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Never Speak Ill of the Dead

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"Death creates a prejudice in favor of the deceased...I should like to find someone who knew Elizabeth Barnard and who does not know that she is dead! Then, perhaps, I should hear what is useful to me — the truth."

Regardless of how disliked or embarrassing a person was in life, no matter how odd they were considered, or what crimes they had committed, the moment they leave this mortal coil, a Nostalgia Filter falls into place causing the deceased to be remembered as being better than they were, for the most part. For some people, the reasoning is that the dead person isn't here to defend themselves anymore, or at the very least cannot continue to do the unpleasant things they were reviled for anymore.

An Asshole Victim can be "spared" this provided they were enough of an asshole. Alternatively, can be a justification for Alas, Poor Scrappy.

Villains, particularly ones at the lighter end of the Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness, will sometimes extend the same courtesy to fallen heroes (particularly ones they regarded as a Worthy Opponent).

Definitely Truth in Television, as the idea has been around since at least the 4th century. Whether or not it should be is rather contentious. Plenty of people seem to deride it for those they hate but invoke it for public figures they like. An alternative formulation, suggested by Christopher Hitchens (who loved speaking ill of the dead) is: "Never say anything nasty about the dead that you weren't brave enough to say while they were alive. Everything else is fair game."

Genealogists are especially picky about this on both sides of the issue with some wanting to record everything about a person down to various brushes with the law that are recorded in old papers "Bob was cited for DUI in 1959, 1963, and 1964" versus paragraphs glorifying the person so much that there's little of actual historical value about the person "He was a great guy, and everyone loved him!" Even The Other Wiki has to point out that it is not a memorial site.

See also Treachery Cover-Up, Dead Artists Are Better. If people choose to lie to preserve the departed's reputation, they're using The Power of Legacy. When this forces an ill-conceived compliment out of a character who otherwise has nothing nice to say about the deceased, it leads to Half-Baked Niceness.

Contrast with Speak Ill of the Dead for the serious version and The "Fun" in "Funeral" for less serious ones. Compare Dude, Not Funny!, the idea that recent tragic events are off-limits for comedy.

This is a Death Trope, so expect UNMARKED SPOILERS!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency: When Wamuu dies, Kars dismisses his defeat as being a result of his sense of honor. Then a group of vampires start mocking Wamuu... and Kars promptly slaughters the lot, making his real feelings on the matter apparent.
  • In My Bride is a Mermaid, everyone believes Mikawa to have a deadly disease, so they promptly all start talking about how awesome he is, even having a "Mikawa Appreciation Party". Mikawa, of course, is oblivious to that fact and thinks he's just that awesome.
  • Rave Master: Subverted. When Reina dies, Joker politely suggests this to Lucia. He responds by smacking her down and telling her he doesn't really care about the feelings of dead people. Of course, Lucia is a jerk.
  • Tenchi Universe: Parodied when Tenchi thinks Ryoko has been killed (she's actually not even injured) and says "She was such a good person. Well, not really, but..."
  • In YuYu Hakusho shortly after Yusuke's Heroic Sacrifice pushing a little boy out of the way of a car, a couple of his teachers, due to his reputation of being a Jerkass, were cracking jokes that he was actually attempting to shove the kid down. Another of Yusuke's teachers overhears this and chews them out for being insensitive.

  • George Carlin referred to this phenomenon in a routine on his album On the Road:
    Hey, when you die, you get more popular than you've ever been in your whole life. You get more flowers when you die than you ever got at all. They all arrive at once, too late. And people say the nicest things about you! They'll make shit up if they have to! "Oh yeah, he was an asshole, but a well-meaning asshole." "Yeah, poor Bill is dead." "Yeah, poor Bill is dead." "Poor Tom is gone." "Yeah, poor Tom." "Poor John died." "Yeah, John." "What about Ed?" "Naw, Ed, that motherfucker, he's still alive, man! Get 'im outta here!"

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Stephanie Brown's father was a supervillain who died on a mission with the Suicide Squad. In Robin (1993) when informed of his death Steph got so mad that her mom was willing to forgive him posthumously that she left home for a few days. We later find out that the reason he joined the Suicide Squad was try to make his daughter proud of him. He later turns up alive though, mourning the death of his daughter. Who also didn't really die.
  • Green Lantern: Pointedly averted when Laira dies after a Face–Heel Turn, Hal tries to do this, only for the Guardians to bluntly point out that Laira was kicked out of the Corps for a good reason (brutalizing criminals and abusing her authority) and willingly became a Red Lantern. While it’s sad she died, they don’t exactly feel much sympathy for her and aren’t about to pretend that she didn’t bring her fate upon herself.
  • MAD: Discussed in the parody of The Lion King (1994), in which after Simba tells everyone to not speak well of Scar, The Simpsons say that people spoke well of Richard Nixon after his death. When Michael Jackson's death was declared the stupidest event of the year, the article criticized the media for canonizing him as a saint.
  • Runaways: Subverted after Nico confesses she tried (and failed) to resurrect Alex — Chase calls her on it and Nico doesn't deny that Alex was horrible for them, but she still doesn't think Alex deserved to die.
  • The Sentry: After the death of the Sentry, he got an entire one-shot dedicated to people talking about what a fantastic, wonderful person he was, even though he had spent the last year as a pawn of Norman Osborn antagonizing most of the heroes right and left, and directly prior to his death gave up completely to his Superpowered Evil Side, destroyed Asgard, killed Ares (who had just pulled a Heel–Face Turn) and almost murdered them all. Yet the closest we get to anybody saying anything bad about him is Ben Grimm admitting he hated Bob...because Bob was a better man than him. Made worse when Rogue reveals she lost her virginity to Sentry. If you keep an eye on continuity (Sentry was said to have gotten married around the time Reed Richard and Sue Storm did, Rogue showed up much later) it means he cheated on his wife with her. After that Mr. Fantastic saying he was the greatest of them all seems jarring.
  • Shadowland: Subverted in Shadowland: Bullseye. At Bullseye's funeral, there's a crowd of people and a priest saying how Bullseye was a hero and saint. However, we quickly find out the priest is just being forced to say this by a biker gang (the only people who were genuinely in mourning).
  • Spider-Man:
    • The Amazing Spider-Man (1963): During the "Return of the Sinister Six" story, Aunt May's fiance Nathan dies. At his funeral, many former members of her boarding house give May their condolences and tell her they'll miss Nathan. One of them however silently thinks of the others as hypocrites, remembering how many of them repeatedly couldn't stand Nathan because of how much of a grump he often was.
    • Untold Tales of Spider-Man: Exaggerated Trope. Sally Avril was an awful person to Peter Parker in her life. She mocked and bullied him, didn't care about his uncle's death, and when she saw Liz talking to him (she was offering him her condolences) she coaxed Liz away rather than offer her own sympathy to Peter. When Jason Ionello attempted to prank Peter by stealing all the clothes in his gym bag while he's showering, she was the only one who approved of the prank when all of her friends thought Jason crossed the line from funny to overly cruel. She even tried to blackmail Peter when she became the superhero Bluebird to take her pictures. But when she died in a car accident trying to take pictures of a Spider-Man fight, Peter acted like he lost a good friend and wonderful person in his life. He talked about how she was vital and alive and fun to be around. While it's understandable why her friends miss her because they were also unpleasant people, Peter had no reason to mourn her. However, Peter blames himself for her death and it was implied that his guilt was causing him to project Sally as a better person than she was. It was only while talking with Johnny Storm, who pointed out that her death was not his fault and given her behavior she was likely to get herself killed sooner or later no matter what Spider-Man did or didn't do, did he let go of his guilt.
    • The Amazing Spider-Man (J. Michael Straczynski): During the infamous Sins Past arc, Peter states that a sure way to piss him off is to insult Gwen Stacy. Ironically, said story is reviled precisely because it tried to change this, retconning that Gwen cheated on Peter and slept with her future killer.
  • Superman: In The Death of Superman, as word gets out about Superman's death one prison inmate rejoices, but he's quickly shut up by several others because Superman had saved a few of their relatives. Also with Cat Grant's son, Adam, who was indifferent to Superman, saying he thought "he was a big weenie", is promptly chewed out by Cat's boyfriend, Jose Delgado, over it.
  • The Transformers (Marvel) has Sixshot, Decepticon one-robot army, who while being an absurdly violent Hero Killer, is also a Noble Demon who refuses to bad-mouth any Worthy Opponent who falls to him. It's considered one of his handful of redeeming qualities. He also apparently dislikes it when other Decepticons do insult opponents, and given his reputation, most don't when he's around.
  • Ultimatum: Henry Pym, who almost killed his wife during the first arc of The Ultimates, died as a hero, attracting all the Multiple-Man bomber terrorists to his body, saving the Triskelion. When Captain America, who was in a coma and ignored all this, wakes up, he berates Pym as usual. All the others asked him to shut up.
  • X-Men:
    • Thunderbird died tragically in his second mission with the team, and it was pretty hard on them because they had never really suffered a loss before. For some reason it made them all forget how he badmouthed the rest of the team, was surly all the time, participated with an extreme form of Teeth-Clenched Teamwork, and probably would have ultimately been a negative influence on the group had he not died. Not to mention that his death was a result of his own hot-headedness. That said, in the Chaos Wars event, when some of the dead X-Men were temporarily resurrected he did call himself out on being a smug jerk and barely contributing anything to the team.
    • Played straight with Professor X. After dying against Cyclops, everyone put aside that he could be a hypocrite when it came to abusing his powers and at times resorted to a number of morally questionable actions. Instead, all the heroes at his funeral and after were praising what a great guy he was and even Captain America told Cyclops to his face that he killed "one of the most decent men I have ever met". After the Phoenix 5 event, a lot of X-Men (besides Wolverine) and even quite a few Avengers wanted to get a shot at Cyclops for killing Xavier with Hawkeye threatening to shoot Cyclops in the head if he didn't stand down. They also seem to not acknowledge that Cyclops killed him in what was, more-or-less, self-defence, and that a number of the things they start scrutinising Scott for (namely, operating outside the law, performing vigilante actions against governments engaging in inhumane treatment of mutants, and recruiting college-aged mutants) were things he learnt to do from Xavier, and that Xavier turning Scott into a Child Soldier at 14 plays a big role in why he grew up the way he did.
    • Averted when Cyclops himself dies. After more-or-less fixing his reputation off-screen during a time skip and becoming leader of mutant kind again, Scott dies a tragic and undignified death, succumbing to M-Pox almost immediately after exposure to Terrigen, but Emma Frost projects his image and makes it seem like he dies trying to fix the Terrigen mist so it doesn't harm mutants, an action that gets him "killed" by Black Bolt. For this, Scott is talked about and explicitly compared to being worse than Hitler, with even his teenaged self being disgusted in him.

    Fan Works 
  • Downplayed in Eroninja where, after learning the full truth of what happened the night of his birth, Naruto agrees that Minato was a great hokage who sacrificed everything, including his family, for the sake of the village. But that same act marked him as a horrendous husband and father.
  • Played With in Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail. After Sara's bullying pushing her past her Rage Breaking Point, Chloe hits her where it hurts by bringing up her father, who died in a car crash. Specifically, she harps on why he was out driving at the time of the accident — he was returning a Hi Skitty doll to the store after Sara demanded that he buy her something 'cuter'. In other words, the Fatal Flaw Chloe's harping on is that Sara's father was too permissive with his Spoiled Brat of a daughter, and that cost him his life.
  • From the Professional Wrestling series The JWL: Twice on Episode 53.
  • More Fragging Paperwork: Optimus Prime struggles to write about Ironhide's positive qualities in a letter about the latter's passing because the majority of Ironhide's virtues were side-effects of him being annoying to deal with. Prime specifically thinks about Ironhide inspiring others to not be as old and Southern as him, encouraging people to go into battle to avoid him threatening them with liquid nitrogen, and most wonderful times involving him being the product of Ironhide being drunk out of his mind.
  • Played With in Naruto Rend. Kushina initially notes that the Third Hokage was a great man while he was alive... but then guiltily admits that he shouldn't have been made the Hokage again after his initial run, as his second stint showed that he had become too old, passive and tired to run Konoha properly and was filled with mistakes and failures.
  • The Sermon:
    Snape: Has it occurred to you, Mr. Potter, that every single dead person who wasn't a downright monster was a decent chap who will be missed by everyone they've ever so much as crossed paths with? Have you ever been to a graveyard? Does a single tombstone read "Here lies Mr. so-and-so, he was kind of a jerk and now he's dead"?
  • In Chapter 7 of Shattered Innocence, Dirk insults Lincoln in order to elicit a response from Lynn. Needless to say, it doesn't end well for him.
  • Somos Familia: After Leticia's death, one of her brother Mateo's bullies declares that he should have died instead, even cruelly offering to swap him with his sister's body and "make her a real woman". His sidekick is so disgusted by this that he tells Hector and Imelda exactly what happened when the boys get into a fight.
  • Why Am I Crying?: Sweetie Belle is utterly furious with Scootaloo for still holding a grudge against Diamond Tiara after she was killed in an accident. Scootaloo, for her part, doesn't understand why Sweetie Belle is so willing to forgive their late bully:
    Scootaloo: I'm horrible?! She was the one who was horrible! I can't think of a single good thing about her, and yet you're acting like she was your best friend when she was nothing more than a jerk! I'm not saying I'm glad she's dead, but why should I care?!
    Sweetie Belle: Because somepony died!
  • The Wild Horse Thesis: After Ritsuko dies taking a bullet to protect Misato, she can't bring herself to criticize her anymore, despite knowing all the horrible things Ritsuko did as Gendo's assistant.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aftermath (2021): After cleaning out a house in which the husband committed a murder-suicide of both his wife and himself, Kevin comments on how it was "a douche move" for him to splatter his brains all over the wall. This earns him the ire of the deceased's family.
  • In Caddyshack, a caddy dies before the film opens. The caddy master tries to break the news respectfully even though one of the caddies points out that the master hated the kid while he was alive.
    Lou: Carl Lipbaum died last week in summer school from a severe anxiety attack.
    Tony: I heard he swallowed his vomit during a test.
    Lou: However it happened, he was a good caddy and a good kid.
    Tony: He was a brownnose, Lou! You hated him.
    Lou: Shut up!
  • Discussed in Dear Zachary, where they talk about Zachary's father Andrew, and how sometimes your loved ones take on a rosy glow in your memories, and how that's not happening in this case. Firmly averted in the case of Zachary's mother, Shirley. At first, it seems uncomfortable (if understandable) that Zachary's grandparents (Andrew's parents) are trashing his mother in a film that is intended to be watched by him. Then you learn what happened to Zachary.
  • Subverted in Die Hard with a Vengeance, as Simon agrees with McClane that Hans was an asshole. But "there is a difference between not liking one's brother and not caring when some dumb Irish flatfoot drops him out of a window."
  • Downplayed in Extract when the main character's annoying neighbor dies of a heart attack. He and his wife are somehow saddened but not broken up since he was a massive pest and start making jokes about him and the mourners, oddly coming off more as their own way of mourning since the wife blames herself for what happened since she chewed him out right when he had his heart attack.
  • In A Few Good Men, Lieutenant Kendrick refers to the dead Private Santiago as an average Marine while on the witness stand. Lieutenant Caffey points out that by Kendrick's own reports he was not cut out to be a Marine at all. Kendrick states he did not want to trample on a man's grave.
  • In GoldenEye, during a conversation between 007 and Valentin Zukovsky about Janus, Zukovsky reveals Janus is a Lienz Cossack, referring to the real-life collective of anti-Soviets who sought aid from the Allies after World War II, but were instead sent back to Josef Stalin, who proceeded to imprison and/or kill them. This serves as Alec Trevelyan (the seemingly dead 006)'s motivation for getting revenge on England.
    James Bond: Not exactly our finest hour.
    Valentin Zukovsky: But still...ruthless people, Cossacks. They got what they deserved.
  • In The Green Mile, after consummate Jerkass Percy taunts the corpse of a recently executed prisoner, he is angrily rebuked by a fellow guard, who says that execution for his crimes makes him "square with the house now".
  • Heathers spoofs it mercilessly, as the Alpha Bitch is lovingly remembered by everyone after her death, much to the disgust of her murderer. Because all the mean characters that are killed are subsequently ennobled in death, this drives J.D. to try to blow up the whole school.
  • Superman gets this big time in Justice League (2017). In the year since his Heroic Sacrifice, he's gone from being a polarising figure in life to being idealised in death. Possibly justifying this change in attitude was the revelation that Lex Luthor's attempts to defame Superman had become public knowledge, leaving only his heroic deeds to be remembered.
  • The Three Stooges, Brideless Groom; When asked about his Uncle Caleb, Shemp goes into a tirade about what a jerk the old man was. When told that Caleb died and left him a small fortune, Shemp immediately starts a tearful speech on how sweet and charitable he was.
  • World's Greatest Dad has a Jerkass horrendously perverted son who accidentally dies while masturbating. His father covers this up as a suicide. By the end of the movie, the school library is renamed in his honor.

  • Occasionally invoked in jokes for the humor value. One in particular: the nasty brother of a local bully offers to pay the pastor handsomely for this kind of eulogy, with the key words being 'call him a saint'. At the funeral, the pastor blithely inverts this trope, calling to mind every bit of villainy the deceased has committed, then finishes by looking straight at the living brother and declaring "But compared to his brother, ''he was a saint!''"
  • A kid at a cemetery who looks on a tombstone. Then another. Then another...finally, he asks: "Mom, and where do they bury the bad people"?

  • The page quote above is from The ABC Murders. This is almost immediately subverted by the deceased's sister's next line: "Betty was an unmitigated little ass!"
  • The Adventures of Pinocchio: Pinocchio himself invoked this trope when he was forced to fill in for a gardener's deceased guard dog for trying to stealing a few grapes. While on duty, Pinocchio learns that the dog had been accepting bribes from the other animals, letting them steal from the garden and pretending to see nothing. When they offer the same to Pinocchio, he instead alerts the gardener. When the gardener comments about how loyal his dog was but never seemed to be able to catch them, Pinocchio decides not to tell him the truth about the dog since he's no longer alive to defend himself.
  • Anne of Green Gables:
    • In the third Anne of Green Gables book, Anne of the Island, this trope is hilariously called into question by Anne's adopted brother Davy.
      Davy: Mrs. Lynde says we mustn't speak ill of the dead. Why mustn't we, Anne? It's pretty safe, ain't it?
    • Miss Cornelia also comments on it two books later in Anne's House of Dreams:
      Cornelia: Have you ever noticed what heaps of good people die, Anne, dearie? It's kind of pitiful. Here's ten obituaries, and every one of them saints and models, even the men. Here's old Peter Stimson, who has 'left a large circle of friends to mourn his untimely loss'. Lord, Anne, dearie, that man was eighty, and everybody who knew him had been wishing him dead these thirty years.
  • Chanters of Tremaris contains a variant of this in which Calwyn withholds information about someone's Nice Job Breaking It, Hero because she knew the person was going to kill themselves that same day, making it more of a Never Speak Ill Of The Soon-to-be Dead. Later, she subverts it by revealing said information when the person in question really is dead.
  • In Dracula, during one of Mina's entries, she recorded a long rant by an old man concerning the practice of this. Remarking the grave (which the girls are close to, having decided to picnic in the churchyard) belongs to a sorry sourpuss and wasn't even missed by his "hellcat of a mother".
  • The protagonists of Dragon Bones are not usually prone to this, everyone agrees that Ward's recently deceased father was a jerk. However, when loyal stablemaster Penrod has to be killed because he's trying to kill Ward under the influence of a spell, someone says "He died in battle against the Vorsag", and they all agree to this official version.
  • In the Dune novel, after Paul kills Jamis in a duel, the Fremen refuse to speak ill of Jamis, even though he had a history of violence and unethical behavior. Harah's nonchalant reaction to his death, as well as her sons' jubilant response to having Paul as their new father, suggests that they did not like Jamis. Contrast Harah and her sons' behavior with that of Chani, who openly grieves when her father dies.note 
  • Lampshaded by Gus in The Fault in Our Stars, when talking about his ex-girlfriend Caroline. He says she was a bitch, but that he feels bad saying that now. She had a kind of brain cancer that he suspects changed her mind, but because he never knew her before she had it, he's not sure. He wants to believe it was the cancer, not her, but he doesn't know.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows subverts this trope with Albus Dumbledore, who was the previous book's Anyone Can Die victim. After his death, Rita Skeeter jumps on the chance to write about the revelations surrounding the deceased's past, such as his deceased sister and his implied romantic fling with Gellert Grindelwald, and the deceased's involvement in the creation of Grindelwald's Nazi ideals. Amazingly, Voldemort uses both angles to his advantage: one to discredit Dumbledore, the other to officially label Harry a possible suspect for the deceased's murder, legitimizing the Ministry's pursuit of the Boy-Who-Lived.
  • In Invisible Man, the protagonist, trying to find out what happened to Tod Clifton after he vanished from the Brotherhood, discovers him peddling little paper Sambo dolls on the streets. He witnesses Clifton being caught and shot to death by the police. Deciding that his fallen friend deserves to be remembered in more than a police report, he mobilizes Harlem to give Clifton a public funeral. The Brotherhood, however, is incensed that "a traitorous merchant of vile instruments of anti-Negro, anti-minority racist bigotry has received the funeral of a hero".
  • Played with and inverted in The Mary Whitehouse Experience Encyclopaedia in an entry about Neville Chamberlain. It says that it is wrong and unfair to condemn him, with the benefit of hindsight, for failing to appreciate how dangerous Hitler was. Far better to condemn him for sexually abusing animals, which isn't true, but he's dead so he can't sue.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, if a half-blood works for the Titans, they're the enemy. If they die, they were either a misguided hero, a victim or both.
  • In the first Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Hearse Song warns you of the dangers of doing so by laughing when a hearse goes by.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Eddard Stark regards Arthur Dayne, Oswell Whent, and Gerold Hightower as being honorable knights even though they kept his sister prisoner and killed eight of his friends when he tried to get her back.
  • In Speaker for the Dead, the eponymous occupation is all about averting it. Orson Scott Card was irritated at the prevalent use of this trope in Real Life funerals and wanted someone to tell the truth about a dead person for once: that the deceased had bad moments as well as good ones. note  The trope is played more-or-less straight when Ender finally tells the full truth about a Love Martyr who became a bitter, angry man over the lie he had to live. He doesn't hide the fact that Marcos is a wife-beater and a drunk. While he doesn't say that Marcos was a good man, he points out that he did have admirable qualities, even though they were overshadowed by his being a complete asshole to everyone around him.
  • Spiral Arm: In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, when the Fudir tells Hugh that the assassin had killed Sweeney, Hugh assumes that Sweeney had blocked his way, not pointed out Hugh to him. The Fudir agrees it was so.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch, a character informs Nog and Sam Bowers that she mourns for a cadre of Jem'Hadar, or at least most of them: "I miss First, I miss Second, I miss Fourth...I do not miss Third". Upon this last comment, Nog mutters "yeah, good riddance". Bowers elbows him, even though the Founder evidently won't mind, given that she's just stated she didn't like the Third.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Highprince Dalinar attempts this gamely after Highprince Sadeas, his Smug Snake rival whose attempt on his life cost Dalinar a lot of good soldiers, is murdered. The best he can manage is that they used to be friends and his death is "inconvenient" (because Dalinar's a prime suspect). When someone comes out and says "Good riddance," the rest of the room at least have the tact to realize that's not exactly an appropriate response, even if they do agree.
    • Gavilar Kholin maintains a reputation as The Good King largely because nobody is willing to speak ill of him after his assassination. Navani, his widow, feels too much guilt over wishing for his death to reveal his abusive behaviour to others and when she hints at it to Dalinar he shuts her down because he doesn't want to hear his brother's memory being smeared.
  • Used by Mark Twain in Tom Sawyer. When he's believed dead, the adults switch from considering him the devil incarnate to considering him Too Good for This Sinful Earth.
  • Paul Eldridge's "Wang Peng's Recommendation for Improving the People":
    Having read the inscriptions
    Upon the tombstones
    Of the Great and the Little Cemeteries
    Wang Peng advised the Emperor
    To kill all the living
    And resurrect the dead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Horror Story: Coven: After the death of Fiona Goode, the other witches of the coven describe her as a "great Supreme", "a lot to live up to" and "one of the best", even though she plotted to murder all of them. Subverted by her own daughter, Cordelia, who acknowledges she was the worst thing to ever happen to the coven.
  • Arrow
    • Played for Laughs when Amanda Waller dies, Oliver Queen and Lyla Michaels (who were both employed by her at various points) solemnly raise a toast in her memory. Everyone else looks on, a little bewildered, which Felicity Smoak underlines when she mentions the time Waller tried to bomb the entire city to kill a couple dozen Super Soldiers.
    • Played for Drama in the pilot episode, when Oliver comes Back from the Dead after being supposedly Lost at Sea along with Sara Lance, his fiancée's sister whom he was having an affair with.
      Laurel Lance: I couldn't be angry, because she was dead! I couldn't grieve because I was so angry—that's what happens when your sister dies while screwing your boyfriend.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): In "Fragged", Gaius Baltar shoots Lieutenant Crashdown In the Back to stop him executing Cally after she refuses an order that would definitely have got her killed by the Cylons. When reporting the death to Lee Adama, Gaius claims that Crashdown died charging into a fight with the Cylons. Cally, Tyrol and Seelix all confirm this verison of events rather than sully the rest of the fleet's memories of Crashdown.
  • Played hilariously straight in The Bob Newhart Show, when a hated member of Dr. Hartley's group session dies suddenly, and the rest of the group(who were voting to have him kicked out of the group) were suddenly in mourning for him.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine plays this for laughs when Commissioner Madeline Wuntch dies. Before her death she arranged to have Raymond Holt — who was her biggest rival and hates her — lead her memorial as both she and he realises he can't bring himself to lie but that if he says what he truly thinks about her in front of other cops at her funeral he'll get himself fired. At the service he meets another rival of hers, Adam, and initially he's jealous but then they warm up to each other... until it's revealed that this is a ruse Adam was Wuntch's nephew and he recorded Ray's practice speech and showed it to the congregation. Then it turns out Holt had figured the ruse out and had actually enlisted a bunch of local improv groups to pretend to be mourners at a fake service. At the real service Ray finds a way to both be honest and respectful when he realises he misses the battle of wits between himself and Wuntch.
    Raymond Holt: As many of you know, Madeline and I were bitter rivals, but I've come to realize she held a special place in my life. No one challenged me like she did or made me feel as alive. Our relationship was like an epic chess match. And it's hard to believe that... She'll never make another move.
  • Israeli Channel 2 once held a ‘ceremony’ giving the ‘Golden Jackass’ award for embarrassing quotes by public figures, aired before Cohen’s death (see below). Cohen had a few quotes in there, such as trying to tell some swans he had imported to a local zoo to ‘Come here, come here’ in English because ‘That’s where they’re from.’ (They were imported from the Netherlands.) After his death, the ‘ceremony’ was aired again, with his quotes edited out and his image replaced with a generic human silhouette, similar to the one Facebook uses in lieu of absent profile pictures. It was very jarring to watch, especially for those who’d watched the original version.
  • The Chaser's War On Everything challenged this trope head-on in the form of "The Eulogy Song", citing numerous deceased celebrities as examples of this trope widely in action (although singer Andrew Hansen introduced the song with how his (completely fictitious) arsehole of a grandfather was spoken well of at his funeral).
    "But all that was forgotten once he took his final breath... yes, even wankers turn into top blokes after death."
    • The best part was watching people who completely missed the satire and blasted the Chaser team for mocking the dead celebrities, especially those who called them cowards because "they wouldn't have said those things had they been alive."
  • Subverted on Chicago Hope: when one of the doctor's father dies, the doctor makes a point of assuring all of the mourners at his funeral that he thought his father was an asshole, refusing to sugarcoat his life just to make them or himself feel better. When he's alone with a friend at his father's graveside, however, he does admit that his father wasn't all bad.
  • Daredevil (2015): Elliott "Grotto" Grote, a small-time Irish mob grunt, is killed by the Punisher, despite Nelson & Murdock's best efforts to protect him. Out of respect for his life, Matt, Karen, and Foggy have a private memorial service for him in "Penny and Dime". Father Lantom doesn't sugarcoat Grotto's life. The most positive thing he can say about Grotto is that he went to and donated to the church, and explains to Matt afterwards that if they ignore his criminal past, there was no learning from it.
  • Abby on Dawson's Creek. While alive, she was a Libby-esque bad girl who proved to be a bad influence on a lonely Jen. Then she died, and all of Capeside tried to make her seem like she was really a good person. Jen ends up giving a huge "The Reason You Suck" Speech to her classmates for being two-faced liars who didn't know the real Abby, the one who was her best friend.
  • In the pilot of Dead Like Me, George Lampshades this as she narrates her own funeral:
    Everyone says the same shit at funerals. They talk about how sweet and wonderful and, oh, so full of life you were, how it was your time and you can't question God's plan. They never say anything bad. You could be the biggest turd in the toilet bowl and still come up smelling like a rose.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Horror of Fang Rock": Skinsdale is killed by the Monster of the Week while scrabbling for diamonds that the Doctor has thrown away (having got the one perfect diamond he needs to construct his Ray Gun). When Leela asks what happened to him, the Doctor says that Skinsdale died with honour.
    • "Father's Day": Rose's mum gave her a somewhat idealized impression of her late father. It's not like Jackie could have expected Rose would eventually find a time machine and meet him personally.
    • The Doctor applies this trope to their entire species. During the classic series, the Doctor was frequently critical of the other Time Lords' complacent, bureaucratic society. Then the Time War happened in the gap before the revival, rendering the Doctor the last of their kind. After four series of guilt and nostalgia, the Tenth Doctor was faced with the prospect of the Time Lords actually coming back — and immediately grabbed a gun, admitting he'd been choosing to remember the best of them. Turns out the War made them even worse.
    • Interestingly, there is a subtle inversion after "The Day of the Doctor" revealed that the Time Lords might not be dead after all — soon after, we get an episode where the Doctor says that Earth is "his world" as much as it is Clara's. Now that he no longer feels guilt over its apparent destruction, he is again free to admit that Gallifrey wasn't exactly his favorite place in the universe.
  • Played for laughs in the 2009 BBC version of Emma, upon the news that Mrs. Churchill (Frank's controlling aunt) has died:
    Emma: I am so delighted at this...very tragic news.
  • Played straight on the Israeli satire show Eretz Nehederet. Real-life public figures who were formerly repeatedly mocked, such as MK Uzi Cohen, mocked for his nepotism and ineptitude, and Yosef ‘Tommy’ Lapid, mocked for being a classist and a racist, stopped receiving any flak right after their death in a somewhat jarring fashion: Cohen’s only mention was after his death was when then-MK Benjamin Netanyahu made fun of his ‘ugly teeth’ (while the show’s own portrayal of him was fairly caricaturesque), and Lapid’s ghost made a brief appearance at the conclusion of an argument to serve as the Only Sane Man. Averted with figures who have been dead for a long time, such as Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan.
  • Played with in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond in which Raymond is enlisted (reluctantly) to write a potential eulogy for his father. Ray tries at first to play the trope straight, only to give himself writer's block; he even interviews Frank's lodge buddies, who prove equally at a loss to say something positive about the man. Then, when Ray finally thinks of something nice to say (recalling an incident in which Frank was seen coddling and nurturing the boys' pet rabbit), Frank flies off the handle, saying it tarnishes his reputation to be portrayed with a sensitive side. It's at this point the trope is subverted (or would be subverted, if you will, since Frank is of course not dead), as everyone finally tells Frank off: the reason no one can think of nothing nice to say about him is that he is a complete Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk, and his eventual eulogy will likely say the same.
  • Fast Forward. A skit had an Australian politician being interviewed about another rival politician, only for a report to come in that they'd just been taken to hospital and were believed dead. The reports are conflicting, so the politician keeps switching between solemn praise and bitter diatribe accordingly.
  • Frasier:
    • Frasier and Niles' mother Hester is often remembered in the best possible light by them (and Martin) as a compassionate, considerate, cultured, and down-to-earth woman. There is the occasional hint that this view is not entirely accurate; she had a brief affair, it is sometimes implied that her method of raising the boys was ultimately damaging to them, and (if her appearance on Cheers is anything to go by) she could be outright hostile to Frasier's love interests. However, it's also made clear that, regardless of her faults, she was a loving mother and wife to her family, which explains why they choose to remember her fondly.
    • Martin would even work to preserve this trope even to his own detriment. In regards to the afore-mentioned affair, at first he allowed Frasier and Niles to think it was he who cheated so as not to besmirch his dead wife's image.
    • Frasier also struggles with this when he has to give the eulogy for his Aunt Louise. Everyone in the family agrees she was mean-spirited and overcritical, but he doesn't want to badmouth her at the funeral or outright lie. He ends up engaging in some Exact Words, and then segues into a song his Dad wrote to Frank Sinatra.
  • The death of Judge Carl Robertson in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air subverted this. Despite humiliating Phil in an election, he agrees to do his eulogy, as Robertson had mentored Phil when he was starting out (which is a big reason why his savage campaign hurt Phil so much). Phil and Will try to do this trope, but just about everyone at his funeral has bones to pick with him and all express how they're glad he's dead. Will eventually chastises everyone for speaking ill of the dead. One of them asks who he is and Will responds that he's the one who killed him (Robertson died from a heart attack immediately after Will told him to "drop dead"). Everybody claps. Will eventually gives up, saying "tough room".
  • Game of Thrones: Margaery Tyrell tries to invoke this trope when King Joffrey demands to know why she didn't provide an heir to Renly Baratheon while they were married. It doesn't work because Joffrey considers Renly to be a traitor, and therefore isn't deserving of any respect even after death. Margaery then does her best to answer her betrothed's question without being too brusque about Renly's homosexuality, which is considered to be a sin in Westerosi society.
  • Grace and Frankie: When Robert's shrewish, bigoted mother dies, the family tries gamely to find anything nice to say about her, but the best her granddaughters can manage is "She was... related to us." Zig-zagged when one person learns the sad news and asks who finally murdered her. It adds some Bathos to Robert's guilt that he'd tried and failed to repair their relationship in her last days.
  • Used at first in the finale of House in the title character's funeral, until Wilson starts showering him with (mostly accurate) insults. This doesn't last long, though; House, who is not really dead and was somehow listening, calls Wilson to insult him.
  • Boyd Crowder in Justified adheres to this. Despite Bo Crowder's countless evil actions in life (including killing Boyd's followers and ordering Johnny to brutally beat Boyd), Boyd speaks of his late father respectfully. Boyd also speaks of the late Devil as a friend, even though he was forced to kill Devil in self-defense.
    • After Coover's death, Hotrod makes a point of praising his skills at marijuana cultivation.
  • Just Shoot Me!, during the episode "Bye Bye Binnie":
    Dennis: We're all sick of hearing about your drunken, slutty, stupid friend Binnie.
    Nina: My friend Binnie is dead.
    Dennis: Heaven just got another angel.
  • In The Killing, Holder nearly lashes in anger out at an officer who makes a crack about Bullet looking more like a boy than a girl (as the serial killer that targeted her only killed teenage girls), while in the morgue with her body. Of course, the first time that Holder had met Bullet, he had also mistaken her for a boy thanks to her butch appearance.
  • Discussed in an episode of Lost.
    Helen: Don't knock the obits. It's the nicest part of the paper. No one ever says anything mean about people once they're dead.
    Locke: Mm. Now here I am thinking the funnies are the nicest part of the paper.
  • Subverted in an episode of M*A*S*H, involving Hawkeye investigating how a dead soldier managed to have a large wad of money on him. When Hawkeye informed the other soldiers in his squad of his death, one asked, "Which side got him, theirs or ours?" Turned out the deceased had conned and hustled most of his fellow soldiers to the point where he was openly despised, even after his death.
  • Subverted in Misfits. After Nathan has just died for the first time (and the group do believe him to be permanently dead), Simon raises a toast "to Nathan" during the wake. Curtis simply raises his glass and says: "prick." No one objects. While they are all saddened by Nathan's seeming death, they clearly aren't about to forget what an almighty Jerkass he could be.
  • On Monk, when Monk goes missing an is presumed dead, the Captain Stottlemeyer tearfully says good things about Monk. When Monk turns up alive he however shows his annoyances at Monk's eccentricities.
  • When Mystery Science Theater 3000 spoofed Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (a terrible made-for-public-television movie), it made no jokes at the expense of star Raúl Juliá, who died three years before (though they did pun off of his name and reference his body of work. Mad Scientist Pearl even calls him a "very fine actor".
  • Also subverted in the NCIS episode "Driven": when the death of a Navy lieutenant is believed to be a suicide, one of the men investigating insults her for her perceived cowardice.
  • On NCIS: Los Angeles, the team is questioned over the death of an agent, killed by mercenaries working for the Chinese. With them facing negligence charges, Kilbride reveals to the man the mercs were extracting the woman as she was really a Chinese spy. He's keeping it quiet from the rest of the team as he doesn't want the woman's daughter to know her mother was a traitor and the rest of the team being fooled.
    • The viewer then discovers that Kilbride is also keeping quiet that, in their final confrontation, the woman revealed she wasn't a traitor but had always been a spy using him. Kilbride clearly wants the team to avoid the pain of knowing they were conned by her just like Kilbride was and the only one who knows the woman everyone remembers as a victim was a spy.
  • Not the Nine O'Clock News:
    • "De mortuis nil nisi bunkum", Harold Laski. There's a sketch in which two politicians spit bile at each other so fiercely one collapses, and the other immediately switches monologue to 'he was a dear friend...'
      "THIS IS PRECISELY THE KIND OF POLITICIAN... *dies* ...who will be greatly missed."
    • Oswald Mosley's death. The papers were so nice about the fascist that they devoted a musical number to Mosley, dressed up as punks, where they actually read out genuine paragraphs from the newspapers' obituaries of him. They all said that he was a charismatic man, a gifted speaker, a philanthropist, et cetera.
  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • Played for Laughs in "A Dry Scalp is Better Than None". Mrs. Davis' sister Angela is psychologically ill, and feels a need for sympathy. Angela is told by her doctor that she'll live to be a hundred. Angela is annoyed at being told-off for her hypochrondia, and ends up telling Miss Brooks that she's dying. Miss Brooks resolves to throw Angela a Christmas in July (well, early spring actually). Mr. Conklin is at first adverse, calling Angela a "scatter-brained busybody". When Conklin learns of Angela's "condition", he sobs over the dear sweet soul and agrees to come dressed as Santa Claus. In truth, Angela is characterized as both as scatter-brained busy body and a Kind Hearted Cat Lover.
  • During the election on Parks and Recreation, Leslie criticized her Upper-Class Twit opponent's father for being the Corrupt Corporate Executive he is. Unbeknownst to Leslie, her opponent's father had died earlier that day and her campaign spends the rest of the episode dealing with the political fallout.
  • On Providence, as the family has a special dinner to commemorate the anniversary of the family matriarch's death, they end up bickering relentlessly and everyone storms out. Oldest sister Sydney irritably asks why they're all so desperate to laud her when "Newsflash, Mom was a gigantic pain in the ass!"
  • Played straight in an episode of Reba. Reba and Brock arrive at an old bar expecting to meet their old friend, Terry, with whom there was some bad blood at their last meeting. There his brother informs them that Terry had died. Knowing their old friend's love of pulling pranks, Reba and Brock think it's a joke and yell for Terry to come out.
    Brock: Only the good die young and he wasn't good! So where is he?
    Terry's brother: He's dead.
    Reba: We're so sorry for you loss.
    Brock: He was a good man.
  • Spoofed in an Imagine Spot in a Scrubs episode. JD imagines his own wake, during which Cox finally says he loved him. At which point, JD jumps up and declares he was faking his death just to hear this. Cox then kills him for real.
  • The Sopranos:
    • Tony once notes that despite the hostility his mother held for his father when he was alive, she's viewed him as a saint ever since his death. Livia, however, is mostly directly invoking the idea for manipulative persons (usually comparing Tony to his father to himself or somebody else, or calling herself a victim for being deprived of him and stuck with the living).
    • Subverted when Livia dies in "Provai Livushka". At first, everyone is mourning her death and consoling her family. However, Carmela eventually calls her a sick and twisted woman when they try to think of good things about Livia, and everyone remembers that she was a senile old woman who was generally unpleasant to everyone.
    • When Vito is outed as being gay, his former colleagues express their intense disgust and intent to kill him for such a terrible betrayal. However, when they hear Vito has been tortured and killed by Phil, they're nonetheless sombre and not at all happy about it (primarily because an "outsider" killed a made man). When one of the underlings who killed Vito comes into their establishment for a payment and makes jokes about Vito's murder, none of them think it's funny at all and eventually kill him when the "jokes" keep coming.
    • After Johnny Sack makes a plea bargain in his trial that forces him to admit the existence of the Mafia and his participation in it to ensure that his family will not be left penniless and on the street by all his assets being seized, the other mobsters unanimously express their disgust at him for this deep betrayal, even Tony, who had the most respect for him prior to this. However, after Johnny dies of cancer in prison, they're genuinely saddened by his passing.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Schizoid Man", the Insufferable Genius scientist named Ira Graves dies. During his funeral, Data (of all people) starts eulogizing him with such grand statements such as "those who knew him loved him". Not only is it weird that Data is being emotional, but also because the man was only, possibly, loved by one person and behaved like an asshole to everyone else. Since Data is an emotionless android, it's unnatural for him to lie so openly. Of course, it turns out it was really Graves himself, who has managed to upload his consciousness into Data's positronic brain.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had the brutal War Is Hell episode "The Siege of A.R 558" where a soldier Vargas, who has lost about two thirds of his unit and has been without backup or reinforcements for months describes his dead friend as a loudmouth Know-Nothing Know-It-All jerk, even though he knew he shouldn't speaking badly of him. However, this is justified as he is suffering from PTSD and hasn't had time to truly deal with his emotions.
  • Happened in an episode of Titus where his abusive Ex died.
  • Played with a little bit in Torchwood, after Owen dies and then is reanimated.
    Jack: What is with you, Ianto? Ever since Owen died all you've done is agree with him!
    Ianto: My mother taught me never to speak ill of the dead, even if they do most of the talking for themselves.
  • Supernatural both John Winchester and his son Dean never speak an ill word of Mary Winchester, John's wife and Dean's mother. This leads to Sam having an idealized but distant relationship with the mother who died when he was an infant. But when Sam witnesses a scene from Dean's memory in which four-year-old Dean consoles his mother after his father walked out for a time, Dean admits their parents marriage was not perfect. And when Mary is resurrected from the dead, she is revealed to be a good, but certainly flawed, person.
  • Parodied in Yes, Minister; Prime Minister Hacker's predecessor in that office is writing his memoirs, which will be very embarrassing for Hacker when he suddenly drops dead from a heart attack. When Hacker learns the news, and just before he remembers that he's supposed to act with dignified shock and grief, for a moment he has the biggest, happiest grin we've ever seen on his face. He manages to wipe it off sufficiently to deliver a suitably grave 'initial reaction', but later cheerfully comments that most of the dignitaries who will show up to his state funeral are only going to show up to make sure he's dead.

  • In "Two Black Cadillacs" by Carrie Underwood, an adulterous husband gets this after his wife and mistress team up to kill him. "And the preacher said he was a good man, and his brother said he was a good friend, but the women in the two black veils didn't bother to cry."
  • Celia Cruz's "La Negra Tiene Tumbao" has a section about how people talk about others when they're alive, but once they're dead they start hypocritically acting this way.
  • "Styrofoam Plates" by Death Cab for Cutie is about the life of a boy raised by a poor single mother whose father left her. Towards the end, we get these powerfully acidic lines:
    I won't join the procession that's speaking their peace
    Using five-dollar words
    Whilst praising his integrity
    Just 'cause he's gone doesn't change the fact he was
    A bastard in life thus a bastard in death.
  • Linkin Park's "Leave Out All The Rest" has the narrator urging the listener to "Forget the wrong that I've done" and to "help [him] leave behind some reason to be missed" while "[Leaving] out all the rest".
  • Jon Lajoie's song Michael Jackson is Dead subverts this trope. Jon complains about how the media treated the man like a legend after he died, but were calling him a sick "white Skeletor robot" when he was alive. For this reason, Jon refuses to pretend he cares that Jackson died, instead opting to be consistent.
    Michael Jackson is dead,
    Don't pretend you give a shit
    You motherfucking hypocrites
    Remember what you said he did?
  • In "Bill Is In His Grave" by Mike Cross, the narrator eulogizes the titular Bill with a lot of I Would Say If I Could Say and Faint Praise
  • "Reconciliation", the setting of a Walt Whitman poem in Dona Nobis Pacem by Ralph Vaughan Williams, describes a man attending his enemy's funeral, calling him a man divine as himself, and even kissing the corpse.

  • Infamously averted by Chapo Trap House. The hosts do not shy away from insulting and criticizing recently deceased political figures whom they hate such as Andrew Breitbart and John McCain, and freely admit that they would feel more insulted if a conservative politician pretended to feel sad for a deceased leftist figure.
    Matt: Every time you remember that Andrew Breitbart is dead is a little gift you give to yourself.
  • In episode six of Mystery Show, Starlee jokingly calls Elmer Lenhardt a "dilettante," then quickly takes it back once she learns he's dead.

  • Invoked in Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins. During "The Ballad of Booth", the Balladeer implies that one of the reasons John Wilkes Booth killed Abraham Lincoln was because Booth's theater career was failing and he was getting desperate. Booth angrily claims that his actions were necessary to bring down a tyrant, but, of course, dying in such a way ensured Lincoln would be remembered as a martyr rather than the polarizing figure he was in life, while Booth would only be seen as a scoundrel. The Balladeer sums it up:
    Traitors just get jeers and boos
    Not visits to their graves
    While Lincoln, who got mixed reviews,
    Because of you, John, now gets only raves!
  • The musical Dear Evan Hansen revolves around the titular character, a lonely high schooler who is mistaken for the intended recipient of another student's suicide note (Evan actually wrote the note to himself as a therapy exercise). In actuality, the student, Connor, was a school bully, a drug addict, and an all-around horrible person with no friends at all, but Evan goes along with the lie that they were best friends to spare his parents' feelings.
  • In William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Marc Antony pretends to invert this, as per his agreement with the assassins not to cast blame upon them:
    Antony: I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones;
    So let it be with Caesar....
    • However, before he's finished, he has the mob howling for the assassins' blood, without ever breaking the letter of the agreement.
  • Anna Russell, describing the plot of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung: "When Brünnhilde finds out about this, of course, naturally, she's frightfully annoyed, and she plots with Hagen to kill Siegfried. And Hagen kills him. Of course, as soon as he's dead, she's sorry — I know you men are going to say, 'That's so like a woman!'"
  • Discussed in the musical Oklahoma! in the song "Pore Jud is Daid", in which Curly paints a glowing picture of how popular Jud would be if only he would hang himself.
    Jud: And folks is feelin' sad, cuz they use ter treat him bad, an' now they know their friend is gone for good.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed II: Ezio's uncle calls him on this as he's stabbing the corpse of one of his enemies in rage, insulting the now-dead man. After that, though, Ezio learns to be more prudent, and he comforts his targets after he assassinates them, always ending with a "requiescat in pace".
  • Batman: Arkham Knight: Poison Ivy dies after releasing spores to remove Scarecrow's fear toxin from the atmosphere and Aaron Cash points out that a lot of people are forgetting what Ivy was really like and that if she'd survived, she'd likely have gone back to her ecoterrorism.
  • There's a short period in Final Fantasy VIII where the party thinks Jerkass Seifer is dead. Everyone starts to says nice things about him, except for Squall, who has a mild freak out triggered by the dissonance between the nearly-unanimous dislike the characters had for Seifer while he was alive and the nice things they say about him after his death.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, this is a Discussed Trope. Fairly late in the game, Linhardt muses to Byleth that he doesn't see the point in mincing words about the people who've died until this point, saying that if he didn't like them while they were alive, his opinion doesn't magically change because they're no longer around. He never names specific other characters, instead deciding that he just doesn't have the mindset for grief.
  • In God Hand, two mooks make wisecracks over their latest victim. Elvis reprimands them via a Megaton Punch. Keep in mind that this is a guy who is strongly implied to eat people.
  • Should you choose to kill Michael Grand Theft Auto V, Trevor will never speak ill of his former friend, despite the fact that he learned that he had set him and their old partner Brad up to be killed or arrested while he vanished into witness protection, considered Michael to be a self-centered, backstabbing coward for this, and wasted no opportunity to tell him this (as well as how he hated him was going to kill him in his sleep), and even left him for dead at the hands of the Triads once before. Trevor will even give his condolences to Jimmy and Amanda, both of who lost a father and a husband, despite hating Amanda almost as much as Michael.
    • Notably, Michael's near-death at the hands of the Triads was completely Trevor's fault and wouldn't have happened if he hadn't messed with them earlier in the game. He also took great joy in knowing that he was directly responsible for the incident.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: Resh tries to exploit this trope to stop Aloy from mentioning that he was an accomplice to Bast's cheating. When this doesn't work, he yells in fury a minute later that none of the children slaughtered were "true Nora", an outburst that horrifies even Resh' subordinates.
  • In Mafia, our hero guns down a bunch of hoods that planned on raping his girlfriend in one level, then drops in on the funeral of one of them in the next, and calls the priest out on his sanitized epitaph.
  • Played for Laughs and defied in megaman sprite game. When Megaman says the late Quickman's catchphrase, he immediately tells Zero that Quickman was a prick and to forget he said it. Zero tells him not to be so disrespectful of a dead man, only for Megaman to say "i am honestly glad he is dead."
  • In Persona 4 after homeroom teacher Mr. Morooka, dubbed "King Moron" by his students, is killed, two students mention they feel kinda bad. Yosuke claims the victim "was a Capital-A asshole" but that didn't justify the murder.
    • And one of Morooka's acts of Capital-A assholery? Badmouthing Mayumi Yamano and Saki Konishi, who were murdered near the start of the game, saying that their dependency on others was what got them killed.
  • Occurs in Ratchet and Clank 3 when Ratchet is asked to deliver a farewell speech for Captain Qwark, an ally he really didn't like, namely for trying to get Ratchet killed in his first two adventures, and struggles to find a good thing to say about him to comic effect and to the chagrin of the audience. However, Qwark actually faked his own death to avoid facing Dr. Nefarious.
  • Sunset Overdrive has this troop expressly stated to be a rule of the Troop Bushido. It's immediately subverted, where the trooper who tells you this outright admits that Norton was an asshole.
  • Tales Series:
    • Kratos in Tales of Symphonia gets very angry at Kvar for insulting Lloyd's dead mother, using the trope name verbatim to explain his irritation. This is a fairly thin justification compared to the real reason he's angry, namely that he's Lloyd's father and Kvar is insulting his dead wife.
    • In Tales of the Abyss, Largo chastises Luke when Luke shows anger and remorse at having killed Largo's comrade Arietta over a lie that she was Locked Out of the Loop from. Largo claims Luke is dishonoring her memory by criticizing her willingness to fight and die for something she believed in; even if she believed in a lie.
  • Valkyrie Profile: "They say one should not speak unkindly of the dead... so I say, 'Nice try!'"
  • Subverted in World of Warcraft when Sylvanas mocks a dead ally immediately after rescuing the player party from the same fate. She likewise mocks her own fallen champions for being killed by one of Arthas's lieutenants earlier in the instance.
    • In The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm, this happens between Garrosh Hellscream and Baine Bloodhoof. The two constantly disagree while Cairne is alive, but after Garrosh kills Cairne in a duel to the death, partly the result of his weapon being poisoned, he laments not being able to defeat him fairly and remembers him as honorable. In the same book, we have the recently petrified Magni Bronzebeard, who was by and large a nice guy but whose sexist Heir Club for Men attitude left his daughter Moira with a huge chip on her shoulder that threatens to destroy Ironforge. King Varian insists upon this trope, but his son Anduin believes otherwise.
      Varian: She's going to destroy all that Magni tried to do! All that he... he died for!
      Anduin: There's no spell, Father. Magni wanted to believe there was rather than the truth—that he drove Moira away because she wasn't a male heir.
      Varian: You spit on the memory of an honorable man, Anduin.
      Anduin: You can be an honorable man and still make mistakes.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • When Manfred von Karma speaks dismissively of Byrne Faraday mere minutes after the latter is found murdered in Ace Attorney Investigations, his partner Detective Badd seems very close to making sure von Karma shares the same fate. This is particularly significant because prosecutors are basically masters and gods to detectives and von Karma in particular could have had Badd fired if he felt like it.
    • In the third case of the first Ace Attorney game, Phoenix approaches Wendy Oldbag suggesting that Jack Hammer, whom she liked, drugged Will Powers and stole his costume. She flies into a rage at the idea of Phoenix speaking ill of the dead, but when Phoenix presents the relevant evidence, she calms down and tells the story behind Hammer's fall from stardom.
    • In Justice For All's second case, Dr. Grey wants Maya to channel the spirit of Mimi Miney, a nurse who once worked for him, so that she can take responsibility for a malpractice incident at his clinic in which 14 people died. He is shown as being completely selfish, especially when he complains about her dying before taking responsibility, but by all accounts, he seems to be correct despite being an unpleasant person.
    • In Investigations 2, Manosuke Naito (Horace Knightley in the Fan Translation) constantly insults his dead coworker, Gai Tojiro (Ethan Rooke), whom he killed out of jealousy. Most of the people present see this as his Moral Event Horizon crossing.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, the victim of the first part of the final case, Archie Buff, is a loving father, but also a thief who has stolen many priceless artifacts for use in his research, albeit returning them after he's finished using them. Phoenix is understandably unhappy about bringing up the victim's criminal behavior, and tries to mitigate it when he can.
  • The protagonist of Double Homework starts to feel some sympathy for Dennis after his death, partly because of the cold-blooded way that he was killed.
  • Possible with the father of the protagonist of Melody. He mentions that he never had the best relationship with his dad, but he came to appreciate him more after he died.

  • Discussed in Bug Martini; the bug thinks it's time we start speaking ill of the dead.
  • Chopping Block lampshades this with one comic where Butch shows up at a funeral.
    Mourner: He will be missed.
    Butch: Oh, bullshit. He was an asshole and you're glad he's dead.
  • Played with in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures when an undead character with no memory of their past life meets a character who knew them and actually witnessed their death. He is surprisingly thrilled when the latter admits that he was a jerk in his past life.
    "Do you know how hard it is to find an honest obituary? You'd think that I spent my weekends rescuing orphans from the sound of them."
  • O-Chul in The Order of the Stick names the trope when taking responsibility for the gate destroyed by Miko Miyazaki, as by that point it was pretty irrelevant who had done it or why. He needs to use some Exact Words to actually avoid this.
    Hinjo: I see. Then you were the one who made the decision to destroy the Gate rather than let it fall into Xykon's clutches.
    O-Chul: I did make that decision, and it was my blade that did the deed. (I shall say no more about it, lest I speak ill of the dead.)
  • In Persona 4TW Chie tries to invoke this trope when Mr. Morooka (aka King Moron) is murdered. Yukiko will have none of it.

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs (1993): In "Rest in Pieces", Walter Wolf fakes his own death to invoke this trope as part of a revenge plot against Slappy Squirrel. She's not fooled, though, and turns his plan against him by going along with the gag.
  • Beast Wars:
    • Consciously averted, where despite dying in a Heroic Sacrifice, Dinobot implores Optimus Primal to tell his story honestly, the bad along with the good. Specifically, he was quoting Hamlet:
      Dinobot: Tell my tale to those who ask. Tell it truly, the ill deeds along with the good, and let me be judged accordingly. The rest... is silence.
    • Averted once before that, also by Dinobot, when Rattrap is presumed dead and everyone else is getting all sentimental about it. "I won't disgrace his memory with lies! He was a stinking, omnivorous pestilence... still, in some perverse way, I will miss him."
  • In the final Beavis And Butthead everybody believed that the titular duo were dead (they were not). Stewart and Mr. Van Driessen expressed grief but everybody else were either glad (to the point of having a party) or otherwise indifferent.
  • Deconstructed in the first season finale of Daria; the titular character is amazed at the change of heart that the rest of the cast had towards a particularly unpleasant minor celebrity after his death. Although it's justified in that most people simply didn't know he was a Jerk Jock, and unlike Daria the other ones who did at least had the decency to have some decorum towards the gravity of the situation. With that said, Daria doesn't go out of her way to decry how the public perceives Tommy Sherman and still openly acknowledges he didn't deserve to die for real. The only ones whom she openly discusses his awful personality with are Jane and Brittany, the ones who understood what a jerk he was, while still trying to respect that they're upset about him dying at all.
  • Della Duck from DuckTales (2017) took an experimental rocket that her uncle was building for a joyride without permission when her ship was caught in a cosmic storm, leading her to crash on the moon. Despite her disappearance being largely her own fault, Donald and the triplets ignore her actions and put most of the blame on Scrooge for building the rocket. Even when Scrooge defends himself, he chooses to point out everything he did to try to save her rather than Della's poor choices. However, when Della gets back to Earth and reunites with the family, everybody starts to rightfully criticize her for her impulsive idiocy — especially Mrs. Beakley. Scrooge tries to give her the benefit of the doubt, up until "Raiders of the Doomsday Vault" when she exhibits the same traits that got her stranded on the moon, and he explodes over her immaturity.
  • In the Futurama episode "Calculon 2.0" after Calculon had previously killed himself to upstage actor Langdon Cobb, everyone spoke of what a great loss it was to the entertainment industry and that he was one of the greatest actors who ever lived. Once the crew brings him back to life, everyone prefers his replacement on his show "All My Circuits" and tells him that he's a hammy washed-up actor who can't act. After some coaching from Leela, he gives his most heartfelt performance and then subsequently dies in a freak accident, when he earns the respect of the public and even gets a star on the walk of fame.
  • One Hey Arnold! episode has everyone expressing grief after Dino Spumoni dies...except his former partner, who expresses that he's glad he's dead (although later, at the Dino Mania concert, he briefly breaks down about how he actually misses him). Turned out Dino faked his death.
  • Played with on Justice League. After an Enemy Civil War, Luthor has Grodd trapped in an airlock:
    Lex Luthor: Goodbye, Grodd. It could have gone the other way.
    Grodd: It really could have, couldn't it?
    Lex Luthor: No, but why speak ill of the dead? (opens the airlock)
  • In the series finale of Kim Possible, Drakken, who momentarily believes that Kim has been killed, inverts his usual catchphrase to declare, "You were a worthy foe... you were indeed 'all that'!"
  • Looney Tunes: On the rare occasions Elmer Fudd actually got to shoot Bugs Bunny (or just believed he had), he was instantly remorseful. The most notable instance is "What's Opera, Doc".
    • See also: Anyone else who's ever tried to kill Bugs Bunny, with the possible exception of Yosemite Sam.
  • One Pepper Ann episode had the main character wondering why nobody speaks ill of the dead after a rather nasty old woman in the neighborhood died (made funnier because they'd insult her and then Pepper would say the woman was dead and then they'd recall "how sweet" she was).
    • Pointed out explicitly where Pepper Ann's mother is seen calling her a poor, sweet old lady and Pepper Ann points out that in the previous, her mother had called her an awful person. The mother then invokes the trope by name.
    • Then Pepper Ann had a dream where she lied at the woman's funeral (being asked to speak was why she was asking everyone about her in the first place) and called her "kind" and "gentle" and all of the things that people were saying after she was dead. The woman rose from the grave and berated her for it, leading to Pepper Ann taking a third option and finding the real positive aspects of the deceased woman to talk about.
  • Rocko's Modern Life: In "Bye Bye Birdie", Rocko and Heffer pet-sit Turdy, Filburt's pet mynah bird while Filburt goes to the hospital. Turdy proves to be nothing but trouble for Rocko, Heffer, and the Citizens of O-Town, from scaring someone's kid to eating someone's pony. Eventually, Turdy dies after Heffer sits on him. During Turdy's funeral, Filburt asks Rocko to say a few words. The nicest thing Rocko can say about Turdy is "Turdy was.. a... bird." Filburt is touched by this nonetheless.
  • In The Simpsons, the family attends a comic convention where Bart attends a panel about the original Radioactive Man TV show from the 1960s. While the actor who played Fall Out Boy is answering questions, Bart asks if he believes Dirk Richter, the actor who played Radioactive Man, haunts the bordello where police discovered his "bullet-riddled body." Fall Out Boy's actor immediately bursts in tears, saying Dirk was a wonderful man and screams "Can't you little vultures just leave him alone?" Bart and the audience have no idea where that came from.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Speak No Ill Of The Dead


Yes Prime Minister

The series once again demonstrates the respect politicians have for the institution of 'recently dead'.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / NeverSpeakIllOfTheDead

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