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Playing Sick

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"I cannot go to school today,"
Said Little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash, and purple bumps."

Sometimes in a fictional story, a character will pretend to be sick (otherwise known as malingering). Most often, this is to avoid something unpleasant at school or work, such as a test, visit from management, or similar inconvenience. Some just do it to get a day off, and some just want attention. This is often accompanied by completely overblown "symptoms" (common are fake coughing, fake sneezing, and drawn-on rashes), often exaggerated further by the character holding a thermometer up to a light bulb, lamp, flashlight or tea to fake a temperature.

In comedy, this almost never works, with the ruse either being readily discovered or backfiring on the character. A backfire might be whatever they were trying to avoid being moved to a day not covered by their ploy; it's also common for the character to end up missing out on something fun. Another risk is that the character may be compelled to take medicine (which is often Foul Medicine) or otherwise submit to medical treatment, as unpleasant and counterproductive as such things may be for someone who is not in fact sick.

In some cases, the character starts out as genuinely sick, but they become so pampered by the care they receive that when they recover, they pretend to still be sick just so they still receive the special treatment.

When we're talking about sex, normally it's when a married (or otherwise in a long-term relationship) couple doesn't have sex because he's in the mood (and it's almost always a man) but she is not (and it's almost always a woman). Not rarely, this will happen over and over again (because All Men Are Perverts and All Women Are Prudes), and it's also implicit (when not explicit) that she doesn't really love him/isn't attracted to him, or even that she's cheating on him. The woman usually feigns a headache, but any other disease will do. Sometimes, when she's really invested in the excuse, she'll pop up a pill (normally an aspirin, but any other appropriate drug will do) to "treat" her "disease", and will even start foreplay before suddenly dropping off with the headache excuse.

For added irony, it is rather common for someone who's playing sick to actually get sick somewhere along the way. This is often depicted as Laser-Guided Karma.

Doing this in the military, particularly during wartime can get you hauled before a Court Martial for the offense of Malingering. An even more serious version of this is Self Infliction of Wounds to avoid combat. Depending upon the circumstances, malingering can be construed as Misbehavior Toward the Enemy, which can be a capital offense.

See Münchausen Syndrome for the more serious, even pathological version. Also see Sick Captive Scam, for instances where a captive plays sick to get the drop on his captor. See also Getting Sick Deliberately, for instances where a character tries to make themselves sick to get out of something.

Compare Do Well, But Not Perfect, Fake Faint, Faking Another Person's Illness, Hypochondria, Invented Invalid, Obfuscating Disability, Playing the Victim Card & You Don't Want to Catch This. Contrast Working Through the Cold and Feigning Healthiness. Can be a Grossout Fakeout if they fake some icky disease like a stomach bug, or a Wounded Gazelle Gambit if they're trying to gain sympathy. Will sometimes overlap with Skipping School if the character fakes illness to avoid a day or two of school.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Crayon Shin-chan has an Injured Limb Episode where the titular character sprained his ankle and needs to stay at home for at least a week until he recovered. But when Shin's mother, Misae, is out on an errand, Shin realized he had healed, and decided to pretend he's still injured to get a few days off for free.
  • In Girls und Panzer, Miho is distracted in class after hearing that her new school is bringing back tankery, and the student council wants her to participate, so the teacher suggests she go to the nurse's office. As she's leaving, her new friends Saori and Hana lie and say that they're not feeling well so they can follow Miho to the nurse's office and check up on her.
  • In Himouto! Umaru-chan, Umaru fakes a fever (by rubbing the thermometer against her side rapidly to heat it up via friction) so she can stay home from school and play video games. After seeing how hard her brother Taihei worked to take care of her, she felt guilty and confessed to the trick, earning his ire.
  • In episode 18 of Inazuma Eleven Chrono Stone, Kariya pretends to have a stomach ache to allow Kirino to travel to Medieval France in his place, making it rare selfless example.
  • In Inuyasha, Kagome's absences from school to go time-traveling in Feudal Japan are attributed to increasingly bizarre illnesses that still somehow manage to fool her friends. Maybe she should try for some smarter friends...
  • Meta example in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War where the author feigned illness as an excuse for why volume 5 lacked any jokes on the inside cover.
  • In Let's Start An Inn On The Dungeon Island, a pirate mutiny ploy begins with one of Captain Cecily's crew faking illness. The captain bends down and offers the "sick" crewmember a piggy-back ride to carry her to where she can receive treatment. Said crewmember uses the opportunity to stab Captain Cecily in the back, launching the mutiny. The ringleader calls off pursuit when Cecily manages to escape into the jungle because Cecily is a Cornered Rattlesnake at that point.
  • Konata of Lucky Star often makes up different excuses to skip school, including playing sick. So much so, that when she actually does get sick, she gets hit with accusations of Crying Wolf.
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch had one of these happen in the early episodes, where the main girl's friends ditch her so she could go on a date, and one of them played sick. When suspected after insisting the main character to go, she just said she was just pushing herself.
  • MOON – Subaru Solitude Standing has the titular heroine use pneumonia as an excuse to not go on a dance tour of her troupe. She's suspected of faking, as people see her out shopping. She wasn't faking the pneumonia and has a relapse.
  • No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! has Tomoko think to herself how she will do this to avoid going on the field trip in her second year, beginning by mentioning how she feels unwell three days before the trip, then have a worsening cough... so she can stay at home and just play games. Needless to say, she doesn't go through with it once the trip starts to loom, but she does try to lie about having a doctor's appointment on the day that students pick their groups, just so she can avoid dealing with that. Her homeroom teacher doesn't question this lie at all, but instead suggests she pick her group now. After much awkwardness and embarrassment, Tomoko finally succeeds in having her group picked for her...only to end up assigned as its leader.
  • The plot of an Ouran High School Host Club episode starts off with Kaoru pretending to be sick so that he could set Hikaru up with Haruhi on a date. Hilarity Ensues with Tamaki getting jealous and the rest of the club trying to help the date go well.
  • The series Paranoia Agent is made of this trope. Lil' Slugger is essentially a means of feigning injury in order to shirk personal responsibilities.
  • In Rent-A-Girlfriend, Kazuya is working at his part-time job at the karaoke place when his ex-girlfriend Mami goes into a booth together with Chizuru (the rental girlfriend Kazuya regularly hires). When the two of them leave, Kazuya wants to follow them, so he drinks water and induces vomiting to have an excuse to go home for the day.
  • In a SuperS episode of Sailor Moon, Luna learns from Diana that Neo-Queen Serenity and King Endymion were known to get "sick" the day of very important functions and get well the next day. Luna comments that while she expected this kind of behavior from Usagi, but Mamoru picking up the habit comes from left field.
  • Snow White with the Red Hair: When Lord Rugilia wants to prevent Shirayuki and Ryuu from leaving he has his retainer fake an illness with a large audience of nobles so the two pharmacists will have to stick around to treat him or potentially lose their licenses. It later turns out that the ploy was to prevent Obi, who was acting as Shirayuki's bodyguard at the gathering from leaving before they could discuss a possible poisoning plot without attracting any suspicion from other nobles.
  • In an episode of the manga of Strawberry Marshmallow, Chika really is sick, and is being cared for by her big sister. Miu pretends to be sick, as well, to gain attention. (Though by the end of the episode, Miu actually gets sick, probably due to prolonged exposure to an airborne illness, and is taken to the doctor.)
  • One episode of Yo-kai Watch has Nate pretending to be sick so he can stay home to play video games. He gets a youkai to help pretend he has a fever. Duchoo gives Nate an in-depth explanation on how to fake being sick. It fails when Nate is unable to heat the thermometer as his mother is watching. Another yokai named Coughkoff comes around and helps Nate fake a cough, which works. However it works a bit too much and he ends up with a fever. Nate ends up too sick to play video games.

    Asian Animation 
  • Boonie Cubs: In episode 25, as part of his attempts to get his mother away from Olivia so that she doesn't learn of his less-than-ideal behavior at Pine Tree Kindergarten, Briar fakes having a stomach ache. This costs him the opportunity to eat one of the pastries they're having.
  • In Season 3 episode 27 of Happy Heroes, Doctor H. actually does get sick and goes to the hospital to have it taken care of. But then he learns that his Celeb Crush, Miss Peach, works as a nurse at that hospital and fakes being sick even after the actual illness has passed - going as far as to pull the old "heat up the thermometer" trick to make it look like he still has a fever - just to be with her.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 81, Paddi pretends to be sick so that he can avoid taking a school exam. Slowy tries to help him with a shot, which only serves to cause him pain.
  • In Pororo the Little Penguin, Eddy does this in "Achoo, I Got a Cold", and Pororo does this in "Is Pororo Sick?".
  • Shining Star: In episode 32, Nara gets a ticket to Friday's concert. However, she has to practice with Melody, and as she's depressed over this, the others think she's sick. This gives Nara the idea to fake being sick so she can go to the concert.

    Comic Books 
  • Roger the Doger in The Beano has tried this dodge on numerous occasions. The usual outcomes are either that he really gets sick (possibly with no-one believing him), or he misses out on something good "because he's sick" (with it varying whether this is genuine on his parents' part, or just them playing the dodge back at him).
  • In Doomsday Clock, Ozymandias pretends he has cancer just so he could gain the trust of Reggie Long (AKA: Rorschach II).
  • The Smurfs do this in the comic book story The Reporter Smurf to fool Gargamel into thinking he has contracted a disease from them that turns humans into toads.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Subverted in a strip. Calvin won't get up because he's too sick. His mother mentions that it's Saturday and he won't miss school, but Calvin's only response is to curl up further in his blankets and mutter "I know". Cue final scene of his frantic mother dashing to the phone to call a doctor.
    • Played straight on other occasions. Once Calvin even got himself sick on purpose (by sticking his head out the window) in order to delay turning in an assignment.
    • Calvin tried to pull this off in one strip, but he made the ailments sound so severe, his mom decided to go call the doctor. Suddenly, Calvin was feeling better.
  • Crabgrass: Miles pretends to be sick in this comic to get out of a history quiz at school, complete with using the lamp next to his bed to warm the thermometer. His mom is about to see through his lie, but goes along with it so she herself has an excuse to stay home with Miles and not having to go to several appointments with her husband.
  • Dilbert:
    • This is done in a strip where Dogbert describes sick days as "Vacation days with sound effects", and depicts Dilbert with a makeshift slingshot made out of kitchen furniture loaded with a chicken calling his boss and saying "Don't be surprised if I cough and you hear my lungs hit the refrigerator".
    • Parodied when Dilbert calls in sick and pretends to have a cough. He then admits that he doesn't have a cold, but he does have a headache, and he doesn't know how to make a headache sound over the phone.
    • Inverted in another strip, where the Alice (who still looks rather sick) comes to work after taking a sick day, and the PHB tells her he was suspicious of her taking it on a Monday. She then turns to him and coughs up what appears to be a lung and a spleen. In the last panel, she tells Dilbert and Wally, "It was a good thing I had some extra organs."
  • In The Family Circus, Billy claims to be too sick for school, only to say he's feeling better when he sees the school bus drive off. Unfortunately for him, his mother seemingly had anticipated this, and already had the car warmed up and ready so he wouldn't be late for school.
  • In For Better or for Worse, Michael catches a real virus and misses a few days of school. When Elly tells him that he's recovered enough to go back to school, he starts coughing loudly and groans about being in terrible pain. Cut to Michael walking to school with Lawrence and saying, "I guess I over-acted."
  • Inverted in FoxTrot, Jason attempts to fake being well in order to go to school and at the very least take a math test despite clearly being sick. The teacher doesn't buy it and tells him to go home.
  • Bob in Knights of the Dinner Table habitually claimed to be sick to avoid going to work when it would interfere with his gaming. After getting caught at it once too often, he was fired and thrown out by his angry and disappointed father.
  • A story arc in PreTeena has Teena Keene, normally an A student, panicked into faking illness to escape a test she hasn't prepared for. Older sister Jeri, a veteran of escaping tests and homework by similar ploys, congratulates her for coming over to the dark side, but Teena's conscience gets the better of her and she shamefacedly confesses and apologises.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Mittens claims to be ill (saying she has "Tom Jones Tremens" or "Snu") as an excuse to avoid dancing with Rhino in "The Funkmeister."
  • The Child of Love: In chapter 6 Asuka does not want that Rei spends time with Shinji while they walk to the base, so she pretends to faint and fall sick again, hoping that Shinji stays at home with her.
  • Kedabory's Elmore Chronicles: In the November 15th installment of "The Voicemails", Brent fakes having a fever by putting his face up to the heater so he can stay home with Steve, who is actually sick.
  • Lucy's Secret:
    • Discussed — Lucy, having wet the bed in the night, is sleep deprived and thus considers playing sick so she can stay home from school. She decides not to, however, lest she spark paranoia, as often happens when a Loud actually gets sick.
    • Discussed again when Lucy is about to go to a sleepover, and considers pretending she's sick to her stomach, but changes her mind.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: George offers to get Rigel out of the Triwizard Tournament by painting fake spattergroit pox all over her and having her sent home from school. She replies that she could probably do better with the right potion to mimic the swelling, and reversing healing techniques to give herself pustules. She's not going to do it, though; there's too much at stake.
  • In the Turning Red fic The Panda Chronicles, Aaron Z. opens a window to make it seem like Tae Young had caught a cold from leaving the window open overnight in January. The Aarons also make up his face to look tired, mess up his hair, bundle him up in robes and blankets, and have him act weak and pathetic.
  • In The Second Try, Asuka plays sick right after returning to the past. Shinji and she are not ready to go to school and face their classmates, so Shinji tells Misato that Asuka shouldn't go to the school because she isn’t feeling well, and he wants to stay home to take care of Asuka. Misato buys it.
  • The True Love Loophole: To explain away why she looks like she was crying, Raven tells Apple she has allergies.

    Film — Animation 
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox: When Ash doesn't want to go back to school, he lies to his parents that he has a temperature. They don't believe him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The title character in Billy Madison tries this when not wanting to go to school while in third grade. Billy's maid offers to let him shave her armpits while he's home sick, which forces him to get up and go to school.
  • The Black Hole: Captain Holland has ordered that If I Do Not Return, Lt. Pizer is to leave in the Palomino before the Cygnus flies into the black hole. Holland and the others then get pinned down by the Security androids and can't make it to their spacecraft. Pizer runs to help them, but Booth pretends to have broken his leg so he can stay behind and escape in the spacecraft.
  • In Bored of Education, a short film featuring The Little Rascals, Alfalfa fakes a toothache, complete with a balloon mimicking a swollen jaw, to get out of school. The teacher's on to him, though.
  • Crackerjack: On the phone, Jack tells Dave that he has told his boss he thinks he is developing a migraine as preparation for bunking off in the afternoon. Unfortunately, this happens to be the phone call his boss recorded for his weekly performance review.
  • This gag began earlier in the 1925 silent short film Circus Fever when Joe and his friends faked being sick by putting paint on their faces.
  • In Drive a Crooked Road, Steve tells Eddie to fake a toothache at work during the afternoon to give him an excuse not to come to work the next day they plan to pull the Bank Robbery.
  • In Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant, the 12th film in the Dr. Kildare series, the Patient of the Week is a newlywed woman with a sudden and inexplicable case of total amnesia. Turns out she's faking it to get out of her marriage.
  • Eraser. Johnny Casteleone has to pretend to be sick for a plot-related reason, so chews a mouthful of alka seltzer so he'll start frothing at the mouth. Unfortunately he then yanks out the cords on the paramedic's heart monitor, causing it to flatline. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Elliott very convincingly pretends to be sick (even warming the thermometer using a light bulb) so he can be alone with his new alien friend. Taken from Steven Spielberg's own childhood; he sometimes faked being sick to stay home from school.
    • A bonus scene in the 20th Anniversary Edition has him also very convincingly pretending to throw up on the phone to make his mother let him get back to taking care of E.T. after she calls to check on him.
  • This is, of course, the entire impetus to the plot of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He even explains how to do it.
    "The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It's a good non-specific symptom, and I'm a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, ah... you get a nervous mother, and you could end up in the doctor's office, and that's worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and while you're bent over moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It's a little childish and stupid, but then again, so's high school."
  • Get Married If You Can: Gustavo Senior pretends to be terminally ill in an attempt to speed up his son’s presumed wedding.
  • The film A Gift For Heidi has her friend Clara faking she still has her stomach ache from yesterday (after eating too much ice cream). However, she's doing it so that her chaperone has someone he can care for, for once in his life.
  • Paulie Gatto does this in The Godfather, calling in sick one day - which just happened to be the day Don Corleone got shot. Paulie's shown still playing sick a few days later to uphold the ruse, but Sonny knows he was faking and orders Clemenza to kill him.
  • In Gooby, Gooby starts making a lot of noise when he first arrives at Willy's house and Willy's parents get suspicious, so Willy plays sick by choking and feeling unwell afterwards. Unknowingly helped by Gooby, who ate two boxes of cookies and led the parents into thinking he got sick from eating them.
  • In Judas Kiss, Detective Grimes fakes having a broken foot to avoid having to investigate Becky Hornbeck's murder. This tells Detective Friedman that Grimes knew that Becky was going to murdered before the fact, as he had enough time to fake his injury.
  • Nanny McPhee: In one scene, the Brown children want to stay in bed, so they whiten their faces with chalk, fake fevers by running the thermometer under the hot tap, sneeze on purpose with pepper, and crayon on fake lesions. Nanny McPhee punishes them by feeling them Foul Medicine, claiming they have the measles, and making them stay in bed all day.
  • Theresa & Allison: Theresa pretended to be extremely drunk and needing help getting into her apartment, luring a woman there helping her, who she'd then fed on.
  • Thirteen Days: During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, who is Locked Out of the Loop, is told that the next day the president's going to have a cold. He isn't told anything else, except how bad it is is up to him. The reason is that Kennedy needs to get back to Washington so he can deal with the crisis without letting on what's going on.
  • In Wonderwall, Oscar's obsession with Penny causes him to behave in a distracted manner at work, causing his coworker Perkins to ask if he's feeling well. Oscar seizes the opportunity to take the next few weeks off so he can spend all his time spying on Penny.
  • In You and Your Stupid Mate, Jeffrey and Philip tell the unemployment office they're sick, when they're really attending a protest to stop Jeffrey's favorite Sons and Surf character from being killed off. Rossiter sees through their story and follows them to the protest.
  • Youth (2017): Xiaoping plays sick to try and get out of performing. When she's given a thermometer, she swaps it for another one to simulate a fever.

  • In Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Dying Detective, Dr. Watson discovers that Sherlock Holmes is bedridden with an exotic foreign disease. Holmes is faking it in order to tease a confession out of the evil genius who tried to infect him with said exotic foreign disease. He made a very thorough job of it, though: he starved himself for three days.
  • In a story from the Andy Griffiths' Just Series book "Just Crazy", Andy doesn't want to be in a play so he does this. It doesn't work so he tries to actually get sick.
  • Bat: In A Boy Called Bat, Bat's mom brings home a baby skunk that they will care for for the next month, to his delight. Unfortunately, the next day is an Every-Other Friday, when he and his sister go to spend the weekend with their divorced dad, away from the skunk. Bat tells his mom he has a sore throat and achy ears so he can at least spend the day with the skunk, but his mom sees right through it.
  • Boot Camp: When Garrett was eight, he forged a letter from his mom saying he had asthma so he could get out of gym class. He even bought an inhaler to use as a prop. He got away with it for six months, until his teacher mentioned his asthma at a parent-teacher conference.
  • In By Any Other Name (2013), Holly becomes so exhausted from drama with her new classmates that she tells her parents she's too sick to go to school. She feels so lonely and miserable that day that she messages her old friend Tasha on Facebook, even though she's under strict instructions not to contact anyone from before she went into Witness Protection. One of the criminals has been monitoring Tasha's account. He uses it to send Holly a cartoon that carries a tracking cookie, allowing him to find her family.
  • Sunny from Call Me Sunflower fakes a terrible stomachache so she can get out of school and attend an animal rights protest instead.
  • A deleted chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory involves this. Willy Wonka shows the tour group a room in which Spotty Powder, which you put over your cereal in the morning like sugar. You then eat the powder and get spots on your face, so that when your mother sees you across the table, she'll think you're ill and send you to bed. Perfect for the day you have exams (as Charlie declares). Deleted characters Miranda Mary Piker (a school-obsessed, snobby girl) and her father (a headmaster) are both appalled by this and try to destroy the machine. They walk into the room where the machine that makes the powder is being made and are last heard laughing their heads off for some unknown reason.
  • In the Clarice Bean book "Don't Look Now", Clarice fakes being sick (making up a lie about a "headacheish tummy ache that's causing [her] limbs to feel a bit detatched"), but it backfires when Mrs. Tuesday gives her a boring babysitter.
  • Discussed in The Day of the Jackal; when an assassin disguises himself as an elderly veteran, the Master Forger who forged his documents tells him to swallow some cordite, as it gives whoever does so a grey pallor that makes them look sick. The forger mentioned that this was done in the army as a way of getting out of fatigue duty.
  • In Diane Duane's Deep Wizardry, Dairine does this for her sister's benefit.
  • In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg states that he has faked being sick to get out of going to school before but it never worked because his mom Susan always checked his temperature.
  • Dirty Bertie:
    • In "Pants!", Bertie loses a bet and has to go to school in his underwear. To get out of it, Bertie pretends he has "Germy Measles" and the spots are invisible, but his mother doesn't buy it and sends him to school anyway.
    • In "Worms!", Bertie considers faking a disease to get out of going to Angela's birthday party, but opts for Faking Amnesia instead.
    • In "Crackers!", Bertie doesn't want his cranky great-aunt Morag to stay, so he tells his mother to say they're sick, but she disapproves.
      Mrs. Burns: We're not sick, are we?
    • In "Germs!", Bertie tries to pretend he's caught Suzie's chicken pox, but it doesn't work, so he tries to catch it for real.
  • One story from the Doctor Who 2007 Storybook has a boy putting his head next to a radiator to fake that he has a fever so that he can get sent to bed early and later sneak out to help the Doctor.
  • Dolphin Song: One day the Alpha Bitch Priscilla is especially nasty to Melody and hints that Melody's best friend Kim has ditched her to join Priscilla's Girl Posse. Melody feels emotionally exhausted and struggles to hold back tears. She tells Mrs Jennings she's sick, and Mrs Jennings gives her permission to go home early.
  • In Edgedancer, parents who can no longer take care of their children due to injury give them to The Stump, who accuses them of faking their infirmity for free food and bed. She seems like a jerkass at first, but Lift notices that lots of children walk out of the orphanage seemingly miraculously recovered, and suspects that she gets conned a lot. None of the children were faking. The Stump is a latent Truthwatcher who was healing the children without realizing it.
  • Chris from Eye Contact pretends to have an injured ankle so he can get out of PE.
  • In the Help Me Be Good book "A Children's Book About Lying", Katie pretends she's sick. However, she later actually gets sick and is not believed.
  • In one of the Founding of the Commonwealth novels, a thranx claims he'd been ill in the bathroom to explain his absence when he sneaked into the human compound. He then deliberately prepares a meal of spoiled vegetables and eats it all, so he can report to the infirmary with a genuine illness and back up his deception.
  • From the Harry Potter books:
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Fred and George Weasley's "Skiving Snackboxes". Eating one half of the candy will make you graphically ill; upon being excused from your class, you eat the other half, which restores you to perfect health. There are different varieties that make you throw up, faint, have a nosebleed, or come down with a fever and break out in massive, pus-filled boils.
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron intends to explain why he isn't returning to Hogwarts by claiming to be ill with spattergroit (a highly contagious fungal disease), and has a ghoul impersonate him in bed with the condition. He does this with his family's assistance, since they're really all in danger.
  • Hulliam d'Averc from Michael Moorcock's Hawkmoon series constantly claims to be suffering from unnumbered, crippling maladies...but lives the life of a lusty action hero, showing that his health is as good as anyone's. The stories never say outright whether he knows he's faking, though it seems likely.
  • In Lily and Dunkin, faking a stomachache is one of Lily's tricks for getting out of Gym Class Hell.
  • In the Little Princess book I Feel Sick, the Princess pretends she's sick by painting her face green in order to get out of doing things she doesn't want.
  • Lucky Jim: Catchpole argues that Margaret's suicide attempt and general demeanor of mental illness are not genuine and are just a ploy for attention. After hearing this Jim decides not to worry about her anymore.
  • In Miracle Creek, Elizabeth fakes an illness to avoid undergoing a hyperbaric oxygen treatment with her son Henry. One of the oxygen tanks explodes, killing Henry and one other person, and Elizabeth is the prime suspect partly because she had never missed a treatment before.
  • No One Needed to Know: After hours of mockery from her classmates, Heidi tells the teacher she doesn't feel well. She doesn't get to go home because she doesn't have a fever, but she does get to spend an hour "resting" in the nurse's office. Rather than tell her parents about the bullying, she tells them she's sick and gets the rest of the week off.
  • In The Pants Project, closeted trans boy Liv starts attending a middle school where girls are required to wear skirts, which he hates. On his first day of school, he pretends to be sick, but his mom sees right through it.
  • Papillon makes this into an art form. Hospitals have less security then the Penal Colony and a hospital stay can buy time to make better arrangements for labor assignments or plan escapes. They find many ways to feign illness; for example planting lice, eating spoiled food, or intentionally causing injuries. If that fails, bribe a doctor.
  • Mary Musgrove of Persuasion suffers frequent "nervous ailments" that confine her to the couch, until her family members start giving her the level of attention that she's looking for.
  • In Emerald Green of The Ruby Red Trilogy, Charlotte and Gwen both play sick. Charlotte does it so she can search Gwen's room while Gwen is in school. Gwen pretends she is ill so she can stay home as well and foil Charlotte's plan, however, her mother makes her go to school. It works for Gwen later when she wants to avoid going to the ball in the 18th century.
  • In the Sesame Street picture book "Nobody Cares About Me!" Big Bird pretends to be sick because he's jealous that all his friends are paying more attention to Ernie, who has a cold. Unfortunately, he wakes up the next morning to find he's caught Ernie's cold for real.
  • The Shel Silverstein poem "Sick" consists of Peggy Ann McKay listing symptoms of her illness — from a sliver to a 108 degree fever to a shrunken brain — keeping her from going to school until she realizes it's Saturday, when she miraculously recovers.
  • In A Wee Secret, Jet doesn't want to go to camp because he secretly wets the bed. Each day, he fakes a different disease — a rash on Monday, a cold on Tuesday, a broken arm on Wednesday, a fever on Thursday, and a stomach ache on Friday. His parents aren't fooled and send him to camp anyway.
  • West Meadows Detectives: In The Case of Maker Mischief, Myron and Hajrah can't find Lionel, a suspect in the theft of Jordan and Glitch's robot, because he went home sick. But Glitch tells them she saw Lionel earlier and he was fine. It turns out Lionel stole the plans for the robot because he was mad at Glitch for not helping him build his own robot. He was going to return the plans, but when the robot itself went missing, he knew he couldn't admit to taking the plans without becoming a suspect, so he panicked and pretended to be sick so he could go home early.
  • What to Say Next: When Kit leaves class to investigate her father's car accident, she tells Mr. Schmidt, "I'm going to the nurse." David follows her a few minutes later by saying, "I need to empty my bowels."
  • In The Worst Thing About My Sister, Marty doesn't want to go to Alicia's birthday party, so she puts her head under her toy whale to fake a fever and draws on her face with red crayon.
  • Zenobia July: When Zen hears that her classmate Elijah is trans and has been Forced Out of the Closet to the whole school, she's so upset by what happened to him, and by the idea that it might happen to her, that she feels like she can't finish the school day. She tells the nurse she has a stomachache and groans in pretend pain until Phil comes to take her home.

  • Optimus Rhyme's Sick Day has Wheelie (Well, in his human guise) call out sick from his job to hang out with the band instead.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic:
    • He once did a song about this, titled Calling in Sick.
      I think I'll call my boss and I'm
      Gonna hack and cough and wheeze
      Swear I've got some strange disease
      What's that little twerp gonna say?
    • He also admits to this in "Confessions Part III":
      Oh, by the way, I wasn't really sick last week. I just didn't want to go to your stupid office picnic.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A common set-up for a wrestling feud. One such execution will have a face wrestler scheduled to take on a heel, but the scheduled heel is a "no show" because he claims to be ill. So one of the heel's underlings will take his place. The good guy will beat on the underling heel for a few minutes, until the supposedly sick wrestler runs into the ring to mastermind a severe beatdown of his foe.
  • Zig-zagged on an 1986 edition of Saturday Nights Main Event in a match between Hulk Hogan and Don Muraco. Instead of Muraco, his manager, Mr. Fuji, was the one who was allegedly sick, and instead had Bobby Heenan accompany him to ringside. Late in the match, one of Heenan's men, King Kong Bundy, attacked Hogan, which led to their match at WrestleMania 2.
  • At SummerSlam 1993, Bret Hart was slated to face Jerry Lawler, who had been incessantly making jokes about Bret's family. The day of the match, Lawler came to the ring on crutches, claiming to have been in a car accident, and had Doink the Clown take his place. When Bret had Doink locked in the Sharpshooter, Lawler tried to attack him with one of the crutches. Doink was disqualified for the interference, but because it proved Lawler was fine, the ref forced Lawler to face Bret right then and there.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Tutter on Bear in the Big Blue House feigns being sick once to try to avoid going to Mouse School.
  • In one episode of Eureeka's Castle, when Bogge catches the flu, Batley gets jealous of the special care he's receiving and pretends to be sick too.
  • Fraggle Rock: Toward the beginning of "All Work and All Play", Cotterpin is sitting on a bench drawing instead of studying for the ceremony of taking the helmet. When she hears her mother calling to her, she lies across the bench and says that her brain is being squished into her toes from overstudying. Cotterpin's mom sees right through it.
  • In the Lamb Chop's Play-Along episode "Too Sick to Go to the Circus," Lamb Chop has a cold, which inspires Charlie Horse and Hush Puppy to pretend to be sick too to get out of school. Shari sees straight through it but pretends to be fooled, gives them Foul Medicine, and then keeps them home from their class's field trip to the circus, even though they're instantly "cured" when they learn about it.
  • Wimzie's House:
    • In the episode "I Want My Mommy!" Graziella has a day off from work and promises to spend it playing with Wimzie, but then Bo gets sick, so she has to spend her time taking care of him instead. Wimzie pretends to be sick to get attention too. She eventually comes clean when she sees how overwhelmed her mother is taking care of two sick kids, and when Yaya (who sees through her trick) tries to "cure" her with a mustard and broccoli concoction.
    • In the episode "Jonas the Actor," when the kids plan to perform a play for the neighbors, Jonas has Stage Fright, so he pretends to have a broken tonsil and a sore big toe.

  • In 2nd Samuel chapter 13, King David's son Amnon did this in order to lure his half-sister Tamar into a private encounter where he could sleep with her. When Tamar resisted, Amnon forced himself upon her and raped her, thus forever defiling Tamar and making him a target for his half-brother Absalom, who avenged the rape by killing him in a private party.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Vampire: The Masquerade has "Schere's Disease". It was created to mimic vampire symptoms and to be used as a cover-story, explaining why someone burns in sunlight and needs to drink blood from a medical perspective. The Schere Foundation was simultaneously created to give out false information about the disorder and provide medical credentials for individual vampires who might need them.


    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate III: One way to enter the House of Healing is to convince the undead receptionist that a party member is ill, to which they will swoon dramatically. Or if you have Astarion speak to her, there is an option to point out how pale and sickly he looks, to which she will agree with no roll required.
  • Upon beating BLUE REVOLVER as Val, it's revealed that the events of the game are All Just a Dream that leaves her so bewildered that she decides to call out of work for the day.
  • In Chrono Trigger, the crew can either sneak out of their cell using the airduct system or use this trope to lure the guard into a trap and knock them out. It Only Works Once; should you be captured after that breakout but before you get your equipment back, the guard will not fall for it again, forcing you to use the ducts.
  • In Fallout 3, claiming to be sick is one of the dialogue options before taking the G.O.A.T. exam. However, your father is the Vault doctor, too and very quickly shuts down the attempt with a light mocking. If you chose this dialogue option, another character comments on you trying the old "I'm sick" routine. Mocked by Liam Neeson, and check one more off the list.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Makalov in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn exemplifies this trope, frequently making excuses and trying to got out of battles and debts by feigning illness. After the game's lord, Ike, overhears him planning this, Makalov is told that the company payed off his debts, that he would be working for free for a while, and not to even think about being sick.
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, in a support conversation, Yarne was feigning illnesses to avoid marching. Laurent, who notices, didn't buy it one bit.
  • Henry Stickmin Series : In Fleeing the Complex, Henry can try to do this to escape his cell. It gets him tranquilized and moved to the Quarantine cell, complete with cellmate whose arm just fell off.
  • The Sims can sometimes call in sick to get a day off, with fake coughing and chuckling when they think the person on the other end can't hear them.
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: An Alluvian student:
    I'm just pretending to be sick so I can study for my Balfurian history midterm. Ms. Genevieve is nice, but her tests are hard as hell.

    Visual Novels 
  • one night, hot springs: In last day of spring, Haru tells Erika that she's fallen sick to avoid having the spa day Erika was planning for her birthday because she was too anxious about the thought of exposing her (biologically male) body around Manami, her childhood friend and longtime crush.

  • A sinister example appears in Bastard where it's the parent who forces the child to play sick. After murdering a woman at the park, Jin's Serial Killer father forces him to stick a heating pad up his shirt so that when they're pulled over for a random search due to the large number of murders in the area at the time, he can get out of it quickly by claiming that his son has a bad fever. As a result, the police officers miss the bloodstain on the trunk of the car.
  • In Dragalia Life, #23 has Emile tries to get out of training with Leif by pretending to be sick. Problem is, Leif happens to be a Lethal Chef who gives him medicine made with a blend of 200 animals, plants and fish. The next panel has Emile in bed like death warmed over him, played for laughs.
  • Izabell Carrol from Forestdale goes above and beyond in her attempts to pull this off. She doesn't merely fake an illness, she tries to fake her own death! Even assembling an arraignment of flowers fitting for a funeral on her bed, complete with flower wreath, while posing as a corpse; of course her parents aren't buying it in the slightest.
  • Two Lumps: During a flashback sequence, kitten-Eben gets sick shortly after he and kitten-Snooch are adopted. note  Once Snooch finds out that his brother is being given pureed chicken to encourage him to eat, he immediately fakes the same symptoms.
  • This Wapsi Square comic has Dietzel recommending that Monica do this.

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 
  • Both Momo and Lulu have done this in Cream Heroes. Momo faked heavy breathing to get out of his daily exercise but tests at the vet showed he was actually in very good condition. While Lulu had put some strain on his legs, his lack of limping at the cat hospital shows he was exaggerating the pain for extra treats and sympathy.
  • Neopets: This Neopian Times article for how to deal with a boring book has one tip to shove the book down your throat and pretend to have Ugga-Ugga (a kind of Neopian throat infection).
  • Arthéon from Noob frequently does this for the double benefit of not having to go to class and getting his overprotective mother to leave him alone "so he can rest".
  • In Part 4 of SuperMarioLogan's "Bowser Junior's Summer School" story arc, Junior pretends to be sick so he doesn't have to go to summer school. Karma soon catches up with Junior, as on this particular day, the teacher, Jackie Chu, decides to give out cupcakes and cookies for the class, along with no homework that night. Meanwhile, Junior gets a beating from his father when he's caught playing Minecraft when he should have been in bed.

    Real Life 
  • We've all done this at least once because we didn't feel like going to school or work. Don't lie.
    • Some of us haven't. And they were not believed, even though we were genuinely ill. So thanks a lot, cheaters.
    • MF 217 recalls an experience at one point he did this in Middle School, but he actually did turn out to be sick when taken to the hospital because he learned he had pneumonia during this same visit, making this a case where he turned out to be Right for the Wrong Reasons.
    • This has become prevalent enough that "sick time" has become an artifact name at some companies, and it is expected to be used for circumstances like psychological or physical burnout, emergencies like a injury (short term or chronic) or vehicle failure, and of course catching a pathogen. Of course, it gets used as a defacto "vacation" as well, but some companies will reward employees who save up enough "sick time" by allowing conversion to vacation time.
  • China's Wei General Sima Yi pulled this trick (along with his sons, too) so that he could plot a coup in secret without anyone being suspicious. This is also written in the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
    • Cao Cao did this as well. Not to say, they both faked to have some kind of neurological disorder in front of people; Sima pretended to have what we call Alzheimer's now, and Cao pretended he had stroke— when he was a teenager.
    • Lu Meng also used a fake illness to put Guan Yu off his guard.
  • In ancient Rome, an epileptic fit was one of the omens considered dire enough to put an end to any public assembly where a fit was seen. The sufficiently cynical would see this as a useful political ploy.
  • In her childhood, actress Toni Collette once faked a burst appendix so she could miss school. Her acting was so convincing that she ended up having it removed.
  • There's a modern trick called the Munchausen by Internet syndrome, where people lie about their own health, pretending to be seriously/deathly ill to garner sympathy. A list of some infamous cases are here
  • Trying the light bulb thing is an easy way to generate a real-life subversion; choose the light unwisely and the mercury in the thermometer can expand so forcefully it breaks the thermometer.
  • A prisoner in a British jail once attempted to fake jaundice so as to get a transfer to a prison hospital. He chose to industriously apply neon-yellow highlighter pens to his entire body to fake the classic skin discolouration. Medical staff were not deceived as his skin went such a vivid yellow colour that anyone with that degree of jaundice would be dead on the spot. But they gave full marks for creative imagination.
  • The killdeer is a cute little bird that weaponizes this trope. Should a predator approach the mother bird's nest while she's still sitting on it, she will run off, dragging her wing along the ground and calling out in distress. She will keep this up, allowing the predator to chase her until eventually she has lured the predator far enough from the nest that she doesn't have to worry anymore. At that point, she drops the bluff and flies back to the nest.
  • There's a reason why women often (seem to) feign headaches in order not to have sex: pain does diminish sexual excitment for women, but not so much for men. Also, sometimes people can genuinely gain headaches from foreplay or before orgasm. Ironically, however, orgasms can help diminish headache symptoms just as much as drugs.

"Huh? What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is Saturday?
Good-bye! I'm going out to play!"


Norman Price

Hence why they call him Naughty Norman.

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