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Refuse to Rescue the Disliked

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Piccolo: OK, time to go save Gohan.
Kami: What about the others?
Piccolo: What about the others?
Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Cooler 2: The Return of Cooler's Revenge: The Reckoning

It takes great compassion and moral character for someone to save someone's life, even if that someone in need of saving is unlikable. Unfortunately, when it comes to this trope, this isn't always the case.

In heroic examples, the person that the character refuses to rescue can be a villain, a Jerkass, or someone that the hero personally dislikes. If it's a villain, the hero's reasons for not saving them can be because he knows the villain has gone beyond the Moral Event Horizon and would rather allow them to fall to their Karmic Death than to show them mercy. If it's a jerkass, the hero's reasons for not saving them can be due to how much of a jerk they were to him and because he believes that they deserve to be in the predicament they're in. If it's someone the hero dislikes, this may include someone who was an annoyance to them, if not a threat.

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In villainous variations, the villain's motive for not rescuing someone is explicitly due to not liking the victim. Sometimes, the person the villain refuses to save is the hero since after all, they are arch enemies and the hero would just ruin his plans as always.

Sometimes, this doesn't last long. The hero will eventually end up saving the villain, jerk, or annoyance, albeit with some reluctance. Sometimes, it could be his conscience that causes him to return to help him. Sometimes, he'll get called out by his friends, either being told that he's no better than the enemy, that the villain/jerk isn't such a bad guy, or that he's no real hero. Villains who eventually save the life of those they don't like can be due to pragmatic reasons or to show that he isn't that bad after all.

This can be common in a Feud Episode or an Achilles in His Tent plot where a group of friends get into a fight, or one friend quits the team, but changes their mind and saves their friend's life, thus restoring their friendship. It's also seen in tandem with My Friends... and Zoidberg — if they reluctantly decide they're here to rescue everyone, Especially Zoidberg, it can double as both a Heartwarming Moment and a Harbinger Of Asskicking.

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When this trope is applied specifically to a hostage situation, it's You Can Keep Her. Contrast Save the Villain (a hero saves a villain) and Villainous Rescue (a villain saves a hero). May lead to Murder by Inaction. If they refuse to save someone because it's not their problem, it's Bystander Syndrome. Contrast Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like and Unwanted Rescue, and compare Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cross Ange:
    • In "Distorted World", Ange understandably refuses to rescue the unruly citizens of the Misurugi Empire, having already been turned on by them at the very beginning of the series. Only makes sense to ditch someone if they're not clearly going to change for the better. They specifically wanted Ange to help them get to the shelter, but she does a Boom, Headshot! on one of them and remarks that she doesn't care if they die.
    • In "Bikini Escape", a variation of sorts: she attempts to ditch Hilda in their escape from Arzenal due to the fact she doesn't trust the latter after the attempts on her life. She changes her mind at the last moment when Hilda reveals she did everything she did to survive life at Arzenal, and bided her time long enough to escape and finally make it back home and reunite with her mom.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Happens on more than one occasion with Vegeta, a Jerkass who quickly establishes himself amongst the Z-Fighters as their Token Evil Teammate and The Friend Nobody Likes.
    • During the Frieza Saga, when Vegeta pulls off a Deliberate Injury Gambit in an effort to exploit the Saiyans' power to come back stronger from death, Dende refuses to heal him, since Vegeta is just as awful as Frieza and killed numerous Namekians himself, and is fully prepared to just walk away and let Vegeta bleed out. Krillin, Piccolo, and Gohan convince him to do so, pointing out that they need Vegeta to stand any chance against Frieza.
    • When Vegeta stupidly lets Cell become perfect just to get a better fight out of him, and gets his ass kicked, Krillin states outright that it's his own damn fault and that Vegeta deserves to be killed for being such an idiot... but ultimately gives in and helps him because Trunks believes in him.
  • In One Piece, when the Straw Hat Pirates learn the friend Camie wants them to save is Hatchan, they initially refuse to help him, since he was part of the crew that tormented Nami and her home island. They only reconsider when Nami herself decides that they're going to save him.
  • Ash's team usually subvert this in the Pokémon anime. There are a couple of times however when Team Rocket push their generosity a bit too far:
    • In the XY episode "So You're Having A Bad Day" Ash's team are left stuck in the woods with Team Rocket's Meowth after a trio of angry Pangoro chase after both sides. They initially cooperate with Meowth, until the Pangoro explain they merely want their stolen food back. Meowth timidly confesses to the twerps and asks them to keep quiet. They deadpan tell him he's on his own and inform the Pangoro about everything, leaving him, Jessie and James victim to another blasting off.
    • In the Advanced Generation episode "A Scare To Remember", an Easy Amnesia plot leaves Pikachu convinced he serves Team Rocket and sent to attack Ash. When he accidentally detonates the trio's balloon, the blow brings back his memory. The oblivious Team Rocket are stranded in the river and ask him to help them out. He responds with a Thunderbolt.

    Comic Books 
  • The second issue of G.I.Joe: Special Missions has the Joe team having to disable a Nazi biological weapon. One team goes to South America to negotiate with the Nazi scientist who developed the toxin (which doesn't sit well with Clutch, who's Jewish) while another goes to the plane holding the toxin. After Recondo agrees that Joes will protect the scientist from the teams who have come to bring him to justice, Airtight manages to disable the toxin without his help and discovers the plane's journal. The journal reveals that the scientist betrayed the plane's crew for money before fleeing to South America. This angers the Neo-Nazis hired by the scientist as guards. The Joes then leave, pointing out they only agreed to protect the scientist from the hit squad, not his own men. In the last few panels, a gunshot is heard.
  • In at least the early arcs of Judge Dredd. Dredd has no problem with killing when the situation calls for it, and deliberately lets members of the Angel Gang die when he could have saved them.
  • This was Mr. A's modus operandi in Steve Ditko's short-lived Objectivist comic book series. The character was a major inspiration for the Watchmen's Rorschach.
  • On the cover of an issue of The Outsiders, we see The Joker menacing Lex Luthor as two heroes watch.note . The dialogue between the heroes reads:
    Nightwing: The Joker is killing Lex!
    Metamorpho: Should we care?
  • One of the gags by Sergio Aragonés for MAD featured a life-guard at a beach leaving a man to drown after realizing that he's a high school teacher that flunked him.
  • Rorschach's famous quote from Watchmen:
    Rorschach: The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!"... and I'll look down and whisper "No."

    Fan Works 
  • In Origin Story, Alex Harris plays this trope straight a couple of times. She's got plenty of time, for example, to fly Songbird to the hospital in time to keep her from dying, but simply doesn't, allowing Songbird to bleed out. Likewise, she displays a casual disregard about whether or not Reed Richards is going to be permanently injured when she freezes him in place with her super-breath. Mostly this is because she believes that people who attack her or Louise (something both Songbird and Richards did) deserve what comes to them.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act III: When they discover Kuyou is coming to Yokai Academy with the intent to get revenge on Tsukune for his previous defeat, Headmaster Mikogami, alongside Hokuto and Ruby, decide to use it to their advantage; when the other students see Tsukune and co. defeat Kuyou with their own eyes, they'll finally realize that the gang are not Fake Ultimate Heroes and stop mistreating them. Nonetheless, the mistreatment from the other students continues to grate on them, especially when it culminates in the girls being blackmailed and nearly raped by Kano; by the time of chapter 31, Felucia is completely sick of the harassment, openly telling the others that as far as she's concerned, they have no reason whatsoever to protect "these assholes" from Kuyou and they should just let him kill them all. Mizore shoots that down, saying they're not the "horrible ones" and they won't stoop to their level.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction A Taste of the Good Life puts Scootaloo in this position with her mother, Ebby. The latter has caused Scootaloo nothing but problems, most recently getting her removed from her current home by Foal Services. So when Scootaloo has the choice between saving the other pony's life or letting her fall down a cliff, Scootaloo realizes this is the chance to get her out of her life forever. The pony is rescued anyway, and Scootaloo is haunted by what she nearly let happen.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Rugrats Movie:
    • Tommy's younger brother, Dil, gets taken by a pack of runaway circus monkeys. Tommy sets off to rescue him, and asks Chuckie, Phil, and Lil if they're going to help him. Phil and Lil refuse, because they see Dil as nothing but a nuisance. Chuckie refuses to help Tommy by reminding him of all the times throughout the movie he didn't help him (because at those times, Dil needed his attention).
    • This is repeated later in the movie, when Chuckie suffers a Heel Realization and insists they go back to help Tommy. Phil and Lil again refuse, reminding him he only cared about Dil's well being rather than his. Chuckie makes the meek reasoning "Well someone has to... don't they?". It seems to work.
  • In Toy Story 3, the main characters refuse to rescue Lotso from the garbage, having been already betrayed by him to the incinerator after they saved him a previous time. Only makes sense to ditch someone if they're clearly not gonna change for the better.
    • Specifically, the other toys wanted to find Lotso and get even with him, but Woody simply tells them that he's not worth it.
  • Yogi Bear And The Magical Flight Of The Spruce Goose: Dread Baron and Mumbly have to convince the good guys they're no longer evil or the heroes won't rescue them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman Begins: During Batman's climax fight with Ra's Al Ghul, the train they're in is about to crash, and Batman has Ra's at his mercy. Rather than kill him or save him, Batman escapes, leaving Ra's to die on the train.
    Batman: I won't kill you... but I don't have to save you.
  • After defeating the terrorist villains in Die Hard with a Vengeance, detective McClane ponders trying to rescue survivors from the burning wreckage. Anti-Hero Zeus Carver, a Bronx man through-and-through, snorts, "Fuck, let 'em cook."
  • In Race for the Yankee Zephyr, the villain and his chief henchman are squabbling over the aircraft and its cargo of gold bullion, even as it sinks beneath a lake. Disgusted by their behavior, Barney and Gilbert refuse to save them from drowning despite Sally imploring them to do so.
  • In Spider-Man Peter Parker lets a robber get away rather than chasing him down, after the robber stole money from the wrestling promoter who cheated Parker out of his take from surviving three minutes in the ring with Bonesaw. Later the same robber ends up killing Peter's Uncle Ben.
    • This similarly happens in The Amazing Spider-Man when a store cashier refuses to let Peter buy some chocolate milk because he's two cents short (he wouldn't even let him grab two cents from the "Take a Penny, Leave a Penny" jar). The robber turns out to be next in line, holds up the cashier and even hands Peter the milk bottle. Peter simply ignores the crime in front of him, only for the robber to kill Uncle Ben (it's implied he didn't mean to) almost immediately afterward.
  • In Transformers: Age Of Extinction, Optimus Prime claims he refuses to keep defending the humans like he did for the first three movies. He's started to become fed up with them, claiming he won't forgive them for KSI, Cemetery Wind, siding with Lockdown at killing his friends, and building Galvatron. Ratchet and Leadfoot's deaths were what caused him to lead the Autobots to fight for themselves and not anyone else. Cade Yeager then pleads humans don't deserve to go extinct and that they make mistakes. By the end of the film, Optimus seems to have regained enough faith that he wants any future threats to leave Earth alone.

    Literature 
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, not only does Quasimodo deliberately push Frollo off of the cathedral (and not even in self defense): when Frollo manages to cling to the building briefly and attempts to pull himself back up, the narration points out that Quasimodo could easily have reached out and helped him. Instead he just stands there and watches him fall.
  • In "Dragon Bones" of Hurog, Ward is confronted with the fact that a runaway slave has hidden in his castle. He is asked to return the slave to Ladislaw, a noble he dislikes, because Ladislaw bought the slave from someone who didn't actually own her, and will get in big (maybe lethal) trouble if he doesn't give her back. Ward states that "There are no slaves in Hurog", and therefore, the slave is not a slave, and he won't deliver her to the noble. His uncle later asks him whether he made this decision out of principle, or whether he would have decided differently if he didn't dislike Ladislaw. Ward himself isn't quite sure about his reasons.
  • The Railway Series:
    • In "Pop Goes the Diesel" from Duck and the Diesel Engine, after Diesel annoys him by bragging diesels don't need to be taught anything, Duck complies and watches with enjoyment as Diesel attempts hap hazardously to pull out the wrong line of trucks.
    • In "Rock 'n' Roll" from The Little Old Engine, Rusty is called to help Duncan back on the rails, but refuses to do it because Duncan was rude to him and called him a "smelly old diesel". Skarloey then scolds Rusty for this and reminds him of the passengers, and soon Rusty does so. In the end, Rusty and Duncan became good friends.
    • In "Stick-in-the-Mud" from Very Old Engines, Rheneas was called to rescue Skarloey from a landslide, but he refused because Skarloey called him a stick-in-the-mud earlier which led the two into falling out. He soon went to the rescue after he was reminded of the workmen and Skarloey's crew. Thus, the two engines made up for their argument.
    • In "Mavis" from Tramway Engines, after the title character gets stuck on the line after ignoring Toby's warnings about the trucks, he refuses to help her. When his driver points out that the trucks are technically his responsibility, however, he "thoughtfully" decides to go after all.
    • In "Drip Tank" from More About Thomas The Tank Engine, Percy refuses to help Thomas out of an accident with his water tank because he called him a "drip", but his driver reminds him of the passengers' safety. He soon comes to Thomas' rescue, thus ending their bitter falling out throughout the whole book.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, an aversion of this is explicitly coded into the Ideals of the Windrunners. "I will protect even those I hate, if it is right."

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The A-Team episode "One More Time", the army offers the team a Mercy Lead in exchange for their going on a rescue mission involving a General Ludlam and his missionary daughter, who have been captured by antagonistic forces in Borneo. B.A. is not happy with the prospect. Apparently the two had some fights during their time in Vietnam, which involved Ludlam calling B.A. a liar and B.A. punching Ludlam in the nose. However, Hannibal eventually wrangles him into it because if they don't, they end up in prison for thirty years.
  • Joe Cruz on Chicago Fire spends a good portion of the first season trying to get his brother out of a gang called the Insane Kings. While fighting one fire, he comes across the leader of the Insane Kings, Flaco, trapped in the blaze. Being the only one who knows about him, Cruz leaves Flaco to die. However, he struggles with the guilt over this decision for quite some time.
  • Smallville: In "Nemesis," Lex is trapped in some underground tunnels that are ready to explode. Clark and Chloe openly state that they wouldn't care if Lex dies, especially because of what Lex did to her mother in the previous episode, but concede that Clark doesn't get to pick and choose who he rescues. Lana, having been blackmailed into marrying Lex, turns out to have full schematics for the tunnel system, but deliberately withholds them, fully intent on leaving Lex to die; she only gives in and reveals the schematics when she discovers Clark is down there as well, and the tunnels are filled with Kryptonite.

    Puppet Shows 
  • A downplayed example in the Thunderbirds episode "Ricochet"; although Alan does go out to rescue disk jockey Rick O'Shea, he doesn't try to hide his dislike for the man (partly because Tin-Tin seems to have a bit of a crush on him, but mainly because his Large Ham Radio shtick is just that annoying) and complains about having to rescue this guy, of all people.

    Video Games 
  • StarCraft: Brood War:
    • Averted: He's not happy about it, but Raynor intervenes to save Arcturus Mengsk from being captured and executed by the UED, Mengsk being the Lesser of Two Evils at that point.
    • Much, much earlier, this is one of the reasons Mengsk left Kerrigan to die on Tarsonis: Kerrigan was the Dominion assassin who'd murdered his family decades prior, though since Ghosts regularly get mind-wiped she had no memory of it (and was serving as his lieutenant against the Dominion).
  • One of Chris's possible deaths in Until Dawn is due to antagonizing Ashley. If he chooses to shoot her in the Handgun Trap, the character will let him die by refusing to let Chris into the cabin while he is fleeing a group of Wendigos, and simply watch as he gets attacked and killed.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles X, there's an NPC named Gus who attacks you during a mission. Later in the mission, he's seen being chased by a Petramand (a giant crab spider hybrid creature) and is asking for help. You can refuse to help him. This is ultimately the better choice, as it was all a ploy by Gus (again) and he screws you over if you rescue him.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, when Elan is kidnapped by bandits, Roy refuses to rescue him because, to him, it's not worth risking his life for someone who, up to that point, has been The Load. He eventually changes his mind and goes back and rescues Elan, as well as the rest of the party, who botched their own attempted rescue and got captured themselves. This turns out to be a good thing, because had Roy not gone back for Elan, he would have been chucked into the True Neutral afterlife when he died.
  • The Schlock Mercenary storyline "The Body Politic" opens with the Toughs deciding that they will not take a contract to rescue chronic antagonist General Xinchub (who has previously bullied, blackmailed, attempted to kill, insulted and harassed the Toughs in innumerable ways). Not even when their trusted associate Petey offers them 20 times their normal rates to do so.
    • However, when Xinchub is assassinated, they are all too happy to steal his corpse, and attempt to wrangle extra out of their clients when he turns out to be not-so-dead after all.

    Western Animation 
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog has shown reluctance quite a few times to save his other co-owner Eustace Bagge, a Jerkass of the highest order who regularly abuses and bullies Courage, and never treats him any better despite saving Eustace's life many times.
    • In "Shirley the Medium", Courage grabs Eustace and tries to carry him away from a demonic entity that was trying to drag Eustace into a money box. When Eustace starts throwing some more verbal abuse, Courage gets fed up and throws Eustace at the monster, not wanting to die for him.
      Courage: Okay! You can have him!
    • In "Queen of the Black Puddle", when the titular Black Puddle Queen abducts Eustace to have him over for dinner at her place, Courage couldn't care less about what's happened, and only reluctantly ventures out to save him just to relieve the worries of Eustace's wife Muriel, whom Courage does care about.
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Magica's Shadow War", Magica's raven Poe turns up and begs Scrooge to save her after her Living Shadow locks her in a closet. Given that Magica is one of the most persistent members of his Rogues Gallery, Scrooge refuses, until the nephews tell him they probably need her help catching the shadow. That, and remind him to think of the size of the electric bill for the large amounts of lights they turned on to keep the shadow away.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Weirdmageddon Part 3 - Take Back the Falls":
    • Defied. Pacifica admits her parents are bad people, but doesn't believe their fate as part of Bill's chair is deserved.
    • Though petty, Stan refuses to rescue Ford because he accuse the latter to be an Ungrateful Bastard and didn't thank Stan for saving him the first time.
  • Justice League:
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power: When Skeletor tricks Hordak into eating a doomberry pie, She-Ra talks her friends out of that mentality to get them to help him.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
    • In the Sonic Satam episode, "Hooked on Sonic", Antoine ends up captured by Robotnik in a reckless stunt with a power ring. While the other Freedom Fighters are horrified, Sonic just snarks it's his own stupid fault and refuses to go on a rescue mission. When Sally's chiding doesn't budge him (even she can't earnestly suggest Antoine wouldn't do the same to him), he begrudgingly goes through with it after she points out the more pragmatic issue of Robotnik using his power ring against them.
    • In the Sonic Boom episode, "Translate This", Tails invents the Universal Translator, or U.T. for short. U.T. reveals Sonic, Knuckles, Amy, and Sticks' inner thoughts, causing them to argue with each other. When Dr. Eggman finds out about this, he swaps the real U.T. out for an identical robot that deliberately says bad things about Sonic, Knuckles, Amy, and Sticks. Tails finds out about this, and tells his friends that they have to save the real U.T.. Sonic, Knuckles, Amy, and Sticks all refuse, remembering that all U.T. ever did to them was make them argue with each other, thus leaving Tails to resuce U.T. on his own. Sonic, Knuckles, Amy, and Sticks all decide to save Tails after U.T. sends them a message revealing that he needs their help.
  • TaleSpin:
    • The manipulative Covington from the episode "Molly Coddled" makes an Accidental Public Confession that he's been courting Rebecca solely to gain access to Molly's new doll, which is actually the key to a treasure cave. After dressing Covington down for toying with her, Rebecca and company leave Covington to the mercy of his two accomplices, who have had an ax to grind with Covington since the episode's outset.
    • In "My Fair Baloo", after a snobby dinner party throws out Baloo for rescuing them in a hap hazardous manner they are captured again. Baloo pulls off this trope, but is convinced out of it rather quickly by Rebecca.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In "Paste Makes Waste", Blossom and Bubbles refuse to help Buttercup fight Elmer, one of their classmates who had suddenly transformed into a chemical waste and paste monster, telling her that she and the other kids deserved it for bullying him. They soon change their minds after Elmer attacks Ms Keane.
  • The Invader Zim episode "A Room with a Moose" at one point has Dib question whether his classmates, who have belittled him and ignored all his warnings about Zim's true colors, deserve to be rescued from the titular nut-eating moose.
  • In the Galaxy High episode "The Beef Who Would Be King", Doyle hears that Beef being chosen to become king of the planet Cholesterol means that the inhabitants will eat Beef. He's glad that this will happen to Beef because he's bullied him constantly, joking that they should send barbecue sauce to Cholesterol. Aimee calls Doyle out on this, bringing up that Doyle could've been the one to be eaten by the people of Cholesterol.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): In the episode "Turtle Temper," the Turtles are accosted by Vic, a Fat Bastard who keeps insulting them and captured them on video. When he's later captured by the Kraang, he continues to be an ungrateful asshole to them even as they try to rescue him, which leads Donnie to openly question the others as to why they're risking their likes to save him.
    Donnie: Remind me why we have to rescue this guy.

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