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Selective Enforcement

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I found while driving in Wyoming that wearing a stetson and driving a beat-up pickup meant you could go as fast as you like, while the police picked up Californian winnebagos that went one mph over 55. After all, they wanted to bring money into the state, not merely circulate it.
Terry Pratchett,

One character sees another getting away with something that is against the rules. If he speaks up, everyone ignores him. So he decides to join in, and commits some very minor violation. He is immediately caught and has the book thrown at him.

This trope can range from a single scene to a whole plotline. Most often played as comedy, though there are some dramatic examples where the selective enforcement is over something more serious. It is a fairly subversive trope, showing a poor fit between action and consequence.

See also Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking. Can be related to Can't Get Away with Nuthin', or Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin'. If someone tries to imitate the Karma Houdini, they'll end up like this. Protagonist-Centered Morality would be a subtrope of this. This is very much Truth in Television — in some online forums as well as in Real Life.


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  • One Piece: During the Davy Back Fight arc, the Straw Hat pirates have to play games against the Foxy Pirates. One of their biggest disadvantages is that the referee is a member of the Foxy Pirates who ignores any and all fouls committed by his side while making sure the Straw Hats can't get away with the same things.
  • This tends to happen with Rito oh so much in To Love Ru, especially with Yami. She is quick to beat the crap out of him and throw death threats whenever it looks like he does something perverted, but when real perverts like Risa grope her purposely, she just meekly tells them to stop (it's been suggested, and evidenced, that Yami is a Covert Pervert who enjoys female affection).

    Comic Books 
  • Iznogoud: In "Official Trip", Iznogoud tries repeatedly to have the Caliph commit a diplomatic faux-pas with the Sultan Pulmankar which would force him to either step down, resign his position or possibly even be killed on the spot by the outraged sultan. Everything the vizier suggests, however, results in the Caliph getting a cheerful, happy response for somehow following some bizarre and obscure tradition of his visiting guests. Then Iznogoud says "drat" in response to the last one, which results in the sultan angrily taking offense to that word and demanding the vizier's life in slavery lest war be declared on the spot. The Caliph gleefully agrees, insisting that "his good vizier would surely agree in the interest of peace." Gilligan Cut to Iznogoud jailed and angrily trying to escape.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Peter breaks his chair, and the teacher wants to make sure he's alright, and tells him to get another one. Flash mocks him about it, and gets detention. Peter hits Flash in the head with a basketball for hitting on Mary Jane, and the gym teacher praises him for finally having some aim, and tells Flash to hit the showers. To be fair, Flash is a Jerk Jock who has been bullying Peter for years, while Peter is a well-behaved and good-natured student who has been subject to bullying for his entire life, so you can see where the teachers are coming from.

    Fan Works 
  • Fortune Favors the Brave: Mme Bustier gives Chloé a free pass for all her awfulness, but is more than happy to scold her better-behaved students like Marinette and Nino for not conforming to her high expectations. She expects them to 'lead by example', after all, so things like Marinette being tardy or Nino being less sociable while he grieves the loss of his older brother clearly must be called out, while Chloé harassing and bullying her peers isn't worth addressing.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail has Chloe, after going through a horrible day at school, getting her ass kicked by Ash in a battle, her father not noticing her distaste for Pokémon and Mr. Mime making curry on Ash and Goh's request — as they're nothing more than a reminder that she and Goh are drifting apart — lashing out by slamming a plate of hot curry in Goh's face and splashing water Ash's face in fury. But Professor Cerise chews his daughter out for being angry, making Chloe believe that Ash and Goh will always have his support but she will never have his love or support in the slightest. It's one of the factors that gets her on the Infinity Train; her belief that this Double Standard is just a part of her life and no one cares for her.
  • Leave for Mendeleiev: Mme Bustier firmly believes that punishing bullies won't teach them anything, and that her other students should 'lead by example' by forgiving all slights and modeling better behavior. In practice, this means that Chloe has gotten away with tormenting her classmates for years while Bustier scolded her victims for getting upset.
  • let's go out with a bang!: While both Miu and Kokichi have retained the most provocative aspects of their personalities from Danganronpa V3, Kokichi is given significantly more leeway. He constantly baits and berates Miu, but whenever she responds in kind, the others act as though she's more at fault for biting back. Played With in that, while there's a definite imbalance, it's not quite as severe as Miu perceives it — Kokichi is scolded and chided for his behavior; it just doesn't stop him. This also feeds her paranoia and refusal to accept her amount of the blame, with increasingly dramatic — and tragic — results.
  • A lot of Ranma ½ fanfics include this plot device.
    • In fights between Ranma and Akane, nobody will take Ranma's side in any argument, with everybody siding with Akane no matter what.
    • During fights between Ranma and Ryoga, Ryoga will use his curse to pose as P-chan, Akane's favorite pet. So when Ranma and Ryoga get into disagreements, all Ryoga has to do is turn into P-chan, and Akane will always side against Ranma for "picking on a poor defenseless pig".
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
    • During most of Act III, Headmaster Mikogami repeatedly does next to nothing about the various bullies and Jerkasses who deliberately go out of their way to torment and harass Tsukune and his friends, but punishes Tsukune and co. for simply acting in legitimate self-defense against said bullies and Jerkasses, to the extent that he threatens to separate them if they get into another fight. This case ends up deconstructed in chapters 30 and 31 when the other students quickly find out and use it to their advantage to actively harass and taunt Tsukune's crew without fear of retribution, gloating they can't do anything or they'll dig themselves in deeper with the headmaster; this climaxes when Nagare Kano exploits it to blackmail the girls into letting him take dirty pictures of them and nearly rape them. After Kano is dealt with and he learns of all this, Mikogami thankfully wises up and reinstates their right to defend themselves so it doesn't happen again.
    • Throughout Act VI, after discovering Arial's Jerk with a Heart of Gold nature and reconciling with her, Dark more or less sits back and does nothing while she repeatedly attacks Mizore, both physically and verbally, in response to Mizore trying to win her approval and make peace with her. While this case is somewhat justified, since Arial is his guardian angel and Dark needs her approval to live, it doesn't change the fact that he lets Arial get away with it when in the previous five acts, he had, at the very least, put numerous other people in the hospital for even the slightest transgression they made towards Mizore.
    • In the backstory, Rason killed a human man to protect Luna, a monster, and for breaking Heaven's Thou Shalt Not Kill Muggles rule, is nearly executed and ultimately banished from Heaven to give him a chance to prove his case that not all monsters are bad. In Act VI, Gabriel kills numerous HDA agents to save Rason and the others, and the elder basically gives him a slap on the wrist, saying he's sure Gabriel had his reasons. Of course, it's a bit more justified in this case, since by that point, Heaven has begun to change its views on monsters.
  • Scarlet Lady: Mme. Bustier refuses to punish Chloé for any of her bullying, on the grounds that she can't force her to become a better person. While this is technically true, this doesn't stop Bustier from trying to force others to "lead by example" through passive-aggressively pressuring them to Turn the Other Cheek and forgive her for every transgression. In fact, she gets incredibly angry when Marinette calls her out on her blatant double standards — so much so that she gets akumatized into Zombizou, who attempts to brainwash Marinette and everyone else into becoming her idea of "better people".
    • After this incident, Ivan points out that Mme. Bustier has no problem sending other students aside from Chloé to the principal's office for the slightest transgressions. And again, she prefers punishing anyone who reacts to being teased or bullied rather than the perpetrators.
  • Played for Drama in The Odds Were Never In My Favor, where Dumbledore unequally enforces the rules, with his favorites getting nothing more than a slap on the wrist unless his hand is forced. It takes what could have nearly been a Deadly Prank against the Ravenclaws by Ron Weasly and Leo Black for either of them to face any punishment, and even then, Dumbledore would have handwaved it had the Board of Governors not stepped in and suspended then.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Anger Management centers on this trope. An excessively passive man is sentenced to anger management classes for allegedly (but not really) starting a commotion on an airplane. And it happens again, each time with him accidentally insulting or harming a woman/ disabled person/ ethnic minority that would ensure that no jury would pity him. It was all a scam, with these manipulative folk being presented as the good guys. Except the guy with the tazer. He was just having a bad day.
  • Bicycle Thieves: A non-comedic example is this classic Italian film. The protagonist, Antonio, has his bicycle stolen which he needs for his job. Eventually, he tracks down the thief, but the police lets him go, because Antonio doesn't have any proof and his neighbors lie for him. Out of desperation, Antonio tries to steal a bicycle himself, and is caught immediately.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger:
    • Midway through Steve Rogers, Peggy Carter, and Howard Stark go against orders and fly a plane deep behind enemies lines so Cap can rescue some P.O.W.s, only for the mission to apparently go wrong and result in the deaths of the captain and all the prisoners. Stark, naturally, has a suit of solid gold armor to shield him from the consequences but Colonel Phillips is very quick to inform Peggy that she and even himself will enjoy no such protections or lenience. Thankfully, however, it turns out Captain America survived and brought every single P.O.W. back to camp with him.
      Colonel Phillips: I can’t touch Stark. He’s rich and he’s the Army’s number one weapons contractor. You are neither one.
      Peggy Carter: With respect, sir, I don’t regret my actions. And I don’t think Captain Rogers did either.
      Colonel Phillips: What makes you think I give a damn about your opinions? I took a chance with you, Agent Carter. And now America’s golden boy and a lot of other good men are dead, cause you had a crush.
    • Unfortunately the very same incident becomes Harsher in Hindsight in respect to this trope in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Isaiah Bradley was the first Black Super Soldier and performed a very similar act as Steve Rogers did above. Whereas Steve was celebrated and given many accolades, Isaiah was thrown into a jail cell for 30 years, was experimented on to try and recreate the Super Soldier Serum, and was declared dead to the outside world at large.
  • Deewaar: The mother of the young bread thief Ravi shot in the leg accuses the police force of this, saying only poor people get shot by them, while the ones who are up to their ears in black market affairs go unpunished.
  • The Longest Yard's remake had a referee who was on the guard's payroll, and thus wasn't calling blatantly obvious penalties committed by the guards against the cons. Paul Crewe puts an end to that by throwing a high speed bullet pass into his crotch on two consecutive plays, then "suggests" he calls the game down the middle from now on. The pained ref agrees.
  • Outlaw plays the trope straight for drama. In the film, the London Metropolitan Police is horrendously ineffective at dealing with professional criminals and hooligans, but when the protagonists form a vigilance committee and start beating up dealers and robbing money launderers a corrupt cop turns them into public enemy #1. 2/3rds of the remaining protagonists wind up getting gunned down by armed Flying Squad members in the end.

    Game Shows 
  • The general rule of thumb on game shows is if a contestant starts saying an answer before the time's up buzzer starts to sound, it counts. However, quite a few shows have been lax about allowing answers after the buzzer. Family Feud has always been notoriously bad at this.
  • Match Game has always been notorious for their judging of matching answers. Synonyms are obviously fine, but if a contestant says an answer that covers a general area and the celebrities give a specific answer using the same word (and vice versa), no points are awarded. This is what led to the infamous "School Riot" episode where "finishing school" and "night school" were disallowed as a matches for "school".
  • Jeopardy! can be strict with spelling during "Final Jeopardy". The general rule is if a misspelling affects the pronunciation, then the answer is ruled incorrect.
  • Password: In all incarnations, contestants and celebrities were not allowed to use hand gestures. However, a few gestures slipped by from time to time while others got zapped.
    • Another notable example, especially from the Password Plus era is the very peculiar rule that you had to give the answer to the puzzle and nothing but the answer to the puzzle to get it correct. If the answer was "ice" and you said "ice cubes," for instance, you would as likely as not get the buzzer. Enforcement varied wildly.
  • Pyramid: Some clues got by in the upfront game and the Winner's Circle and others got cuckooed or buzzed. A bad example is the Winner's Circle clue "Mulberries" for "Things on a Bush", both on the 80s versions. One time, it led to a $25,000 win and another, it was judged as synonymous and got the buzzer. The kick in the pants? On the latter, the contestant had to match $10,000 to come back the next day.

  • Harry Potter:
    • Snape from the series is biased and unfair towards the Gryffindors — deducting points from the protagonists and giving them detentions for no cause or for minor infractions — while typically ignoring wrong-doing by Slytherins.
    • When Umbridge joins the staff in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix not only does she partake in choosing whom she feels like actually punishing she selects a group of students, seemingly all from Slytherin, who do the same, strongly favoring their own house.
  • The late political cartoonist Herbert Block's 1972 book "State of the Union" featured cartoons he did during the first four years of the Nixon Administration.
    • In a chapter about law and order, one cartoon had a federal agent having left his car after seeing smoke from rising from behind a fence. He sees it's a young thug who has gunned down an innocent victim. The Fed wipes his brow in relief and says "Whew! At first I thought it was marijuana smoke!"
    • Another had some murderers in the background looking down approvingly at their kill. In the foreground, Attorney General John Mitchell is ushering Li'l Abner character Fearless Fosdick on to cut down paintings of nude figures from a museum wall while calling out "Forward in the war against crime!"
  • In the Wayside School books, Todd always gets in trouble three times over the course of the day and is always sent home early on the kindergarten bus. On multiple occasions, this is due to a selective enforcement plot when the rest of the class gets away with things, but he gets caught for a minor infraction. For example, the whole classroom will be misbehaving with the teacher not paying attention, but the second Todd opens his mouth, the entire class is silent and he's caught talking in class. Similarly, one scene has Joy bugging him over what page he's on in the math book, and mocking him for being so far behind her. Her mocking gets very, very loud. But when he finally loses his cool, he's the one who gets in trouble. Immediately after he saved the lives of everyone in the class. At least he got a hero’s goodbye. What a Jerkass Mrs. Jewls and Joy were.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens a lot on The Andy Griffith Show whenever the plot requires it. Andy seems less intent on actually enforcing the law than he is in promoting his own sense of values, and it always seems to work out. Barney, on the other hand, can't seem to tell where to draw the line on anything he's involved in.
  • In Becker, Dr. Becker makes several attempts to go see a particular movie which fail because of loud, disruptive people in the cinema. At a later attempt he practically gets crucified because Margaret keeps talking to him.
  • Drake & Josh: When Drake does something wrong, no one does anything about it. But when Josh tries to do the same, everyone has almost laser precision of what he is doing.
  • In Friends, Ross is often a victim of this. In one episode, he finds out that students are sneaking into the library stacks for sex (particularly the aisle containing his thesis). The library refuses to do anything about it. He decides to monitor the aisle himself, meets a pretty grad student... and ends up getting caught by the librarian.
    • In another episode, Rachel "borrows" Monica's car and drove it without a license. She is later pulled over by a cop for driving over the speed limit but manages to talk her way out by flirting with him. Ross, who is keeping an eye on her, is later pulled over for driving too slow and is unable to talk his way out from getting a ticket.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Marshall talked his way out of a ticket by offering to bring the cop to his barbecue. Robin, being a pretty girl, can get out of a ticket easily. Barney? No way. It doesn't help that he takes getting out of a ticket as a challenge and proceeds to get a dozen tickets as a means of proving that he can get out of one.
  • Used in Police Squad! when Frank Drebin is trying to goad "The Champ" into accepting a prize fight with Bobby Briggs.
    Frank Drebin: Bobby Briggs could break every bone in your body.
    The Champ: Yeah, well he must be a pretty good boxer.
    Drebin: Well, how would you know? You never won an honest fight in your life.
    The Champ: Hey, take it easy. Nobody wants to get hurt. Just cool off.
    Drebin: Why should I? The only reason you're champ is cause of guys lying down or dying.
    The Champ: Hey, let me buy you a drink.
    Drebin: I wouldn't drink with you, you two-bit phony excuse for a fighter.
    The Champ: You're just tired. (pats Drebin on the cheek) You didn't mean it.
    Bobby Briggs: (to Drebin) Aw, forget it.
    The Champ Forget it? Nobody says "forget it" to me! (takes a swing at Briggs)

    Video Games 
  • Averted in Bully. You cause a problem in front of a police officer or prefect, you will get taken down. Some NPC causes a problem (even if it's against you) in front of a police officer or prefect, he or she will get taken down just the same.
  • Dead or Alive: The whole situation with Kasumi and the Mugen Tenshin Clan has shades of this. Raidou had raped Kasumi's mother Ayame, stole the Torn Sky Blast, their most sacred technique, and broke Hayate's spine and put him in a coma, and the Mugen Tenshin decided not to bother going after him, whereas Kasumi decided to pursue Raidou herself because no one else would and is immediately branded a traitor and Marked to Die.
  • Throughout The Elder Scrolls series, this is the case with guards. If you break any law, from shoplifting an apple to outright murder, the guards will descend on you in no time flat. However, they won't lift a finger to help you with that assassin trying to kill you... Even bystanders who witness your crimes may attempt to exact vigilante justice on you and, unlike guards, they may not stop after you've paid your fine. That said, this has been improving over the course of the series along with overall enhancements to NPC AI. For example, by Skyrim, guards are capable of identifying the aggressor in a situation and will assist the player against unlawful attackers.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • This is pretty much the standard for virtually anything in GTA. Although it's common to see officers chasing after other people, the cops will never bust the psycho with the SMG shooting at you from a pimpmobile. Oh, and you'll get stars for shooting back.
    • An early Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas mission has you fleeing on bicycles from gangsters shooting at you with machine guns from a car. The police won't respond even as they stand in the gangster's line of fire, but so help you if your bike bumps into them.
    • Subverted in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, while you get stars for shooting back, you also get rewarded for stopping (non-lethally) criminals who are fleeing from cops.
  • Saints Row:
    • In sharp contrast to GTA tradition, the police in Saints Row 2 will help you in firefights with rival gangs if they see the other gang firing first and if you don't hit any police or civilians.
    • Saints Row: The Third downplays it slightly. The police leave the fighting between the gangs if neither hits police or bystanders. However, if the Syndicate takes a cop as a human shield and you free them without harm by killing their hostage taker, they will show their gratitude by attacking the Syndicate and leaving you and the Saints alone.
  • The Warriors has the police go after you if you rough up a civilian in their presence, but they won't give two shits if you attack an enemy gang since it's less work for the cops. A cop will even go after your enemies should said enemy's attack hit a cop.


    Web Videos 
  • In Half-Life but the AI is Self-Aware Lawful Stupid security guard Benrey firmly believes Gordon is a thief and murderer on the grounds of him not having his passport with him with no evidence, yet he allows everyone else to get away with the same thing, including himself, who exclusively kills random civilians. Ironically, Benrey accuses Gordon of crimes only when he is not responsible, and completely ignores it when he actually has committed a crime.

    Western Animation 

  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In the episode "The Prank", Nicole calls out Gumball and Darwin for pranking Richard, while ignoring the fact that Richard pranked them first. When Gumball calls her out on it, Nicole justifies herself by saying, "You know it's too late for your father."
  • On Bob's Burgers, Linda Belcher tends to only punish her kids when they do something wrong if it affects her negatively.
  • Danny Phantom: In the pilot episode, Mr. Lancer punishes Danny, Sam, and Tucker for a Food Fight while blowing off the fact that Dash started the whole thing by throwing food at Danny in the first place and letting him off scot-free. When Danny points this out, Lancer states that Dash gets a free pass because he's the star quarterback.
    Danny: Dash started it! He threw—
    Lancer: Four touchdown passes in the last game, is thereby exempt from scorn. You two, however, are not.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode "420", after Peter accidentally kills Quagmire's pet cat in a prank gone wrong, he and Brian go to bury the body and get pulled over by the police. The cops blatantly ignore the fact that Peter has a small body bag in the backseat and is not only covered head-to-toe in blood and has a hand drawn map that explicitly says "this is where we'll hide the body", but driving drunk, but when they discover Brian in possession of a quarter-ounce of pot, they arrest him on the spot and throw him in jail.
    • In the episode "Model Misbehavior", while voicing his support for Lois' modeling career, Peter states that he'll "pleasure himself" to Lois' photos, to which both Chris and Meg say "Me too!" In response, Peter calls out Meg, and only Meg, for saying such things about her mother, and when Meg says she was just trying to fit in, Peter responds by punching a hole in the wall and screaming at her to get out of the house.
    • In "Screams of Silence", Joe does absolutely nothing as he witnesses Jeff beat up Brenda in the open, yet he still threatens to arrest Quagmire for saying they should kill Jeff.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Inverted as a Springtime for Hitler in the episode "Crime After Crime". The episode's B-plot has Frankie cooking something disgusting for dinner, so Bloo causes trouble in an effort to get sent to his room without dinner. Unfortunately the episode's A-plot was Mr. Herriman acting hyper-paranoid over someone discovering his addiction to carrots, leading him to punish everyone else in the house for relatively minor infractions due to thinking they're "on to him" while completely ignoring or even congratulating Bloo. Frankie then "rewards" him for his good behavior by serving him an extra-large helping of her disgusting slop. This is meant as a genuine reward too, to Bloo's dismay.
  • Gravity Falls: Blubs and Durland will ignore a man snatching an old lady's purse right in front of them, but are quick to respond to reports of excessive giggling.
  • Hey Arnold!: In the episode "Girl Trouble," Helga relentlessly torments Arnold throughout the episode, and eventually Arnold gets sick of it and throws paint on her in retaliation. Mr. Simmons does nothing about Helga's bullying, but punishes Arnold for dumping paint, vocally expressing his disappointment in him.
  • Invader Zim: In the episode "Parent Teacher Night", everybody is conveniently staring silently in the opposite direction of the mess loudly made by Zim's robotic parents. But after they leave, and Dib tosses his juice cup to the ground in frustration, someone turns around and shouts "Hey! That kid's throwing punch!" and the episode ends with Ms. Bitters descending on Dib like the wrath of God some kind of snaky demonic Satan thing.
  • King of the Hill: After Bill is jailed for public intoxication, he refuses to see anyone — so Hank tries to get himself arrested and get thrown in with him. The cops don't care about him jaywalking on an empty street, and wearing "No shirt, no shoes" in a convenience store only breached store policy. However, a low-speed collision that scratches an officer's kid's "honor roll" bumper sticker gets him cuffed and thrown to the wall.
  • One episode of The Loud House ends with the Louds being kicked out of the resort that they were staying at just because the parents were caught Skinny Dipping, despite the fact that the Loud siblings spent the entire episode wreaking havoc in that resort.
  • In one 'Mr. Know-It-All' segment of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bullwinkle tries to show how to get noisy neighbors to be quiet. After trying and failing to get Boris to quiet down his party, Bullwinkle decides 'if you can't beat them, join them' and blows on a party favor. Boris then has Bullwinkle arrested for disturbing his peace.
  • In Tex Avery's short, Shhhhhh, the hotel management is oppressively strict about quietness when Mr. Twiddle checks in, but then allows the doctor to bring in a trombone and make a huge amount of noise without stopping him.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Fear of Flying", Lenny and Barney play pranks on Moe which involve setting him on fire and setting a cobra on him. Homer, in an attempt to join in the "harmless" fun, loosens the lid on a sugar cellar, resulting in what Moe angrily calls "the old sugar-me-do". This gets Homer banned from the bar.
    • A darker comedic version is played out with Homer and Frank Grimes in "Homer's Enemy". When Frank Grimes tries to live and work like Homer does, he quickly discovers that only Homer can grab high-voltage wires without safety gloves and live.
    • In "The Monkey Suit", Chief Wiggum arrests Lisa for teaching her classmates about evolution (which got outlawed and she was rebelling against that rule). She protests that there are much worse crimes, pointing to Snake, who is shooting people from atop the Kwik-E-Mart. Wiggum explains that it's because they only have enough funding to enforce the most recently created law (thus literally "selective enforcement"), although Wiggum does admit it is "not the best system — in fact, it's pretty much the worst."
    • In "Burns' Heir", Homer will allow Bart flinging peas at Lisa, but he grounds him for feeding his meatloaf to the dog (especially because it was an endpiece).
    • In "Marge Be Not Proud", Nelson, Jimbo, and Bart all steal from Try 'N Save, but only Bart gets caught by Detective Brodka and faces severe punishment for his actions. For some reason, he either massively Failed a Spot Check and didn't notice their attempts at shoplifting (despite them being, if anything, more obvious than Bart's), or didn't feel the need to also punish Nelson and Jimbo and so he lets them get away with their crimes.
    • In "Homer vs. Dignity", Burns laughs his butt off when Homer throws pudding at Lenny. But the moment he throws one at Carl, Burns snarls at him and goes to help Carl.
    • A series wide case, Sideshow Bob has been foiled multiple times by the Simpsons family, but has outright admitted he is apathetic to all of them except Bart, who he is obsessed with killing in revenge for exposing his first instance of villainy. This is especially apparent with Lisa, who as time has passed has foiled Bob more times than Bart, though regardless he has outright lampshaded his disinterest in getting back at her or anyone but Bart.
    • In The Tracey Ullman Show shorts and early series episodes, Lisa was just as bratty and dysfunctional as Bart, though Homer tended to single out Bart for discipline. This was excused by the creative team, they were apparently a lot more uneasy when offered gags with Homer strangling Lisa compared to Bart.
    • Homer and Marge usually do this to Bart. For example in "Today I Am A Clown", Lisa gets Homer to use his newfound fame to talk about the important issues. This causes his fan base to turn against him and his star plummets. Yet he is never shown to be angry at Lisa but strangles Bart when he calls him out for listening to her even though Lisa shows no guilt about what she did. This is also inverted as Homer and Marge would often go to great lengths to help Lisa while ignoring Bart. In "Lisa the Simpson", Homer immediately stopped caring about the Simpson Gene when it's discovered that it only affects Bart. Marge will also chastise Lisa for trying to sabotage Maggie, but when Lisa accidentally cripples Bart, Marge tells him that he should feel sorry for her.
  • South Park:
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Nowadays, it seems that in Bikini Bottom, harassing your business rival to near-suicide, destroying stuff because you've got the IQ of a turnip, or being an all-around annoying Jerkass with No Indoor Voice is perfectly acceptable. Littering, reading somebody else’s diary, etc., however, can get you an orange jumpsuit or time in the pillory. Just ask Squidward or Mrs. Puff.
    • Lampshaded in "Shanghaied". Squidward ends up the Flying Dutchman's punching bag just for talking, Spongebob and Patrick's antics and attempts to escape get only very light snark. Squidward angrily demands why they get off so easy, only to get struck by a punishment bolt again. Deconstructed afterwards, when Squidward won't stop babbling the Flying Dutchman loses patience and kicks him out of his ship, while the other two are kept his prisoners and drive him crazy due to lack of punishment.
    • In "Slide Whistle Stooges", Squidward, after being complemented by SpongeBob and Patrick, performs random antics around town with a slide whistle, and the Bikini Bottomites are so annoyed with it that they form an angry mob and chase after him, going so far as to cheer when Squidward unwittingly drives a gas truck off of a cliff. At the end of the episode, Sponge and Pat perform very similar antics with slide whistles around the hospital... and everyone finds it funny.
  • This trope is a recurring theme in Tom and Jerry shorts that feature Spike, or ocassionally Tom's owners. When said shorts open, they're generally doing their own thing, minding their own business, and get caught up in Tom and Jerry's antics. Even when they clearly see Jerry causing trouble as well, they always single out Tom and place all the blame on him, which Jerry proceeds to milk for all its worth throughout the rest of the cartoon.