji kicks her in frustration for his loss, while Saber rightly points out to him that it's his own fault for the outcome, not his servant. A while after that, he beats up his sister Sakura, much to Shiro's ire when he sees her bruises.

  • In one Arthur, King of Time and Space strip, Arthur says to Merlin that Guenevere is yelling at him about stuff that isn't a big deal and she does as well, but he understands that she's only doing it because she's angry about something else. Merlin replies that everyone except Arthur does that.
  • For most of Homestuck, this trope is where Karkat lives. He is constantly angry and belittling to everyone, and it is very clear that this is because he hates himself for getting them all into this mess in the first place.

    Web Videos 
  • Subverted for laughs in Sword Art Online Abridged, Kirito screams at Agil/Tiffany in his bar after learning about Asuna's predicament at the hands of Suguha and Mr. Yuuki. However, he never once lashes out at Tiff directly, making it quite clear who he's angry at, and Tiff lets him yell to his heart's content.

    Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe: Future:
    • After another attempt to heal her eye fails, Volleyball explains how it happened in the first place; after being denied a colony by both Yellow Diamond and Blue Diamond, Pink Diamond went straight to White Diamond, who also denied her. In Pink's ensuing tantrum, she hit Volleyball, mentally scarring her.
    • Steven becomes so frustrated about always having to fix his mother's mistakes that he lashes out at Pearl and Volleyball, who were arguing about the same topic. Shell assumes his anger was directed towards them and attempts to "rejuvenate" them for their "insolence".
  • The Simpsons: During Ned Flanders' meltdown in "Hurricane Neddy", he begins by lashing out at those who have given him the most reasons for grief over the years (namely the Simpson family), but, as he goes on, his targets become increasingly tangential, in particular Lenny, who wasn't even involved in the shoddy effort to rebuild Ned's house to begin with.
    Ned: And as for you, I don't know you but I'm sure you're a jerk!
    Lenny: Hey, I've only been here a few minutes, what's going on?