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Safety in Muggles

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Characters who seek Safety in Muggles manage to avoid being harmed, captured or killed because their pursuer is unwilling to break The Masquerade in front of a large number of Muggle witnesses. This can swing in a villain or hero's favor, turning a sure win into a stalemate, or possibly even a win for whoever can manipulate the crowd of bystanders to unwittingly helping their cause. Even causing a scene to get themselves (or their pursuer) arrested can count, since being under the custody of muggle law enforcement (incompetent or corrupt as it may be) can deter immediate harm.

Notably, this tactic is used by both heroes and villains alike.

Of course, characters attempting to do this run the risk of the pursuer deciding to use conventional means to separate them from the crowd (like posing as a "common" kidnapper or using a gun instead of a Laser Blade) or eschewing collateral damage / breaching the masquerade and trusting people's Weirdness Censor to convince them it was something mundane after the fact (if they even care). In the absolute worst case, the pursuer may decide to eliminate the characters and uphold the masquerade by the simple expedient of killing everyone.

The use of this trope becomes especially Ironic if the one being saved doesn't care about upholding the masquerade.

Truth in Television to a large extent. If a person in danger can escape to a location with many bystanders, a criminal will think twice before continuing pursuit in a place with so many potential witnesses. It is also much easier to summon help in such a place.

Contrast Killed to Uphold the Masquerade and Booked Full of Mooks. Compare Villain Over for Dinner and Human Shield.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Soul Eater has a slight variation which could probably be best stated as "Safety In Witch Hunters", both times used against Medusa:
    • Eruka and Mizune try this technique to kill Medusa, by confronting her in a dark alley and attacking. If she doesn't fight back they'll kill her with ease. Meanwhile, if she releases her Soul Protect spell to fight back everyone will sense her and her cover will be blown, then Eruka and Mizune will flee and let the Meisters and Deathscythes kill Medusa for them. Medusa Takes A Third Option - activate a trap she already placed in the other two witches that can kill them without her having to use magic.
    • Stein actually is trying to unmask Medusa as a witch, however since he doesn't have enough evidence he confronts her at a party so she can't kill him without revealing herself (right in front of Lord Death himself and in a room full of meisters and their Equippable Allies). Unfortunately she's already put her plan (to trap everyone attending the party while she frees an Eldritch Abomination) into motion and just runs away.
  • In Death Note when going to meet the second Kira, Light/Kira invites a large group of friends to accompany him on the outing in case Ryuk is seen by the second Kira's shinigami, he/she won't be able to tell which person Ryuk is following. The second Kira is able to spot him anyway, due to a quirk in how the shinigami eyes work that Light wasn't aware of.
  • In Hellsing, Seras manages to prevent a meeting between Hellsing and Iscariot in an art gallery from degenerating into bloody violence by impersonating a guide and leading a tourist group into the room. In the same episode, a villainous character tries taking out Alucard and Seras by reporting them as terrorists and having several SWAT teams ambush them under observation by the press. That...does not work quite so well. Alucard simply massacres the SWAT members.
  • In Gate, while the heroes are on the run from US, Russian, and Chinese agents who want to capture them, Risa goes to a bunch of message boards and convinces several otakus to meet them and see the Special Region natives with them. The agents are forced to back down as there are too many witnesses.

    Films — Animation 
  • Lilo & Stitch. Jumba can't open fire on Stitch because of his close company with Lilo, as humans are a major food source for the "endangered species" of mosquitoes. He enjoys reminding Stitch of it though, such as when he revealed the handle of his plasma weapon from inside a paper sack.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the original and remake of Fright Night (1985), Charlie and his girlfriend run into a crowded dance club hoping to Invoke this trope and stop Jerry from killing them. It doesn't work since there are too many people to notice that his "loving kiss" of her neck is actually a Hemo Erotic Kiss of the Vampire.
  • In the first Men in Black movie, K stops J's attempt to kill the bug villain because they are in public. Turns out the MIB's don't have a Godzilla Threshold because The World Is Always Doomed and a big part of their job is making sure the general public don't know about it.
  • In North By Northwest, the protagonist takes refuge in an auction, and makes a disturbance in order to be escorted out by security.
  • Averted in The Matrix films, where the Agents have zero qualms with leap-frogging from car to car on a busy freeway, tearing the roof off of one, and then dodging the stream of bullets fired at them, all in plain view of the civilian drivers. Presumably, this is because the Machines have the power to just rewrite the memories of those imprisoned in their Lotus-Eater Machine.
    • The aversion only works for the villains, the human heroes have to keep a low profile and maintain the masquerade to avoid drawing the attention of the Agents in the first place. One scene shows a bystander witnessing a superhuman display and being taken over by an Agent before they can even finish expressing their surprise.
  • At one point during The Saint (1997), Simon Templar escapes the Russian gangsters who are chasing him simply by entering a crowded shopping center. He doesn't hide, doesn't run... he just surrounds himself by witnesses. They still would have tried to kill him, though, without any hesitation—but they decided it was too much of a hassle.
  • In the first Blade film, Deacon Frost uses this method to converse with Blade. He even hangs lampshades by pointing out several children playing in the park nearby. Even more audacious is that he is a vampire, talking to a vampire hunter, in broad daylight.
  • James Bond:
    • Moonraker: Jaws, The Dragon, is about to strangle Manuela, the tertiary Bond Girl when he's interrupted by a group of Carnival revelers. Even more fortunate for her, the distraction lasts long enough for Bond to arrive and rescue her, and another group of partiers saves both of their lives when they not only stop Jaws, they sweep him along with them, away from the couple. Amusingly, Jaws just throws up his hands and dances away with them.
    • In For Your Eyes Only, Bond is stalked through a ski resort by the bad guys, but they are deterred from harming him because of the crowd.
    • Octopussy: Bond escapes Kamal Khan's palace, who embarks on a literal manhunt through the Indian jungle. He only gets away when he swims out to a tourist boat which was passing by.
    • In Licence to Kill, after Bond "resigns" and escapes to the street, M stops a guard from shooting because there's too many people around.
    • Spectre pays homage to the example from For Your Eyes Only, with the bad guy Bond is chasing fleeing into a crowd, knowing it will deter Bond from killing him. Later, two thugs attempt to capture Q in a ski lift, but are foiled when a bunch of tourists get on. Q is able to slip away once the lift stops.
  • The Pelican Brief The heroine flees into a Mardi Gras celebration and actually pleads for help from one of the revelers. He obliges, punching her pursuer.
  • Defied in Hardcore Henry. Henry tries to lose the thugs chasing him in crowds, but they simply open fire on him in broad daylight, not caring if they hit any bystanders. Bonus points for the thug who blasts the bus Henry is on with a flame thrower.
  • Subverted in Van Helsing. The titular character wants to do the Prisoner Exchange (Van Helsing has Frankenstein's Monster, while Dracula has Anna Valerious in his custody) in a crowded place to prevent Dracula from using his vampiric powers. However, astute observers can see something that Van Helsing can't, namely none of the people in the ballroom save for Anna have reflections in the mirrors there.
  • Subverted in The Bourne Ultimatum. Jason Bourne gets Simon Ross to go to Waterloo Station at its busiest time to try to throw off Blackbriar, but Noah Vosen isn't deterred and has Ross assassinated nonetheless. Pamela Landy rebukes Vosen's rash actions later.
  • Mr. Nice Guy: When Jackie is confronted by gang members during his live taping, the members of a rival gang were planning to attack before stopping since there were too many innocent people there.
  • Averted in Batman Begins. Years before he becomes the Caped Crusader, Bruce Wayne goes to confront Falcone at his club to show he's not afraid of the mob boss. Falcone is not impressed, and makes it clear that Bruce is only safe because he's no threat to Falcone, not least because he's got so many Gotham officials in his pocket.
    Falcone: Look around you. You'll see two Councilmen, a union official, a couple off-duty cops, and a judge. (takes out a gun and points it at Bruce Wayne) Now I wouldn't have a second's hesitation of blowing your head off right here and right now in front of 'em. Now that's power you can't buy. That's the power of fear.
  • In Witness, John Book is able to take out two of the corrupt cops who come to the farm, but their leader takes Rachel and her father hostage. He's going to shoot Book, but the rest of the Amish community—summoned by Rachel's son ringing the bell—arrive and he gives up, unable or unwilling to kill so many.

  • The Elenium: Sparhawk encounters Martel ... in Arasham's tent, while Sparhawk is pretending to be an emissary to Arasham. Both Sparhawk and Martel really want to start fighting, but neither feels like being torn to bits by a horde of fanatic Rendors.
  • A common tactic in The Dresden Files. While supernatural nasties are generally willing to be seen by ordinary people, even the strongest will usually split when they hear police sirens. Bringing in the mortal authorities is considered the "nuclear option" among the supernatural nations—they're all well aware of what mobs of people with torches and pitchforks can do, let alone mobs of people armed with guns. Also subverted when a White Court vampire tries to get Dresden to back down by invoking this. Dresden points out that he's in the phone book under Wizard and the publicity would do great things for his business.
  • The Murderbot Diaries. Averted in "Artificial Condition" when Murderbot is hired as security for some researchers who want to meet with a Corrupt Corporate Executive despite the distinct possibility they are being Lured into a Trap. They see it as a good sign that they are booked onto a public shuttle because of this trope, but the shuttle is sabotaged because if everyone on board is killed it will just make it difficult to pin down the motive, assuming it's not just regarded as an accident.
  • In Pact, various practitioners attempt this against their enemies. First, Blake Thorburn leaks word of Laird Behaim's involvement in his cousin's murder to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, causing him some inconvenience, and then follows up by faking a phone call to the police from within Laird's house to disrupt his plans while he's in the middle of a major ritual by getting him taken in for questioning under suspicion of child abuse. Unfortunately for Blake, the Masquerade in Pact's setting is partly maintained by the basic ability of any practitioner to create a Perception Filter by cutting the connection between them and a given individual, meaning that Laird, who has power to burn, is out of his cuffs before he reaches the police station, and he immediately returns to his home and does the ritual over before Blake can make it back to his house.
    • Later in the story, Duncan Behaim, in retaliation for the above attacks on his uncle, frames Blake for the murder of a child and takes advantage of Blake's unwillingness to pick a fight with the police to keep him in a holding cell.
  • Rose and Dimitri use this in Last Sacrifice, after breaking Rose out of the Court prison. They go into a large mall and meet up outside to lose their pursuers. They correctly assume that if they were seen, the guardians would hesitate before shooting or capturing them in front of so many witnesses, especially considering that they would both be able to put up a fight that could endanger civilians.
  • In Animorphs, David confronts the others in the school cafeteria while morphed into Marco.
    • As a general rule, the Yeerks will at least be slowed down by this tactic; they can still deploy, say, Controllers who are cops, but not Hork-Bajir.
    • Also a variant in one book: the Animorphs and Erek, representing the Ellimist, have to fight a group of Howlers, representing Crayak, to decide the fate of the Iskoort. Since the Howlers aren't allowed to hurt any Iskoort until after they win, the heroes quickly realize that crowds are their friends.
  • In Shaman Blues, Witkacy feels safe openly defying Gardiasz on the street in muggle part of the world, because he knows that the man won't kidnap him or use his magic on him in public. He's proven right, as Gardiasz just sends him a Death Glare and drives away.
  • Played for Laughs in The Well of Moments. Jasmine's competitor Klausen wants to team up with her to find the Well and split the profits, and won't take no for an answer. Jasmine stages a loud impromptu "break-up", accusing him of cheating repeatedly over the course of their long fictitious relationship, in front of a whole café. The hipster clientele stare daggers at Klausen until he slinks away.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander pulled this off against Angelus whilst Buffy was hospitalised and vulnerable. Angelus backed down rather than have to go through the effort of killing a bunch of security guards and other bystanders to get to Buffy.
  • In a first season episode of Burn Notice, Michael ducks out of a fight with an assassin dual-wielding knives by jumping in an elevator full of civilians.
  • Get Smart: Max is doing battle with a KAOS agent in his apartment when his aunt and uncle, who don't know he's in the spy business, show up. Max makes the KAOS agent play along that they're business colleagues, and the KAOS agent takes the opportunity to just leave.
  • Used regularly by Chuck when villains enter the Buy More.
  • This happened often in Highlander: The Series. The Immortals were usually very careful about conducting their fights in isolated areas without any witnesses. If any muggles showed up unexpectedly, they would abort the fight and try another time. In one instance Methos goes so far as to call the police in order to stop a fight between Duncan and another Immortal.
  • Supernatural: Dean confronts Dick Roman, who is secretly the leader of the Leviathans, in public, with dozens of witnesses, and challenges him to kill him. Dick has one simple rule for the Leviathans — don't make the news — and a very harsh penalty for failure. Dick can't just kill him without drawing tons of attention to himself and by proxy the Leviathans.
  • In an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cameron and a pro-Skynet female Terminator are fighting to the death in a lift when an innocent human family get in. The two Terminators wordlessly break off the fight until the humans have left.
  • Subverted in Killing Eve. Bill is led to a nightclub after following Villanelle, and while generally there is safety in a lot of other people (eyewitnesses, physical blockages), Bill is vulnerable. Villanelle stabs him repeatedly in the chest so quickly that by the time he falls to the ground, she's gone.
  • The Boys (2019): While their powerful corporate backers are adept at covering up their mistakes, any Celebrity Superhero is still a Slave to PR, so this trope comes up several times.
    • A-Train is beating The Female to death in a subway, so Frenchie loudly informs the people waiting on a nearby platform that the famous superhero is right over there. The Female escapes when fans request selfies with A-Train.
    • Knowing that Black Noir is about to attack the house they're in, the Boys gain time so they can construct booby-traps by calling in the fire brigade.
    • Homelander discovers Queen Maeve has a lesbian ex-girlfriend called Elena, so "outs" Maeve on live television to humiliate her. Elena doesn't want to have a relationship under the gaze of the paparazzi and Vought's publicity machine, but Maeve knows Elena will be safe from Homelander as long as she remains in the public eye.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons, Ravenloft module Death Ascendant. While the religious service in the temple is going on, the Kargat members take aside worshippers one at a time and drain them of their life force. When they try to do this to a Player Character, if the character protests, the Kargat member backs off so as not to make a scene.
  • In Mage: The Ascension, mages suffer from a Magic Misfire called "paradox" whenever they do anything that can't be explained away as coincidence. Paradox is bad enough when it's just supernaturals around to witness it, but it gets really bad if a Muggle sees something that's definitely magic. Therefore, mages of pretty much any faction tend to lay off the really heavy magic when there are civilians around. The prologue story in one edition of the main book had a character invoke this deliberately: realizing that her opponent had too much paradox going, she grabbed a random guy off the street and asked him to help her. The mere presence of an ordinary man was enough to increase the paradox to the point where the enemy mage was simply pulled out of reality.

    Video Games 
  • Used as a game mechanic in the Assassin's Creed series, but most obviously in the first: Altair's Highly-Conspicuous Uniform looks vaguely like those of the locally respected scholars, which his Templar enemies cannot publicly attack. Demonstrated at the end of this trailer, though in-game it's more often used to enter a city unhindered.
  • This is the entire point of the Hanzo Academy in Senran Kagura, which is mostly a normal school except for the parts dedicated to training Good Shinobi. The handful of Shinobi students attending the Academy have no classes with the "normies", use a different hidden entrance, try to avoid making friends with the regular students, and use facilities totally hidden from the general student body. Despite this complete lack of interaction, the sheer volume of normal students in the school mean their clandestine enemies from the opposing Hebejo Academy cannot simply storm the school without endangering the Masquerade, creating a layer of safety purely due to how many civilians are at Hanzo. This does not apply when Shinobi actually come face-to-face, however, as a camouflage barrier allows them to throw down in broad daylight without alerting civilians.
  • Splinter Cell was going to use this as a game mechanic using the idea of social stealth where Sam would blend in with a crowd and use people rather than darkness as pockets of cover. The idea was eventually scrapped for a more traditional hide in the dark cover shooter system.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, the Undersiders exploit Armmaster's obsession with reputation by trying to make him look bad in front of the crowd, causing him to hesitate while attacking.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, villain Tombstone not only refuses to attack Spidey as he helps him fight other villains, because he depends on good publicity to keep running his business. As soon as there is no one watching them, though...
    • In the same cartoon, there are also scenes where an undisguised Spidey has to avoid attacking Eddie Brock, AKA Venom, because Eddie makes sure there are people watching.
  • In most incarnations of Transformers, this is the rationale behind becoming robots in disguise, being able to masquerade as common, everyday vehicles and objects.
    • In Transformers: Prime especially, transforming in front of humans is something you just don't do. Any human that knows tends to wind up with the Autobots, as the Decepticons have no qualms about people being Killed to Uphold the Masquerade. This is what allows Arcee to escape in the first episode... her Decepticon pursuers weren't willing to risk a giant robot battle in view of more humans than they could reasonably expect to kill without causing a scene.