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Morton's Fork

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Either way, he's doomed.
"When the fighting in the North is over, someone wins; you understand that, don't you? If the Dead win, they march south and kill us all. If the Living win, and we've betrayed them, they march south and kill us all!"

A character is presented with two or more options. Either choice results in the same, or similar, unfortunate consequence. The Many Questions Fallacy is often a form of this, where a loaded question—"Yes or no, have you stopped beating your wife?"—precludes a "safe" answer. In this case, either answer is an admission of domestic abuse.note  You could be tricky and say "No, I can't stop if I never started," but if they're willing to attack you with loaded questions, they're more than willing to Quote Mine you and pretend you said "No, I can't stop."

The name comes from the tax-collecting practices of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor under King Henry VII of England. He reasoned that anyone who was living extravagantly was rich, and so could afford high taxes, whereas anyone who was living frugally (whether by choice or not) had saved a lot, and so could afford high taxes. Bear in mind before you get too crazy that this was typically used to keep people known to be well-off from trying to weasel their way out of paying; he wasn't exactly trying to collect from peasants in hovels. Instead, he was trying to get around a then-common excuse for not paying taxes (that is, not having any money to do so) by discounting the proofs used to support the excuse (actual profligacy and feigned poverty).note 

This is often confused with Hobson's choice, which is a "choice" between something or nothing. Thomas Hobson was a livery stable owner who lived about half a century after Morton. Given a real choice, Hobson's customers tended to pick the same horses over and over again, leaving them seriously overused while leaving other horses almost completely unused. To get around this problem, Hobson had customers automatically assigned the horse in the stable closest to the door rather than let them pick, so all his horses would be used and exercised equally. The customer's choice was "take it or leave it" — either you ride the horse assigned to you, or you don't get a horse at all. A Hobson's choice is a false choice because there's only one real option if you're in need of the thing being offered. A Morton's Fork is a false choice because both options have the same or equally undesirable results.

Compare Xanatos Gambit, where this is weaponized in a specific type of plan and often used by The Chessmaster. See also Sadistic Choice, which similarly forces characters to choose between two untenable choices, except that each leads to a different undesirable outcome. Characters often attempt to Take a Third Option in response, with varying degrees of success. They may instead pick one to Get It Over With. If the fork is deliberately placed into a test, this is Unwinnable Training Simulation. Can be the outcome of a Trial by Ordeal, especially those involving witchcraft, where some ordeals were made to be deadly for innocents, with the survivors being deemed culprits and ending burnt on the stake.

Contrast Sweet and Sour Grapes, wherein a good outcome occurs regardless of the choice made. But Thou Must! is related, because in that case, all the choices are the same, and lead to the same outcome. Not interchangeable with Catch-22 Dilemma, where the problem is circular — to achieve one thing, you must first do or acquire something else, but to do or acquire that, you must have the first thing.

Remember, it's only a Morton's Fork if both choices lead to basically the same outcome. It isn't enough just to be given a choice between two bad options. If you're offered a choice between a bad option and a worse one, that's probably The Easy Way or the Hard Way. If the choice is deceptive — and the option that seems less bad is actually worse — that's The Window or the Stairs. If there's two bad options, but they're both bad in different ways, that's Scylla and Charybdis. Subtrope of Failure Is the Only Option. Compare Prisoner's Dilemma.

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    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In the second episode, Big M. gives the people of Planet Xing two options in regards to the Jixie Stones. If they don't give him the Stones, he'll take over the planet. If they do give him the Stones, he'll use them to take over the planet (his original plan was to use them to create servants). Miss Peach comments on how neither sounds good.

    Audio Play 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • In The War Valeyard, the Valeyard is faced with a choice of either being trapped in a time loop where he believes he is the Doctor trying to save a doomed world or escaping the loop only to regress back to his true self. As the Eighth Doctor prepares to depart the loop, the Valeyard chooses to stay so that he can at least believe he's the hero rather than leave the loop and become a villain again.
    • In The Crimes of Thomas Brewster, the Doctor is kidnapped by a crime boss whose idiot henchman has mistaken him for a rival crime boss who happens to go by "the Doctor".
      Mr. Gallagher: If you were the Doctor I was after, I'd let Mick take you outside and indulge his... homicidal tendencies.
      Mick: Hur hur hur.
      Gallagher: Shut it!
      Doctor: But as I'm clearly the victim of a case of mistaken identity...
      Gallagher: You give me something of a problem. A problem with one very... obvious solution.
      Doctor: A solution which involves Mick taking me outside...
      Gallagher: Well done, you've read me mind.

    Comic Books 
  • Age of Ultron: Ultron's drones maraud about yelling "surrender or perish!" The problem is, Ultron's a mass-murdering machine with a specific hatred for mankind, so surrendering just gets a person killed anyway (not that Ultron's drones usually give anyone a chance to try surrendering in the first place).
  • Asterix: When a Corsican asks you with a Death Glare and a folding knife in his hand whether you like his attractive sister, both "yes" and "no" are wrong answers.
  • An argument in Empowered ends up putting Thugboy in one of these—it turns out he slept with his girlfriend Empowered's rival Sistah Spooky a few months before he met her, and she just asked him how they compared. If he says Spooky was better in bed, then that's obviously bad. If he says they're about the same, then that would suggest them to be interchangeable, which is even worse. As he discovers, if he says Emp is better, then that's implying he stayed with Emp primarily (if not solely) because she was better at sex, since it can't be because she's a really cool and powerful superhero (since Spooky is stronger and more famous). No matter what, she's getting angry.
  • At one point in Ex Machina, Mayor Hundred is on a talk-radio show and has been asked whether he, in the eventuality that Osama bin Laden was captured and put on trial in the United States, would support or oppose his execution. Answering yes goes against the mayor's own political statements as a firmly anti-death-penalty politician, but answering no makes him sound like he is sympathetic to bin Laden. The mayor instead calls the interviewer a "motherfucker" and walks out, pointing out to his staff that there is absolutely no correct answer to that question.
  • In Lucifer, the Japanese pantheon attempts this on Lucifer, since they want to kill him but honor forbids they do so without a technical cause. The plan is to serve sacred meat to him at a banquet. If he eats the meat, this will be a deadly insult. If he does not eat it, this is an affront to their hospitality, another deadly insult. It doesn't work, of course because Lucifer says he cannot possibly insult his hosts by partaking of the meat before they do. As it turns out, Lucifer violated hospitality anyway by poisoning one of the gods during cocktail hour, but he also justifies that by reminding them that betrayal and intrigue are the rules by which his hosts live, and he is only obeying those rules.
  • Marvel Year In Review 1993 observes:
    You know, it's kind of a waste of time to create new characters for The Punisher's books. If they're Frank's enemies, they get shot dead after an appearance or two. If they're Frank's friends, they get shot dead after an appearance or two.
  • Spider-Man: Gerry Conway says the death of Gwen Stacy was meant to be this. Since Spider-Man tried to catch her with his web, the whiplash effect caused her neck to snap, killing her. But he couldn't have swung down to save her in time, and if he did nothing, she would have died when she hit the water anyway. A What If? story has him Take a Third Option by jumping off the bridge, catching her, and swinging them both to safety. As is typical of What If?, bad things still result, but Gwen survives.
  • Superman
    • The storyline The Strange Revenge of Lena Luthor has Supergirl depowered and trapped in a cell by Lex Luthor. The only way out are two doors. One of them leads to a pit whose bottom is a bed of steel spikes. The other door opens onto a blast-furnace.
      Supergirl: Just the kind of duplicity I'd expect from Luthor. Both doors spell disaster! And either way, I lose... unless I go back the way I came!
    • In Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, Ruthye eventually learns that her father's killer was outraged that a mere farmer would accuse him of treason. The kicker is that he was an agent provocateur, who was intentionally speaking sedition to kill anyone who agreed with him.
  • A particularly cruel case of this causes Snare's Heel–Face Turn in The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers. Overlord would force his prisoners into pit fights for his own amusement. Once a pit fighter wins/survives about ten fights, Overlord takes them back to his quarters and gives them a choice; commit suicide or fight Overlord in hand-to-hand combat. As Snare points out, Overlord is an Implacable Man and Super-Soldier built expressly for killing and has fought entire battalions single-handed, so there's really no difference between the two choices.
  • Top 10: Irma Geddon tears into android cop Joe Pi, claiming that he didn't care enough to attend the funeral of Girl One. Joe points out that attending would just have been seen as a display of "faking emotion", and that he believed it was more respectful to not try to hijack their moment. Irma, to her credit, realizes there was no "right" thing for Joe to do and apologizes.
  • Two-Face:
    • Two-Face once declares that if his coin comes scarred side up he'll destroy half the city; if it comes clean side up, he'll save half the city. The coin comes clean side up ...and Two-Face promptly prepares to destroy the other half of the city.
    • Two-Face does this a lot, usually when both halves of his personality want somebody dead. On one occasion, he had Batman tied to the tails side of a giant penny and intended to flip it. If it landed heads, he'd be crushed, and if it landed tails, the shockwave would shatter his skeleton. Fortunately, Batman managed to steal Two-Face's coin and used it to cut himself free.
  • In Whatever Happened to The Caped Crusader?, the kid who has been told to keep an eye on the Jokermobile feels he's in one of these. If he runs, the Joker will feel he's broken their agreement, hunt him down and kill him. If he stays, the Joker will probably find something wrong with the car and kill him.
  • Vampirella: In the penultimate issue of the 2010 run, Sister Midnight gives Lilith three instructions to give to her daughter Vampirella, each with a bad outcome. She can send Vampirella back to her newly established kingdom where she will find her subjects slaughtered by the Knight's Templar whom Vampirella thought was loyal to her. She can open a vault which unleash a horrifying, world-ending monstrosity. Or Lilith can summon Vampirella to Drakulon where she will find that every foe Vampirella has fought and defeated is in fact still alive and imprisoned.
  • In Judgment Day (Marvel Comics), Destiny and Exodus complain about humans being on Krakoa when the Avengers arrive to help the X-Men defend the island from the Eternals. When the team leaves at Cyclops' request to stop a life-threatening tsunami, they turn around and start complaining that the humans were now leaving them to face the Eternals by themselves. Nightcrawler calls them out on being Ungrateful Bastards.

  • A Chinese riddle: A pupil is brought before his master. The pupil sits across from him and the master places a bamboo cane and a cup of tea on the table. He says "If you do not drink this tea, I will beat you with this cane; if you do drink this tea, I will beat you with this cane." (The solution: The pupil takes away the cane.)
  • Quite a few riddles involve a rigged "choice" between a powerful person and a lesser person in the presence of an arbiter. It is a choice of two items (such as a pair of cards, one with a black spot, the other blank); one choice (in this case, the black spot) generally means death to the person, while the other means life. Unbeknownst to the arbiter, both cards are marked with the black spot. The lesser person, however, does know (or suspect) the trick, but the lesser person cannot simply abandon this choice because it would also result in death, and trying to call out the more powerful person would be no better. How does the lesser person survive? Choose a card, then immediately eat it before anyone else can see it. The remaining card will be a black spot, so the arbiter will assume that the lesser person consumed the blank. If it turns out the powerful person was being fair after all, the lesser person would likely be no worse off than they would be if they'd simply showed their card.
  • One Anansi the Spider story involves this. Some bugs are caught by him and he proposes a liar's contest; everyone will tell an outrageous story and the winner is the first one to make the others say "That's not true!" When it gets to Anansi's turn, the tale he tells is about how all the bugs hatched from his garden are his property to do with as he pleases. Well, the bugs can't say "That's true", because they would be admitting they're Anansi's property, and be eaten. But they can't say "That's not true" either because they would be declaring Anansi the winner (and be eaten). They fly away instead, and that's why spiders are always hunting moths and mosquitoes.
  • In Japanese folklore the Kuchisake-onna is a ghost woman with a Glasgow Grin who asks people if they think she's pretty. If they say yes, she slashes them with scissors to look like her, if they say no, she will be insulted and stab them with the scissors. There is a variety of possible third options, depending on who's telling the story: confusing her by turning the question around on her and asking if she thinks you're pretty, telling her you're late for an appointment (at which point she'll politely apologize and let you be on your way) or simply distracting her with candy have all been referenced as ways to survive such an encounter.
  • Another Japanese legend is Aka Manto or Akagami-Aogami, a demon inhabiting toilets who will ask the victim to choose between red paper and blue paper. Either choice will result in them being killed, red by cutting with blades, blue by strangling. And before you think of Taking a Third Option, picking another color will usually end up with him dragging you to hell anyway (Depending on the Writer).
  • Various stories (based on the King Midas story from Classical Mythology) involve the king's latest barber witnessing the king's Unusual Ears and becoming ill from the stress of having to keep the secret. If he does reveal the secret, he'll be killed like the previous barbers who couldn't be sworn to secrecy, but if he doesn't, he'll die of his illness. Someone suggests digging a hole in the ground and saying the secret to it, which causes a plant to grow that reveals the secret in the protagonist's stead, usually after being made into a musical instrument.

  • A classic joke, which is told in many variations, is that two men are captured by a primitive tribe. The chief gives them a choice: death, or a mysterious punishment with a gibberish name (Futurama uses, for example, "Snoo-Snoo"). The first man chooses the mysterious punishment, which turns out to be some horrific torture (often involving Black Comedy Rape), but survives. The second man decides he'd rather die than undergo that treatment, so he chooses death. The chief proclaims, "Death... by Snoo-Snoo!"
  • Asking someone if their mom knows something humiliating about them, for example, that they watch hentai. Yes means she knows, no means she doesn't know, but either way they've confessed. A related joke is "Do you still beat your wife/dog/kid(s)?"
  • Less maliciously, "Are you in denial?" If yes, then they admit they're in denial about something. If no, they can't come to grips with the Awful Truth- whatever that may be.

  • The Clash, "Should I Stay Or Should I Go":
    If I go there will be trouble
    If I stay it will be double
  • "Judgment Day" by Five Finger Death Punch:
    Damned if I do, damned if I don't
    Damned if I will and damned if I won't
    Doomed if I try, doomed if I fail
    Damn you all to hell
  • Huey Lewis and the News, "Workin' for a Livin'":
    Damned if you do, damned if you don't
    I'm supposed to get a raise week, you know damn well I won't
  • Ice-T, "New Jack Hustler:
    Got me twisted, jammed into a paradox. Every dollar I get, another brother drops. Maybe that's the plan, and I don't understand,God damn——you got me sinkin in quicksand!!
  • According to "Barbarism Begins At Home" by The Smiths:
    A crack on the head is what you'll get for not asking
    And a crack on the head is what you'll get for asking.
  • From Eminem's "Kill You"
    I said shut up when I'm talking to you!
    You hear me?
    Answer me!

    Newspaper Comics 
  • An unidentified comic strip that went about like this:
    Man: I'm going to start trimming my nasal hair.
    Woman: Ewww!
    Man: Okay, so I'm not going to trim my nasal hair.
    Woman: Ewww!
  • The Far Side:
    • The strip once ran a panel where some poor guy is in Hell, standing in front of two doors, one marked "Damned if you do" and the other marked "Damned if you don't." If that wasn't bad enough, an impatient devil is standing off to the side, demanding that he make up his mind, implying that the guy can't Take a Third Option.
    • Another panel plays with the trope, albeit in the same location. A clerical worker in the pit asks a new arrival, "Would you like inferno or non-inferno? Ha! Just kidding. It's all inferno, of course. I just get a kick out of saying that."
  • Mother Goose and Grimm had a sequence with Grimm at obedience school. Naturally, he didn't want to go, and he tried to get out of it by claiming that he didn't really need it. "I'll obey! Give me a command, anything, and I'll obey!" Mother Goose promptly gave the perfect command: "Go to obedience school!"
  • Non Sequitur had one comic where a lawyer is stumped when he comes to a fork in the road where the sign pointing one way says "legal" and the sign pointing the other way says "ethical".
  • In an arc of Peanuts strips, Charlie Brown and his family are going on vacation, and Snoopy can either stay in a kennel, or with Lucy. Snoopy's reaction to both suggestions is "AUUGHH!" (eventually, he takes the latter).
  • U.S. Acres: In the October 15, 1988 strip, Orson asked Booker and Sheldon if they wanted him to read a book or if they wanted to watch TV. Booker eagerly replied "Television!" and Orson then got inside a TV and started reading a book inside it.
  • Nancy: The use of this trope in videogames is invoked and discussed in this comic, which gives you two branches to choose from on the question of whether choice made in videogames matter, but has them lead to the same place.

  • Total Nuclear Annihilation: Scarlett, the Player Character, aims to destroy nine nuclear reactors. If she fails, she implicitly dies; if she succeeds, she still dies as a result of unleashing widespread devastation upon an already destitute world. While most of this is an Excuse Plot that's not explicitly made clear to the player, creator Scott Danesi has remarked on its bleakness in an interview:
    "The storyline is a little bit sad in TNA because Scarlet doesn’t make it out alive ever, no matter what... it is really sad."

  • Conversational Troping in the Cabin Pressure episode "Valduz", in which Princess Theresa tries to explain to her Bratty Half-Pint A Child Shall Lead Them brother King Maxie that he can't cut people's heads off and he says he can if they commit treason. Theresa points out they're not going to commit treason, and Arthur suggests ordering them to cut their own heads off. Then if they do it, their head's cut off, and if they don't, they've disobeyed a royal command, which is treason.
  • In the radio adaptation of Eric, the Demon King Astfgl asks one of his minions if it knows why Astfgl is so angry. "Is it, perhaps, because I'm Surrounded by Idiots?" The junior demon stutters a reply, realising that it can either deny its lord's evident anger, or admit that Astfgl is, in fact, surrounded by idiots.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978), the Vogon leader tells his men that if he hears a word out of any of them, he'll shoot them all. Then he asks a question and tells them that if someone doesn't answer... well, guess.
  • A sketch on John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme involves Voltaire, Voltaire's friend who is the greates swordsman in France, and a man who doesn't believe that Voltaire would really fight to the death for someone's right to say something he disagreed with. When the swordsman takes offence on Voltaire's behalf and challenges the man to a Duel to the Death, Voltaire initially feels obliged to fight in the man's stead, where he will inevitably lose and be killed. When he then decides that this is stupid, the swordsman is outraged to realise that the other man was right after all. So he challenges Voltaire to a duel... (The sketch ends with Voltaire's funeral, where the priest notes that the "final irony" is that Voltaire never said that in the first place.)

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Jacob runs into this as a result of his warped logic when Barbra speaks to him at school. If he responds to her, then he's going against his mother's wish for him to not associate with Barbra. If he doesn't respond to her, then he's going against the wish of Barbra's mother, who wants her to apologise for mistreating Jacob the previous night. His solution is to offer a few words in the hopes that it'll deter her (it doesn't).
    • In a more dramatic example, Ciro at one point finds himself holding back a lizard monster with his force-field power. Daigo approaches him, telling him to let the monster go: if he does, then the monster will attack him. If he doesn't, then Daigo will attack him. He's saved by a third option when a car comes crashing into the scene and knocks over the monster.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Arj Barker describes his time working at a hospital as one of these. It's impossible to take a sick day because if you call in sick, they'll just tell you to come in anyway because they're a hospital. If you then try to weasel out of it by saying that you aren't sick enough to need to go to the hospital, well, then you're obviously not sick enough to need to take the day off work either, are you?
  • Bill Cosby delves into this when talking about his mother's hypocritical parenting skills:
    When a mother asks you a question and you try and answer, she tells you to shut up! "Day and night, night and day, work my fingers to the bone, and for what?" "I don't—" "Shut! UP! When I ask you a question, you keep your trap shut! Think I'm talking just so I can hear myself talk?! ANSWER ME!!!"

  • In As You Like It, Touchstone tries to argue for unchastity in this manner. It doesn't work.
    Touchstone : No, truly, unless thou wert hard-favoured; for honesty coupled to beauty is to have honey a sauce to sugar.
    Jacques [Aside]: A material fool!
    Audrey: Well, I am not fair; and therefore I pray the gods make me honest.
    Touchstone : Truly, and to cast away honesty upon a foul slut were to put good meat into an unclean dish.
  • In Arthur Miller's The Crucible:
    • Those accused of witchcraft face two choices; confess to being a witch (landing a prison sentence and likely a lifetime of being an outcast), or hang for denial. This is even lampshaded:
    Hale: I have myself examined Tituba, Sarah Good, and numerous others that have confessed to dealing with the Devil. They have confessed it.
    Proctor: And why not, if they must hang for denyin’ it? There are them that will swear to anything before they’ll hang; have you thought of that?
    • Giles Corey manages to Take a Third Option by refusing to confess or deny it either way. They try to force him to talk by trapping him between two wooden boards and putting more and more rocks on the top board, gradually crushing him. His last words were "more weight". While all three options ended in his death, he managed to use a very unpleasant loophole, because if he confessed or denied, his land would be seized by the authorities, but the way he did it, his family inherited his property instead.
  • In Doubt, Sister Aloysius finds herself in this position at the end. If she is correct about Father Flynn's guilt (she believes him to be a child molester who was either grooming or abusing a student at the school), all she's done is gotten him Kicked Upstairs into a position where he can do even greater harm. If she is wrong, her own petty prejudices led her to persecute a completely innocent man, and deprived a vulnerable student of his only protection.
  • Jean Valjean's "I Am" Song "Who Am I" from Les Misérables—"If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent I am damned."note 
    • Similar is Javert's dilemma after Valjean spares him. His choice is to arrest Valjean for his past crimes (the lawful choice) or spare him in return (the moral choice). Either choice would mean Javert doing something wrong, and thus destroying his righteous self-image. The song's called "Javert's Suicide", in case you were wondering how that turned out.
  • Repeatedly played for laughs in The Merchant of Venice.
    • Launcelot, who wants to get out of working for Shylock, reasons that his master is a devil... but still, if he runs away and breaks his contract, he'll commit a sin, and then he'll be working for the devil anyway. He finally makes up his mind to run away, since he figures that the real devil is the lesser of two evils.
    • Later, Launcelot explains to Jessica that because the children suffer for the sins of the parents, she'll go to hell for being Shylock's daughter—the only way out is to turn out not to be his daughter. Jessica points out that, by that logic, she'd go to hell as punishment for her mother's unfaithfulness. Launcelot sums it up: "Truly then I fear you are damned both by father and mother; thus when I shun Scylla, your father, I fall into Charybdis, your mother; well, you are gone both ways."
  • Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing is set in Jerusalem during a ceasefire in the course of the Crusades. Sultan Saladin asks the titular character, a rich Jew famed for his wisdom, which of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam is the true religion. If Nathan answered "Judaism", that would of course offend the devout Muslim Saladin, if he answered "Islam", he would reveal himself as a terrible hypocrite, and if he answered "Christianity" he would do both. He gets out of the dilemma by telling the Ring Parable (which Lessing took from Boccaccio), the gist of which is that it beyond human understanding to decide and that the correct answer—known only to God—may even be "none of the above".
  • The first act of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. A king is engaging in Parental Incest with his daughter, and in order to keep her from being married off, declares an Engagement Challenge where contenders must answer a riddle. If they fail, they are executed. If they win... they are executed, because the answer is "the king is having sex with his daughter", so answering it is treasonous slander. The title character tries to Take a Third Option by stalling; this leads the king becoming suspicious of him and deciding to kill him anyway.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney uses this when explaining his new mindset as an Omnicidal Maniac: "The lives of the wicked should be made brief! For the rest of us, death will be a relief!"

  • Transformers: The Quintessons operate their Kangaroo Court thus. If the accused is found guilty, they're dunked into a Sharkticon pool and devoured. If they're innocent... they're still dunked in the pool and devoured. The trial's just for fun.

    Web Original 
  • A short parody visual novel called Fake Novel: Girl Simulator combines this with Unwinnable Joke Game. It has four girls (all of them expies of various girls from anime) that you can choose to talk to. For each girl, you have four choices of how to respond to her. Regardless of which choice you select, she gets mad at you and it's game over. You can also just sit there and do nothing. She'll eventually get mad at you for not answering her and it's game over.
  • There's no way to win if Sexual-Offenderman offers you a rose. If you touch it, you get raped immediately. If you don't touch it (the course of action that many people urge you to take), you get a gaslighting Stalker with a Crush who will eventually lure you into an ambush.
  • Vanoss, while playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in Garry's Mod with his friends, was hit with a blatantly unfair final question. Played for Laughs, of course.
  • In one of the videos about life in the military by Yusha Thomas, Drill Sergeant Backbone finds a contraband stash above the bunk of Privates Goose and Hill, meaning it can only belong to one or both of them. Backbone singles out Goose and demands to know whether the stash is his. If Goose says yes, he'll be punished for having a contraband stash. If he claims it belonged to Hill, he'll be punished for ratting out his "battle buddy", since they're always supposed to be looking out for each other. Goose isn't clever enough to realize this, tries to claim it belonged to Hill, and is promptly punished with hours of verbal and physical abuse. (Things like inadvertently admitting to having other contraband besides what Backbone found certainly doesn't do him any favors.)
  • The "Daily Struggle" meme shows a desperately sweating man at a control panel with two mutually-exclusive options on it, usually phrased in a way to call out a hypocrite on their nonsense.
  • One Not Always Right story has a security guard intervene between a college student and a very young teenager and a college student, the former accusing the latter of stealing her phone, the latter claiming it's his. The guard resolves the situation by opening the phone and finding a lot of selfies of the teenager taken in revealing clothes and/or provocative poses. The guard then asks the student if he'd rather be taken in by police for theft or for possession of child pornography.

    Web Videos 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged has Yajirobe fall afoul of this coupled with Hypocritical Heartwarming after damaging Vegeta's armour. Armour that he apparently got from his father.
    Yajirobe: I'm sorry! I'm sure your father was a great man!
    Vegeta: I hated my father!
    Yajirobe: Oh, then I'm sure your father was a prick.
    Vegeta: How dare you talk about my father like that!
  • In GoAnimate Grounded videos, there are times where troublemakers will have the adult of the video demand to know what they have done under threat of punishment. When the troublemakers fess up, they're still punished anyway.
  • The infamous banana question Friendship Is Magic Bitch, one of the earliest and most beloved My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan animations, involves Princess Celestia as a sadistic tyrant who herds ponies into her palace one by one and ultimately asks them if they like bananas. No matter what they answer, they get exiled to the moon (and called a bitch):
    Yes: That's good, 'cause you about to go bananas ON THE MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONAAAAAAAAA!!! BEE-YETCH!!!
    No: That's good, 'cause you ain't finding any bananas ON THE MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONAAAAAAAAA!!! BEE-YETCH!!!
    Unsure: Well I know where you can find out. You can find out ON THE MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONAAAAAAAAA!!! BEE-YETCH!!!
  • Smashtasm has the scene where Grant and Gront are reporting to Girem6. Gront keeps pissing off Girem6, which leads said Big Bad to order another mook to inflict pain on Grant. After a few hits, and asking why he's the one being punished, Grant is told that "Hitting the partner of the offender encourages discipline." Grant tries to get even by insulting his boss, who orders him to be punished anyway, "Because I blame your friend for that comment."
  • Ultra Fast Pony: In the opening scene of the episode "Winning", Apple Bloom needs help from Zecora, so she extorts her by threatening to tell the police that Zecora gave her drugs. Reluctantly, Zecora agrees. How exactly does Apple Bloom need help? "I need you to give me drugs!"
  • Red vs. Blue: The Reds and Blues force Felix into one during their final confrontation by shooting a sticky grenade at his energy shield then tossing another grenade at his feet. If he drops the heavy shield to get away, the sticky grenade goes off in his face. If he doesn't drop the shield he won't be able to avoid the grenade beside him. He's still trying to think of a way out when the latter scenario kills him.
  • Merryweatherey:
    • At the end of Minecraft Girls,, Steve is asked by Creeper-chan and Endergirl which of the two he loves the most. He chooses Endergirl, which causes Creeper-chan to explode on him out of anger. He then rewinds to the decision part and chooses Creeper-chan instead, which causes her to explode on him anyway, only out of love. He rewinds again and decides to make a run for it, seeing as he'll get exploded either way.
    • In one Stalker x Stalker video, the boyfriend of Junko's younger twin sisters is confronted by their father, who says for him to break up with them or else he'll kill him. The next day, the guy goes to the twins to break up with them, which makes them cry... and their father appears behind him, implying he's going to kill him for making his daughters cry.
  • Sarah Z's video essay on the Not Like Other Girls trope suggests that both adhering to it and denying it are paths that get girls ostracized. Girls who at first embraced it did so because they were either shunned by other girls for being nonconforming or because the media they watched associated vapid, shallow conformity with a stereotypical depiction of femininity. However, by not rejecting that niche, these girls were eventually made fun of anyway and mocked for supposedly seeing themselves as superior to "other/feminine girls" and shallowly conforming to the archetype for attention.
  • Pilotredsun's "Not So Fast" has its viewpoint character and his friend on the run from police for carrying drugs. When the friend asks the viewpoint character to throw out all their quaaludes, he quickly realizes that every direction he'd throw them would alert the (already entering) policemen, so he throws them behind the car where there aren't any cops. Little did he know that a police dog was waiting for them just below the back seat's line of sight, and gets a face full of drugs knocked into it. It's not as if the boys would have had a chance anyway, since the friend asks the viewpoint character while he's talking to the police and they knew they were getting cornered from the start.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Zugzwang, Damned If You Do Damned If You Dont, Other


Colin's Dilemma

Tony tries to get Colin to cooperate in an investigation into one of Colin's colleagues, who beat an unarmed civilian almost to death. Tony tells him that he's putting his job at risk by keeping quiet. Colin explains why this is a lose-lose situation for him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / MinorityPoliceOfficer

Media sources: