Follow TV Tropes


Safety Gear Is Cowardly

Go To

Hey, kids! I'm Safe Seth the Safety...Bear. You see this helmet I'm wearing? If you wanna be really cool, don't bother wearing it.
Safe Seth, The Flash Tub

Don't Try This at Home and Do Not Do This Cool Thing. Our Lawyers Advised This Trope.

There are perfectly good reasons to have safety gear. They protect you and keep you from getting killed or severely injured in an accident or combat. But some people don't understand that. They believe that safety is for wimps, or believe that they are a badass without any safety gear. Or because he's a Karma Houdini, he doesn't need it. They might actually throw away or take off the gear if it's offered. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome if he dies in an accident, or Safety Guy lives through one. However, if he has a real ability that doesn't need it (like Nigh-Invulnerability), then it makes more sense to shun protection.

Usually used to send the message that safety (gear) is important. Subtrope of Television Is Trying to Kill Us. There is usually An Aesop. A cop going into a gunfight who turns down a bulletproof vest will probably take a bullet (unless they are wearing Plot Armor). A teen who disobeys mom's rule to wear a seat belt will probably get a cut from the windshield in a car accident.

Fantasy Helmet Enforcement is an inversion, where safety gear is always on. An unsafe workplace is No OSHA Compliance. A Karmic Death might result if the lack of safety causes someone's death. The Law of Diminishing Defensive Effort and Good Thing You Can Heal are both cases when someone doesn't pay for not being safe.

Also see Helmets Are Hardly Heroic, Drives Like Crazy, Artistic License – Gun Safety, Goggles Do Nothing.

Note: Armor does count, but the perception it doesn't protect at all falls under Armor Is Useless.


    open/close all folders 

  • A series of real life public service announcements around Edmonton try to invert this stereotype by demonstrating what happens to a series of fictional characters as they take safety shortcuts — namely, ignoring safety gear.
  • This ad by the Brain Injury Association has one kid bully another one for wearing a helmet while riding his bicycle. It ends with the helmetless boy being seriously injured after smacking his head straight into some random pieces of lumber sticking out of the back of a truck.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Sōsuke comes to class in a hazmat suit and tells his classmates that they might have ebola. He's wrong. Between panicking, they ask him why he's the only one with protection, and he responds by taking it off.
  • Devil May Cry: The Animated Series: The leader of a biker club challenges Dante to a motorcycle race. When seeing that Dante has chosen not to wear a helmet (due to being a half-demon with regenerative abilities), the biker decides that he will not wear any protective gear as well.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam, Char Aznable was well-known for going into battle without wearing a spacesuit, which meant that any damage his Mobile Suit sustained was likely to be fatal for him. When questioned, he replied that he always goes into battle with the intention of coming back unharmed. Near the end of the series, his Love Interest convinces him to start wearing a spacesuit, which does end up saving his life. For the rest of his appearances in the franchise, he's shown wearing a spacesuit while piloting.

    Comic Books 
  • In Watchmen, Rorschach travels a fair distance in Antarctica wearing nothing but his usual trenchcoat, gloves and mask.
  • In The Ultimates, Captain America frequently jumps out of aircrafts without any safety equipment including parachutes. While this version is implied to be more powerful than his mainstream counterpart he can still die from a bad landing. He simply chooses not to use any equipment because he thinks it's for "sissies".

    Comic Strips 
  • In Luann, Toni's Crazy Jealous Boyfriend Dirk used to believe this; in one arc, he tried to chase after her and Brad in his car, only to crash after making too sharp a turn, forcing Brad to administer CPR to save him. Toni later found out that Dirk not only hadn't been wearing his seat belt, he had disabled the airbag. (And Dirk didn't learn this time. There'd be more confrontations before he did.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Premium Rush has main character Wilee often brag about having a fixed-gear bike with no brakes.
  • In Running Scared (1986), Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines's characters are Cowboy Cops who get paranoid about averting retirony and request kevlar vests. By the shame they display, and the surprised reactions of their fellow officers, it's clear that the department considers vests to be cowardly.
  • Averted with great prejudice in Thunderball, where Bond puts on a helmet before a jetpack-powered escape. Apparently, someone told the (professionally-trained) jetpack pilot that Bond was too cool to wear a helmet. The operator pretty much said, "I am wearing this helmet, okay?" in reply.
  • Discussed and averted the Planet Terror section of Grindhouse. J.T. Hague shows El Wray his car, boasting that it has no roll bars, chicken wire, "None of that shit." El Wray, who is far more badass than J.T., is displeased by the lack of protection.
  • In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Kirk decides to free-climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park while on shore leave. McCoy freaks out about this, and is justified in his fear when Kirk slips and falls, only avoiding dying because Spock (wearing jet boots) catches him before he splats.
  • Firestorm (1998): While the rest of smokejumpers wear regulation hardhats, crew chief Jesse Graves goes into dangerous situations wearing noting but a baseball cap: an action that would get him severely reprimanded, if not fired, in Real Life.
  • Shake Hands with Danger, a 1980 Caterpillar safety short famously given the Rifftrax treatment, showed in graphic detail what could happen if operators and repairmen became lax with safety. Among the incidents:
    • A worker on a road grader nearly gets chopped into confetti by working on the machine just as its operator is about to turn the engine over;
    • A repairman for a front-loader smashes through a house the crew was repairing as he accidentally goes through the startup sequence while the machine was not properly immobilized
    • Another front-loader mishap occurs when a supervisor tasks a driver unfamiliar with the machine with driving it. The loader was set to automatically lift the bucket on startup, said bucket positioned with its lip under the rear bumper of the supervisor's truck. It's implied he's badly injured in by the severe jolt given to the truck;
    • A "greenhorn" gets his arm burned when he rests against a heated metal plate, one an old-timer wilfully neglected to warn him of. (Danger's niece is cute, though...)
    • Said old-timer then fails to follow proper procedure in grinding steel bars on a wheel. He becomes the "Three Finger Joe" mentioned in the song due to his carelessness.
    • A worker on a machine decides to (or more accurately is dared into) using a sledgehammer and a chipped metal bar to dislodge a component instead of the proper tools. A shard of metal pierces his chest like a gunshot.
    • Instead of using proper equipment to grease the connecting holes for a front-loader, a worker uses his hand. Meanwhile, the operator, still in the cab, swats away a wasp. This causes the arms for the loader to activate, cutting off the worker's hand.
    • Chuck Hamblin, Caterpillar's best O-Ring fitter, falls to his death by not using a proper safety scaffold on a crane repair (or lowering the crane head to the ground), instead climbing up to a precarious position to attempt the repair.


    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Red Dwarf episode Confidence and Paranoia, a physical manifestation of Lister's confidence tries to persuade him that he's so great, he doesn't need a suit to survive a spacewalk. After trying to remove Lister's suit, Confidence removes his own to prove the point, and promptly dies.
  • Averted in Mythbusters. They take a lot of safety precautions while doing their thing, and repeatedly say to the audience "Do Not Try This at Home."
  • In an episode of Breaking Bad, two criminals complain about the "nanny state", exemplified by how you can't smoke on airplanes and how children wear bicycle helmets.
  • Averted in Sons of Anarchy, where for the most part all the bikers wear helmets.
  • An episode of Happy Days has Fonzie agree to a helmetless fencing duel because he's facing "the best swordsman in all of France" and he's the best swordsman everywhere else. He adds that if he sees any lesser being try fencing without a helmet, "they are nutso and no friend of mine."
    • In the first season, the executives didn't want the Fonz wearing a leather jacket since they thought it made him look like a thug. Garry Marshall convinced them to allow him to wear it only when he was riding his motorcycle since it would then be a legitimate piece of safety equipment. Marshall then told the show's writers to never have a scene where Fonzie wasn't on his motorcycle, just having gotten off his motorcycle, or just about to get on his motorcycle.
  • The network tried to pressure the production staff of Dark Angel to depict Max wearing a helmet when she was riding her motorcycle, despite the fact that they pointed out she was a Nigh-Invulnerable Super-Soldier.
  • World's Dumbest...:
    • Lampshaded numerous times whenever some idiot neglects to wear a helmet, padding, or whatever else would lessen a severe injury.
      Mike Trainor: (as a cyclist who performs a jump without safety gear) Helmets? What are those?
    • On the other hand, inverted when a motorcyclist gets into a crash while wearing safety gear. His helmet sustains considerable damage, but his head doesn't.
      "Always wear your gear."
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Bloodlines, guest character Jason Vigo, who briefly seems to be the son Picard never knew he had, is in the habit of free climbing massive fissures descending miles under the surface of his home world, all without "an anti-grav harness" or even so much as ropes or anchors. Picard demonstrates some facility and fondness with free climbing as well, though it's the first time his enthusiasm for the activity is ever mentioned.
  • In an episode of Blue Bloods, a rookie dismissively refuses to wear a bulletproof vest, only complying when his superior officer makes it clear that he's not going anywhere without it. It's the first sign of how cocky and reckless he is.
  • Lampshaded in the Murdoch Mysteries motorbike episode "Murdoch Rides Easy", as fits the period: No motorcyclist in the episode has any sort of head protection beyond driving goggles, but when Julia considers getting a motorcycle, Murdoch warns her of how dangerous motorcycles are and says riders should probably start wearing helmets. Julia retorts that falling off a motorcycle is no more dangerous than falling off a horse or a bicycle, and nobody thinks their riders need to wear helmets. Murdoch looks thoughtful about this but doesn't press the point. At the end of the episode, Julia decides that a black leather coat would make good protective gear, and Murdoch finds this an interesting idea for other reasons.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Duke Nukem Forever, a marine offers Duke a suit of power armor, to which he smugly replies "Power armor is for pussies."
  • In the final mission of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, CJ taunts Big Smoke for wearing body armor, contrary to his gangsta image, Ryder also mocks a member of the Ballas for doing the same in a previous mission (the fact that CJ can buy body armour at stores doesn't seem to count).
  • In Portal 2, Cave Johnson mocks the notion of safety, caution, or...well...REASONS when doing science.
    Cave Johnson: The lab boys say that might be a fear reaction. I'm no psychiatrist, but coming from a bunch of eggheads who wouldn't recognize the thrill of danger if it walked up and snapped their little pink bras, that sounds like projection.
    Cave Johnson: Science isn't about why, it's about why not. You ask: why is so much of our science dangerous? I say: why not marry safe science if you love it so much? In fact, why not invent a special safety door that won't hit you in the butt on the way out, because you are fired.
  • The Dead Mines: The player character enter an abandoned gas-choked mine without protection. As the scope of the toxic gas leak gets worse, the player character repeatedly curses himself for not bringing a full containment suit.

    Web Comics 
  • Subverted in this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Steve jumps out of a plane without a parachute for the same reason he didn't bring his mommy to hold his hand: she had never loved him.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • One episode starts with the family all wearing seatbelts. The Rich Texan appears, not wearing a seatbelt, and calls the Simpsons cowards. Homer chases after him and swears revenge for the insult.
    • Another one has the Simpsons driving a car that has no seatbelts. When Lisa points out how dangerous that is, Homer says that seatbelts kill more lives than it saves.
    • When Marge becomes a police officer, she insists Bart wears a helmet and pads to ride on a skateboard. Cue the bullies beating him over his gear and commenting how easy it makes things on Jimbo's hands.
    • In "Homer's Enemy", Frank Grimes has a nervous breakdown and starts imitating Homer. He sees an electrical cable with warning signs and goes "I don't need to wear safety gloves because I'm Homer Simps..." and electrocutes himself.
  • In the Donald Duck short "How to Have an Accident At Work", the narrator points out that while Donald's Mr. Safety at home, when he checks in for work "his mind checks out". Donald walks by without putting on his safety gear, saying he doesn't need all that "unnecessary equipment". He promptly tumbles down a staircase.
  • In one episode of Rocko's Modern Life, Heffer is driving and the seatbelt breaks because he's too fat for it. Heffer dismisses seatbelts as being for sissies.

    Real Life 
  • The Badass Biker's iconic appearance relies on defying this trope. Their ensemble of gloves, leather outerwear and and wraparound helmet is not just worn by Rule of Cool. Instead it is their safety gear. It gives the best possible protection against hazards like windburn and road rash. Any smart biker who takes Motorcycle Safety seriously always wears a full complement of safety gear.

    Not All Bikers are Hells Angels. That said, criminal biker gangs (including the Hells Angels) tend to play this completely straight. They eschew safety gear in favor of maximum danger, since the only kind of person welcome in their ranks is a suicidally-reckless Death Seeker.
  • Dave Barry once wrote a newspaper article retelling the night where his son, Rob, was hit by a car while riding his skateboard and had to go to the hospital. At the end of the article, Rob himself writes that "helmets look dorky" and that was his excuse for not wearing one. But then, Rob advises that looking dorky is a lot better than ending up dead. Barry's illustrator included a comic comparing the "dorky looking helmet" and the "much dorkier looking hospital clothing" to drive the point home.
  • People will often start off following all safety protocol and then after time, pay less and less heed to it. This comes from people relaxing because the dangers that the safety protocol prevents doesn't happen often. Then the disaster happens and people get hurt. This is why "drills" are common in most industries. By running workers over and over again through the proper procedures they become instinctive actions, and the workers will (in theory) keep themselves safe without ever having to consciously think about the safety protocols.
  • Sometimes happens on construction jobs, where workers shun safety procedures such as always being tied off when working at unsafe heights. They may either think they're badass enough that they don't need to take these measures, or think those measures slow them down too much or make their job harder. Supervisors have very little tolerance for this, and getting caught ignoring safety regs can easily result in a a one-way trip to the gate and a pink slip. Furthermore, if a specific contractor on a large jobsite has multiple people doing this, they can, at the very least, expect to get a stern talking-to from the safety department, and very well may get booted off the site if it is a persistent issue with them or if they fail to fire someone who has done something so absurdly dangerous that they can no longer be allowed on the site.
  • Truckers may similarly shun regulations requiring eight hours rest after ten hours driving (as per U.S. transport regs), and protest that they can handle longer driving periods. Often what may really motivate this is either a tight schedule, or (for independent truckers) scheduling more runs than they could possibly do within the regs, for more money - the common joke being that they take high-grade stimulants to do this.
  • Also relates to the tendency for younger people to take more risks (driving recklessly, having unsafe sex, blindly experimenting with pills, etc.) because they think they're indestructible.
  • Japanese Naval pilots in World War II went into battle without parachutes or properly organized medevac. In addition, IJN damage control was not as comprehensive as it could have been. A concrete example of this is the fate of the carrier Taihō, which exploded six hours after being struck by a single torpedo because an improperly addressed fuel leak allowed aviation gasoline fumes to accumulate inside the hull.
  • Aron Ralston, as dramatized in 127 Hours, neglected to follow the basic safety protocol of notifying someone else of his hiking plans. As a result, when his arm became trapped under a boulder, he had no option but to free himself using an dull cutting tool. Since attaining fame for it, Ralston has decried his own behavior as a stupid mistake and encouraged other hikers to not do as he did.
  • This seems to be the prevailing opinion (or excuse to save money) among bicyclists who do not wear helmets. The mindset is particularly dangerous in places with a lot of Drives Like Crazy motorists, where a bicyclist would clearly not stand a chance against any four- or more-wheeled motor vehicle without protective gear. The bicyclist's idea is that he or she will never get involved in any accidents because he or she is too badass to let that happen to them.
  • Science instructors who teach chemistry or dissection lab activities must regularly remind students to keep their eye protection on, as many find safety goggles or glasses to be uncomfortable or prone to fogging up. That, or they just think it looks less dorky to wear their eye protection on their forehead than over their eyes.
  • When mesh fencing masks were initially invented in the 18th century, most fencers in the European world considered wearing such protection to be cowardly as well as insulting to one's opponent, since by wearing it you were implying that you didn't trust your partner to exercise proper control. The masks didn't really catch on until the 19th century. An earlier safeguard against poking someone's eye out with a foiled sword was to tie a tennis ball-sized pad over the blunt tip so that it was too large to get past the eye socket, but this did not always work, and people still lost eyes and teeth fairly frequently. Proper fencing masks made the practice a lot safer.
  • History recounts practices of ancient and Medieval warriors renouncing protective gear; the most famous of these are probably the ancient Celts, who were said to occasionally fight in the nude. This behaviour is usually interpreted as a form of magical thinking along the lines of this trope — or rather, "No Safety Gear Is Heroic". In short, these warriors probably believed that the supernatural favour which they would gain by doing this, would more than make up for the loss of mundane protection.
  • During the Vietnam War, American helicopter crews were issued body armor vests into which protective ceramic armor plates, commonly known as "chicken plates", could be inserted. Despite the obvious implications of cowardice, everyone still wore it and often placed additional plates in the helicopter as extra armor.


Video Example(s):


Seatbelts and robberies

Elora finds it un-badass that Bear insists she buckle up while jacking the chip truck.

How well does it match the trope?

4.67 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / SafetyGearIsCowardly

Media sources: