Dave: What, cock it up and then blame someone else?
It's never easy to admit that we are responsible for our actions and deserve to be blamed — in fact, for some people it's one of, if not the most difficult thing(s) to do — and it is often far more comfortable to play the Blame Game and convince ourselves that it is the fault of another, even though this is the coward's way out. We may blame others even when we know deep down in our hearts that it is our fault. Due to the Rule of Drama, fictional characters will blame themselves for things going south most of the time, but there are some cases where the character who really is to blame will blame everyone else instead. Common variations include:
- The person stuck with the blame fails to defend themself, perhaps out of sheer dumbfoundedness at the other person's gall.
- The blame-shifter offers an absurdly flimsy pretext for ducking responsibility.
- The character does this all the time... and consistently gets away with it.
- The person can't comprehend what they did is wrong because of how innocently they did it.
- The person genuinely believes that they acted in an acceptable manner in response to another's unacceptable provocation, and genuinely believes that others are wrong for feeling angry with them.
- The person thinks they're the last sane person in a world of unreasonable idiots; therefore, anyone who blames them is wrong.
- The person thinks they're morally correct or righteous, and thus it is impossible for them to be at fault because they did the right thing, even when it wasn't.
- The person never outright denies responsibility, but instead dodges the issue entirely, usually via a bunch of platitudes about becoming a better person without ever actually taking direct responsibility for their behavior.
Sub-Trope of Psychological Projection. This is a frequent component of Comedic Sociopathy and Revenge Myopia. The diametric opposite of It's All My Fault or At Least I Admit It. A character prone to this will likely try Glad I Thought of It, too. Compare Hypocritical Humor, which can involve a similar denial of one's own flaws, and Implausible Deniability. See also It's All About Me and Narcissist, which are key reasons why a character would fall into any of the above. Also compare Backhanded Apology, an insult disguised as an "apology" where the perpetrator attempts to shift blame onto their victim e.g. I am sorry you were so stupid as to fall for my deception. If the character doesn't blame others, but isn't sorry for what they've done, see The Unapologetic (however, the two tropes can overlap, generally when the character says "I Did What I Had to Do"). This trope is the defining characteristic of The Unfair Sex. Can overlap with Everything Is Racist, when the person blames their failings which are clearly their own fault on societal prejudice and hatred towards people of their race/gender/sexual orientation/taste in music/whatever. If the person is upset that their victims dare to fight back, they are likely Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence. A rebuttal to this trope would involve Stopping the Blame Game.
The formal term for this is "self-serving bias", and it is a key personality trait of both The Sociopath and the Narcissist. Related cognitive biases include the defensive attribution hypothesis, as well as the fundamental and ultimate attribution errors. Even in the average person, the brain is designed more for self-defensiveness and maintaining its own comfort than for strict accuracy, explaining why it can be so difficult for people to accept they made a mistake or change their opinions even in the face of clear evidence.
NOTE: Please remember that examples of people blaming others for something that's clearly the fault of someone else (i.e. a third party) is not an example of this trope; that's Misplaced Retribution. This trope is only for when people attempt to shift the blame off of themselves.
Examples, that are never wrong!:
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Comic Strips
- Fan Works
- Films -- Animated
- Films -- Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Western Animation
- Other Media
- The Bible:
- Book of Genesis:
- After Adam and Eve eat from the tree, God finds them hiding under a bush, and He asks what happened. Instead of fessing up, Adam blames Eve for their sin, and Eve blames the serpent. And Adam doubles down, blaming her in a way that implies that God should ultimately take the responsibility: "The woman You put at my side — she gave me of the tree, and I ate." Never mind Adam was older than her by a good bit. Good thing God couldn't see through that one...
- To put it bluntly, God does it himself when blaming Adam and Eve for their transgressions. He put the tree there, let the snake in and didn't bother giving Adam and Eve the mental capacity to fathom the consequences or to grasp good and evil (they only knew it after eating the fruit). Did he take responsibility. No! He put the blame on Adam and Eve. And everyone who came after them. And somehow on all the animals, too.
- Averted in Sacred Tradition, as it was a test which first humans failed, and because humans were supposed to be kings of the world (after God), the reality changed too.
- When Hagar gets pregnant with Ishmael and ends up despising her mistress, Sarah blames Abraham for getting her handmaid pregnant in the first place, and Abraham in turn blames Sarah for giving him the handmaid to father a son through.
- Rebekah instructs Jacob on how to deceive her husband/his father to take the blessing, and when he has qualms about the possible consequences she assures him she'll take them all on her own head. After the plan is successful and she's sending off Jacob to escape the consequences, she pushes all responsibility for the act onto him.
- The Four Gospels depicts Pontius Pilate as the man who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus after the Pharisees paid a group of people to call for the other guy to be released. Instead of admitting that he was putting an innocent man to death, he washes his hands in front of the people and claims that it's Somebody Else's Problem. To this day, however, the Apostle's Creed states that Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate."
- The Jews in the Scriptures also act like this in the Acts of the Apostles. In the gospel of Matthew, they were willling to accept the responsibility of Jesus' death by saying to Pontius Pilate, "His blood be on us and on our children" (from Matthew 27:25), but later on at the preaching of the apostles they are backing away from that position, saying that the apostles are intending "to bring this Man’s blood on us!" (from Acts 5:28)
- Wasn't it God's plan all along to have Jesus suffer and die? If someone hatches a plan, executes it and everything turns out this way, isn't that exactly what we call wilful intent? Everyone blames everyone else and no one puts the blame where it belongs.
- Book of Genesis:
- Orthodox Christianity states that this trope is the reason why Adam and Eve were banished from the Paradise by God, as they rejected repentance and blamed other beings: the serpent, Eve, and God Himself. Orthodox Church states that if they had repented, the sin would have been forgiven.
- In the Catholic Church, you can't receive absolution in the Sacrament of Penance unless you acknowledge that you have no one else but yourself to blame for your faults and sins.