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Prove I Am Not Bluffing

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When a character deliberately Kicks the Dog or crosses the Moral Event Horizon just to prove a point. Maybe you want to prove that you are willing to make good on a threat, maybe you just want to show that you're not the kind of person they want to mess with. Either way the message is the same: "I'm willing to do this just to make a point, so imagine what I'd do if you gave me a reason." Particularly effective when the character harms something they like (like one of their favorite henchmen), as it shows they will be far less merciful to anything that they don't like.


This can backfire if taken too far though; it might simply convince your opponent that you are beyond all reason or that you cannot be trusted, and decide that a more decisive and ruthless approach is needed, or maybe you end up looking so Obviously Evil that your otherwise reasonable demands are no longer taken seriously, which often happens when there is a clash between moderates and extremists. On the other hand, maybe that's what you are counting on, and you want the other side to escalate things to make them look bad, extreme and unreasonable. And so on it goes, so this trope can lead to, or be the result of, some complex Gambit Pileups and Serial Escalations.

See If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten! for when a character is challenged to do this. The inverse of Ineffectual Death Threat.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the "Unknown Tales" filler of Bleach, Byakuya destroys the Zanpakuto of his own sister in an effort to convince all the other Zanpakuto that he's actually on their side.
  • When Wild Hunt took over an idol production studio in Triage X, their leader executes an innocent idol on live television to show he's dead serious.

    Fan Works 
  • In Silly Hat Productions' Umineko: When They Cry parody episode "Epitaph", Lambadadelta declares she's going to raise the stakes to motivate Battler. If he doesn't offer at least one theory by the end of each episode, she will permanently erase one of the 'game pieces' who'd died — and since he failed to do so in that episode, she starts by erasing Doctor Nanjo.


  • In The Vampire Files by PN Elrod, Jack Fleming's friend shoots him with a crossbow in front of several of their enemies, partly to invoke this. However, they didn't realize Jack was a vampire, and since he'd deliberately missed Jack's heart, Jack recovered fairly quickly.
  • In The Otherworld, the Pack's enforcer Clay doesn't need to fight all that often in order to keep non-Pack werewolves in line, because everyone knows what he did to that one guy...
  • Victor Cachat does this in Honor Harrington novel Crown of the Slaves. he firmly believes that Torture Is Ineffective so when he was trying to get information out of four bad guys he tied them to chairs in a circle so they could see each other, told them that information he wants is usefull, but not critical and that if they won't talk he'll kill them all and to prove his point shot one of them. The rest was quick to cooperate.
  • When John Rain first meets rookie CIA agent Kanezaki, he breaks the neck of Kanezaki's bodyguard (after the bodyguard had already been immobilized) just to make it clear he really is a cold-blooded killer. Although their relationship improves a lot over the years, Kanezaki doesn't forget this incident and is wary of antagonizing Rain too much.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Otherworld TV adaptation, Jeremy easily defeats a Mutt who challenges him for Alpha and then has Clay rip the guy's teeth out. He is sending a message to the other Mutts to warn them of the consequences of challenging the Pack. If he is willing to do this to some idiot who wasn't really a threat, then the consequences to anyone who actually hurts a Pack member will be catastrophic.
  • The Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "Errand of Mercy", Kor, governor of the occupied planet of Organia, demands that Kirk and Spock, who were obviously sprung by the natives, be surrendered and has 200 hostages shot to show he is serious in his demands. Unfortunately for him, the Organians are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and have no reason to fear, let alone bow to, such threats.
  • Breaking Bad: in "Box Cutter", Gustavo, the main villain and drug lord, brutally slits the throat of his employee just to prove a point to the main characters, Walter and Jesse. Curiously, none of the characters are exactly sure just what the point is supposed to be. Walter initially thinks it is a warning against crossing Gustavo, since if he is willing to kill his own man then he will not hesitate to kill them, but later thinks it was actually punishment for the employee trying to take on more responsibility than Gus had given him and a warning to understand your role in an organization.
  • In Boardwalk Empire ruthless gambling tycoon Arnold Rothstein intimidates Frankie Yale by recounting a story about a man whose party trick was to swallow and then regurgitate pool balls. Rothstein, unlike the man in question, knew that the cue ball was just slightly larger than the other balls, so one night he bet the man $10,000 that he couldn't do his swallowing trick with the cue ball. The ball became lodged in the man's throat and he choked to death then and there. Rothstein ends the story by saying, "Do you know what the moral of this tale is, Mr Yale? The moral of this story is that if I'd cause a stranger to choke to death for my own amusement, what do you think I'll do to you if you don't tell me who ordered you to kill Colosimo?"
  • In a rare heroic example, in one episode of Burn Notice, Sam Axe pretended to be an unstable and sadistic hitman sent to interrogate and kill a particular criminal. During the course of his interrogation, Sam went into a "crazed state" during which he sliced the tip of his thumb open so that it bled quite a bit, then smeared his blood all over the other guy's face. It freaked the hell out of the crook and served to convey the point that if Sam was willing to do that to himself, you do not even want to think about what he will do to you. The crook was so unnerved that he told Sam everything he needed to know without making Sam have to resort to actually torturing the man.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "A Small Talent for War", the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations expresses doubt that the aliens have the power to destroy all life on Earth. The alien ambassador tells him to keep watching the skies. Several minutes later, the British ambassador receives a report from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich that Halley's Comet has disappeared, having been destroyed by the aliens.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Heroes Unlimited adventure "Mall of Terror", the Crime Masters are threatening to blow up a mall unless the police pay them a ransom of three million dollars. They plan to detonate the bomb and kill all the hostages even if their ransom demands are met, just to prove that they weren't bluffing.

    Video Games 
  • In Skies of Arcadia, Galcian unleashes the Rains of Destruction on Valua to prove his own invincibility. All the more crushing because Valua has (under his command) previously devastated every other world power, thereby leaving all of Arcadia in economic and social ruin.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation