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Misplaced Retribution

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Also known as "Displaced Aggression."

[The Shield, who claims to fight injustice, ambushes Kane and Daniel Bryan, who are faces]
Josh Mathews: What injustice did Daniel Bryan do here tonight, John?
John "Bradshaw" Layfield: He's associated with Kane, that's enough.

Some retaliation exceeds what's being retaliated to in its severity. But some retaliation isn't even along the same line; it's directed at those who can't reasonably be blamed for what you're retaliating for, except according to exceedingly shaky justifications, or even no real justification at all. Whether it is worse than what is retaliated to or milder, the point remains that it is still indefensibly directed at the wrong targets.

Closely related to Mis-blamed, a Sister Trope to Revenge by Proxy and so more often than not Moral Event Horizon-worthy, and similar to Guilt by Association Gag and Karmic Misfire. I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure is when one uses this trope as a threat. It's one of the many ways in which a Cycle of Revenge can get ugly. Avenging the Villain is also related, since The Hero (or whoever killed the villain) is usually either blameless or justified. Yet another related trope is Bewildering Punishment, which is what this trope probably feels like from the victim's POV. The Chain of Harm can result if the victim goes on to inflict this on somebody else. For cases where someone deliberately ensures this happens, see Frame-Up and The Scapegoat.


Truth in Television, of course. From a psychoanalytic point of view, this is called displacement, and occurs when someone who feels under attack emotionally retaliates against someone who is a better victim than the aggressor - for some reason, it is more viable to emotionally attack this new target than the aggressor.

See Murder by Mistake when this trope is taken to the extreme.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This is played with in Axis Powers Hetalia. Canada is frequently the target of this because he looks almost identical to his brother America, though the countries that are pissed at America wouldn't harm Canada if they knew the difference. That he's very soft spoken means he rarely is able to stop the abuse or convince the other countries (rightfully angry at America) from beating up on him.
  • In The Breaker, a great deal of characters are after Han Chun Wo, also known as Goomoonryong, because he killed their master or performed some other dishonorable thing upon their martial arts school. He is a complete and utter badass upon which they have no hope of carrying out their revenge. Therefore, they prefer to target his student, Yi Shioon, which becomes particularly unfair and messed up in The Breaker: New Waves when Shioon looses his ability to use ki and becomes completely helpless, is renounced by his Master as a student and is no longer a Murim (part of the martial arts world) and should be off limits. Backfires pretty horribly on them since his Master actually started a process that would make Yi Shioon even stronger in Shioon's body (his ki center being broken was a necessary first step). After the first hundred chapters or so, they are seeing Shioon as a threat in his own right.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Accelerator's ward Last Order becomes gravely ill, so he frantically wanders everywhere and gets caught up in World War III while trying to find a way to cure her. While in a military convoy in Russia, he randomly runs into Touma Kamijou. Accelerator becomes enraged and attacks him, blaming him for being a hero yet not doing anything to help her. Touma defeats him and points out he can't be everywhere at once and didn't even know about Last Order's condition, and he was busy traveling to defeat the one who started the war. Touma adds he would have helped if he had just asked, and temporarily heals Last Order before giving instructions for a permanent cure.
    • Shinka Kanou learns that his friend Frenda Seivelun was killed by Shizuri Mugino. Rather than target Mugino, he decides to blame and try to kill Touma Kamijou, because he is a hero yet didn't save her. Shiage Hamazura confronts him and calls bullshit on this reasoning. During the time that Frenda was killed, Touma was in another country working on preventing civil wars and invasions. Shiage offers to take the blame because he actually was in the area when the murder happened and actually knew Frenda, unlike Touma who had never even heard of her. Shinka eventually has a Heel Realization.
  • Justified with the Kimura-Andou-Izayoi feud in Danganronpa 3. Kimura blames Andou for getting her expelled from Hope's Peak Academy. Andou and Izayoi, in turn, blame Kimura for their expulsions. As it turns out, Nagito Komaeda accidentally took a performance enhancing drug that Andou wanted and left her with the laxative he wanted. Naturally, when Andou spiked the candy she was making for a practical exam with the laxative, it ended up causing her proctors severe stomach pain. When Andou accused Kimura of setting her up, Kimura revealed a detonator for a bomb she had come into possession of when she accidentally swapped bags with the aforementioned Komaeda. Then a giant mutant puppy attacked, startling the two into detonating the bomb. The result of this was that Kimura and Andou looked like Mad Bombers, getting them kicked out. Izayoi's expulsion is a straight example of this trope; he was basically lumped in with them because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to be Andou's boyfriend.
  • In a Dragon Ball Z movie, Broly wanted to murder Goten and Trunks for looking like Goku, the person Broly was originally looking for.
  • Scar from Fullmetal Alchemist tries to kill the Elric brothers shortly after he's introduced. Scar is one of the few surviving members of a genocide perpetrated by the Amestrian government, and so has good reason to be angry, but he chooses to exact revenge for the deaths of his people by killing State Alchemists, and all State Alchemists, regardless of whether or not they were involved in the Ishvalan conflict. Edward and Alphonse in particular were small children when the genocide took place, and had absolutely nothing to do with it.
    • Also, Scar murdered Winry's parents when it seemed like they were Amestrian scientists who were conducting experiments on Ishvalan survivors. They were doctors. As a bonus, turns out that the people responsible for the whole war were Father and Envy, who treat their Amestrian minions like fish food. Whoops.
  • In Juuni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger, it turns out that the main villain Nyanma's mistakenly thought that, during her past as Chocolat, Princess Aura had deliberately tricked her into getting herself disqualified from a race by appearing in a vision to her and asking her to start the race too soon. This lead to Nyanma seeking power from the evil cat spirit Bagi, and led to Nyanma trying to sink the entire country of Mugen in revenge. But Nyanma's retribution is misplaced; it was Bagi herself who sent that vision to Chocolat to trick Chocolat into getting herself disqualified, so Chocolat would have a reason to do Bagi's dirty work in attacking Mugen.
  • In Mai Hime, Nao, who has turned fully antagonistic after losing one of her eyes in a fight with Natsuki (which, unbeknownst to either, was the result of manipulation by Nao's alleged victim Yukariko), decides to seek revenge on everyone whom she blames for this. This, unfortunately, includes Mai, who tried to stop the fight between Nao and Natsuki, and Nao decides to take revenge on Mai by targeting Takumi instead. To a degree, this can also apply to Shiho's grudge against Mai (for which she kills Takumi by destroying Akira's Child), since it was Yuuichi's declaration of love for Mai that showed her that he was attracted to her, rather than anything Mai did, although it also falls under Murder the Hypotenuse in that Shiho wants Mai out of the way as long as she is a potential rival.
  • In Murasakiiro no Qualia, Hatou torments Alice in several timelines in consequence of Yukari's death. Alice never meant for it to happen. Quite the opposite, she truly believed JAUNT would be able to protect Yukari.
  • Sasuke Uchiha of Naruto finds out his brother was ordered to kill his entire family to save his village from civil war and prevent a world war that would've killed thousands of innocents all over the continent. Only the three village elders even knew about that, but Sasuke decides every man, woman, and child in the village, including dozens of people who used to be his friends/family substitutes/mentors, have to die because they owe their lives to what was done to him.
    • Though originally he, rather more reasonably, only wished to kill the three elders who had given the order in the first place. Unfortunately, he later lost most of his SAN points and decided that everyone who wasn't an Uchiha must have been in some way responsible for it and therefore needed to die.
    • To an extent, Neji beating Hinata within an inch of her life during the Chunin exams, as he blamed her and the Hyuga Main House for the death of his father Hizashi. Even before Neji knew the full circumstances, keep in mind that Hinata was only three years old at the time and had no control whatsoever of the decisions made by the Hyuga higher-ups on how to deal with the incident.
  • In One Piece, Duval targets Sanji, who has never met him before, because the poorly drawn composite illustration of him happens to look like him, resulting in Duval being attacked by Marines and bounty hunters who are looking for Sanji (interestingly enough, not over the crimes Duval actually committed).
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero, the King of Melromarc goes out of his way to make things harder for Naofumi simply because he's the Shield Hero. Later chapters reveal that he has a hatred for demihumans because some of them took his little sister away, and demihumans worship the Shield Hero as a god note . So he basically vents his personal anger on someone who didn't personally slight him, but also had no idea of why he was being treated that way.
  • Rosario + Vampire: Gyokuro Shuzen's motivation for everything she does, up to and including trying to wipe out humanity, is because she's pissed that her husband Issa paid more attention to his mistress, Akasha Bloodriver, than he did to her. While that is already Disproportionate Retribution, she chooses to specifically blame Akasha rather than Issa himself.
  • A particularly bad example in the case of the anime-exclusive villain Valgaav from Slayers; he was subservient to Gaav, one of the world's five Dark Lords, and he goes on an all-out vendetta against Lina and her comrades for killing him. Problem? Another Dark Lord, Phibrizo, killed Gaav, whereas it took a massive effort for Lina and co. to stand against him. Of course, Lina and co. were used by Phibrizo to lure Gaav from hiding, and Phibrizo is already dead by the time of TRY. It just shows how obsessed Valgaav was with revenge, on top of his other vendettas.
    • Before that in the first Slayers series was Eris, a devout follower of Rezo the Red Priest. She placed bounties on Lina, Gourry, and Zelgadis in order to capture them and kill them in revenge for killing Rezo. The problem? Reno was killed by Shabranigdo when he gets resurrected through his own body, something Lina and company were trying to prevent. Despite that, Eris still blames the, for Rezo's death. Zelgadis even calls out that she has totally misplaced resentment.
    • Zuuma from Revolution and Evolution-R is even worse. A group bandits abducted him and his wife at the order of one of his father's enemies. His wife was injured, and ended up dying in captivity before the ransom was paid. But before he could get his revenge and learn who hired them, they all got wiped out during an incident in Sairaag. Since Lina and co were involved in said incidents, he goes after her for keeping him from avenging his wife.
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle has Hayes Vi Arcadia, who wants to take revenge on the people who usurped her side of the family and stole her birthright as princess of the Holy Arcadia Empire. She outlives the perpetrators by centuries due to a currently unknown method, so she settles for not only plotting the deaths of the modern-day imperial family, but also plotting to conquer all the Kingdom of Atismata for being a regime change from the empire. When the new kingdom understandably chooses to fight back and refuse her demands, she decides to resort to genocide.
  • In the Doma Arc from the Yu-Gi-Oh! second anime, Alister has a grudge against Seto Kaiba because his little brother died in a war where the weapons were provided by Gozaburo Kaiba, Seto's foster father. Not only was Seto hardly even involved in this (he didn't even know about it), but he actually hated Gozaburo for being an Abusive Parent, and one of the first thing he did upon taking over Kaiba Corp was to stop building weapons to instead focus on card games. What's more, it's later revealed that the whole thing was actually an elaborate Frame-Up engineered by Dartz to recruit Alister. Overall, it makes Alister's hatred really misplaced.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 36, Mr. Slowy is mad at Weslie, Paddi, and Sparky because he thinks they're trying to make excuses for not doing their homework. Wolffy and Wolnie come to the goats' school dressed as goats to capture Mr. Slowy, but he thinks they're the goat boys and places them in a cage with a robot that chases them - a cage and robot meant for the actual goat boys.

    Comic Books 
  • A rare humorous example appears above, from the Asterix adventure, Asterix and the Roman Agent. Fulliautomatix, having just been bashed in the foot by village elder Geriatrix (for laughing at him), whips around and punches innocent bystander Cacophonix in the face.
    Cacophonix But I didn't say a word!
    Fulliautomatix I know, but all the same, I can't bring myself to bash that old relic!
  • There is the origin of Doctor Doom. When they were in university, Reed Richards spied Doom's notes for his grand experiment and tried to warn him that some of his calculations were off, which threatened disaster. Doom refused to listen, and when the experiment blew up in his face, as Reed warned, Doom could not accept that he made a mistake and irrationally accused Reed of sabotage, starting their lifelong enmity.
  • In Issue 62 of Elephantmen, Panya snatches Horn and Sahara's child from Gabbatha and hands the baby over to Serengheti, who promptly kills Panya afterwards and flees with the child. Despite having done nothing wrong, Gabbatha is immediately murdered by Horn in a fit of blind fury.
  • One of Green Lantern's Silver Age antagonists was the Aerialist, who was under the delusion that someone at Ferris Aircraft had murdered his beloved (her death was in fact a freak accident) and therefore sought revenge against the company. Notable for being one of the few times Hal Jordan thought the Insanity Defense would actually work, even citing the M'Naughten guideline.
  • In The Incredible Hulk, most of the Gamma Corps hunted the Hulk because they wrongly believed he was responsible for their personal tragedies. To their credit, they stop hunting the Hulk once they realize this.
    • Mess' child was killed during a battle between the Hulk and the Abomination and she was led to believe that the Hulk threw the bus that killed him. It was actually the Abomination who did it, which was even more galling to Mess because she let the government alter the left half of her body to be Abomination-like.
    • Gideon blamed the Hulk for his son Jim Wilson's death just because Jim was a friend of the Hulk's when he died. Jim actually died of AIDS (which, to be clear, he did not contract from the Hulk). The Hulk pointed this out to Gideon. The Hulk then mentioned that Jim never told him his father was still alive, and he asked Gideon why Jim was a runaway pretending to be an orphan in the first place.
    • Prodigy's parents claimed that he suffered birth defects because of the Hulk. Prodigy became a Leader-like Gamma mutant and joined the Corps for payback. He later discovered that his parents blamed the Hulk to hide the real reason for his birth defects- their heroin addiction.
    • The only members who don't fit this are Grey and Griffin. Grey actually hated his brother Glenn Talbot and just wants to prove himself more capable than his brother by beating the Hulk. Griffin just wants someone to hate.
  • Injustice 2: In an alternate universe where Superman turns into a dictator and gets ousted, his adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent are subject to public scrutiny for having found and raised the alien baby that turned into a tyrant... Despite them having nothing to do with the circumstances that made him turn evil. Their family home is destroyed and they move into the Fortress of Solitude, which has since been abandoned since Superman was arrested.
  • In Nightwing, it is revealed that, once a generation, the Court of Owls takes a single child from Haley's Circus to become one of their Talons every time the circus visits Gotham City. This child would then be tortured, trained, and experimented on. Dick Grayson himself was supposed to become a Talon, but of course, his parents are killed and he is adopted by Bruce Wayne. So instead, his friend Raymond is taken, but washes out and has his eyes pecked out. Years later, Raymond returns as Saiko and claims that Dick Grayson is the worst killer evargh ever and tries to kill him, along with everyone else in the circus at the time. Except: 1. Dick couldn't have possibly known about this (Batman himself didn't know about the mere existence of the Court of Owls, let alone their methods) 2. Dick was in mourning and had found a kindred spirit who could help him achieve his goals (good old vigilante justice) 3. Dick didn't kill him 4. The audience has nothing to do with this.
  • Lilith from Rachel Rising is an immortal witch and Master Poisoner who regularly engages in Disproportionate Retribution, but even for her, pursuing revenge on a town where she and her followers were the target of a literal Witch Hunt more than 300 years after the town went all Burn the Witch! is excessive.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog, Thrash the Devil, like the other dwindling Mobian-type Tasmanian Devils, had been told that the echidnas were evil due to the fact that, centuries ago, a group of scientists modified them, turning them into Devil Dogs slowly over the years. Thrash ended up getting his revenge, leading to the last leader of the Devils realizing that what she had told the other Devils had Gone Horribly Wrong: Thrash had sent every last echidna outside of Knuckles himself into another dimension out of spite.
  • The big twist at the end of Mark Millar's Super Crooks, is after the team rip off notorious super-villain the Bastard while in costume. The Bastard goes to the pack of mobsters who had threatened the gang's friend (forcing them to do this heist) and murders them all while they're baffled as to why. It turns out the mobsters were all once costumed crooks...the same costumes the team wore to rip the Bastard off so he ended up taking out their own enemies.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The leader of the Jury, Orwell Taylor, sought revenge against Venom for the murder of his son. So far, so good. Then he failed, and went after Spider-Man for bringing the symbiote to earth, which is less reasonable because Spidey didn't know the black costume was a symbiote when he did it, and even then, he isn't responsible for Venom's actions with it. Then he joined the Life Foundation, most famous for making more symbiotes from Venom.
    • The original Mysterio, Quentin Beck, wanted to have one last good outing as a supervillain before he died of cancer. Unfortunately, Spider-Man was Ben Reilly at the time so he went after Daredevil instead.
  • In The Trial of Superman storyline, Superman is sentenced to death by an alien tribunal... because one of his ancestors had perfected a device that made it so that most of the Kryptonians couldn't leave their planet without dying, which meant they couldn't leave when the planet blew up. The fact that Superman was only a baby when this happened was ignored by the judges: all that mattered to them was that Superman was related to a killer, therefore he would have to pay for the crime.
  • One issue of The Punisher (who is himself this trope writ large against any and all criminals whether they were involved in the murder of his family or not) had its villain, a Serial Killer who targeted cab drivers by catching their cabs in the wee hours of the morning and then shooting them in the head from behind, ultimately be revealed as engaging in this. The killer was a woman who failed to get a cab one night after her car broke down, so she was forced to walk home...and she wound up being raped. Instead of targeting her rapist(s), however, the woman targeted cabbies because, in her mind, she wouldn't have been raped if even one of those she'd tried to hail that night had bothered to stop for her.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Sensation Comics: Mona Menise tries to crush part of a crowd gathered around Wonder Woman and Holliday College's Glee Club with a large statue because she's angry at Wonder Woman for having gained Steve Trevor's attention.
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Mavis, one of the victims Paula tortured into being her agent, decides to take revenge on the former Nazi when she's saved following Paula's Heel–Face abducting Paula's toddler Gerta to give to the Axis powers to kill.
  • In one The Simpsons comic story, Marge and Homer begin starring in a series of commercials advertising Marge's home-made spot remover. Then the advertising executives decide to replace Marge with a younger woman, claiming that that is what viewing audiences are used to. To make matters worse, Homer is contractually obliged to do the commercials or the advertisers will sue. Marge is understandably upset about this, but instead of getting mad at the advertisers, she takes her anger out on Homer, even though (as she herself admits) she is fully aware that he is completely blameless in all this.

    Fan Works 
  • In Death Note: The Abridged Series (Kpts4tv) Rem blames Light for Misa's stupidity and demands that he save her "or I'll rip your face off."
  • The Vocaloid fanfic From Concert To Chaos has the main antagonists, Miku Zatsune and Rin Arakawa, inflict this on Miku and Rin by beating the living daylights out of them during a concert, because Zatsune and Arakawa were absolutely convinced that their former boyfriends, Mikuo and Len, broke up with them because of the girls' interfering, even though it was THEIR OWN DAMN FAULT and Miku and Rin were completely innocent. Even more to the point, they trapped the audience in a wall of fire to prevent them from escaping, simply to show the world how evil they were.
  • In The Lion King Adventures, Mtumwa tries to kill Simba (and Nala by extension) for Scar's death, even though that was actually Hago's doing. This is actually justified, however, as Mtumwa wasn't present when it happened, and only heard about it after it was distorted by word of mouth retellings.
  • Various Buffy the Vampire Slayer fics have accused the Kalderash clan of this regarding the nature of the curse that restored Angel’s soul; since Angel and Angelus are distinct entities, cursing Angelus with a soul just leaves the vampire demon trapped while condemning the human soul to be tormented by guilt over memories of actions that the soul technically didn’t commit.
  • Pony POV Series:
    • In the Dark World, Fluttercruel's reaction to Discord being mortally wounded is to go One-Winged Angel and try to kill the Elements of Harmony in retaliation. This despite the fact that not only was this actually Rancor's doing, but Cruelty was there and saw it happen. Though in this case, it's justified by the fact that her grief and rage has driven her insane.
    • In the Finale Arc, Venus learns that Tootsie is wielding her murdered son Cupid's Bow. Venus attacks the child and tries to kill her, accusing her of robbing and defiling her son's grave. Toostie had no idea who Cupid was and had been given the bow as a gift by the villains. She eventually realizes she was overreacting and sends Tootsie an apology gift.
  • In Frozen Hearts, when two of Prince Harald's men mistreat Prince Hans while bringing him back from Arendelle, their father, King George, has them dismissed. Harald responds by beating up Hans.
  • In First Try Series, an Iwa genin tries to avenge her father, who was killed in the Third Shinobi War, by setting fatal traps to kill Konoha genin in the Kiri Chunin Exams. It gets her twin brother and their teammate slaughtered by a Kyuubi-powered, enraged Naruto, leaving her to flee for her life.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Dr. Wily got his start in villainy (at least in part) when he made a mistake that caused Proto Man a great deal of pain shortly after Proto Man first activated; but Dr. Wily irrationally accused Dr. Light of sabotaging Proto Man's blueprints, in a manner similar to the Doctor Doom example under the Comics folder of this page.
  • In Sonic X: Dark Chaos, Tsali ended up murdering Cosmo's entire race in revenge after being slowly and tortuously turned into a robot, even though only his adopted father Luke/Dark Oak was actually responsible for it.
  • The Star Wars fic Going Solo has a Mad Doctor who basically lost his sanity after his family was killed on the Death Star. Luke is actually who took out the thing, while Han only had a small role, shooting a couple Imperial fighters so Luke could destroy the thing. In the fic, the whole group is captured, but it's Han who has a badly injured arm with an embedded knife tip, and who's the target for the doctor's rage. The guy also has a hate on Corellians, which makes him even more eager to torment Han.
  • Dead or Alive 4: The Devil Factor: Bass Armstrong wanders into a store and finds a poster of his daughter Tina posing nude. Enraged, he beats up the clerk and throws him through a window, ignoring his protests that he just mans the cash register and has nothing to do with the merchandise.
  • The Svenjaya contract in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. After the Svenjaya “Great Mistake,” whatever that was, the entire tribe had to pay by being sent into indentured servitude for 40 years. It's now been 30 years, and since the average lifespan of a Svenjaya is 30-40 years, several generations that had absolutely nothing to do with the Great Mistake have been growing up in virtual slavery. The four are disgusted by this and vow to help the Svenjaya change the contract.
  • In the Supernatural fic "If I Knew Then What I Know Now", Dean is at one point captured by Paul Brookes (possibly an alias), a man whose family were killed by an unspecified creature and was taken in by the hunter who killed the creature afterwards. Brookes has decided to take his anger out on the hunters that failed to save people and expected gratitude for showing up too late, to the point of finding hunters with children and killing the children in front of their parents, ignoring Dean’s protest that the hunters do their best and by Brookes’ argument police should be blamed for failing to stop criminals committing crimes in the first place.
  • In An Extraordinary Journey, it is revealed that one of Angelus’s victims went to great lengths to twist Kathy, Liam’s sister, into a particularly twisted vampire who retained her human soul but fused it with demons. As a result, Kathy is not only stronger than a vampire her age should be, but she also has a particularly powerful form of telepathy that lets her control others, and a strong desire to see her brother suffer. Her creator apparently ignored the fact that Angelus wouldn’t care about Kathy’s current state if they met and the human soul who would care about her didn’t do anything more serious than go after the wrong woman in an alley.
  • Applies to a degree in the How to Train Your Dragon fic "Heir and Pride" when Stoick chooses to arrest Astrid alone for attacking Hiccup before the end of the war; while Astrid was involved in an attack on Hiccup when she resented his performance in dragon training, she was only part of a group rather than the only attacker, and she's also the only person in Berk who has actually apologised to Hiccup directly rather than just acting apologetic or leaving him something while he was unconscious.
  • In the Power Rangers Dino Thunder fic “Duty & Honor”, the Rangers are forced to face the threat of Zordon’s brother, Xondar, who is seeking to kill all Power Rangers to ‘punish’ them for the death of his brother. However, they eventually learn- with the insight provided by Zordon’s spirit- that Xondar’s actions are actually more based around his own guilt over not being there to save his brother, attacking the Rangers who had no choice but to let Zordon die rather than face his own guilt that he chose not to join Zordon’s mission against evil.
  • The Narrator of That Guy Destroys Psionics notes with no small amount of confusion that, despite another party member raping NPCs left and right and sexually harassing Elsimore, the Drow Wilder decided that Elsimore was the irredeemable pedophile (to be fair, his constant checking for children with magical power did give that impression) who needed to be lectured. She eventually tried to PK him for being annoying and using a cantrip to talk in her ear.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Paul is upset that Erika is not accepting challenges from male trainers and leaves the city in a huff. He takes out his anger on some hapless wild Pokémon and later when he runs into Ash, decides to pick a fight with him. Worse, one of these Pokémon was Ash's Primeape, and ended up blasting him away into the sky, making Ash furious enough to take up his challenge.
  • Bequeathed from Pale Estates: After the Ironborn start raiding again, King Robert Baratheon orders Theon Greyjoy's death to fulfill his purpose as a hostage. With help from Robb and some of his bannermen, Theon fakes his death and flees the North. As Theon later learns, Robert's actions were this trope — Theon's father Balon and sister Asha have both been dead since the Plague and the Ironborn raiding the coasts are the slaves and thralls that have taken over Pyke. Theon has technically been the Lord of the Iron Islands since then, but he, obviously, has nothing to do with his people's current actions.
  • In Beyond Heroes: Of Sunshine and Red Lyrium, as in canon, Cassandra believes Varric lied to her about knowing where Hawke was all along. But as angry as she is with him, she briefly takes it out on the Inquisitor, Bethany Hawke, which in Varric's opinion is significantly worse. The truth is that neither Varric nor Bethany could have given her the specific information she wanted, but Cass is still mired in grief about the event which kickstarted the plot and needs someone to blame.
  • In the Kolchak: The Night Stalker fanfic The Wings of Lilith, Lilith, Adam’s first wife, is enraged at being mistreated by Adam and God enabling his behavior, having joined up with the demons of Hell out of anger. To get revenge on God, she murders completely innocent babies out of pure spite. The reason for this is also disproportionate; after she fled to Hell and Adam demanded her back, God had some of his angels threaten to kill her demonic children should she not return, and when she refused, they left peacefully. While being angry over the threat is a reasonable reaction, her response (the aforementioned baby murders) is completely reprehensible.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: One of the reasons Lex Luthor gives for wanting to destroy Superman is that Superman didn't save him from his abusive father when he was a child... ignoring the fact that Superman was a child at the same time, and could not have known about it.
  • Clash of the Titans (1981) plays with a combination of this and Disproportionate Retribution. During Perseus and Andromeda's wedding, Andromeda's mother, Cassiopeia, praises Andromeda's beauty, comparing it to that of Thetis... while in her own temple! In response, Thetis stops the wedding and demands Andromeda's life for Cassiopeia's insults, otherwise the kraken would destroy Joppa. In actuality, Thetis was using this as an excuse to carry out her son Calibos's wish for revenge.
  • This is Two-Face's deal in The Dark Knight. After flipping the coin and letting The Joker (who actually orchestrated his tragedy) live, he goes after everyone who was involved in the events, no matter how weakly or by how many degrees of separation. On the one hand he declares that luck should decide who lives and who dies while he picks out who will be tried on the other, even to the point of threatening Gordon's son (so Gordon will understand what it's like to lose the person he loves most). He reasons that the Joker was "a mad dog" and he's going after the ones who let him off the leash and the people who failed in their job to stop him before the tragedy.
  • The Friday the 13th series is chock full of this, with the victims including those with whom the killer had a personal beef, people who were associated with the guilty parties, people who were targeted just because they showed up on the killer's turf, and innocent bystanders who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Such examples include:
    • Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning: The killer Roy Burns goes on his killing spree to avenge the death of his son, Joey. Ironically, the one person he didn't kill was Vic, the guy who actually murdered Joey and was subsequently taken away for it before the killings even began. Also, the rest of the series counts, depending on who you ask.
  • In The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, the pregnant Mrs. Mott loses everything after finding out her successful gynecologist husband is a serial rapist who abused his patients. When her lecherous husband commits suicide to avoid arrest, she finds herself penniless and has a late term miscarriage due to the heavy psychological strain, leading to an emergency hysterectomy that leaves her unable to have children. While her grief and anger are perfectly understandable, Mrs. Mott decides to seek brutal revenge on one of her husband's innocent victims who reported him to the police.
  • In Hellraiser: Hellworld, The Host reveals that he's torturing the protagonists because he blames them for his "beloved" son's suicide. Chelsea points out that this makes absolutely no sense because they were his best friends who loved him dearly and did everything they could to help him. Plus, The Host is a hypocrite because he walked out on his family over 16 years ago and didn't even attend his son's funeral, so he has no right to claim he cares about his son. The Host ignores this and continues the torment.
  • Hitch: After Sarah's friend sleeps with a jerk who dumps her after their one-night stand (and it's heavily implied she was tricked into being the other woman), the jerk drops Hitch's name (what he says is "Date Doctor, my ass," which any idiot could tell implied Hitch did not help him). Sarah ends up assuming that Hitch simply tricks women into sleeping with Jerkass men and labels not only him, but his current client Albert in her column. While the former is Poor Communication Kills, since she never verified Vance's claim, the latter is Misplaced Retribution since she didn't even know Albert and just assumed he hired Hitch to help him bed a celebrity. Truthfully, Albert was just a dorky accountant in love with an Uptown Girl who needed help breaking the ice, and Sarah's article torpedoed his budding relationship, though fortunately, for a brief time.
  • In John Wick: Chapter 2, Cassian accepts a contract to kill John, who had murdered the woman he was bodyguarding earlier in the film. However, when the two of them ran into each other in a Truce Zone, John explained that he had only accepted that contract because he was called to honor a Marker, which is something that nobody in the underworld can refuse. Despite this and knowing that the person who put the contract on John's head was the man who called in John's Marker, and thus actually responsible for the death of Cassian's principal, Cassian still takes the job.
  • Law Abiding Citizen has Clyde Shelton retaliate against anyone even remotely related to a deal the prosecutor made with his family's killers (the accomplice got the needle, while the actual killer was released)... except the prosecutor himself. Basically, his rage is against the US legal system, so anyone is fair game.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron has this in form of the Maximoff twins, Pietro and Wanda (otherwise known as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch from the X-Men). They hate the Avengers because they're associated with Tony Stark, who made a shell that smashed into their apartment building, killing their parents and staring them right in the face for two days as they waited to see if it would explode as it also hampered efforts to rescue them. For some reason they blame Tony for this, as there would be no shell to kill their parents if Tony had never made it in the first place. No indication that they lay any blame on the people who fired the shell. There's also the fact that their grievance, however justified or unjustified, is with one member of the team, and they get a perfect opportunity to get their revenge on him as an individual, not the group - but they go after the Avengers as a whole anyway.
    • Played With in Captain America: Civil War. Zemo's family was killed in the climatic battle of Age of Ultron. He blames the Avengers for it and plots to make them destroy each other, even though Ultron was the one caused the battle. However, the only reason Ultron even existed in the first place was because of Tony and Bruce Banner (who themselves only made him because Tony was suffering from nightmares caused by Wanda).
    • Played straight in the climax of the same film. Iron Man discovers that Bucky assassinated his parents and tries to murder him. He does this even though he's aware that Bucky spent several decades brainwashed by HYDRA and was not in control of his actions. Captain America points this out, but it doesn't work.
    • Luckily enough Black Panther, after seeing all the damage the Cycle of Revenge wrought, decides to avert this trope, forgive Bucky, and offer him shelter in Wakanda until he can be deprogrammed. He does this after wreaking havoc in revenge for the death of his father, playing this trope straight at first.
  • Nine Dead: The Kidnapper wants revenge against his nine captives for the role they played in the death of his son. These include the man who raped him, thus giving him AIDS, and the lawyer who framed him for a liquor store robbery. Fair enough, arguably... but it also includes the guy who was owed money by the real robber, and a priest who heard the confession of the robber.
  • In Red Dawn (1984), after the Eckert brothers and their friends kill a Soviet patrol following a chance encounter, Col. Bella, under orders of General Bratchenkov, orders the summary execution of more than a dozen people at the same time. This encourages the Eckerts and the other teens in their group to become the Wolverines, and conduct a guerilla campaign against the Soviets. The Soviets then keep executing more unarmed civilians since they don't know where the Wolverines are, and much less do they know how to catch them.
  • The Scream series is both built on this and Disproportionate Retribution.
    • The original Scream's primary killer is Billy Loomis, who initiates a murder spree in his town and attempts to finish it by murdering his girlfriend, because his girlfriend's mother had an affair with his father, hence causing Billy's mother to leave him. The fact that his girlfriend Sidney had nothing to do with this, and especially the fact that Billy ALREADY MURDERED SIDNEY'S MOTHER AND SUCCESSFULLY FRAMED ANOTHER MAN FOR IT is utterly lost on Billy. The following murders and Sidney's were completely unnecessary save for the fact that whatever darkness was in Billy said they were needed. Then again, maybe it was In the Blood, considering...
    • Scream 2's primary killer is Mrs. Loomis, Billy's mother. While she has a SOMEWHAT more understandable motive of wanting to avenge her son's death, it is equally lost on her that he committed his murder spree because SHE left HIM over something her HUSBAND did, and that her son died because Sidney was acting in self-defense, and for some reason another murder spree is needed in this vengeance where only 1/2 of the victims are tangibly related to the revenge by virtue of being tied to Sidney in some way (this this excessive body count might have something to do with his co-killer, Mickey, who is a genuine serial killer she managed to find and recruit for aid). Once again, Sidney is targeted for death for something out of her control. It's also worth noting that Hank Loomis, the other hand in this affair, is barely mentioned and never once targeted for his part in it in any of the films.
    • Scream 3's killer, Roman Bridger is retconned to be the ultimate start of the Ghostface mass killings, as he was the one who told Billy about the affair and hence set him off onto the path that his death further set his mother onto. HIS motive for putting on the Ghostface mask and setting off a third spate of mass killings? That Sidney is now famous for surviving the first two massacres he caused to happen, fame he believes he himself should have. He desires revenge for crimes he caused to be committed against her that she had the gall to survive, something Sidney thankfully calls him on, hard.
    • Scream 4's primary killer, Jill, is driven more by envy and I Just Want to Be Special than retribution, but once again it's someone basically seeking 'revenge' against Sidney because she somehow managed to survive being targeted by three separate serial killers and became famous for it. When you're being targeted for murder primary because you're a survivor, you know it's misplaced.
  • In the Spider-Man Trilogy, Harry is convinced that Spider-Man "killed" his father and even follows in his father's footsteps as the New Goblin to try to avenge his father, ignoring the fact that even if he did, his father was a mass-murdering maniac who threatened countless lives and put Spider-Man through the grinder. In reality, his father accidentally killed himself by being impaled by his own glider (though Harry doesn't learn this until the climax of the third film).
  • Star Trek (2009) has Nero, who might be the craziest example on this page. When Spock fails to save his home world Romulus (including Nero's family) from a horrible natural disaster, Nero goes completely nuts and goes back in time to wipe out the entire Federation. He goes for Vulcan first since it's Spock's "fault" that Romulus is gone. Spock really tried his best to save Romulus, which in itself is amazing given the Romulans' less than pleasant history with the Federation (especially the Vulcans). Nero wants to wipe out the past, present, and future of Spock and everyone Spock loves anyway. However, thanks to both the Kelvin timeline being explicitly an Alternate Timeline and the opening of Star Trek: Picard, it's revealed that Nero is right to blame the Federation as Picard's Cynicism Catalyst was due to the same event — and the fact that the Federation did leave the Romulans to die, so he's wrong to blame Spock and, while still not justifying his actions, is taking it out on the wrong universe's Federation.
  • In Star Trek: Nemesis, Shinzon directs his hatred of the Romulans towards Earth for reasons which make sense only to the screenwriter. It's never even explained what bizarre line of reasoning led to him wanting to destroy Earth and not, you know, Romulus. It's implied to be motivated by a particularly mean-spirited variation of Cloning Blues, but it still doesn't make much sense.
  • The Wizard of Oz: The Wicked Witch of the West wants revenge on Dorothy for killing her sister. Except Dorothy didn't do that. She didn't make the house fall on the Witch of the East — she just happened to be inside it when it was caught up in the tornado.
  • X-Men: First Class has this for Magneto. He hated humans since his mother was killed in the Holocaust. But the one who really killed his mother is Sebastian Shaw, a mutant who sided with the Nazis for his own gains. Even when he kills Shaw, he adopts his stance in wiping out mankind.

  • In Blue Valentine, Nicki Valentine’s mother abuses her verbally and physically throughout her life in a frustrated expression of hurt and betrayal stemming from her husband’s unfaithfulness. Since Nicki was born the same day that Quinn, her half-brother by Miss Halliday, Nicki’s existence is a constant reminder of the affair.
  • In Galaxy of Fear, the wraiths of Kiva spent their undeath cursing Mammon Hoole for their fate and clung to existence solely for the chance to make him pay. When they see evidence proving that Gog, Hoole's partner in the experiment was truly responsible, it takes a few seconds for the wraiths to accept that the man they hated all this time was innocent. Fortunately for them and unfortunately for Gog, their true murderer is in the same room with them, meaning they can still have their revenge.
  • In Harry Potter, Severus Snape's hatred for James Potter, his childhood bully, quickly transferred itself to his son Harry once the boy started Hogwarts, causing him to be stricter towards him then any other student. The last book, however, reveals that the real reason has more to do with Snape being hopelessly in love with Harry's mother, Lily Evans, making Harry a constant reminder that the love of his life had married the man he loathed most of all.
    • There's also Snape's similar mistreatment of Neville Longbottom, which is sometimes given the justification that the prophecy that caused Voldemort to kill Lily Potter could have also caused him to target Neville instead of Harry, meaning that if he'd done so, Lily would still be alive. Neither Neville nor his parents even knew about this, nor would they have been able to influence Voldemort's actions if they had.
    • A straighter example is Snape blaming Lupin for an almost-fatal prank Sirius played on him. He also assumes James was in on it, thinking James saved him for the sake of his own neck.
  • In the Redwall book Mattimeo, Slagar the Cruel kidnaps Redwall's children to sell as slaves because he blames Matthias and the other inhabitants of the Abbey for his disfigurement. However, Redwall took in and cared for Slagar (then known as Chickenhound) when he was badly injured. In return for their kindness, he stole from them and murdered the elderly Methuselah. He was in the act of running away from the rightfully angry Redwallers when he encountered the venomous snake Asmodeus, who bit his face and mangled it. Everything that happened came as a result of his villainous ways, and the Redwallers were responsible for none of it.
  • In Diane Duane's novel Spock's World, the Big Bad's motive is revenge on Spock for a death in the family...except that an outsider would probably say it's not his fault at all.
  • In The Great Gatsby, George Wilson murders Jay Gatsby because the latter's car was the one that ran over Myrtle, George's wife. However, Gatsby wasn't the one driving the car when the accident happened; it was Daisy Buchanan behind the wheel.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Batwoman, the show's first villain is Elizabeth "Beth" Kane, sister to Kate Kane, who was abducted as a child and eventually adopts the name "Alice"; her abductor threatened that he would kill anyone who came to look for her if she called for help, and eventually defence contractor Catherine Hamilton faked test results to claim that Catherine was dead to try and help Beth's father move on as he and Kate were basically killing themselves trying to find her. The audience can sympathise with her anger towards Catherine for the original lie, but it's less fair for Alice to resent her sister and father for believing a very convincing lie from two independent parties who each had their reasons for wanting people to believe Beth was dead.
  • Due to an Uncanny Family Resemblance, in one episode of Bewitched, Samantha is mistaken for her cousin Serina by a witch whose husband the latter had turned into a bird. Unfortunately, before Sam could clear up the misunderstanding, the witch banished her to 1886 New Orleans. Needless to say, Darrin is not pleased with Serina.
  • Buffyverse:
    • In Buffy season 6. After skinning Warren alive out of revenge for his Accidental Murder of Tara, Willow proceeds to target his accomplices Jonathan and Andrew, who were both in jail at the time and had nothing to do with it. Though the Scoobies (sans Buffy) all rallied behind Willow en masse when she targeted Warren, they all agreed that Jonathan and Andrew don't deserve to die at all and work together to protect them.
    • The gypsies didn't really think Angel's curse through. Angel has to spend all of eternity suffering for the crimes of Angelus? Liam was a womanizing jerk at worst, but Darla murdered him and a demon spent a century and change murdering and marauding with his face. Especially bad since the Curse Escape Clause they included eventually led to Angelus murdering the last descendant of the gypsy clan.
  • Cold Case: A young boy is horribly abused in a group home. So when he grows up, does he track down those who abused him and/or those who let it happen? No. Instead, he selects completely innocent boys who bear only the vaguest resemblance to his former tormentors and kills them, putting them through the same abuse he suffered.
  • Grange Hill: In a mid 90's episode, a guy and a girl try to escape from a fire by climbing out of a window. She slips, falls to her death, her boyfriend blames the guy who was with her and spends the rest of the season stalking and harassing him. He eventually stops and apologizes (possibly since everyone was against his vendetta).
  • In one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Carlton has no problem letting a music video be shot in the house while his parents are gone because if anything goes wrong, Uncle Phil would take it out on Will.
    • This happens often enough that Will even lampshades it—in one instance, he sarcastically declares "This is all your fault, Will!" before Uncle Phil can say it, and in another, after Phil levies the accusation at him, snaps, "What is, the family theme?!", legitimately annoyed/angry at being blamed for everything that goes wrong in the Banks house.
    • One time when Will was deserving of punishment, Phil decides to ground Hillary, note  Carlton, and Ashley to force him to behave. True to form, they decide to get angry at Will for their father's utterly nonsensical actions.
  • In The Remake of The Fugitive, Gerard's determination to capture Kimble stems from having lost his first wife. Problem is, Kimble's innocent and doesn't deserve such persecution. And even if he were guilty, he still isn't the one responsible for Gerard's wife's death.
  • In one episode of Green Acres, a flashback showed that Oliver used to have a garden outside his penthouse apartment. His mother, not approving of it, shoved the plants off the balcony, nearly falling on a police officer who was walking past the building. Somehow, Oliver and Lisa are the ones who end up going to jail.
  • The Home Improvement episode "A House Divided" has everybody joining Benny in blaming Tim for Benny's house blowing up. However, it was actually Benny's fault because his house had a gas leak and he didn't unplug a lamp after Al told him to unplug all the electrical appliances, his reasoning being that the lamp only turns on when you clap - Tim, who didn't know about this, accidentally turned the lamp on by clapping. And yet Tim gets all the blame.
  • Henry Grace, the unsub of the Criminal Minds episode "Masterpiece", was dumped by his fiancee and shunned by his peers after his brother William was exposed as a serial killer. Rather than get angry at his brother, Grace blames Rossi, who busted William, and decides to get revenge by targeting Rossi's BAU teammates.
  • Invoked in one episode of iCarly when Freddie's teacher meets Spencer at the school. She hated Spencer when he was a student, but since he's an adult, she can't punish Spencer. Instead, she doles out punishments to Freddie until Spencer leaves the building. Freddie has to throw Spencer out before he could be expelled.
  • In Jessica Jones (2015) episode, "AKA 1,000 Cuts" a group of people (among them Jessica's neighbor, Ruben, whose brother killed himself on Kilgrave's orders) affected by Kilgrave's powers has been formed. When Jessica manages to capture Kilgrave, ties him down and prevents him from using his powers, Jessica's neighbor gets the group to attack Jessica, blaming her for everything Kilgrave has done, and free Kilgrave.
    • The client she meets in "AKA 99 Friends" is a woman whose mother died in the incident, and she blames the "gifted", instead of, you know, the aliens that were attacking the city while the Avengers were trying to save as many people as possible.
  • NUMB3RS:
    • In "Judgement Day", the widow of a murdered cop kills the wife of the judge who presided over the murder trial, because the judge didn't give the killer the death penalty and she consequently blames him for the damage that her husband's murder did to her family. As opposed to, say, blaming the murderer.
    • The killer in "Traffic" has this on multiple levels. First off, he was injured in a hit-and-run and consequently had no concrete person to blame for his own misfortune, so he displaced that rage by identifying with people who had suffered similar injuries and then taking revenge for those incidents. And secondly, he didn't just target people who directly caused accidents, but rather pretty much anyone who was involved other than the injury victims themselves — his targets included accident witnesses and even a tow truck driver.
  • Law & Order:
    • Jack McCoy's zealous prosecution of a drunk driver who killed three people — the man's actions are reprehensible, certainly, and fully deserving of a harsh prison term, but McCoy tries to prosecute the crime as the intentional murder of three people, even suppressing evidence that the man was drunk. It soon becomes obvious that his actions are motivated by the fact that the drunk driver who killed his lover Claire received a light sentence.
    • "Suicide Box", the episode on which the below mentioned Law & Order: UK example was based. However, the perp was much younger (14) and the victim survived with only an injured arm.
  • Law & Order: UK: Matt Devlin is killed in a drive-by shooting by a young man looking for revenge on the police for their poor handling of the investigation of his brother's murder, a screw-up he believed was racially-motivated. Problem is, not only was Matt not a bigot, he had nothing to do with the case (and probably would've been steaming mad about it). What's worse, the killer had an idea of who his brother's murderer was (a local drug dealer who may have been lying to gain street cred)—why not go after him or one of the cops who DID botch the case?
  • Merlin: King Odin tries to kill Arthur (twice!) because Arthur bested his son in a Duel to the Death. As Arthur tells it, the young, inexperienced prince challenged Arthur and Arthur could not refuse due to the knights' code. Arthur even (unsuccessfully, obviously) tried to convince the boy to withdraw his challenge.
  • Ari David, the first Big Bad on NCIS, targeted Gibbs' team, vowed to make his life a living hell, and murdered Caitlin Todd because Gibbs just happens to remind him of Ari's father, the head of Mossad.
    • The Big Bad of season 9 also suffers from this problem. His son was investigated by Gibbs in the past and transferred to another ship as punishment for his crimes... only the ship was later attacked by terrorists who killed him who exploited a design flaw. Instead of blaming the terrorists, he instead blames Gibbs and the Navy for his son's death and exploits two unknown flaws for extra chaos.
  • Once Upon a Time: Regina's antagonism towards Snow White is very much this - the young Princess Snow, who had just lost her own mother, was manipulated by Regina's abusive mother Cora into revealing Regina's secret romance with her family's stable boy, Daniel. Cora soon murdered Daniel in front of Regina, leading to Regina devoting her life to gaining vengeance against Snow for this betrayal, even to the extent of occasionally allying with Cora to do so.
    • Even if one concedes that Snow White bears some responsibility for her mistake (making Regina's actions toward her Disproportionate Retribution), everyone else that Regina curses had nothing to do with it.
    • A season 4 episode even lampshades it when Regina says Emma should forgive her parents for lying to her and Emma retorts, "This from the woman who spent half her life punishing everyone around her for an eight-year-old not able to keep a secret."
  • Revolution:
    • "No Quarter" has Private Richards beat up Danny Matheson over the death of his best friend Templeton back in "Pilot". It's true that Danny pulled a crossbow on Templeton, but Templeton shot first. It's true that Danny shot Templeton with his crossbow, but one of the villagers named Caleb shot and killed Templeton. Clearly, Richards is after people who are indirectly responsible for the death.
    • "The Longest Day" has Rachel Matheson reveal that she only wants to turn the power back on so the other factions will kill Sebastian Monroe, and she'll get her revenge for her son's death back in "The Stand". Earlier, Rachel tries to kill Major Tom Neville over her son's death, and had to be talked out of it by Charlie Matheson in "The Song Remains the Same". Rachel tries to go into Monroe's tent and blow them up with a live grenade in "Clue". "Children of Men" had Monroe himself say that he wasn't even there when she reveals why she's out to kill him. The thing is he's right, because one of Monroe's helicopters was firing wildly and Danny got caught in the crossfire. It wasn't like Monroe killed Danny personally.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The episode "The Survivors", where members of an alien race kill a powerful being's wife. In retaliation, he kills the entire race, all fifty billion of them. He acted in a moment of rage and was horrified by what he'd done.
  • In 24 Day 8, this is why Jack murders Dana Walsh, as she was involved with the rogue members of the Russian government who eventually murdered his friend Renee Walker, even though by that point Dana had long since been imprisoned and had nothing to do with Renee's death.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Infamously, Konnan bashing Carly's father and sister over the head with a guitar because Carly lost them the tag team championships they held in WWC.
  • In a case of "not being available", BJ Whitmer assaulted Lucy because her boyfriend, who had knock him unconscious and joked about it, happened to be in Japan at the time. Punk would show his displeasure upon return by attacking the Outcast Killers for trying to cheer him up with beer and then threatening to kill a member of the Ring of Honor locker room if the guilty party did not come forward.
  • When Kurt Angle brought his wife into TNA she disapproved of his Tag Team partner Sting and pretended that Sting had slapped her to break them up. However, she thought Angle went too far when he decided to go after Sting's son in revenge.
  • Prince Nana hired Bison Smith to attack members of the ROH roster to get back at the company for not hiring him back when he lost his fortune.
  • Chance Prophet attacked Goldust, particularly in IWA East Coast, because Goldust reminded him of a bully he was prevented from killing in his boyhood.
  • The C4 riot in SHINE had its roots in the fact LuFisto was angry at seeing wrestlers on television use her moves and claim they had come up with them. The only wrestlers in SHINE who were on television at the time were Allysin Kay, Marti Belle and Ivelisse Vélez, none of whom were among the guilty parties, not to mention that after they got their hands on the latter C4 continued to call out and assault wrestlers in the locker room for the crimes of squeezing Kennadi Brink onto shows, Andrea not being rewarded for being in two prior stables that terrorized SHINE and Amber O'Neal's face not being on the last promotional poster.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • This was endemic among the Greek gods. "Zeus seduces (or flat out rapes) a mortal woman, then his wife afflicts that woman and/or her son with a curse as punishment" is a fairly typical plot outline, and the other gods weren't much better. Though because Zeus was simply too powerful for any of Hera's curses to have any effect on him, and Zeus actually does care about his mortal lovers and demigod sons there actually was a twisted logic to her actions.
    • A well-known version of the Medusa myth shares a similar theme. Medusa was a beautiful woman who was raped in Athena's temple by the god Poseidon. Athena was so enraged by her temple being violated that she of course curses Medusa, apparently for not being able to fend off a god, turning her into a gorgon. Some versions even have Athena take it one step further and cursing her sisters too.
    • Aphrodite has a bad habit of doing this whenever there's someone who made a Blasphemous Boast that a certain woman is more beautiful than her. Just ask Psyche and Myrrha about this. In Psyche's case it was particularly bad, since it was her suitors who made the claim, not Psyche herself. On the other hand, she got off lucky because Aphrodite assigned her son Eros to carry out the retribution... and he promptly fell in love with Psyche.
  • With Omniscient Morality License, God in the Bible has a few instances. When King David has an affair with Bathsheba, while putting her husband Uriah out in the front of the military to be killed, God kills their first child. Granted, upon this happening David is extremely regretful and atones.

  • Julius Caesar: In real life, after the murder of Julius Caesar, the poet Helvius Cinna was killed by a vengeful mob because he was mistaken for Cornelius Cinna, one of Caesar's killers. In William Shakespeare's dramatization of the event, Helvius is killed because his name is Cinna, despite his protests that he had nothing to do with the assassination.
    Cinna: Truly, my name is Cinna.
    1st Citizen: Tear him to pieces, he's a conspirator.
    Cinna: I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.
    4th Citizen: Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses.
    Cinna: I am not Cinna the conspirator.
    4th Citizen: It is no matter, his name's Cinna. Pluck but his name out of his heart, and turn him going.

    Theme Parks 

    Urban Legends 
  • An old urban legend involves a man finding a strange car in his driveway, assumes it belongs to his wife's lover, and pours cement into it. Turns out the wife bought him a new car, and the man inside is the car salesman. An alternate ending is that the wife was having an affair, but her lover rides away on a bicycle.

    Video Games 
  • In Ar Tonelico 2, Luca for the longest time holds Lady Cloche responsible for the death of her younger sister. Cloche could not realistically have been responsible for that, considering she was only six or seven years old at the time and even though she's the head of state now, she has always been a puppet ruler who never made any real decisions. And even more so because Lady Cloche IS Luca's sister.
  • In the Omega Ending for the Japanese version of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, Simon Orestes Cohen reveals that the Player Character, Nemo, is an Artificial Intelligence that he created to kill a Brain Upload of Abyssal Dision, because he blamed him for the death of Yoko Martha Inoue. However, it was actually General Resource who was responsible for Yoko’s death, as she was involved in the Night Raven Project that was unwittingly revealed by the test pilot, Rena Hiorse, in an interview at the age of nine.
  • Used as part of the Final Boss battle in Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex: during each phase after the Elementals attack Crash, Crunch becomes exhausted long enough for Crash to be able to shoot him with the Wumpa Bazooka. Crunch responds by punching Cortex into the arena, allowing Crash to attack him and chip off his health meter.
  • Seen in the eighth installment of the Dark Parables, where the imprisoned sea goddess unleashes a Bolt of Divine Retribution against those responsible for her confinement. However, she also punishes the five completely innocent daughters of the king who captured her, turning them into mermaids.
  • The finale of Dragon Age II is kicked off this way. One of the player's mage companions commits a terrorist attack by blowing up the local chantry. In response, Knight-Commander Meredith immediately invokes the Right of Annulment against the city's Circle of Magi. The problem with that logic is that the mage responsible for attack is an apostate who originates from an entirely different Circle, which Meredith knows. Multiple people point out how insane Meredith's response was, but she wasn't deterred. When news of this reaches other circles, several revolt on the spot. The ones which don't experience a chain reaction of mage protests and more restrictions from the Templars until things reach a breaking point and descend into total war. All exactly as Anders planned.
    • Sebastian lampshades this ("Why are we debating the Rite of Annulment when the person who did this is standing right here?"), but then threatens to go back to Starkhaven, build an army, and raze Kirkwall to the ground if Anders is spared, which makes absolutely no sense as both Hawke and Anders would be either dead or long gone in the time it would take for him to seize control of Starkhaven, raise an army, and march it to Kirkwall.
      • In Inquisition if you made certain choices, Sebastian actually does raise an army to invade Kirkwall. It causes a minor conflict which you need to settle on the War Table.
    • Hilariously enough, depending on your Relationship Values, if you follow a specific series of steps and take Meredith's side, Hawke can end up helping to kill just about every mage in Kirkwall except for Anders.
  • Hope of Final Fantasy XIII decides early on to kill Snow for the role he played in the death of his mother. Said role was attempting to stop the government from exiling a large group of people (including Hope and his mother) for tenuous-at-best reasons, his mother volunteering to help, and soldiers killing her even as Snow tried (but failed) to rescue her.
  • In Mother 3, Fassad, in his "new" form attacks Lucas and his friends when they try to pull one of the seven needles, saying that they pushed him off Thunder Tower, even though his fall was actually caused by his own bad habit of leaving banana peels everywhere. The music that plays during the battle is even called Misplaced Retribution/Unfounded Revenge.
  • In Shadow the Hedgehog, the reason the G.U.N. Commander hates Shadow so much is because he was Maria's friend on the Space Colony ARK, and G.U.N. considered Professor Gerald's creation of him too dangerous, causing G.U.N. to shut down the ARK, arrest Gerald, and kill Maria and the scientists. He blames Shadow for Maria's death just for being created rather than blaming Gerald for creating him, or G.U.N. for actually shooting Maria.
    • The Commander isn't the only one guilty of this. In Sonic Adventure 2, Professor Gerald, understandably grieving for the death of his granddaughter, went insane and blamed all of humanity for her demise and used his final days alive to commit a mass genocide rather than, you know, rightfully blame G.U.N. who stupidly thought it was a good idea to shoot a twelve year old girl in the first place. And of course, G.U.N. over-reacted because Gerald was committing high treason by working with an alien conqueror to create a super-soldier. Shadow nearly followed through with Gerald's plan too, at least until Amy set him on the right track.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, the motivation of the Big Bad, Mithos Yggdrasil, turns out to be this trope. He was discriminated against as a half-elf. But instead of seeking retribution only on the humans who actually discriminated against him, he set a plan in motion that would make the entire human race suffer for a thousand years. This included treating humans as cattle, implementing a "Chosen" system that resulted in misery for those chosen, causing two worlds to have to share mana so one is always suffering, making people suffer to power up Exspheres, etc. As Lloyd puts it, Mithos took his own pain and forced it on everybody else.
    • A heroic example occurs in Tales of the Abyss. After living under house arrest as long as he can remember and being forced to participate in a series of life-threatening diplomatic activities, Luke is told by his master Van that he can win the freedom he desires by saving the people of an endangered mining town. When he arrives, Van forces Luke to use his power to destroy the town instead. The rest of the party immediately start treating Luke like he's at fault for everything and even abandon him, despite the fact that they know he was being deceived, gave Luke no reason to trust any of them over the master he had known for years, and that several of them were intentionally withholding information from him that could have prevented everything had they chosen to share it.
  • In Until Dawn:
    • Victor Milgram (aka The Psycho) wants to kill the Washingtons (Hannah, Beth and Josh) due to their parents causing him to lose his job as a janitor. Reasonable, if disproportionate. It just so happens that he'll also kill their 7 friends as well out of petty spite. Subverted, as he's actually one of the Washington children; more specifically, Josh.
    • Josh's plan targeted Sam and Chris (and a lesser degree, Ashley) as the brunt of the pranks, all three who were not as responsible compared to the others in Hannah's prank. Sam tried to stop the prank against Hannah. Chris was passed out drunk and not involved at all. Ashley was part of the prank but not a major player. However, it is possible as Sam and Chris were Josh's closest friends, Josh either felt most betrayed by them or he was projecting his own self-loathing and blame onto them that he wasn't able to help his sisters.
    • Considering the native belief that the mountain is protected by animal spirits, the consequences of harming nature can come off as this. Chris shooting a squirrel? Sam is the one who gets attacked by a bird, preventing her from escaping the Psycho later, despite her berating Chris for the act. Throw a snowball at a bird? Jessica and Mike nearly get impaled by an icicle, even though Jessica was sincerely sorry and Mike had nothing to do with it. If the player chooses to harm nature in every way (including the above situations), it's poor Matt who will have to deal with an aggressive deer despite not being involved in any of the earlier situations.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Any time Franziska gets offended by someone she cannot whip, she immediately whips someone nearby, often Phoenix, Edgeworth or Gumshoe.
    • In a more serious sense, this is Godot's entire motivation; He gets poisoned by Dahlia Hawthorne, and when he wakes up, Mia Fey, the woman he loved, is dead and Dahlia is on death row. Feeling as though he failed to protect her, and unable to take action against Dahlia, he becomes Phoenix's rival as a prosecutor, and to thwart a plot on Maya's life, sets in motion a plan that leads to Case 3-5 and causes Misty Fey's death rather than go to Phoenix for help, because he blames Phoenix for not being able to protect Mia.
    • This is also Marlon Rimes's motivation for framing the orca for murder in the DLC case of Dual Destinies, "Turnabout Reclaimed". Marlon thought that the orca had killed his girlfriend, when in reality she died of a heart condition, and both the orca and the orca's predecessor were innocent. In fact, his original plan was to kill the orca, but then the victim of the murder interfered.

    Web Animation 
  • During the Yogscast miniseries Cornerstone, Smiffy of Hat Films steals Sjin's jetpack, causing Sjin to murder Ross, who wasn't even there. To make matters worse, Smiffy had actually put in another jetpack for charging, then returned the one he stole.
  • In RWBY, Cinder says this almost word-for-word about Neo's grudge against her for Torchwick's death, before convincing her it's Ruby's fault. In reality, there is no one Neo can rationally blame, as Torchwick was killed by a griffin and Ruby and Cinder were indirectly responsible at best. Nonetheless, Neo is determined to take her revenge in the bloodiest way possible.
    Cinder: I don't have time for your misplaced blame, girl.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Temple has a good reason to hate Project Freelancer (Most of the main cast are part of that particular club). However, most of its employees were doing their jobs and entirely unaware of the shadier parts of the operation, and some were victims of it themselves (Like poor Washington getting paired with Epsilon and having all of said A.I.'s mental issues dumped in his head, and Maine losing his voice and being mind raped by Sigma). The only two agents directly involved with his Start of Darkness were Tex and Carolina, but he hunted down every former agent he could find and killed them with armor lock. This includes Washington, who actually brought the project down with the help of the Blood Gulch Crew.

  • In this Vegan Artbook strip, Shawn says something to Sterk about veganism not being the be-all and end-all of animal welfare. Sterk's response is to apathetically sit by as bad things happen to the vegan characters right in front of him. Later, the vegans dogpile Shawn and beat the crap out of him. And the comic being what it is, this is not treated as misplaced at all; after all, Shawn is at fault for Sterk's inaction by virtue of not being vegan. What's more, Sterk even all but admitted that he wanted his friends to beat Shawn to a pulp.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!:
    • One episode has this happen on both sides. After Steve's girlfriend is slandered and as a result loses her run for election, he gets revenge on the three popular kids that he believes were the culprits (by having buffalo feces dropped on one, injecting another with fat and giving the final one an STD). He then discovers that it was his friends who had slandered his girlfriend. When the whole school finds out Steve was responsible for getting revenge, they decide to get revenge on all of them, despite Steve protesting that his friends were responsible for the slander against Debbie and pinned it on Lisa Silver, after they come clean.
    • Happens in "1600 Candles" after Francine accidentally causes the Smith family to forget Roger's 1600th birthday by using a classified CIA experiment to revert Steve to a toddler, causing him to become the center of the family's attention. Because of this, Roger blames Steve for making the family forget his birthday, assuming that Steve is at fault due to getting all the attention instead of Roger. As a result, Roger decides to pants Steve in the school dance while Francine manages to fully escape his wrath.
  • The Clock King from Batman: The Animated Series goes after Gotham City mayor Hamilton Hill. Why? Years earlier, The Clock King (then Temple Fugate) was put out of business by a lawsuit brought by Hamilton Hill's law firm. While Hill wasn't specifically the lawyer representing the plaintiff, the Clock King does consider him completely responsible because Hill also suggested Fugate take his coffee break at a different time... which led to things going worse.
  • Bob's Burgers: In "The Deepening" Teddy has an obsessive hatred for a mechanical shark featured in a movie he did an acting job on. He reveals why to Bob when they are about to confront it, how he used to be fit and tried hitting on an actress, but the shark operator caused the shark to knock into him and spill food all over them, ruining a possible relationship and causing Teddy to descend into a lifetime of overeating. Bob asks why Teddy isn't angry at the guy who operated the shark, since the shark is just a prop. Teddy realizes Bob has a point but begins to insist the shark made him do that.
  • Courage attempts to invoke this in one episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog when evil eggplants want to attack Muriel because she eats (non-sapient but it doesn't matter to them) eggplants. Courage dresses up like an eggplant and tries to convince the eggplants to attack the supermarkets instead, but his plan fails when they find out he isn't an eggplant.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: When one Ed does something wrong, it's common for all of them to get punished. Sometimes, however, it's just a different Ed or both other Eds facing the consequences of another's actions.
    • In "My Fair Ed", the kids hold Edd responsible for the trouble Ed and Eddy cause, saying if he doesn't stop their shenanigans, he'll pay the price.
    • In "Ed, Edd, 'n' Eddy's Boo Haw Haw", Ed goes around beating up people, thanks to getting hallucinations from watching several monster movies. However, it's Edd and Eddy who get beaten up instead and Ed is unharmed.
    • In "All Eds Are Off," Ed contaminates the pool with gravy and Eddy receives detention for it instead.
    • In "Smile For the Ed" Eddy gets a week's detention for impersonating the principal, which Edd actually did (though Edd was trying to help).
    • In "A Fistful of Ed" after Eddy keeps insulting, taunting, and pelting Jimmy with endless hot dogs, Jimmy explodes and gives Edd a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • In "Blondas Have More Fun", Jorgen blamed Wanda for Timmy's reckless and dangerous stunt wishes when it was Cosmo who was granting them.
    • In "Boys in the Band", Timmy's Mom threatened on TV to take her aggression out on Timmy if Chip Skylark didn't show up to the concert she and Timmy's Dad were at note . His dad advises him to run.
  • In the Family Guy episode "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Fonz", one Cutaway Gag depicts Peter eating dinner while on steroids. When Lois asks him to pass her the potatoes, he flips the bowl over and punches Meg.
  • In the Invader Zim episode "Battle of the Planets", Tallest Purple orders someone Thrown Out the Airlock for not remembering Zim ruining Operation Impending Doom I. His response afterward:
    Purple That was the wrong guy but... that's okay! I think everyone gets the point!
  • Invoked in one episode of Johnny Test where Johnny's father said that Johnny would be held accountable for any further transformation experiments the twins performed. No sooner did his parents leave than his sisters turned themselves into babies as part of a scheme to win over the neighborhood hottie.
  • This was the theme of the Looney Tunes cartoon "A Pest in the House". Every time bellhop Daffy disrupts the rest of a disgruntled hotel guest, he punches the manager, Elmer Fudd, in the nose. At the end of the cartoon, when Daffy works the guest up into his greatest rage, Elmer promotes Daffy to manager while taking over as bellhop. The guest still punches Elmer in the nose.
  • In one episode of ¡Mucha Lucha! when Rikochet was in detention, the Headmistress kept adding to his time because the mariachi band with him wouldn't stop singing.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Slice of Life", a background Big Lebowski reference near the end implies that the bugbear killed Donny in its attempt to get at Bon Bon (who had sent it to Tartarus).
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In the episode "Paste Makes Waste," when a bullied kid named Elmer Sglue mutates into a giant monster after being ruthlessly teased and bullied by Buttercup and the other kids, Blossom and Bubbles initially refuse to help Buttercup fight him, telling her outright that she and the other bullies deserve it for how they treated Elmer. They quickly change their minds when Elmer proceeds to attack Ms. Keane, who had nothing to do with the bullying, and proceeds to rampage through Townsville.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Lawnmower Dog", Jerry demands that Rick find a way to make the family dog smarter, but since he has no authority over Rick, he threatens to ground Morty so Rick can't bring him to help on his latest adventure. Fortunately for Morty, Rick already had a device for just such an occasion.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In an early episode entitled "Moaning Lisa", Lisa is in such a depressed state that the school takes notice and sends a note home to her parents, and even then out of worry rather than her being in trouble. Homer's so used to Bart being in trouble with the school instead that in response he punishes his son anyway by making him vacuum the entire house, despite Bart not doing anything wrong. Bart understandably is less than pleased with this and also makes sure to vacuum up a deck of Homer's playing cards in retaliation.
    • In "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken", Homer and his friends go on a drunken stupor and ransack Springfield Elementary. Chief Wiggum automatically assumes it was kids and imposes an excessive curfew, which Homer applauds because he was too drunk to remember. Naturally, the kids are righteously upset and spend most of the episode finding ways to get back at their parents or other adults.
  • South Park: Kyle blames Canadian TV shows for Heidi chosing Cartman over him, despite Heidi's decision actually being based on the girls ignoring Kyle's warnings and continuing to mock Heidi for her choices.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Karate Choppers," Mr. Krabs orders SpongeBob to give up his obsession with karate for good, or he's fired. As SpongeBob is leaving the Krusty Krab, contemplating how to break the news to Sandy, Sandy herself comes in and starts attacking him, dismissing SpongeBob's attempts to explain what Krabs said. Mr. Krabs comes out at that exact moment and sees it, and despite the fact that SpongeBob was literally standing there doing absolutely nothing while Sandy was trying to instigate, singles out SpongeBob and fires him on the spot. He takes it back after Sandy explains the situation and agrees to give up karate as well.
    • In "Shanghaied", when SpongeBob and Patrick keep jumping off the Flying Dutchman's ship, only to keep landing back on it, the Dutchman asks if they're going to keep doing it. When Patrick responds "Maybe", the Dutchman blasts Squidward with a ball of fire (again).
    • In "Bubble Buddy", after SpongeBob and the titular bubble unintentionally cause everyone on the beach grief and trouble, they form an angry mob and tip over the lifeguard tower to vent... followed by deciding to attack the lifeguard who did nothing. Fortunately, Squidward convinces them to focus the senseless violence against SpongeBob and Bubble Buddy instead.
    • In "Patty Hype", after SpongeBob's Pretty Patties dye the people who ate them different colors, they take their vengeance out on Mr. Krabs because he was the current owner of the stand selling the patties, even though SpongeBob was the one who sold them the patties in the first place. Of course, Mr. Krabs did deserve it, but for entirely different reasons.
    • In "The Bully", SpongeBob is on the run from his new classmate, who has threatened to "kick [his] butt". As he runs past a city block, he screams and points in the general direction of the bully, but the people around him think he's referring to a polite old man, and beat the old man up accordingly.
      SpongeBob: (As he is running for his life) OUTTA MY WAY! OUTTA MY WAY! CAN'T YOU SEE HE'S GONNA KICK MY BUTT?!
      (Citizens turn around to see an elderly fish)
      Elderly Fish: Hi there, young people! Nice day today!
      Harold: So, you like kicking butts, do ya?! Well, we'll show you, old man!
      (Citizens rush to beat down the elderly fish)
  • In Summer Camp Island, when Hedgehog rampages through the camp after turning into a werewolf, Susie punishes everyone else by canceling lunch for the day.
  • In the Thomas the Tank Engine episode "Trust Thomas", James angrily bumps the troublesome trucks because he has to do Percy's work while he's away at the harbor, but after the trucks find out that Thomas agreed to do James' work, even though James was playing sick, they decide to play tricks on Thomas instead since "one engine is as good as another".
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Hogwild Hampton", Egghead afflicts Pressure Point damage to Hampton (and eventually demolishes his house) because of the noise Plucky's party was causing, even when it was Plucky who slammed the door in his face and was rude to him when he asked for the noise to stop.
  • In one episode of The Tom and Jerry Show, Spike beats up Tom and Jerry for the insults the Interactive Narrator made about him.
    • In fact, most of the Tom and Jerry shorts that feature Spike invoke this, since they would involve Jerry riling him up and pinning the blame on Tom, so he would freely escape whenever Tom chased him.
  • Utilized multiple times in the first season of Total Drama:
    • In one episode, when the Killer Bass were forced to wake up Duncan (who had given a threat of injury if his nap was disturbed) in order to win the current event, Duncan immediately snapped at Harold, even though it was Courtney who made the decision to wake him up.
    • In another one, Harold gets revenge on Duncan for bullying him by rigging the votes and getting Courtney eliminated because he had a crush on her.
    • In yet another episode of the season, when Eva returned to the island, she randomly accused Bridgette of backstabbing her and getting her voted off, despite the fact that her entire team voted her off for being a raging maniac.
      • In the same episode, Duncan votes for Heather mistakenly believing her to be behind Courtney's elimination when it was actually Harold.
  • Totally Spies!: All the villains in Totally Spies are known for turning evil over minor inconveniences that are not enough to actually make someone bad in real life. However, Eugene Snit from the Season 2 episode "Matchmaker" takes the cake. His girlfriend dumped him on Valentine's Day the year before, so he decide to get revenge by installing dating booths that helped him to gather information on a girl's ideal boyfriend in Beverly Hills High. He then used a holographic disguise device that allowed him to change into that ideal boyfriend. Then he seduced all the girls at Beverly Hill High and stood them up by not showing up to the dance to break their hearts. So instead of seducing his ex-girlfriend and breaking up with her to break her heart, Eugene decides to seduce and break the hearts of a bunch of girls that had nothing to do with his breakup. What made this worse is that he did not even go to Beverly Hills High; his school is the Institute for Gifted Teens. While it still would have been petty and cruel, it would have made more sense for him to seduce and break the hearts of the girls at his own school.
  • Goblins in Trollhunters will severely punish whoever kills one of their own, but are also not very good at linking cause and effect; when one is killed by a truck, they take their vengeance out on the truck instead of the driver. Jim trips Nomura, causing her to land on a goblin and kill it, and they take their vengeance out on her instead of him.

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