Bucky Barnes: Maybe youre wrong, Zemo. The serum never corrupted Steve.
Zemo: Touché. But there has never been another Steve Rogers, has there?
There's a strange Double Standard regarding superheroics. Most superheroes get their powers by accident and choose to use them for good with little to no training beforehand. This is what makes them Heroes.
But Superheroes don't exist in this world, so why is it wrong to try to be one in a fantasy world? The justification (if any is given) for this Fantastic Aesop can be any or all of the following:
- Muggles are all useless, and if they were meant to be a hero, why, then, destiny would have chosen them.
- Only the hero has the moral fiber to resist succumbing to The Dark Side and using their power for less-than-heroic things. Anyone else will quickly get Drunk with Power and become a Villain Of The Week.
- Powers are dangerous, and only the hero has enough practice using them to rescue people without making an accident into a natural disaster. Rather than coaching the new superhero on how to use their powers effectively and safely, the hero will try to get them to quit or give the powers up.
- Attempts to gain super powers are seen as rank ambition, and dangerous in and of themselves. Superheroes are special, and we should just be content to be Red Shirts and Cannon Fodder.
- Two other superhero universal constants: Could Have Been Messy and Thou Shalt Not Kill. The untrained can't pull off the infallible dodging, and since they don't have Improbable Aiming Skills their attacks will kill criminals.
The worst uses of this trope won't even come with a reason why it's wrong. If someone suddenly gains super powers and does the same good the hero does, it's still considered wrong if this trope is applied. By story's end the Contagious Powers will be gone, the Sidekick Glass Ceiling will be bumped against, and Status Quo Is God shall be reaffirmed.
The real reason for the existence of this trope is due to settings that focus on the hero being special, unique, or one-of-a-kind; if lots of people gained powers and became superheroes, it could undermine this sort of story. Averting this often leads to an expanding cast that might turn into a Heroes Unlimited or The Chosen Many, or even grounds for a spinoff.
There are other out-of-universe effects depending on the medium: in live action TV, film, video games etc., this means more coding, more (voice) actors, more special effects, etc. It's a lot more time and a lot more money and the budget might not stretch far enough to cover it. Even in Literature, it can lead to an overly-large cast, Out of Focus, etc. It's simpler to stay on one hero.
It should be noted that when the subject of this aesop doesn't have any powers and seeks to emulate a Badass Normal, Non-Powered Costumed Hero or a hero with Charles Atlas Superpowers, this overlaps with Don't Try This at Home and makes sense — in these situations, the hero trained long and hard to be able to do what they can do, and those who seek to emulate the hero usually don't have the training and experience required to be able to fight bad guys and generally make it as a hero themselves. When the subject gains the powers and skills of the hero, then it turns into a Fantastic Aesop, since people don't spontaneously become firefighters and paramedics in Real Life.
- A Certain Scientific Railgun:
- Kuroko Shirai constantly scolds Mikoto Misaka and the others whenever they save the day, saying civilians should stay back and leave the heroics to members of Judgment or Anti-Skill. Mikoto and the others just ignore her, since Judgment and Anti-Skill are usually late to crimes and disasters. Also, Mikoto is more powerful and mature than Kuroko and her help is often essential.
- Likewise, a later arc in the anime revolves around the efforts of low-powered espers to use an unsanctioned training program to boost their abilities, or even manifest them at all. While the program's mysterious origins are mentioned as a concern, the unspoken corollary is that the low-powered should accept their lot and not try to rise above their station.
- A Certain Magical Index: A plane gets hijacked by terrorists. Touma Kamijou defeats one of them and prepares to go after the others, but the pilot tells him to cut it out, saying interference from amateurs will only make the situation worse. Of course, Touma is the hero and far from an amateur. He defeats the others while the pilot does nothing useful and even hinders him at points. Touma gets fed up with him and clocks him with a metal rod to get him to shut up.
- My Hero Academia: In a world where superpowers called Quirks have become commonplace and becoming a hero is a possibility, Quirkless Izuku Midoriya is often put down and bullied by others because of his dream to become a hero despite his disability. Midoriya's idol, All Might, has to break his heart and say that it's impossible to become a hero without a quirk. Later, when Midoriya acts without thinking and attempts to save his childhood friend/main bully from a sludge villain when no one else on the scene does, he get reprimanded for endangering himself. Luckily, this act convinces All Might that Midoriya has the true heart of a hero and selects him as his successor via his transferable quirk, One For All.
- Even for the majority of the population who are born with powers, use of Quirks is heavily regulated by law. "Heroes" aren't just anybody with powers who wants to fight crime, they're highly-trained professionals who are licensed by the government. It's illegal for non-licensed civilians use their powers for combat purposes. Oddly this restriction even applies to the police, who are an entirely separate organization from pro heroes.
- Averted by John Henry Irons, AKA Steel. When Superman saved his life he asked how he could repay him and got the answer "live a life worth saving". So he builds Powered Armor and uses it to become a Superhero. He remains a respected member of the superhero community to this day.
- Although when John Henry's niece Natasha gained powers through the Everyman Project and became leader of Infinity, Inc., he complained she hadn't "earned" them. This was less about "you shouldn't be a hero" and more about the fact that Infinity Inc. was sponsored by Lex reformed this time, honest Luthor. There was a little bit of "you're not mature or responsible enough to be a hero yet", before she went to Luthor, in Steel's actions, but in his defense Natasha herself demonstrated that he wasn't entirely wrong about this. For example, she seemed to only be interested in the "beating up the bad guys" part of being a superhero and considered helping civilians rebuilt a wrecked city to be a waste of a hero's time. On the other hand, when he was at one point thought dead, Natasha picked up his hammer and triggered a fantastic recorded message saying "I don't want you to be a superhero like me, it's too dangerous, but since you'll probably ignore me, I rigged all my gear to answer to you. You'll be great."
- When Supergirl arrived on Earth in The Supergirl From Krypton (1959), Superman insisted that his cousin keep her existence secret for a while during which he trained her. She wasn't to operate openly until he gave his say-so. However he was kind of justified: she was a recently-orphaned super-powerful teenager who needed desperately some kind of stability as she got used to her new life and learnt to use her godlike powers, several stories (The Death of Superman (1961), The Supergirl from Krypton (2004)...) stories showed why being Superman's secret emergency-weapon was a good idea, and when he finally revealed her existence to the world in The Unknown Supergirl, he stressed that his cousin was his partner, not his sidekick.
- In Many Happy Returns, Post-Crisis Superman meets Pre-Crisis Kara. Unfortunately he believes she is an obsessed fan playing super-heroes, so he tells her to go home and flies away before she can explain she is his cousin. Ironically she is way more powerful than him.
Superman: I see your type all the time. Friends of mine have suffered because of fans who developed unhealthy fixations. If you really look up to Superman, then you'll do yourself a favor and give up your ideas of partnership or adventuring. Trust me: If you keep it up, you'll get yourself killed.
- Silver Age Lois Lane and Lana Lang used to get powers all the time, and every time there was an Aesop that they couldn't use them properly.
- In Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Jimmy got silly superpowers the whole time. It never ended well for him.
- Johnny Quick once gained a Distaff Counterpart called Joanie Swift whom he seriously resented, but who couldn't be dissuaded from trying to help, until she had to deal with mice, after which she agreed to let him take away her powers.
- In what was perhaps a deliberate bit of irony by writers, Johnny Quick's daughter Jesse Quick would inherit his powers as well as that of his wife Liberty Belle, super-strength. So the speedster who saw no problems in taking the powers of another person for essentially being a girl is now represented in the comics by a girl who can also bend steel.
- No one but Batman or the Bat-Family are ever supposed to be working in Gotham City. Anyone else will invariably get things wrong, such as by being very slightly more brutal than Batman on interrogation, or risking getting people killed somehow, or accidentally interfering in the one crime per year that the Gotham PD is actually doing something about. How contrived this feels varies from case-to-case.
- In Batgirl Year One, Wildcat tries to dissuade Batgirl from becoming a hero, and Batman insists she cannot be a hero because she will get killed. Barbara Gordon simply ignores the former and calls the latter out on believing he has to decide who can become a vigilante.
- Stephanie Brown especially: for years, she was being told time and again not just by Batman, but (eventually) by nearly everyone associated with him that she should stop crimefighting, but she never backed down. It even went so far that she got herself killed trying to prove that she was worthy. Eventually, she got better (in more ways than one); now, she's an accepted member of Batman's inner circle. And most ironically, there's a new guy in her own title who she is telling to Never Be A Hero.
- A major part of it is that Batman is a major control freak who considers Gotham to be "his" city, and doesn't even allow established heroes from outside his band of sidekicks to work the city without getting permission beforehand. Any new heroes deliberately defying Batman in that regard are probably going to be reckless in other ways.
- There are also occasional exceptions to this rule, such as the Huntress (who moves in and out of Batman's orbit, and isn't happy about being defined in such terms). Perhaps the most notable was the Cavalier, who Batman gave the "this is my city" talk to before actually accepting that the guy was skilled enough and honest enough to make it work. Then It Got Worse.
- And then it got better, since after Battle for the Cowl the Cavalier has been going by his real name, Mortimer Drake (no relation to Tim Drake), and is acting as the bodyguard for Dr. Leslie Thompkins after she provided him with emergency medical assistance. He still uses the sword, though.
- Interestingly, there was one case where he did this not because of his "This is My City" but because of the sad circumstances of the guise the person was taking. During a team-up with Deathstroke, a former GCPD officer named Pat Trayce came into possession of the costume of the Vigilante, a The Punisher-styled vigilante whose last name bearer, Adrian Chase, ended up being Driven to Suicide in his mission. Batman suggested that she just dump the costume and the name in some sewer and let it rot before it took her, too. She didn't and, surprisingly, she's still alive.
- Other stories involving Batman will actually invert this trope to a limited extent. Batman frightens criminals, but most of Gotham's normal, law-abiding citizens take him as an inspiration to be courageous in smaller ways, such as standing up to corruption and violence found all around the city. One memorable moment from The Dark Knight Returns shows an older man who's not sure how to feel about the stories of Batman's vigilantism in the newspaper... and then to his own surprise feels emboldened enough to help a woman being mugged outside his store.
- DC Comics Bombshells:
- Harper Row is a teenage fangirl of Batwoman, and one time jumped into one of her battles and helped knock out the bad guys. Batwoman thanked her for the assist and gave her an autograph, but told her to go home and leave the crime fighting to the adults. She didn't listen. When Batwoman was enlisted into World War II, Harper formed a team called the Batgirls to protect Gotham City in her absence.
- Later, Batwoman begs Helena to stop fighting because she is a kid and might get herself killed. Helena points out everyone has to fight or else the Nazis will win and everyone gets killed.
- Ultimate Spider-Man: Captain America views Spider-Man as an inexperienced teenager who's in way over his head, despite all of the good Spider-Man has done. During his time "mentoring" him, he tries to guilt Peter into quitting heroics by taking him to a veteran's cemetery. He changes his tune when Spider-Man dies taking a bullet meant for Cap.
- A Man of Iron: Ned Stark disapproves of Iron Man's vigilante actions. Not only is it illegal, but he's worried that people, especially untrained peasants, will be inspired to imitate him, which will lead to them getting killed. Ned says the proper procedure to dealing with crimes is to report them to the king or lord so that they and their knights can deal with it. However, after his daughter Sansa dies at King's Landing instead of him, Ned ditches this mindset, because he knows that the smallfolk of Westeros will need a champion to support them against the infighting of the nobility.
- My Ideal Academia: Shota "Eraserhead" Aizawa tells Shirou Emiya that an "untrained" kid like himself playing vigilante only puts himself and the people he's trying to save in danger. He tells Shirou that until he can graduate a Hero school, the proper procedure when witnessing a crime is to call a Hero or the police.
- In crossover Displaced, Batman doesn't want Spider-Man operating in Gotham City because -Batman believes- Spidey is a young rookie whose lack of experience will get him killed or worse.
- Syndrome from The Incredibles tries to be a superhero using technology but turned into the Big Bad. Really, this trope is what "Incrediboy" thinks Mr. Incredible is invoking on him when all that's actually happened is that he's caught his idol at the worst possible time to introduce himself as his new sidekick without asking and messed up said introduction to boot. Then he in turn decides to take that rejection in the worst possible way. He still had his technological genius and all, he could simply have tried again under better circumstances... but no, he simply decided to rage quit right then and there.
- The Dark Knight. Were those vigilantes wrong for trying to be heroes? No. Although Batman just made a snarky comment about hockey pads, it was clear what they were doing wrong was using his persona for outright violence (and guns), which was not at all what he stood for. There's an element of Do Not Do This Cool Thing in his attitude towards them. He wants to inspire the citizens of Gotham to believe the city can be made better, but he doesn't want them following in his vigilante footsteps. Hence his hope that Harvey Dent, Gotham's "White Knight", can essentially replace him as Gotham's public hero.
- In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by Disney, Peter gets reprimanded by his sister, "Just because some guy in a red suit gives you a sword, it doesn't make you a hero!", hoping he's not dumb enough to try and fight. He does end up fighting a pack of wolves trying to attack them, since the alternatives are even dumber, and he lives for it.
- The premise of Sky High (2005) is this trope being applied to high school cliques— the popular kids with the cool powers get to be heroes, the freaks and geeks get swept under the Hero Support Glass Ceiling.
- Invoked in Zombieland, where among Columbus' strict rules on surviving the Zombie Apocalypse is "Rule #17: Don't be a hero", since one dumb mistake made out of pride can cost you everything. Once he sees Wichita and Little Rock in danger and realizes he's the only one that can save them, he decides to make an amendment: "Be a hero".
- Sam Vimes of the Night Watch in Terry Pratchett's Discworld doesn't care for it when other people try to do the things he does. Because they're not him.
- Justified in The Devil Is A Part-Timer!. Chiho is dissuaded from learning how to defend herself with magic, because her status as a noncombatant protected her and training to fight effectively would take too long (for context, her friends are the Demon King, the Hero, and their friends, all of whom avert Hard Work Hardly Works, and their enemies are in the same tier). She is still encouraged to learn telepathy, so she can call for help.
- Here's a subverted/averted example. In the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Other Guys", Dr. Felger is a real fanboy of SG1. When he sees SG1 is getting captured by Jaffa, he insists on rescuing them. He quotes their motto "Never leave a man behind", so he takes another scientist with him and they beam themselves on the Ha'tak to rescue them. Turns out SG1 was deliberately letting themselves be captured and they now screwed them up. O'Neill is very angry at them for doing this. In the end though, the two are indeed responsible for rescuing SG1 (as the undercover operative they were supposed to meet up with had been found out and executed) and they both get a medal (although that particular part about getting a free kiss was All Just a Dream of Dr. Felger).
- Another aversion in Lois & Clark: When Superman's powers are transferred to Lois Lane, he (and his parents) spend most of the episode coaching her with her newfound abilities and turning her into a proper superhero. She acquits herself pretty well, though she becomes normal again at the end of the episode. This would be Status Quo Is God, but she also accepts Clark's marriage proposal, perhaps due to the experience she had as a hero. On the other hand, in another episode a dumpy old guy gains superpowers and decides to adopt the moniker of "Resplendent Man" and save people... for money. Usually haggling over the price with the victim while they were still in danger, and seeing nothing wrong with this because, hey, your own life's gotta be worth a lot, right? When Superman shows up and rescues the victim, Resplendent Man berates him for "horning in on his territory". In the end he loses his powers and status quo is reasserted with an actually palatable aesop: it takes more than superpowers to make a hero.
- In the third season of Heroes, a Super Serum is introduced, as is a Big Bad whose goal is to make it generally available to the populace. Time Travel and precognitive visions reveal that this eventually causes the end of the world.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Buffy's little sister Dawn asks to help out with the slaying.
Buffy: Dawn, I work very hard to keep you away from that stuff. I don't want you around dangerous things that can kill you.
Dawn: Which would be a perfectly reasonable argument, if my sister was chosen to protect the world from tax audits? But, see, my sister is you, and ... dangerous things that want to kill me seem to find me.
- Buffy does start training Dawn the following year, and in one episode Dawn even thinks she might be a potential Slayer herself. When Dawn finds out she's not however, Xander points out that they both have an important if unheralded role in helping Buffy do her job.
- Buffy's little sister Dawn asks to help out with the slaying.
- Shows up in the second season of Jessica Jones (2015), where Jessicas Muggle Best Friend Trish wants to become a hero. The show presents this as a bad idea, though mostly due to the dangerous methods she resorts to. After Jessica aborts an experiment that was supposed to give Trish Jessicas powers, the two end up having a discussion over whether or not Trish would be happier with powers. Jessica claims that it ruined her life, but the season also raises the question of whether or not Jessicas life was really as good as she remembered. It later turns out that the experiment did give her powers after all. However, true to this trope, they do not awaken until after she has already crossed the Moral Event Horizon by killing Jessicas mother, ensuring that she wont be a hero any time soon.
- In Black Lightning (2018), Lynn invents a way to temporarily give normal people a metahuman's powers. She tries using it to join in on the crimefighting. After a few incidents of this, her daughters Anissa and Jennifer tell her to "stay in her lane", pointing out that she's still an amateur using borrowed powers that she doesn't have much experience using. While Anissa and Jennifer are highly trained fighters, Lynn isn't, and she'll only be a liability in battle.
- Averted in The Bible, book of Mark 9:38-41. When told by John that the apostles had stopped a man driving out demons in his name, Jesus tells them not to. Then it is played straight with Simon Magus in Acts 8:9-24, because he wanted to buy that kind of power, and again in Acts 19:13-16, with seven Jewish exorcists who tried to invoke Jesus' name in driving out a demon despite not believing in Jesus themselves. (The demon was not impressed, and the attempted exorcism ended badly.)
- Mass Effect has the recurring character Conrad Verner, who really wants to help his idol Shepard save the galaxy. Thing is, Conrad is a civilian without Shepard's military training, and is an idiot high on hero worship and doesn't realize his limitations. After a brief stint at trying to be a badass Bounty Hunter or Alliance officer, the trope is subverted when it's revealed Conrad's doing genuine good without being a badass. Shepard inspired him to set up a charity which is really helping all the orphans and people hurt in the wake of the first game's Final Battle. If he survives to the third game, he also pulls (or at least attempts to pull) a Heroic Sacrifice when he outs a Cerberus agent that had been manipulating him earlier in the game.
- Valkyria Chronicles has this trope going hand-in-hand with Ambition Is Evil, which means being born with power makes you evil and you can only redeem yourself by giving it up completely and never bringing it up again or dying to make up for it. And if you should happen to find a way to give yourself that power, you will be destroyed. Everyone else gets the power of teamwork, which is superior (but they'll still need to depend on a Valkyria once in a while anyway).
- Disgaea 3: Almaz wants to be a hero, so he makes a fake "Hero" title in his name. Mao, a demon, wants to be a hero solely because he thinks that heroes have the power to defeat any enemy, so he steals Almaz's title and is disappointed when it doesn't actually make him any more powerful.
- In Spec Ops: The Line, the Big Bad Hannibal Lectures Captain Walker on how his "[wanting] to be something [he's] not, a hero" caused everything in the plot to go wrong.
- Subverted in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword with Groose who is told, in no uncertain terms, that he can't be the hero who saves Zelda because it's already been preordained that Link will be the one. That said, just because he can't be the hero doesn't mean he still can't be a hero, when his help in battling The Imprisoned proves instrumental. Link might have destiny and a magical sword and a piece of the Triforce on his side, but The Imprisoned stops thinking it's gangster real quick when Groose rolls up to the fight driving The Groosenator.
- The City of Nexus in Captain SNES: The Game Masta actually has laws against hero work not done via the police, mostly because the citizens of Nexus come from such a staggering variety of games that they all have very, very different ideas about what they are and aren't allowed to do during such tasks. It is also pointed out that heroes tend to draw villains and show up at world-endangering times, to the extent that a world-weary Mega Man comments that a genuine hero is the absolute worst thing to ever encounter.
- In The New Adventures of He-Man, where a kid was given Powered Armor. The kid used the power to save someone's life. Know what the adults told him? He was abusing the suit, and he should tone it down.
- There was an example of this in the She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon, where one episode centered around a "lesser" rebellion member thinking she could be a real hero and stepping above her station, with disastrous results and explicit end of the show Aesop. The scariest thing was, the character had actually formed the rebellion when She-Ra's alter ego was still working for the Big Bad, but now she's apologizing for "getting a big head" and thinking she could actually contribute.
- Superman: The Animated Series had a case of this. As Supergirl has all the powers of Superman, and a love for the big city, yet Superman still forces her to live her life on the Smallville farm under a secret identity (even though such an identity is even MORE useless for her).
- On the other hand, the series' version of Steel's origins (see Comics section above) had Superman being quite receptive to the idea of having someone around to help, even after the Power Armor prototype in the episode that introduced John Henry Irons gave its user a serious God Complex, and encouraged him to keep trying.
- There was perhaps some justification for Superman getting her to sit things out for a while- she wasn't nearly as powerful as him, and came uncomfortably close to getting herself killed on multiple occasions. After she had gotten a bit more acclimated to her powers and Earth in general, she did get into the game in Justice League Unlimited, and with her cousin's full support. In fact by the time of Unlimited, Superman is actually distancing himself from her publicly just so she won't be ribbed over being "the big guy's cousin."
- There was an episode of the Sunbow G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoon where Quick Kick's girlfriend successfully sneaked into the heart of Joe Headquarters to try and join the Joe team. Duke tells her to go to her local army recruiter. This from the team that recruited Shipwreck in the middle of desert and Quick Kick himself from the middle of the Arctic.
- Danny Phantom. Poor, poor Tucker. He's been given superpowers at least twice, each time ending badly. The first instance occured when Desiree granted his wish to have ghost powers like Danny, which gave him rapidly evolving abilities that quickly surpassed Danny's own in everything except control. By the end of the episode he was Brought Down to Normal again. The second time happened when he was recognized by a mummy as an ancient pharaoh, and given a magic scepter that gave him total control over the Sphinx and several ghostly minions. His evil abilities were once again demonstrated by beating up on Danny.
- In Kim Possible, Will Du disapproves of Team Possible, calling them amateurs and saying heroism should be left to the professionals.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "Super Irma", Irma gains magnetic superpowers and immediately becomes a costumed crimefighter. April and the Turtles tried to get her to stop, mostly because Irma had become very arrogant, narcissistic, and a Leeroy Jenkins. She refused to work with the Turtles and nearly got herself killed several times because she wasn't minding her surroundings (and didn't thank the Turtles whenever they saved her). Eventually, her powers wore off and the Turtles saved her again, and this time, she thanked them.
- In The Batman, after recovering from his initial Sanity Slippage due to being tortured by the Joker, former policeman and now Elemental Shapeshifter Ethan Bennet tells Bruce Wayne that he's actually considering turning down the cure that Bruce is working on, because he feels the powers of Clayface could be used to make him a literal super-cop. Bruce insists that Ethan give this idea up, as using his powers has negatively effects his psyche and body's cellular structure. In the end he does use his powers to be the hero anyways to help Batman take down Clayface II, and loses his powers as he merges with Clayface II to immobilize him long enough to hit him with the cure, but of course gets dosed with it as well.
- Quite possibly used so that impressionable children don't try to imitate the heroes in real life, going back to the George Reeves Superman series, where there were reports of kids donning red towels and jumping out of their window in an attempt to fly. Live action shows geared to kids in the 90s used this trope, often showing that the stunts were done by actors who knew what they were doing and giving kids ideas to be real heroes in their community by getting involved in picking up litter or something.
- In real-life disaster situations, the first rule for bystanders is, "Avoid increasing the number of people needing to be rescued". In real life, none of us have super powers.
- It's the rule even for people with first aid training - the first step is always to look for environmental hazards that could endanger your own safety before giving assistance. Becoming a victim is not useful for either you or the person you're trying to help.
- One of the most important rules is if you see someone unconscious in a confined space DO NOT ENTER THE SPACE, even to pull them out. Invisible gases that can build up in such spaces like Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen Sulphide can render a person unconscious in seconds. There have been several instances where 10 or more people have wound up dead inside a confined space because the next guy kept trying to pull people out.
- It's the rule even for people with first aid training - the first step is always to look for environmental hazards that could endanger your own safety before giving assistance. Becoming a victim is not useful for either you or the person you're trying to help.
- The Pinellas County Sheriff's Department in Florida became the subject of controversy for this. To elaborate:
- In the early hours of March 31, 2016, one of their cruisers chased down a car that had been stolen by three teenage girls with lengthy criminal records. Said stolen car went off the road and into a swamp, where it sank rapidly and became mired in the mud and vegetation, and the three girls drowned.
- Many in the public and the media criticized the deputies for not trying to mount a rescue attempt, especially since the media outlets chose what footage to show in order to stir up controversy. The media alleged that deputies failed to make any effort to rescue the teens while deliberately omitting from their coverage dashcam video which confirmed the deputies' statements.
- Sheriff Robert Gualtieri, fed up with how the media were misconstruing things, was forced to hold a press conference and release the unedited dashcam footage directly to the public on his agency's YouTube channel to refute the media's claims.
- The full videos showed that deputies stripped down in an attempt to enter the water. In the edited videos, the deputies were supposedly shown standing or sitting around casually discussing watching the girls struggling in the car. The unedited video showed that the deputies were only doing this once it became apparent that they could not reach the vehicle, and they were explaining the situation to deputies who had just arrived on the scene. The vehicle had been driven into the middle of an overgrown, muddy bottomed 15-foot deep Florida pond at 3:30 in the morning. That is a nearly impossible situation to attempt a rescue from, due to the inability to see and the possibility of alligators being in the area. It took a team of trained divers along with a heavy-duty wrecker several hours in daylight to get the vehicle and the three trapped girls out of the pond. The muddy bottom and the overgrown vegetation made entry into the water by deputies impossible. And even if they had been able to reach the vehicle somehow, by the time they would have been able to make there, the survival prospects for the vehicle occupants was zero.
- Similarly, in situations where civilians have involved themselves in stopping a crime in progress, it's common to hear a police spokesperson cautiously congratulate the person's bravery whilst still stressing that ordinary civilians should leave the crime-fighting to the police, as the police have undergone extensive training to deal with such situations in a way as to make sure that as few people as possible are killed or injured in doing so, and most civilians haven't. The police can't stop every crime in progress, but that is not a license to take rash actions. Although, when taken too far, this leads to Bystander Syndrome.
- This reasoning also applies, with some controversy, to business policies that dictate civilian employees always comply with a robber's demands and don't try to catch them. Employees who fought back and stopped the crime have simultaneously been praised by the media and fired from their jobs, the logic being that while that particular situation might have ended well, rewarding those workers for being heroes (and so implicitly encouraging other employees to do the same) could get somebody seriously hurt, or even killed.