Director Orson Krennic: We stand here amidst MY ACHIEVEMENT! NOT YOURS!
Some people want glory and fame... but they can't be bothered with all of that "hard work" stuff. Or perhaps they don't really have any talent or skill to recommend them in the first place.
Their solution? Lay claim to someone else's achievement.
Stealing the credit usually manifests itself in one of two forms. The first is a character who is a schemer. They're smart enough to know that they don't have much talent of their own...and smart enough to identify, manipulate and cheat someone who does. They usually lay their plans very carefully, encouraging their target, supporting them, and lending them a shoulder to cry on. They may even provide the funding for a project — as a backup plan, so that they can claim that as the "owner" of the project, they were due the credit. When it's complete, the thief will immediately alert the media to their magnificent discovery, claiming all of the money and acclaim in the process and making sure that the creator's name never appears in the history books. They will have some kind of plan in place to shield them from discovery, and are therefore very difficult to punish. Worse, the person they manipulate is often vulnerable or overly trusting, so this character gets serious Kick the Dog points.
The second type is an opportunist. They happen to be in the right place at the right time. Perhaps the manager wanders by when the CEO is chatting to a lowly secretary, only for said lowly secretary to outline a brilliant new advertising campaign. The manager will swoop in, blithely remark on how he was chatting to the secretary about his new advertising concept just the other day, and shoo her out of the way so that he can bask in the glory. This type of opportunist is more common than their scheming counterpart — and much less clever. They are usually caught out in their lie and have no contingency plan.
Some examples of this trope see the thief laying claim to something that they were never a part of at all (such as claiming the credit for a painting when they've never even seen a paintbrush). Others will be involved with the project in some capacity...but they either had a much smaller part to play than they claim, or appear only at the end stages of a project, claiming it was their idea all along. Even if they had previously dismissed the idea as nonsense.
However, some characters will actively allow or even insist that someone else steals the credit from them. The "thief" in this case is usually more sympathetic, since they are often oblivious to the scheme or reluctant to take part. This usually occurs when the true creator feels that claiming the credit would be a hindrance: perhaps they're a doctor who's quite happy to develop life-saving treatments, but feels that fame would hamper his work, or a reclusive author who loves her work, but uses someone else to attend all the book signings and conventions. Rarer is the purely altruistic version, where the creator feels someone needs the recognition or fame more than they do.
The Pointy-Haired Boss will often be involved in the opportunistic version of this trope, while The Chessmaster and the Manipulative Bastard will be responsible for the scheming variant. Behind Every Great Man often sees the woman of the duo allowing him to take the credit for her achievements as part of her role, with some women encouraging said man to do this so that she can continue working in peace. Glad I Thought of It is a more low key variation of the trope, with the thief stealing an idea rather than something more substantial.
- The Sunday 5 November 2006 Dilbert has claiming credit as Step 6 for using incompetence to get promoted.
- A fairy tale has the hero kill a dragon in exchange for marrying the princess, but suffers Post-Victory Collapse, allowing an opportunistic thief to cut out the dragon's eyeball and return to the court, claiming to have killed it. The princess, having fallen for the hero in the meantime, demands the dragon's tongue(s) as additional proof, giving the hero enough time to recuperate (in some versions, animals he'd spared earlier help him out) and prove himself. Versions of this story include "The Two Brothers", collected by The Brothers Grimm, and "The Three Princes and Their Beasts", collected by Andrew Lang.
- In the Puella Magi Madoka Magica doujin I'm working for a mahou shoujo recruitment company, but I think I may be at my limit, this is how Kyuzo screws Kyubey over- and after Kyubey had worked his ass off and pulled all-nighters in order to get ten mahou shoujo into the fold! It doesn't help that Kyubey's boss has been threatening to fire him if he continues to produce poor results and "drag down the company". And unfortunately for Kyubey, this isn't even the half of how Kyuzo's betrayed him. This, unsurprisingly, results in the completely psychopathic Kyubey we all know and hate and works just as awfully for everyone else involved.
- In Scarlet Street, a prostitute and her pimp are taking advantage of a mild-mannered bank clerk who is in love with the prostitute. The bank clerk's sole source of pleasure is his painting hobby. When the pimp tries to sell one of the paintings and starts getting a lot of interest from art experts, he and the prostitute claim she is the artist. They make a lot of money.
- Dragonslayer. After Galen and Ulrich manage to kill the dragon (with Ulrich giving his life in the process), the sleazy, Dirty Coward king shows up and pretends to have slain it.
- Working Girl. Tess McGill suggests to her boss that one of their clients should invest in radio in order to gain a foothold in the media business. She learns later that her boss is planning to benefit herself by taking credit for the idea.
- Hero. A petty criminal named Bernie LaPlante rescues survivors of a plane crash. A homeless Vietnam veteran named John Bubber goes public and takes credit for the rescues.
- The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Timothy's adoptive parents designed a new pencil that is made from leaves, ensuring their town's pencil factory won't go out of business. However, his parents boss claims credit to the townsfolk. Timothy is furious that the boss stole credit of his parents invention. The boss tries to counter that is Timothy is a weirdo who's just making things up. However, one of the townsfolk who befriended Timothy ask the boss how he made the pencil, the boss is unable answer since he doesn't know. Eventually, everyone including the boss's father who owns the factory turns on him.
- Played for laughs in the action-comedy The Big Hit. Melvin is a Hitman with a Heart who is one of the best assassins in the trade, at one point taking out an entire building filled with mooks while his "best friend" Cisco and the rest of his teammates wait for him to finish. Then Cisco claims credit for doing the job by putting an extra bullet in the target's head post-mortem and guilt trips Melvin into giving him the bonus for the mission, which Melvin allows simply because he's such an extreme doormat.
- TRON has Ed Dillinger taking credit for Kevin Flynn's video games, until Flynn goes into the mainframe and gets proof, literally.
- Rogue One: Grand Moff Tarkin steals credit from Orson Krennic for the completion and successful test of the Death Star. It's the page quote.
- Averted in the All American Pups book Camp Barkalot. When one of the campers asks Bella if she's "the hero", Bella clears up the misconception and passes the credit on to Fritz.
- In H.I.V.E. Series book seven, Otto takes the credit for stealing the exam answers and the location of the Hunt, when it was actually all eight students on squad four who did it. Because of this, he is expelled. This works in his favor, however, because he is able to leave the island to look for the Glasshouse, and he takes HIVEmind with him, which while not being necessarily beneficial to the plot, it allows the AI to go outside and spend time as a human.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, famous wizard Gilderoy Lockhart can only do one spell really well - a spell to remove people's memories of doing something so he can claim the credit for doing it.
- The Agatha Christie novel Destination Unknown has the greatest scientific minds captured and brought to a purpose-built super-laboratory, with the man behind it all intending to allow them to do their research without political guidance or restrictions (which is why there are communists and fascists among them), but intending to lease their services to governments that can pay the price. However, it turns out that one of the scientists has been unable to produce anything since a groundbreaking paper published shortly after his wife was murdered. It turns out she was the genius, he murdered her to take the credit.
- At the very beginning of The Stormlight Archive, Kaladin successfully kills a Shardbearer. However, Amaram has him branded a slave to allow him (Amaram) to steal the credit... and more importantly, the Shards.
- In The Bestseller by Olivia Goldsmith, Judith and Daniel Gross co-write a book although Judith does the majority of the work. Worried the publisher won't accept a husband-wife team, they have Daniel pose as the sole author "Jude Daniel" with the idea that after the book is a hit, he'll reveal the truth. But the rush of fame and riches goes to Daniel's head as he soon acts like he and he alone wrote the book. He even crafts a special version with "hand-written notes" to indicate only he wrote it and is ready to dump Judith. But in a beautiful case of karma, the book ends up being a massive flop and Daniel is the "sole author" of a disaster which ruins his life.
- Our Miss Brooks: Mr. Conklin likes to steal the credit from Miss Brooks on occasion. For example, there was his attempt to claim authorship of a speech written by Miss Brooks in "Public Property on Parade".
- On California Dreams, Jake is happy to meet his idol, rocker Zane Cooper. He even shows off some of his songs with Zane agreeing Jake has real promise. Jake is thus stunned when Zane uses the songs for his own album and taking full credit for them. In a confrontation, Zane shows he's just a has-been trying to keep his fame. A disgusted Jake lets him do it, telling the gang he can always write new songs while Zane clearly can't.
- Happens a few times on Eureka:
- Genius scientist Jason Anderson comes to town but various odd events soon have Carter, Jo and Henry realize the man is a fraud. He joins big projects, waits for the other scientists to have a huge breakthrough, then uses a device to wipe their short-term memories so he can claim their achievements as his own. "His" current project was actually the work of his wife who, it turns out, was once Henry's lover until Jason use the device to make them forget about it. Carter manages to trick Anderson into revealing in a demonstration he has no idea how his device actually works and expose him to Stark.
- In "Family Reunion," Fargo discovers his uncle Pierre, supposedly gone missing in 1957, has been frozen all this time. Thawed out, Pierre is rocked to find how many of the town's innovations are from his own work but credited to his partner Sandrov. Stark doesn't believe it but at a party, Sandrov has trouble "remembering" how some of these formulas and devices work while Pierre is able to recite them perfectly. Sandrov confesses that when Pierre went missing, he saw a chance to become famous by claiming his work as his own.
- A character trait of Rimmer in Red Dwarf. If it goes right, it was his idea, and he should get the reward. If it fails, it was Lister's, and Lister should face the punishment.
- In Elementary, Sherlock has this problem when DI Gareth Lestrade of the London Metropolitan Police takes all the credit for the former's work when he was working as a private detective prior to his drug rehabilitation. When Lestrade shows up in New York, he reveals he's "on leave" as without Sherlock, his career has taken a nose dive.
- In one episode of Sliders, they slide back into their world, where Professor Arturo suddenly starts going around claiming to have invented Sliding, even though it was Quinn's discovery. Eventually, they find that they aren't in their world, it's another alt Earth and the Arturo making the claims is the one from this world, who was left behind when Quinn began Sliding, and has been trying to rediscover it ever since.
- Blackadder does this with a picture painted by Lieutenant George in an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth — right in George's presence. George tries to object, but Blackadder, who outranks him, won't give him permission to speak. Even when Captain Darling points out that the picture is signed "George", Blackadder insists it's a dedication to King George.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Detective Pembrook of the Major Case Squad is nicknamed "The Vulture" for his habit of letting other detectives do the lion's share of the investigation on a case and swooping in at the last minute to make the arrest and take all the credit.
- Mike was assigned to represent a book publishing company in some routine legal matters. He discovered that one of the executives was claiming credit for work on a book that was actually done by her former assistant. Mike, under the pretext of protecting the company from a potential lawsuit, helps the assistant get the formal credit she deserves. However, he then discovers that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished and the assistant turns greedy and demands all the credit on the book, even for the work that was actually done by the executive. Mike has to scramble to fix the situation and firmly establish who deserves credit for the work and how much is their contribution actually worth.
- Inverted when Mike has to give all the credit for winning a major case to Harvey. Harvey does not want the credit but Mike is practicing law without a law degree and the publicity surrounding the case could expose his secret. Mike was planning to give Harvey most of the credit all along but he is now hit with the realization that due to his deception he will never be able to publicly claim credit for any of his accomplishments.
- Sheriff Lamb on Veronica Mars is always known to take the credit wherever possible. When Mars becomes Sheriff, he makes sure to give credit to a lawyer who helps him - only to have said lawyer run against him in the upcoming elections.
- In the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation "Where No One Has Gone Before", a Traveler alien lets a Starfleet officer take the credit for his breakthroughs so he can travel in anonymity.
- Throughout Imposters, Jules has refused to admit the dark secret her con artist wife Maddie used to blackmail her silence after robbing her. In season 2, it finally comes out that in college, Jules had been lovers with her roommate who was a bipolar mess and killed herself. Jules was a mess afterward, falling behind in her studies. Realizing her major thesis project was due, Jules presented her late roommate/lover's work as her own. She was found out with her rich family managed to hush it up but Jules knows any career as an artist will be ruined if the truth gets out.
- In Pie in the Sky, Assistant Chief Constable Fisher's career has been built on taking credit for the successes of more competent officers, mainly the protagonist, Detective Inspector Crabbe.
- Bones: Booth is excited because a big bust he spearheaded will give him a corner office and a vacation in Aruba (or some such). But he trades credit to a local PD in order to get his little brother out of a DUI situation, so they get the credit and he gets nothing.
- The Dick Van Dyke Show: Rob and an old buddy had written a song while they were in the army (the buddy wrote the music, Rob wrote the lyrics), and now the song is about to be a big hit so the buddy shows up asking Rob for full rights to the song. Rob agrees, not knowing about the upcoming record release. When it comes out he goes to the old buddy's office, only to find another guy there in the same situation over the same song (the man had written the music, the buddy had written the lyrics). The only thing the old buddy had written was his name at the top of the sheet music.
- Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
- The second episode portrays the feud between Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley, and Robert Hooke as originating in this. Hooke accused Newton of plagiarism and drove him into seclusion, whereupon Newton invented calculus to figure out the solar system's gravity. When Newton published this work in the Principia Mathematica, Hooke tried the same trick, but Halley stepped in to refute the allegations.
- "Sisters of the Sun" commends Henry Norris Russell for not doing this when he realized that Cecilia Payne was right in her analysis of stellar composition, after having rejected her thesis for flying in the face of established thought.
- In Heroes the Alpha Bitch in Claire's school takes the credit in saving peoples lives in a fire incident, in which Claire was the one who really saved them. This however caused her to be targeted by Sylar, who mistook her for Claire.
- In BIONICLE, prior to leading the Visorak hordes, Sidorak gained fame by claiming victories from those below him. If a commander questioned this, Sidorak responded by sending said commander on a dangerous mission that he could not return from.
- Marion really resents Central City for doing this in Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky. After years of denying her funding and manpower, they step in to claim the ruins that are Marion's pet project when she actually starts making progress in her Branch office. To add insult to injury, she's expected to tug her forelock and "co-operate fully" with the interlopers.
- Later in the game, it gets worse: In order to reach the ruins Marion's eccentric but brilliant R&D department build a dreadnought that can outperform any of Central City's ships. Central City's response? Commandeer the ship for their own use, so that they can explore the ruins first. Then it turns out the Central City is the bureaucratic form of The Ditherer, so they don't show up, throwing the R and D department's schedule into chaos, but allowing the main team to head to the ruins.
- Mentioned in Persona 4. The characters discuss the fact that the police will claim the credit for catching the murderer, because the team can't admit to the supernatural nature of their investigation. Yosuke and Chie are particularly stung by this.
- Played tragically in Devil Summoner, since the protagonist's soul is in the body of Kyouji Kuzunoha, forcing him to do detective work in Hirasaki City while using his name.
- In the Wonder Momo webcomics/anime, Amazona steals some of Wonder Momo's credits after the latter gains her powers in fighting off a resurgent Warudemon invasion. This is taken Up to Eleven that for a time, the public thinks that Amazona is Wonder Momo, much to Momoko's anger.
- The Elder Scrolls
- The Mages Guild quest line has you receiving quests from Ajira, the Balmora Guild Hall resident alchemist. She has a bet with another member over who will reach the rank of Journeyman first. The quests you receive from Ajira have you mostly aiding in her research (when you aren't sabotaging her rival's), such as collecting the ingredients she needs. If you read her reports after the fact, she takes full credit for the hard work involved in recovering the ingredients.
- Malacath, the Daedric Prince of the Spurned and Ostracized and patron deity of the Orcs, offers a Daedric quest which involves killing a Dunmer hero whose ancestor stole credit for the accomplishments of an Orc hero. Malacath is very much a Papa Wolf toward the Orcs.
- Between the Oblivion Crisis and the events of Skyrim, the Thalmor, a militarized extremist religious sect seized power (riding a populist movement) within the Altmeri (High Elven) government, seceded from the Empire, annexed neighboring Valenwood (home of the Bosmer (Wood Elves), reformed the Aldmeri Dominion of old, and waged war on the Vestigial Cyrodiilic Empire. How did the Thalmor come to power in the first place? They took credit for ending the Oblivion Crisis within their homeland, which as anyone who played Oblivion knows, is a Blatant Lie. Later, they would also claim credit for resolving a crisis with Nirn's two moons which brought them Elsweyr (home of the Khajiit) as a client state. (The moons being sacred to the Khajiiti people.)
- Persona 5: One of the most common abuses of power featured in the game. Arc Villain Madarame passed off his underlings' work as his own for years to gain fame as an artist. In Ryuji's side story, the teacher who is supposed to take over the track team has every intention of hiring a coach to do the actual work, but claim the credit himself. And Tae Takemi's boss hijacked her research so that he could lay claim to a breakthrough discovery. Then blamed her when his recklessness ruined the project.
- Battlezone: In the final mission of the Soviet Campaign when US base is almost finished suddenly a higher-ranking general appears in a hovertank to make a finishing blow and claim all the victory for himself. The player can simply shoot him without any bad consequences.
- In Red vs. Blue:
Caboose: Look what I found!
Donut: What? I found it!
Caboose: Look at what I took credit for finding!
- Cucumber Quest: The Dream Oracle takes the credit from The Nightmare Knight for putting up the purple barrier that saved Treblopolis from being blown up by the Noiseblaster. It's made very clear from her nervous tics that she's lying, and it's stated on the author's twitter, and hinted in the author commentary that the Nightmare Knight is actually the one who saved Trebleopolis. Oracle is taking this opportunity to bolster her reputation. Not that The Nightmare Knight would complain since he wants to maintain his reputation as the bad guy as well.
- In this Not Always Working anecdote, a manager tries to steal credit for the help the one giving the anecdote gave to a difficult customer. Fortunately they were mentioned by name.
- In the Bill Gates vs Steve Jobs episode of Epic Rap Battles of History, Gates accuses Jobs of doing this, (as Jobs has been accused of doing in real life) and then asks if Steve Wozniak wrote the rap that Jobs is performing. This is the only time that one of Gates' lines draws a direct reaction from Jobs.
- In the SuperMarioLogan episode "Bowser Junior's Lottery Ticket!", after the government bans fake IDs from being used, Junior attempts to give his winning ticket to a stranger and tell him to cast it for him. However, when they come back, they notice on TV that the stranger turns out to be the lottery winner, claiming he bought the ticket, chose the numbers and won the lottery all by himself.
- Throughout the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Sepulveda Boulevard", Montana Max steals scripts, crosses out the previous writers' names, and puts his name in their place. It starts with Plucky's script (although Plucky wasn't all that original to begin with, as he crossed out Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett's names before putting his name in), and then he tries taking credit for Elmyra's script, "101 Cuddly Puppies Meet Princess Pretty Girl". He gets found out by Hamton towards the end of the episode. At the end of the episode, Mr. Cooper DeVille takes all the credit for Elmyra's film, prompting Monty, Elmyra, and Plucky to beat him up.
Brain: "Her royal highness get all the credit, but her lowly subjects did all the work!"
- In "How the Cookie Crumbles", Muffy is at a loss for what to enter for Elwood City's annual Strawberry Festival, until the others spontaneously make cookies with her, using butter batter, a strawberry, banana juice, peanuts, chocolate chips, peach slices, oatmeal, banana, more banana, banana again, and a raisin, and they just happen to taste delicious. Muffy enters the cookies into the baking contest, and wins, but the others are sore when she not only doesn't mention them in the paper, but starts marketing the cookies at the Sugar Bowl under her name, with her picture on the bag.
- The episode, "Francine's Pilfered Paper" involves Francine copying content off the internet for her Thanksgiving report and claiming it as her own. She doesn't know what she did was wrong until Catherine explains what plagiarism is to her, and spends most of the episode dealing with emotional guilt. The episode ends with her telling Mr. Ratburn what happened, re-doing the assignment, and getting a good grade for good and original work.
- The Simpsons:
- Homer invents a drink called a "Flaming Homer" and serves it to a patron at Moe's Tavern. The patron asks what the drink is called and before Homer can answer with the correct name, Moe butts in and claims it's called a "Flaming Moe" and that he invented it.
- Inverted in another episode, where Bart & Lisa use Grandpa as a beard so they can write Itchy & Scratchy scripts.
- A famous example would be the South Park episode "Fishsticks", where Jimmy and Cartman (well, mostly Jimmy) made up a famous joke, yet Cartman tried to hog all the credit. Trey Parker and Matt Stone came up with this plot from knowing people in the entertainment industry who also did that.
- A cutaway gag in Family Guy shows Albert Einstein in his pre-fame job as a patent office clerk. Somebody comes to the counter, presents a pile of papers, and asks to patent "Smith's Theory of Relativity". Einstein knocks him out and snatches the papers. Then later does the same thing to God after he invents Shrinky Dinks.
- Another episode has an unintentional/unwilling example when something good happens to Peter, who looks skyward and says, "Thank you, Jesus!" The camera then pans up to Heaven.
Jesus: Actually, it wasn't me, it was—
Vishnu: No, no, it's okay. [sighs] I'm used to it.
- Another episode has an unintentional/unwilling example when something good happens to Peter, who looks skyward and says, "Thank you, Jesus!" The camera then pans up to Heaven.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Rarity Takes Manehattan", the fashionista Suri Polomare seems to have based her entire career off this. It's unclear how many of her designs are her own, but her assistant Coco Pommel does all the actual dressmaking for her. Then when her old acquaintance Rarity invents a special new variety of fabric, Suri takes a bolt of the fabric, creates a line of dresses out of it, and claims that she invented it. This all comes back to bite her in the rear by the episode's end. Rarity responds to the theft by creating a new fashion line from scratch, which handily beat Suri's dresses in a fashion contest, and the entire incident convinces Coco Pommel to quit working for Suri.
- In the Thomas the Tank Engine episode, "Duck and the Slip Coaches", Duck tells the engines the story of how he used to pull Slip Coaches in the past. When Sir Topham Hatt needs an idea on how to drop off all the passengers to their destinations on time, James takes credit for Duck's idea, much to the latter's ire. Of course, Duck is much more experienced at pulling Slip Coaches than James is, thus leading to James' eventual Laser-Guided Karma when he tries to pull them himself.
- This was The Riddler's Start of Darkness in Batman: The Animated Series, as a Corrupt Corporate Executive took exclusive credit (including royalties) for a videogame that Nygma had created as an employee at his company.
- The Ren and Stimpy episode "Stimpy's Cartoon Show" has Stimpy explain to Ren that this is the job of the producer.
Stimpy: I got it, Ren! You can play producer!
Ren: Producer? What's that?
Stimpy: A producer is the guy who tells the artist what to do, and later, makes all the changes, and then, when the cartoon's done, he takes all the credit!
(Ren does a Happy Dance)
- A 1940s Popeye cartoon has Popeye and Bluto at Olive's service station when a Navy admiral brings his car in to be serviced. Of course, the boys' squabbling causes the car to be reduced to wreckage, so Popeye eats his spinach and puts the car back together in record time. Bluto steps in and nudges Popeye out of the way as he opens the car door so the admiral can enter it. But it backfires on Bluto: when the admiral starts the car, it virtually explodes on him. As Popeye enjoys some downtime with Olive, Bluto is sentenced to scraping rust off a line of ships.
- Kim Possible: In "Grudge Match", Vivian Porter is a brilliant robotics expert who had problems being taken seriously as a scientist because she looked like a supermodel. She built a Ridiculously Human Robot named Oliver, letting him take credit for the work while she pretended to be his girlfriend.