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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 (or the culprit stole the victim's identity). Whether it is worse than what is retaliated to or milder, the point remains that it is still unjustly directed at the wrong targets.

Closely related to Mis-blamed. Can result in a Misdirected Outburst. A Sister Trope to Disproportionate Retribution and Revenge by Proxy (and so more often than not Moral Event Horizon-worthy). Similar to Cartesian Karma, Guilt by Association Gag, and Karmic Misfire. I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure is when one uses this trope as a threat. Abusive Parents and Domestic Abuse may apply to this trope. 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. The Butt-Monkey or Cosmic Plaything is often on the receiving end of this when it's Played for Laughs. For cases where someone deliberately ensures this happens, see Frame-Up and The Scapegoat. Not to be confused with Never My Fault (which CAN, through the aforementioned Frame-Up and The Scapegoat, cause Misplaced Retribution).

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. Blame the Paramour often overlaps with this; in that trope, regardless of how a cheating lover behaved, it's the new lover who is blamed, regardless of the circumstances that caused around the affair.

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


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    Asian Animation 
  • In the Noonbory and the Super 7 episode "Problem Peach", Rosygury blames the Super Sensors for her lilies being crushed, even though it was Lukybory who brought the giant peach to her garden.
  • 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.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Hans the Hedgehog": The daughter of the first king bears the brunt of Hans' revenge for her father's not keeping his promise, in which she played no direct role. Hans violently assaults her, accuses her of deceit, and sends her home disgraced for the rest of her life, but no further punishment befalls her father.

    Films — Animation 
  • Incredibles 2: Screenslaver/Evelyn Deavors's motive is to make Supers illegal forever because she blames them for the deaths of her parents. Her father was trying to call for his Super friends, but was shot by home invaders, and her mother died of heartbreak. However, not only was it not the Supers' fault, as the law made them illegal and therefore unable to help, but she shows no anger towards the men who actually killed her father. In fact, she offers no solutions to stop crises from happening without Supers. Ultimately, she just wants to blame someone for her parents' deaths rather than do any actual good for the world.
  • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride: Zira blames Simba for the death of Scar and spends years plotting revenge against him. However, it was Scar's own hyena minions who killed him after they overheard him trying to blame them for everything that he'd done.
  • Reign of the Supermen sees Cyborg-Superman blame the real Superman for getting his shuttle crew killed rather than Darkseid, who created and sent Doomsday in the meteor that crashed into the shuttle, or himself, who stalled leaving in the hopes that Superman would save them.
  • Shrek 2: The Fairy Godmother, Prince Charming, and King Harold's hostility to Shrek stems from the fact that Shrek rescued Fiona from the castle she was imprisoned within in the first movie, unwittingly beating Charming to the punch in rescuing her himself and screwing up the deal made between Fairy Godmother and Harold that entails Charming marrying Fiona and giving Fairy Godmother dominion over Far Far away in exchange for her turning Harold from a frog into a human. The problem is that Shrek didn't even know about the arrangement or that Fiona existed until Lord Farquaad chose Shrek's swamp as a dumping ground for the fairy tail creatures he had banished and agreed to have removed if Shrek went to rescue Fiona on his behalf so that Farquaad could ascend to kinghood. Furthermore, none of them, barring Harold (albeit once and meekly), acknowledge that the incident could've been avoided if Charming had decided to save Fiona far sooner than he did in the movie, at which point Fiona is Happily Married to Shrek and enjoying her honeymoon.
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: Both members of the film's Big Bad Ensemble, Miguel O'Hara/Spider-Man 2099 and Jonathan Ohm/The Spot are guilty of this when it comes to their hostility towards Miles.
    • On Miguel's side, his disdain of Miles is on account of Miles being bitten by a spider that was brought over from Earth-42 to Miles' home dimension, resulting in the former universe becoming a Crapsack World without a Spider-Man to protect it and Earth-1610B briefly having two Spider-Men before the Peter Parker of that reality died in his efforts to shut down Kingpin's super-collider in the first movie. While some parts of Miguel's anger are well-founded, such as Miles distracting Blond Peter in his efforts to stop the collider before he was killed, he ignores the fact that Kingpin and Doctor Octopus were the ones most culpable for the Spider being brought to Miles' universe in the first place, with the former spearheading and bankrolling the construction of the super-collider so he could get replacements for his dead wife and son from another universe and the latter being the leading scientist who constructed it.
    • On the Spot's side, he blames Miles for his current condition because Miles blowing up the collider in the first film turned him into what he is now, and says he "gave" Miles his powers due to bringing the Spider from Earth-42 while helping Olivia Octavius in the construction of the super-collider, which eventually made its way to Miles before biting him. Like Miguel, he largely overlooks Kingpin and Doctor Octopus being the reason why the collider was built in the first place, and doesn't realize Miles had no idea he was even in the collider when it went off and mutated him into what he is now because he (Miles) was focused on stopping Kingpin and shutting the machine down. Worse still, Spot never owns up to the fact that he willingly helped Octavius in the construction of the collider, chose to put himself into harm's way by entering it as it was falling apart, and tried fleeing the scene with a canister of dark matter which shattered when the collider blew up and changed him.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Bowser blames Mario for ruining his big wedding with Peach. He conveniently ignores the fact that it was actually Peach who ruined the wedding with a hidden Ice Flower in her bouquet, and Mario only showed up at the end to rescue Luigi from falling in the lava pit. Mario wasn't even aware there was a wedding event until he reunited with Peach at the altar.
  • In Turning Red, after catching Mei at a party, Ming wrongfully blames Mei's friends for encouraging her to hustle the panda. Mei herself is hurt by her mother pinning her actions on her own friends, and this is what helps Mei realize that it's actually Ming who needs more help.

  • 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.

    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 since Zeus actually does care about his mortal lovers and demigod sons there actually was a twisted logic to her actions.
    • Ovid's version of the Medusa myth (earlier Greek ones don't give Medusa much of a backstory; she's just a monster terrorizing people who needs to be slain by a plucky hero) 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 (Euryale and Stheno) too, apparently to reconcile the fact that she has gorgon sisters (remnants of earlier versions) despite Ovid's story having Medusa specifically being transformed.
    • 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 of this.
    • 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 David and Bathsheba's first child. Granted, upon this happening David is extremely regretful and atones.
    • Although not exactly a case of retribution, the fact that Job's first family gets killed just to test his faith is seen as unfair by many. They had done nothing wrong, and weren't the ones being tested either. Job gets a new family as a reward for his unwavering faith, but it doesn't change the fact that the first one is still dead.
  • Arthurian Legend: While not the original interpretation, Morgan le Fay's antipathy to Arthur is sometimes portrayed this way in modern work. Arthur's father, King Uther, killed Morgan's father, pulled a Bed Trick on her mother and then forced her to marry him. Wanting revenge on him is at least understandable, but since he died shortly thereafter, she transfers her anger onto Arthur instead.

    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.

  • Bleak Expectations: Pretty much every Geoffrey Whitehead character of the week seeks vengeance on Pip Bin for murdering all the other members of their family... except Pip is rarely the one to actually kill them, even indirectly. More often than not they're done in by something of their own making or Mr. Benevolent killing them For the Evulz. Of course, it'd probably help Pip if he stopped taking the credit for their deaths.

  • 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.
  • In Ragtime, Coalhouse is furious over the death of his One True Love Sarah at the hands of the Secret Service, so he unleashes a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on... the firefighters who destroyed his car earlier in the play. While the two events are not entirely unrelated (Sarah was trying to help Coalhouse get justice for the car when she was killed), the firefighters had no actual part in the incident that actually caused Sarah's death.

    Urban Legends 
  • An old urban legend involves a man finding a strange car driven by a strange man 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.

    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; Dahlia Hawthorne poisons him and sends him into a coma for years; when he wakes up, Dahlia is on death row for a separate crime (murdering an ex-boyfriend and framing Phoenix for it), and his girlfriend Mia has been murdered. Godot blames her protege Phoenix for failing to protect her as Psychological Projection for his own self-loathing, despite neither man being in any way responsible (in fact, Phoenix caught her real killer), because both of the people he could legitimately blame — Dahlia Hawthorne and Redd White — were already out of the picture. So he becomes a prosecutor and dedicates himself to making Phoenix's days in court hell for something Phoenix never did, because justice caught up to the people he really hated before he could. He eventually kills Misty Fey as part of a plot to save Maya, when he could have done just as well just telling Phoenix... but his need to make up for failing to save Mia meant he refused to acknowledge this until too late.
    • 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 case interfered.
    • The Great Ace Attorney: Kazuma Asogi catches a bad case of this when he prosecutes the final case. Kazuma's father Genshin was erroneously convicted as a Serial Killer 10 years ago, and he desires revenge on Barok van Zieks for being the prosecutor in that case... even as evidence mounts that Barok was an Unwitting Pawn who was made the prosecutor specifically because the real mastermind knew Barok was too blinded by emotion to see past the mastermind's plot to frame Genshin... and that said mastermind is currently counting on Kazuma likewise being too blinded by revenge against Barok to realize that Mael Stronghart was behind everything both of them suffered.
  • Case 03: True Cannibal Boy: The Cannibal Boy is made up of the vengeful spirits of several abandoned children, but the village that abandoned them is long gone, so they go after the people of Parrot City and Footville instead.
  • In case 2 of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Fuyuhiko and his Violently Protective Girlfriend Peko murdered Mahiru after Monokuma told them that she was involved in the death of his sister and helped Destroy the Evidence. However Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School retcons it so that Mahiru was never involved at all, and this was wholly one of Monokuma's manipulations.
  • In Daughter for Dessert, Cecilia blames the protagonist for Lainie’s death, but Lainie herself eschewed the treatment that could have saved her life, and hid her illness from him until she died. If Cecilia were to blame someone other than Lainie, it would most reasonably be her father, who had cut her off prior to the whole incident.

    Web Animation 
  • In the pilot episode of Angry Dog, at the dinner table George releases some outrageous line which gets his peers to stare at him in utter shock ... except Tad a calm humble dog. George scoffs at him and when Tad doesn't react, assaults him with extreme prejudice all the while completely ignoring the other animals giving him weird looks.
  • Asuka's Revenge: After getting fired from his job for harassing Yoshida, Kotomi's ex-husband tries to assault Yoshida's husband instead of reflecting on his actions.
  • GoAnimate:
    • In samster5677's Scooby-Doo videos, Fred gives out concussion times to all of the gang, including the ones who didn't contribute to the plot. For example, in "The Scooby Gang Goes to the Carnival", Fred gives concussions to all of the gang, including Velma, who didn't spend a single dollar at the carnival.
    • In Tyler Mackey's Dan Hamming videos, Dan falls into this whenever the plot concerns Dr. Hector. For example, in "Dan Hamming Goes To Blockbuster", Dan intusts Dr. Hector to look after his DVD copy of The LEGO Movie, leading to Dr. Hector deciding to do some fire tricks, accidentally burning the DVD (along with the homeless shelter with it). Note that Dan tells his dad the truth when confronted at Blockbuster, but his dad doesn't believe him. Similar instances of this happening occur in "Dan Hamming Works At Burger King" (Dr. Hector accidentally sets the kitchen on fire and Dan gets fired, in spite of the fact that Dan tells the truth to his boss, his boss fires him because he didn't hire Dr. Hector), and "Dan Hamming Breaks Officer Frank's iPod" (Dr. Hector throws the iPod at Dan so he won't lose it, leading to Dan accidentally stepping on it and getting grounded for an additional two weeks).
  • RWBY:
    • Cinder says this almost word-for-word about Neo's grudge against her for Roman Torchwick's death, before convincing her it's Ruby's fault. In reality, Torchwick himself was probably the most to blame, as he made himself a very tempting target for nearby negativity-attracted Grimm with an angry Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids! speech. Cinder and Ruby were both involved in the circumstances that led up to Roman's death (Cinder's plot is the reason Grimm were everywhere, and Ruby angered Roman by knocking Neo away), and though neither actually caused it, Neo is determined to take out her grief on someone.
      Cinder: I don't have time for your misplaced blame, girl.
    • Subverted by Hazel Rainart. His sister Gretchen Rainart was killed by the Grimm while working for Ozpin. Hazel desires revenge, but instead of blaming the Grimm or their master, Salem, he apparently irrationally blames Ozpin, accusing him of tricking Gretchen and other children into working for him to sacrifice themselves and unable to see that Gretchen made her own choice. He even joins Salem and helps her and the Grimm kill a lot more children just to destroy Ozpin, saying every child he and his comrades kill will be on Ozpin's head. Then the episode "War" reveals that Hazel did blame Salem at first, and he attempted to kill her again and again, something she gave him the opportunity to do. Broken by the revelation that Salem had Complete Immortality, Hazel was turned against Ozpin when Salem painted him as a man senselessly throwing innocent lives away against an Invincible Villain who actually only wants to eliminate the Kingdoms and Huntsman academies that only perpetuate a hopeless war. She neglects to reveal her true goal, which is to summon the Brother Gods to pass judgment on humanity and thereby kill her as well.
  • 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.
  • Today Is Spaceship Day: When Harrison, Charlie and Dexter end up in an empty planet, Harrison is annoyed by Charlie not thinking it's incredible, so he fiercely slaps Dexter in response.

  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • One Badman sketch revolved around the interrogation room scene of The Dark Knight, but due to a mix-up, a birthday clown arrested for public drinking is in the room and Batman beats him up, thinking he's The Joker.
  • On the Dream SMP, Niki falls into this near the end of Season 2 and the first part of Season 3. Being constantly ignored, talked over, and suffering from the actions of others had taken its toll on her, which caused her to seek revenge. She targeted Tommy, seeing him as the cause of her problems, and falls into unreasonable rage (as a part of her character's arc, as confirmed by Niki the streamer herself) to the point of trying to kill him, such as by leading him into the blast zone of a nuke. Tommy's death in a later, separate incident finally got her to realize that Tommy's just as much of a victim as she is, and begins to heal from this mindset by building a new support system in the Syndicate.
  • In the tenth episode of the Markiplier Red Dead Redemption 2 playthrough, near the end of the video, Mark exits a clothing shop in Saint Denis wearing a gaudy assortment of clothing, topped off by the bear hat that Mark has been obsessed with since acquiring it. Upon exiting, he marvels at his own appearance, only for an NPC to comment, "What an appalling way to look." the exact moment Mark finishes speaking. Queue a beat. What follows is Mark issuing a sudden and brutal profanity-laden beatdown with murderous intent upon… the man standing immediately beside the man who actually insulted him.
  • Party Crashers: In "We broke TCNick3... AGAIN", Vernias starts targeting Nick on the fourth match due to the trauma he indured from past matches he had against Brent's King K. Rool, as Nick was currently playing as that character.
  • Pirates SMP:
    • On Day 106, while dragging out Cruppy to interrogate it on Monkey Island, Martyn passes Eloise on the open sea, returning to the Faction Isles. Later the same day, after being called out for his involvement in kidnapping and resorting to torturing Cruppy for information, Martyn passes by Eloise's ship again on his way back to the Isles. His response to this is to attack Eloise and Bek (also aboard at the time) for allegedly snitching on them. In reality, Graecie witnessed the kidnapping, which was what led to her and Kuervo's interference and the resultant confrontation, while Eloise is completely clueless to what Martyn is even mad about at the time.
    • For a downplayed example, despite being completely uninvolved on a personal level, Shep has been on the receiving end of angry server-members' interrogations for being the only other Kestrel faction member online whenever Kestrel-related drama goes down, notably after Martyn steals the Sunset Stone and later crashing Water's wedding with Sausage.
  • Rats SMP: After the destruction of the Boiler Room, the Janitor decides to capture a random rat in a cage and start screaming at them, accusing them of blowing up the boiler. Unfortunately for him and everyone else, Scott was part of the group rescuing Apo from the the Janitor's van and not the group that caused the explosion, and opposed the plan when he heard it. Even Mrs. Icraga, the Janitor's boss, thinks he's being too high-strung about his job and orders for him to go on paid leave.
  • SMPLive: Joko kills both Macro and Angel after he falls into a trap set by them, believing they had a hit on him. It turns out, in actuality, that Macro was being attacked by a witch, and Angel set up the trap to catch the witch. Joko apologizes profusely and offers the duo his help.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


We broke TCNick3... AGAIN

During the fourth match, Vernias starts targetting Nick due to the trauma he indured from past matches he had with Brent's King K. Rool, as Nick was currently playing as that character. Needless to say, Nick does not take this lightly.

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