Follow TV Tropes


Shame If Something Happened

Go To

"Oh, you'd be surprised how detrimental a poor choice of fashion can be. Take this dress. It may be all the rage now but in a very short time it can become tiresome, an affront to the eyes. Certain people might even think it's objectionable. And then... (rips it in half) Nothing but rags."
Elim Garak, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ("Profit and Loss")

Oh, hello, tropers. Why, isn't this a very well-written article we have here? It would be just terrible if someone were to, say, scrawl ethnic slurs all over it...

The Good Guy and the Bad Guy have a meeting. The Bad Guy makes an offer. The Good Guy rejects it outright because he's the Good Guy.

Then the Bad Guy rattles off a few offhand remarks about how beautiful the Good Guy's wife, child, house, dog, mother, whole family, etc. are. He shows recent photos of the lovely person or thing in question, and perhaps a copy of personal information the Good Guy thought was secret. And then comments offhandedly that "It'd be a shame if something bad were to happen to it/them."

The clear implication is if the Good Guy doesn't give the Bad Guy what he wants, something bad will happen to it/them.

This generally gets the Good Guy back to the bargaining table, and shows just how bad the Bad Guy is. It also calls attention to the resource level of the Bad Guy and his criminal conspiracy.

There may be some overlap with The Villain Knows Where You Live (when the Bad Guy backs up this threat by proving he knows where to find the Good Guy and/or the Good Guy's family). This may lead to an And Your Little Dog, Too! situation, making the Good Guy much more likely to take the Bad Guy down than if they hadn't threatened the Good Guy's friends and family. And the Bad Guy needs to make sure that the Good Guy they're trying this on with isn't someone who could instantly and unexpectedly turn them into a smear on the wall if they were in any way displeased, since threatening innocent loved ones is a good way to trigger an Unstoppable Rage from the seemingly meek and mild.

This is also a common stock phrase used by thugs (usually The Mafia) in extortion rackets. "You've got a nice (noun) here. It'd be a shame if anything were to... happen to it."

Often parodied: the Big Bad will threaten the hero with some minor inconvenience, and it will be treated with the same seriousness as a death threat, if not more seriously.

In linguistics, this sort of threat is known as a Gricean Implicature. Note that another even subtler way to make this kind of threat is to assert hope that some situation will proceed normally as though there were some reason for it not to: "Cute kid you got there. I hope she'll grow up to have kids of her own and live to see a ripe old age."

See also Implied Death Threat, Terms of Endangerment, Interrogation by Vandalism and Trouble Entendre. If the Bad Guy's threat actually gets carried out, it often leads to I Have Your Wife. If one doesn't want to look bad, he can use a Monster Protection Racket instead.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • A Swedish PSA about not buying alcohol for your kids had a young teenaged girl casually remark to her parents how she could in theory make their lives miserable unless they got her what she wanted.
  • William Shatner pulls this trope in one of his Priceline commercials by playing the role of a local mob boss, complete with hired muscle, in order to convince his customer of the week to stop wasting his money with other travel agents. He illustrates the point by knocking over a vase.
    Shatner: What? It's only a few extra dollars, right?
  • A series of adverts for the UK Insurance Company Direct Line features a mafia-don-like figure turning up to advise people that they should get insurance with Direct Line. The adverts stop short of the don actually saying the trope but it still heavily leans towards it, giving the impression that Direct Line are running a protection racket.

    Comic Books 
  • Played completely straight in the Astro City story "Knock Wood": a lawyer uses a genius defense to acquit the son of a mafia boss, who then wants to recruit him permanently. When the lawyer refuses, the boss says the trope name nearly verbatim to threaten his family if he turns down the offer...
  • Ivana Baiul of DV8 calls a troublesome US Senator to console him on the recent death of a good friend of his (which, needless to say, she orchestrated), saying that it would be terrible for anything like that to happen to his wife or daughter.
  • The origin of Dick Grayson involves this. Mob boss Tony Zucco uses this on the Ringmaster, and after being thrown out partially cuts the ropes for the Graysons' trapeze. The rope breaks when Dick's parents are using it, and they fall to their deaths.
  • Norman Osborn:
    • Ever since the Green Goblin was revived in the late 1990s, he's done this to Spider-Man on a seemingly annual basis. Unlike some villains on this page, Osborn already has a loved one's death under his belt (Gwen Stacy), so when he threatens Mary Jane, or May, or anybody else Peter cares for, Spidey can't afford to hope it's just a bluff.
    • In an excellent story arc in 2002, however, Peter finally DID realize it was just a bluff, when he came within an inch of killing the Goblin and Osborn tearfully told him to go ahead. Peter, realizing that Osborn is so miserable he's stooped to doing stuff like this just for the attention, just walked away. And when Osborn yelled that by this time tomorrow all his loved ones will be dead, Peter said "Go right ahead", and left.
  • Played straight in Watchmen. Rorschach is in prison, in solitary. Crime boss Big Figure (who Rorschach sent to jail) wants to have a little chat. The guard isn't supposed to let him through... so Big Figure starts making friendly conversation about the guard's wife and kids.
    • Rorschach pulls an anti-heroic version of this on the customers of the Bad-Guy Bar Happy Harry's. When looking for the guy who hired the assassin for an attempted hit on Adrien Veidt, Rorschach casually states that, of course, he won't insult their legendary underworld solidarity by expecting them to give up the culprit without being tortured. Everybody in the bar immediately backs away from the culprit in question, leaving him to Rorschach's interrogation.
  • In Wonder Woman Volume 1 #1 Steve Trevor uncovers a protection racket threatening the circus, but the villains they're looking for turn out to be the Burmese men who help look after the elephants instead.

    Comic Strips 
  • In the September 1, 1987, strip of Garfield, Garfield tells John Arbuckle that "it would be a shame if someone slashed [his drapes] into party streamers" with the (successful) intention of getting food.
  • In What's New? with Phil and Dixie, gnomes do this to comic book artists.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Great Mouse Detective, Professor Ratigan uses this to threaten Flaversham's daughter Olivia if Flaversham doesn't help him with his evil scheme.
    Flaversham: You can do what you want with me. I won't be a part of this-this... this evil any longer!
    Ratigan: Oh, very well, if that is your decision. Oh, by the way, I'm taking the liberty of having your daughter brought here.
    Flaversham: O... Olivia?
    Ratigan: (activating Olivia's wind-up ballerina doll and watching it dance) Yes... I would spend many a sleepless night if anything unfortunate were to befall her.
    Flaversham: You... Y-You wouldn't!
    [Ratigan picks up the doll, then squeezes the toy so hard that it breaks]

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Long Good Friday. London crime boss Harold Shand encounters a gang of street kids who can be paid to look after his car or they can slash his tires. Even though Shand has one of his thugs present with his firearm ready, Shand pays them and doesn't take it personally given that he started that way himself.
  • Frank Nitti threatens Eliot Ness's family in this manner in The Untouchables (1987). ("Nice house...nice to have a family.")
  • This is how Kobayashi keeps the protagonists working for Soze in The Usual Suspects.
  • From The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Angel Eyes does a simple one. "That your family? Nice family." He proceeds to shoot the man he's talking to, along with his son. After he gets what he wants.
  • Saw II: The brown desk, second drawer down. John further pushes Eric's buttons by revealing that the victims in the Nerve Gas House are people whom Eric personally arrested after planting evidence on them during his career, and tauntingly notes, "It would be a shame [for Eric's son] if they discovered who you are."
  • In the crime/horror movie Se7en, villain John Doe taunts Detective David Mills by talking about how lovely Mills' wife Tracy is. Of course, this is subverted in that John Doe has already killed Tracy in order to enrage Mills and get Doe exactly what he wants — his own murder, at Mills' hands.
  • The Castle:
    • The firm that is trying to buy the main characters' house send a man around after he refuses their offer. He makes vaguely threatening comments that leave the main character riled up, and later trashes his car. When they try it on his neighbour, a Kuwaiti man, he replies: "You send someone 'round to see me, make threats, I send someone 'round to see you, blow up your car." They decide to leave the Kuwaiti man alone. "Please understand, I don't have friend like this; but everyone think, all Arab, they have bomb," the neighbour explains to the main character, deconstructing the hell out of a few misconceptions.
    • The man later tries it again — only this time, after he makes his threatening comments, the main character's son does a less subtle version of this trope by putting a shotgun in his face.
  • Die Hard: "That's a very nice suit. It would be a shame to ruin it."
  • The villain in The Lincoln Lawyer uses this. "Your daughter, Hayley, she's very pretty. She has soccer practice on Saturday?"
  • Outside the Law: Abdelkader, an Algerian guerilla leader fighting in 1950s France, wants help infiltrating French police headquarters, so he can kill a cop. He corners Otmani, a French cop and ethnic Algerian. He tells Otmani that the FLN considers him a traitor but they'll give him one more chance. He then says that while the French police might arrest him, they would not arrest his French wife and children. Otmani winds up helping Abdelkader infiltrate the headquarters and murder the cop.
  • In The Sentinel (2006), the villain outright threatens his henchman when he tries to renege on their plan to assassinate the president. "We're not going to kill you. We're going to kill her. (holds up picture of man's wife) And then we're going to kill her. (holds up picture of man's daughter) And then we're going to kill her. (holds up picture of man's other daughter)
  • In the film Tormented (1960) (best known for its skewering on MST3K), the beatnick ferry operator won't stop rambling about Tom Stewart's house when they meet. Amusingly, the man clearly intended it as a threat but was so obtuse that Tom couldn't parse out the threat until the kid finally explained himself.
  • In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader replies to Lando Calrissian's initial protest at him Moving the Goalposts by replying it would be a shame if he had to leave a garrison behind on Bespin, essentially threatening the planet with annexation.
  • Patriot Games has a nicely sinister example from Irish terrorist Sean Miller. "How's the family, Ryan?" What's especially frightening about this is that he has already tried to kill Ryan's wife and daughter in a drive-by shooting. He's not threatening to harm them—he's telling him that he's going to finish the job.
  • Heroic variant in Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Sam Wilson does this to Jasper Sitwell when they need to capture him for interrogation.
    Jasper Sitwell: What do you want?
    Sam Wilson: You're gonna go around the corner to your right. There's a gray car two spaces down. You and I are gonna take a ride.
    Jasper Sitwell: And why would I do that?
    Sam Wilson: Cause that tie looks really expensive, and I'd hate to mess it up. [Sitwell sees that there's a laser sight from a sniper rifle now shining directly on said tie]
  • Hostage (1993). A British agent is being coerced back for One Last Job, so two agents dressed as undertakers turn up at his ex-wife's home to deliver a pair of child-sized coffins and the requisite message. After rushing to check on the kids, the agent then ponders a section of the Mental Health Act that could be used to hold him incommunicado for an indefinite period, should he continue to be stubborn.
  • In Jupiter Ascending, after kidnapping Jupiter's family, Mr. Knight never admits to kidnapping them, but merely offers to help ensure their safety if his demands are met.
  • During a robbery in The Town, the protagonists reveal their knowledge of the worker's addresses and families in order force their cooperation.
  • Lampshaded as a standard mob racket on Be Cool. Becomes a Threat Backfire when the guy the Russian mobster tries it on, corrupt records executive Nick Carr, only responds by beating the crap out of him.
  • In the French movie The Patriots (1994), the Israeli Mossad has recruited a French nuclear scientist, enticing him with money and a High-Class Call Girl, but while bugging his home they hear him on the verge of confessing to his wife. In a desperate attempt to forestall this, The Handler rings up the scientist and tells him that if he's planning on confessing, maybe he should tell his wife about the escort girl as well, and lists the exact date on which he screwed her up the ass. It works a bit too well as the scientist has a nervous breakdown.
  • Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend: Sanders and Walters do this at Elam King's store in an effort to coerce him into raising his prices so they are higher than Clark's. They muddy up his muslin, pour coal oil in his sugar, and smash a crate of eggs. They also make some veiled threats about what might happen to his niece Priscilla if he doesn't comply.
  • Played for laughs in Pokémon Detective Pikachu: When Pikachu asks Psyduck if they're listening to spa music so that Psyduck doesn't get a headache and hurt everyone with the psychic backlash, the duck Pokémon confirms it and asks for a foot massage. The tone Psyduck takes when asking very much describes this trope, as if it's saying, "It'd be a crying shame if I get a headache right here and now."
  • In Bad Boys 2, Johnny Tapia uses this against Russian nightclub owner Alexei. Tapia is trying to take control of the drugs trade in Miami— he already controls the supply, and now wants to control sales and distribution via Alexei's clubs— and has just brought in a barrel containing the remains of Alexei's partner. Alexei tries to play it cool, but then Tapia shows him pictures of Alexei's family. "Should I screw your young wife? Or visit your son, the soccer player?" Alexei finally caves at this point.
  • Safety Patrol: Kent (a bully who runs the safety patrol) pointedly comments about how dangerous the hallways might get for kids who don't pay protection money.
  • In Sugar Hill (1974), Sugar accuses Tank of being one of the men who killed her husband. Tank replies, "You know, you got one of the prettiest asses in town. I'd sure hate to see it kicked in for accusing people."
  • In Freebie and the Bean, Freebie questions a man on a crane by asking him if he has workers' comp, then saying, "Would they cover you if one day you slipped and fell off or something? Are you covered for that?" When the witness answers that he isn't going to fall, Bean ruins it by yelling, "HOW ABOUT IF YOU GOT PUSHED OFF?"
  • The Sea Wolves (1980), Roger Moore plays a British agent who is bribing a Portuguese official by funding his childrens schooling. He then points out that it would be a shame if the official didn't keep his side of the bargain, both for him and the children.
  • Maria Full Of Grace: Don Javier is a smiling middle-aged man with a cane. He does not look like the head of a drug trafficking ring. But while Maria is busy swallowing the drug pellets she will be smuggling into the United States, he makes sure she understands the consequences of betraying him:
    Don Javier: One more thing... If any of what you are carrying gets lost along the way or doesn't show up, we'll go and have a little conversation with your grandmother, your mother, your sister, and little Pachito. We know exactly how much each one of those 62 pellets weighs. Understood?
  • In Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, Greg Simmonds warns Arnold and Trent that something very bad will happen to their loved ones if they do not wire the money they owe him, showing that he has tracked them all.
  • In The Godfather Part II, Michael and Tom casually bring Frank Pentangeli's brother into court with them, having retrieved him all the way from Sicily. The clear implication is that if Pentangeli goes ahead with his testimony, his brother will die. Pentangeli immediately recants all his claims, while Michael and Tom swear up and down his brother just came to court for family reasons.

  • Discworld:
    • In the backstory, the basically-good Bad Guy (the Patrician) uses it on really Bad Guys (the heads of various criminal gangs) after persuading them to form a Thieves' Guild that regulates crime (more or less turning it into an official, legal profession), for the purpose of reminding them what can happen if they don't honor the deal:
      I know who you are, he said. I know where you live. I know what kind of horse you ride. I know where your wife has her hair done. I know where your lovely children are, how old are they now, my doesn't time fly, I know where they play. So you won't forget about what we agreed, will you? And he smiled.
      So did they, after a fashion.
    • This is the kind of behavior that led to the disbanding of the Ankh-Morpork Guild of Fire Fighters, who were paid per fire extinguished. "The penny really dropped after 'Charcoal Wednesday'". The guild also had people take out fire protection insurance policies, with encouragement along the lines of "that thatch roof there, would go up like a torch with one carelessly thrown match, know what I mean." This happens to be a bit of a Historical In-Joke, as apocryphally (though generally considered true), privatized firefighting services have turned out, in the end, to be little more than a protection racket, even disrupting civilian bucket brigades.
    • In Jingo: the statue of General Tacticus that Vimes finds in a ruined city in the middle of the Klatchian desert. The words at the bottom read: "I can see your house from here." This was both a boast and a threat.
    • Carcer in Night Watch and his line "I can see your house from up here". Considering Sam Vimes' reaction, this definitely counts as And Your Little Dog, Too!.
    • In Thud!:
      • After two troll thugs working for the troll crime boss Chrysoprase tell Commander Vimes that their boss wants to see him, Vimes tells them "Well, he knows where I live," to which one of them remarks meaningfully "Yeah, he does." Not a good idea. Later, Chrysoprase insists to Vimes that he never gave orders to make any threats, and had the infractors... dealt with. (And incidentally, would the Commander care for a new rockery for his garden?)
      • The Low King of the Dwarfs unthinkingly snaps at Vimes "You stand here defying me with a handful of men and your wife and child not ten miles away—" and to his credit quickly realises this was a mistake, especially once he learns dwarf extremists have already targeted said wife and child once.
        Rhys: I do look forward to meeting Lady Sybil again. And your son, of course.
        Vimes: Good. They're staying in a house not ten miles away.
      • Especially embarrassing for Rhys, because once he and Vimes had had a second to think, both of them realized that Rhys couldn't possibly have known where Sybil and Young Sam were unless he had a spy in the Watch.
    • Nanny Ogg walks right into it in Wyrd Sisters. When the witches find themselves on the balcony of the castle with the evil ruler they're trying to overthrow, Nanny looks into the crowd and, spotting some of her huge family starts waving and calling out to them. The Duke says, "I shall remember their faces", but Nanny doesn't get the implication.
    • In The Truth, the Patrician comments that it would be a shame if something were to happen to William de Worde. It takes Drumknott a second to realise that he really does think it would be a shame if something were to happen to William de Worde.
    • Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson very pointedly does not use this trope: in fact, he genuinely doesn't want anything to happen to the homes, pets, families, or anything else related to the people he talks to. Angua even notes that he'd be shocked and maybe even a little offended that anyone would consider his completely innocuous words that way. It's just that this trope is so prevalent on the Disc that, when his words take a certain turn, everyone else assumes he's using it.
    • In Making Money, this is Cosmo Lavish's parting shot to Moist at the end of their first meeting.
    Cosmo: My regards to your young lady. [his coach drives off]
    Moist: [shouting] Why didn't you add, "We know where your children will go to school"?
  • People like that often wander into Aziraphale's bookshop in Good Omens. However, once they've been bidden a polite farewell, they never ever come back. Crowley also successfully subverts this trope to persuade Aziraphale to help him stop the Apocalypse, not by threatening but by pointing out how many nifty Earthly things will be lost if the world ends.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Nation, one of the Gentlemen of Last Resort casually mentions another character's birthplace, mother, and several other minor details. That character mentions that it felt like the start of a threat, and the fact that no actual threat followed was not comforting.
  • In a non-Pratchett involved example, Payne Harrison's Storming Intrepid ends with A meeting between the US President, the Vice-President(President-Elect), and the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, formerly the head of the KGB and The Chessmaster behind the events of the plot. Said plot has revolved around an anti-nuke Kill Sat that the Americans have. The GS says that if the US insists on rebuilding the destroyed weapon, Russia will simply have to find alternate delivery methods. Then he shows a KGB colonel next to a red, white, and blue barrel in Red Square. And another photo with the same man, in normal clothes, next to the barrel in Washington, DC. He notes how small it's possible to make nuclear bombs nowadays, small enough to fit in a barrel...
  • One book in the Myth Adventures series turns this sort of sideways when the local Mob wants to get a foothold in the Deveel Bazaar, and begins to extort "protection money" in roughly this fashion. The Deveels decide to hire Skeeve to put a stop to it (blissfully unaware that Skeeve had directed the Mob at Deva to get them off his back), whereupon Skeeve & Co start setting up the sort of "accidents" that the protection money was supposed to prevent. Naturally, the Deveels are Not Happy about these incidents (after all, they paid) and start demanding refunds from the Mob for substandard protection.
  • In Kim Newman's Diogenes Club story "Soho Golem", a local gangland boss attempts to secure psychic detective Richard Jeperson's cooperation in the investigation of the rather horrific supernatural execution of one of his colleagues by intimidating him with a threat of this nature. Jeperson's response is to cheerfully laugh in his face and to inform the gangster that his threats are meaningless; not only has Jeperson come across too many nastier things in his time to be intimidated by some thug, but the supernatural nature of the threat mean the rules the gangster lives by no longer apply here, and he's dependent on Jeperson's goodwill to remain in the land of the living, not the other way around.
  • in Trial By Journal the bad guy uses this to get the wrongfully accused guy's lawyer to quit. she quits to protect her two kids.
  • In The Godfather, the Corleones use coercion for personal services (such as getting John Fontane cast for a film) but are never seen to use it to extort money. Subverted in The Godfather Part II, with its flashback to Vito's youth. Everyone in the neighbourhood fears Don Fanucci because of his alleged ties to a more powerful criminal organization. Vito Corleone correctly dismisses this because Fanucci does all of his own collecting instead of sending Mooks. Thus, instead of buckling under to Fanucci's demands, Vito confronts and kills him instead, knowing there will be no repercussions.
  • In the early 20th century novel A Candle In Her Room, the third-generation protagonist Nina finds herself confronting the wicked Dido. The person Nina loves most in the world is her great-aunt Melissa, who became her guardian after the deaths of her parents, and in order to compel Nina to do what she wants, Dido starts talking about what a terrible thing it would be if elderly Aunt Liss were to stumble on the stairs or something equally dangerous.
  • The Romulans specialize in this in the Star Trek Novelverse, particularly the "nice family" variant. D'deridex pulls it on Valdore in the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch, Sela on a Kevratan rebel in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Relaunch, and Koval on Pardek in the novel Rogue (according to a later story in Star Trek: Titan, Koval actually went through with the threat and murdered Pardek's young daughter).
  • A Mere Interlude by Thomas Hardy:
    'I will intercede with my husband, ma'am,' she said. 'He's a true man if rightly managed; and I'll beg him to consider your position. 'Tis a very nice house you've got here,' she added, glancing round, 'and well worth a little sacrifice to keep it.'
  • One of the Sweet Valley High mystery mini-arcs involved a convicted murder stalking Elizabeth and Jessica because of his grudge against their father. He sends many threats of this nature to Ned Wakefield through the post.
  • In the web-novel Domina, in one of the flashback chapters, a gang member starts making meaningful observations about a woman's new apartment. She doesn't beat around the bush, and just notes that she already paid another gang, Necessarius, for protection money. Then said gang shows up and, to everyone's complete surprise, actually protects her.
    Sinclair: Funny, because it looks like you're harassing... Priscilla Ljunborg. Our records show that she is all paid up on her protection money.
    Judd: So?
    Sinclair: So that means she's under the protection of Necessarius, Gabriel. I'm going to have to ask you to leave.
    Priscilla: Huh?
  • Septimus Heap: Magyk: The Hunter threatens to burn Sally Mullin's cafe in that manner before doing so.
    Hunter: Nice place you've got here, Sally Mullin. Very pretty. Built of wood, isn't it? Been a while if I remember right. Good dry seasoned timber by now. Burns exceedingly well, I'm told.
  • In Pact, Blake Thorbun, Rose Thorburn, and Maggie Holt turn up at the house of police officer Duncan Behaim and help his wife get her car unstuck from the snow. When Duncan, and shortly thereafter his uncle Laird, turn up, Blake threatens to Laird that Duncan could easily lose someone precious to him if Laird continues to work against him. In this case, though, Blake isn't talking about killing her—the Other that Rose has summoned specializes in creating an Apple of Discord between allies, and does so by reassigning the connections of objects or people to other people in the most inconvenient way possible. In other words, Blake is threatening to make Duncan's wife break up with him.
  • The Robber Baron in Devil's Cape does this to the D.A. Warren Sims, who is already looking to get the Baron behind bars. He even pulls some strings to make sure that Sims meets and marries his college sweetheart, as he has no family or friends that the Baron can threaten, but once Sims and his wife have a baby on the way, the Baron comes to have a chat with him.
  • In the Warrior Cats book Fire and Ice, there's one moment where Cloudkit loses the moss ball he was playing with, and Tigerclaw gives it back to him, saying "Be careful. You wouldn't want to lose such a precious plaything." He looks at Fireheart while saying this, however, and Fireheart realizes the implication that his nephew Cloudkit is the "plaything".
  • In Blossom, Burke is looking to protect a relative who's going to prison. He visits the toughest gangbanger in the prison and explains how he recently visited his mother and arranged for her to get some regular financial support, because they're such good friends, what with the gangbanger protecting Burke's relative. But if anything bad happens to him, Burke will assume they're not good friends after all, and go visit his mother again.
  • In Lost In A Good Book, Brick Schitt-Hawse of the Mega-Corp Goliath warns Thursday that if she refuses to comply with him, she may be the victim of 'corporate impatience'. Soon after, she discovers her husband has become Ret-Gone.
  • In Leviathan Wakes one of the first signs of trouble brewing in the Belt is when the old criminal syndicates running protection rackets on Ceres disappear, and the young punks who try filling the power vacuum are found dead with OPA logos on them.
  • These Broken Stars: When Lilac tells her father that she and Tarver are together, he implies that an unfortunate accident will befall him unless she breaks it off. She's prepared for that, however, and turns it around on him, threatening to reveal what she and Tarver found on the planet should anything happen to him. She also threatens that he will lose her forever if he does anything to Tarver.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: When Hagrid orders his Care of Magical Creatures class to come in for extra lessons to observe the Blast-Ended Skrewts "with the air of Father Christmas pulling an extra large toy out of his sack," Draco Malfoy tries to refuse.
    Draco Malfoy: I will not. I see enough of these foul things during lessons, thanks.
    Rubeus Hagrid: Yeh'll do wha' yer told, or I’ll be takin' a leaf outta Professor Moody's book. I hear yeh made a good ferret, Malfoy.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: In A Feast for Crows, Cersei recalls that after an argument between her and Robert, her husband began considering one of his bastard daughters to be raised at court, to which Cersei replied if he did, he might find King's Landing "is not a safe place for a growing girl". Although Robert hit her for that remark, he ultimately backed down because he knew Cersei wasn't making an idle threat.
  • Fire & Blood: An unspoken version. After a serious disagreement between Jaehaerys and his mother's husband Rogar Baratheon, Rogar expects some bad blood between them and goes to apologize, offering up his family as hostages if need be. Jaehaerys forgives him, then just happens to show Rogar his dragon, Vermithor, who was already quite large and getting bigger every day. Rogar immediately gets the point, and behaves for the rest of his life.
  • Legends & Lattes: Parodied. When Viv, a Retired Badass Barbarian Hero, suggests that she'll happily kill all of the local mob enforcers threatening her, Kellin points out they'll just burn down her new coffee shop. His boss Lack irritatedly reminds him he's supposed to imply, not state.

  • Millie from Ozy and Millie can't quite pull this off. The government can.
  • Dead Winter has this happen. Venture capitalist, Mr. Domingos Santos coerces hitman Monday Blues into his service with a few off-hand comments about a hunting trip in somewhere in Pennsylvania. Just so he could have the gun-for-hire join his little Blood Sport, wherein rich people sponsor assassins to hunt each other down. Blues decides to play along (but not before giving Mr. Santos a nosebleed), after finding out that Mr. Santos didn't like his act of defiance, beginning to deny him his services & outright trying to get him killed. Blues retaliates by beginning to start viciously hunting down the keystones in his would-be employer's organization, intending to ultimately kill the man at the top.
    • It gets even more problematic for Mr. Santos when he ultimately does send some hitmen to kill Monday's parents. He didn't account for the fact that his mother was also an assassin.
  • In Kevin & Kell, a beaver makes this threat against Kevin's tree house. Kevin responds by threatening the beaver's dam in a similar manner, forcing him to back off.
  • Happens early in Schlock Mercenary. A local union attempts to intimidate Breya into hiring lots of unnecessary local labor for her new ship-refitting operation. Having failed to notice her day job commanding a mercenary company with very big guns, and very little concern about collateral damage. Hilarity, and Plasma Cannon, ensue.
  • In Dominic Deegan, Urban Eddie and his goons use this approach on several businesses in the rebuilt Barthis, as part of Stunt's plan to take control of the town. Subverted when the aforementioned townsfolk and business owners see through the ploy and aren't intimidated by it. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Darths & Droids, the protagonists gain the help of the Gungans when Anakin mentions that they know where the Gungan's Lost Orb of Phanastacoria is, and wouldn't it be a shame if someone's starfighter accidentally blew it up? In a later rant, it is pointed out that this is a much better way for mercenaries to work.
    The Rant: Mercenaries should of course be... mercenary. Any opportunity to turn someone else's misfortune into a quick buck should be grabbed and made the most of. There's no need to be impolite about it though. That's the one mistake PCs often make. Why raid a cave system full of goblins, slaughtering all before you at considerable risk to life and limb, when you can simply rock up to the front door, make pleasant conversation about how nice a cave system it is, and how it'd be a right shame if anything were to happen to it, while meaningfully picking your teeth with a two-handed sword?
  • In Dinosaur Comics, T. Rex apparently says this kind of thing all the time out of genuine concern, unaware of how it sounds.
  • PvP's Skull quit playing Animal Crossing for just this reason.
  • Attempted in a flashback in Final Fantasy VII: The Sevening, but since the vase Tseng is trying to break is made of plastic, nothing happens.
  • War and Peas has a subversion of it where the person saying it is genuinely saying that it would be a shame if something happened to that nice moustache because something happened to his.
  • Joe vs. Elan School: Christy tells Joe about his graduation in three weeks, then immediately reminds him, "Anything can happen in Elan, don't forget who is in charge. I'll have my eye on you." She then continues these veiled threats every single day up to his graduation date; Joe, who knows about the school's penchant for Moving the Goalposts, and has spent three years being abused by the school's attack "therapy" (and by Christy in particular), knows the implications.
  • Erfworld: Subverted; it sounds like Charlie is threatening the ongoing production of Don King's heir (which is important but also a large economic burden for the next several months), but he actually meant something else.
    Don King: Are you... threatening me?
    Charlie: Don, Don... I mean, I'm not saying I can't, but who do you take me for? This isn't a threat, it's a bribe. You work with me? You can be a daddy tomorrow.

    Web Original 
  • Paw adds this subtext to a scene in his Let's Play of King's Quest V.
    Graham: This is a lovely little shop you have here.
    Paw: Shame if anything were to happen to it!
  • The Key of Awesome: "I'd hate for something bad to happen to your family..."
  • In Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, a gambler lost his pants to a gambling debt, and wears a barrel instead. During Instant Grat's Let's Play of it:
    Hbomberguy: That's a nice barrel you've got there. Shame if something... happened to it.
  • Welcome to Night Vale:
    • In the episode "The Deft Bowman", we're introduced to the new StrexCorp manager for the radio station. She and Cecil get along so well; she loves everything about him, and the show, even his boyfriend. Yes, that perfect, scientist boyfriend. What was his name again? Carlos? Right, Carlos...
    • StrexCorp is also very fond of Cecil's delightful cat, and his beloved niece, Janice. The mouthier he gets on the air, the more things Strex seems to find to love about his social circle.
    • And following his blatantly anti-Strex statements at the end of Numbers, they acted on their threats. Poor kitty.
  • CollegeHumor put this spin onto a Mayoral candidate ad for SimCity, where the player-controlled mayor talks up his accomplishments before pointing out that he has the ability to just destroy everything if he's not re-elected.
    Mayor: (Standing in front of a power plant) Worried about safety? Don't be. These plants will never explode, unless one man specifically orders them to. Man. I'd hate to piss that guy off.

    Real Life 
  • In April 2006, the Motion Picture Association of America actually used this in a letter to Swedish State Secretary Dan Eliasson, with thinly-veiled threats of trade reprisals and/or a smear campaign against Sweden.
    John Malcolm: As we discussed during our meeting, it is certainly not in Sweden's best interests to earn a reputation among other nations and trading partners as a place where utter lawlessness with respect to intellectual property rights is tolerated.
  • Rooster Teeth's Geoff Ramsey in an interview recalled this coming from his young daughter.
  • The basic ploy of the 'YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED WITH VIRUSES' scareware popups that come with a prompt to buy their software... to remove their popups.
  • This is also the basic ploy behind warning e-mails sent to people who pirate movies and TV shows. They are in fact triggered automatically by botsnote  and exist entirely to scare people. Some try to trick people into responding to them in order to get the person's personal information to use against them, and some actually go far enough to demand money in exchange for not taking legal action.
  • A lot of prisons have policies (official or unofficial) that forbid guards from having non-work conversations while on duty in order to prevent this because any personal information an inmate can glean could be used against the guard down the line. In maximum security prisons this can go so far as married guards not being allowed to wear their rings and guards not being allowed to give out their full names.
  • When investigating the death of Guy-Andre Kieffer (who had been killed while investigating allegations of child slavery used in the production of cocoa in Africa), Carol Off got this kind of advice twice - first from Embassy officials, and then from local officials.
    Off: "But if you have to [ask questions], at the very least, don't ask any questions about Guy-André Kieffer. Whatever you do, don't even mention his name." Maybe that's good advice, but wherever I went they would raise his name and in ways that I realized weren't even veiled threats. I would be speaking with somebody in the business and they would say, "You know what happened to the last person who asked these questions? I wonder where he is now?" They would just look at you. You got the message. I quickly realized how incredibly sinister and evil this story really was.
  • During World War 2, the incarcerated Mafia crime lord "Lucky" Luciano offered the American government the services of his men to protect the nation's docks from "Axis sabotage" in exchange for his freedom. The government accepted his deal. It's now believed that, rather than harnessing the might of its own underworld to combat the Axis threat, the nation was merely caving to a protection racket perpetrated by its own citizens in a time of war. Any "Axis sabotage" that had occurred was likely caused by Luciano's own men, and letting him out of prison was his price to call it off.
  • Stormy Daniels, who had a brief relationship with Donald Trump in 2006, has stated that she tried to sell the story to a gossip magazine several years later, only to be confronted in a parking garage by a thuggish man who looked at her baby daughter and said, "That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom." She backed down, and before the 2016 election, she signed a nondisclosure agreement, fearing further trouble.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Such A Lovely Noun, Shame If Something Should Happen, Shame If Something Happens


Villain paying a visit

Marcus is shocked to come home and see Silco playing with his daughter. Silco then makes stealthy threats at the daughter's life. The message gets through to Marcus.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheVillainKnowsWhereYouLive

Media sources: