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Teeth-Clenched Teamwork

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"Fine, we'll work together. At the very least, we'll prove it's a bad idea."
Black Mage, 8-Bit Theater

Sometimes in Real Life, people on the same side don't get along. In fiction, this often occurs when there are multiple villains trying to work together, a mismatched team of heroes, or a situation where former enemies have to team up. The problem with this sort of team is that they have trouble using The Power of Friendship or The Power of Love to win–likely because this is essentially the more cynical version of those tropes. It's still not at the far cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, however, because it still assumes that people can (and should) at least work together.

Generally, the imperfect teamwork generated serves as both a good source of drama and/or comedy, depending on the situation. It's particularly dramatic if the group undergoes a period of Divided We Fall first. It also helps ensure that the group is interesting and varied without raising questions of why they work so perfectly together.

This dysfunctional teamwork often takes the form of Family Drama (in cases where the team includes at least part of a Dysfunctional Family). The touchstone of enmity is family, after all.

The Leader may often find himself demanding an Ordered Apology.

Compare Fighting the Lancer (where animosity between teammates actually does lead to a fight), Headbutting Heroes (where the heroes are not necessarily working together) and Can't Default to Murder (where a hero has to force his villainous teammate not to kill).

Contrast Sour Supporter, who is convinced that the team is doomed to failure, but works well with them anyway. If the series goes on long enough (and becomes less cynical), with enough Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moments, this might turn into The Power of Friendship or The Power of Love. Conversely, this trope is a good counterpoint to True Companions; it is a way of introducing some conflict and authenticity into works that would otherwise be too sugary.

Contrast We ARE Struggling Together, and A House Divided where there's lots of infighting on the same side but no teamwork. An Enemy Mine and Colliding Criminal Conspiracies usually results in this trope. Chained Heat is a more specific version of this trope involving being forced to work with someone by some method of a physical attachment. Frequently a by-product of Jurisdiction Friction. Family Drama usually has this within a family. Not to be confused with teams whose members always clench their teeth, or with pronounced determination shared within a group. Red Oni, Blue Oni and Vitriolic Best Buds are duos rather than teams, but they usually display this trope. May end up as an Inevitable Mutual Betrayal.

If they really don’t like each other, than usually one side or the other will give them an Implied Death Threat, and depending on who reaches their goals first, they will proceed to carry out a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.

Often, this is how Fire-Forged Friends start out. Also compare with Forced into Evil.


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    Asian Animation 
  • Mechamato: MechaBot and Amato don't immediately work well together, and Amato initially kept stressing on himself being MechaBot's boss to keep the latter in line. They develop into Vitriolic Best Buds over time.

  • Dr. Bright and Damien are forced to do this in season two of The Bright Sessions. Dr. Bright reluctantly helps Damien improve his ability and then has him infiltrate the AM's headquarters to get Mark, in exchange for finding Damien someone who can also manipulate minds. Leads to Damien kidnapping Mark when he finds out Mark is a mimic.
  • This applies to two pairs of characters in Guiders of Our Dreams. Fang murdered Lexia's family AND destroyed her village, and they are forced to work together for a greater cause, which is to kill the queen of Skiya. After a while, they do start to get along and look out for each other. Zephyr and Orpheus are also like this, but they simply don't trust one another.
  • In The Magnus Archives, the entire Archives team has fallen into this as of season 4. Half of the protagonists are transforming into eldritch monsters as a side effect of their unwilling servitude to the Powers, and the other half have started using increasingly unscrupulous methods (Basira making deals with Elias to get information, Martin's involvement in Peter's secret plans), leading to a dynamic where none of them trust each other enough to work together and get anything done.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Dr. Cube, the evil surgeon, and Midori no Kaiju, who just wanted to destroy things, did not get along, but worked together because they would be defeated by the Kaiju Big Battel heroes as individuals.
  • Chris Candido and Lance Storm in ECW, under stipulation they had to work together as a tag team or be fired, which came after Storm was kicked out of their group, Triple Threat.
  • Long-time rivals Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit were forced to work together during their reign as WWE Tag Team Champions in 2002.
  • This was the selling point of any Invader #1/TNT pairing, such as when IWA Puerto Rico put them together in 2004. TNT quite famously dislikes Invader #1, in and out of kayfabe, and if he had his way would have barred Invader #1 from IWA PR for life, and for that reason Invader #1 almost inevitably gets booked by whatever promotion TNT works for. Them together is guaranteed to sell.
  • The bizarre situation regarding the NWA World Tag Team Titles in TNA when they were won by a third of Triple X (Elix Skipper) and half of America's Most Wanted (Chris Harris) by accident thanks to a shoddy call by a referee. They still disliked The Naturals and Team Canada more than each other, but then their preferred partners, Christopher Daniels and James Storm, accidentally won the belts from them and had even more trouble getting along.
  • Long time enemies Shantelle Taylor and Angel Williams were forced to team up in Deep South Wrestling against Shantelle's friend Tracy Taylor by general manager Krissy Vaine. Williams proved so insufferable that the Taylors ended up dropping all concern about win/loss records and company standing just to shut her up.
  • A one sided example in Radiant Rain and Mercedes Martinez, after the two made peace with one another in WSU. Mercedes likes Rain, but simply developed an aversion to tag team matches. Rain doesn't like Mercedes at all and only managed to tolerate her in tag team matches because there was usually someone else she liked even less, however slightly (and they officially made peace).
  • The situation between Billy Fives and Scoot Andrews when Ring Warriors returned in 2011. The two polar opposites had been feuding for years, for the last six years they had been trying unsuccessfully to retire one another come 2012. So they decided to try something more productive and team up, but even after successfully winning the Global Tag Team Title belts from Wes Brisco and Cassidy Riley, Andrews and Fives only just functioned, they still did not get along.
  • Bobby Roode and James Storm used to be in a tag team called Beer Money before Roode betrayed Storm. So they don't like each other too much, but every once in a while, find themselves slipping back into their old mannerisms and working together for short periods of time. They even did their old pose after double teaming AJ Styles before immediately resuming their own fight amongst themselves in mid 2012.
  • Basically the appeal of Team Hell No, the scourge A.J. Lee accidentally brought on herself as general manager in her efforts to get revenge on Daniel Bryan (who tried to have her committed) by putting him in anger management with Kane.
  • Xic Xavant and El Chico Ilegal Chicano were a dysfunctional Tag Team who did not trust one another. So why keep tagging? Because in 2019 they started winning, and kept winning after beating Doom Patrol for WWC's tag title belts. Usually solely by individual merits, but win enough and you might associate something that happens to be around with your success too.
  • A non-Kayfabe example. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels personally hated each other behind the scenes for numerous reasons, but almost always put aside their differences when working with each other to deliver some of the finest matches of their generation (with one very notable exception).

  • Present in The Navy Lark whenever Commodore Povey and the Troutbridge Crew were forced to team up to defeat whatever lunacy the Admiralty foisted upon them. In Season one whenever Lt. Cmdr. Price and CPO Pertwee had to team up to outfox Povey's plans to drill them out of the Navy.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Some versions of The Krampus have his partnership with Santa Claus be this, enslaved by Santa rather than it being genuine friendship like in other versions. Despite his terrifying appearance, Krampus is actually an example of Dark Is Not Evil, and punishing naughty children is simply his duty.

  • The 1986 New York Mets were one of the best baseball teams ever assembled. They were also a bunch of drunks, womanizers, drug abusers, and masters of Jerkassery. More memorable then their fights against other teams (like literal, knuckle-up fights) were the ones among themselves. One of the more fractious ones was between team star Daryl Strawberry and the unofficial team captain Keith Hernandez.
  • The New York Yankees of the late 1970's weren't called "the Bronx Zoo" for nothing. Team star Reggie Jackson and team manager Billy Martin nearly came to blows in the dugout and had to be separated. Team captain Thurman Munson and Jackson did not get along, and that was no secret. And of course, owner George Steinbrenner, fired and rehired Martin multiple times. By some miracle of talent and skill, they found the time amidst all this dysfunction to win back-to-back World Series titles in 1977 and '78.
  • Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant spent 8 years together on the Los Angeles Lakers knowing they each would be more likely to win with the other around, but finally, in 2004, the team fell apart in the Finals largely due to their feud and it was obvious one or the other had to go. Both men did end up winning a title or two afterward though. After both men retired from the NBA, they made an effort to mend fences and were on good terms until Bryant was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 2020. O'Neal was devastated by the tragedy and served as one of the speakers during Bryant's public memorial service.
  • In a similar vein, the 1985 Chicago Bears are often considered to be one of the greatest teams in the history of the NFL, but their head coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan did not get along at all. The roots of the problem began when their deceased founder and owner, George 'Papa Bear' Halas, hired Ditka to be the head coach in 1982 over Ryan, who had been with the Bears for five years prior and felt that he should have gotten the job. This effectively led to a schism in the team where Ditka ran the offense and Ryan ran the defense as separate units. Both men were able to stomach each other for the cause of winning, but their animosity came to a head on a Monday Night Football game against the Miami Dolphins, who ended up spoiling an otherwise perfect season giving the Bears their only loss that year. During halftime, Ditka and Ryan finally came to blows and after that year Ryan left for the head coaching job at Philadelphia. Ditka later commented that they were both better together than apart.
  • Despite being one of the NFL's top teams throughout The New '10s, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy did not get along at all. Their animosity began when McCarthy, then the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, convinced the team to pass on Rodgers in the 2005 NFL Draft in favor of Alex Smith and remained unapologetic about the decision even after being hired by Green Bay. The relationship only continued to go downhill to the point Rodgers would frequently ignore McCarthy's game plan and call his own plays. While the duo did manage to win a Super Bowl title in the 2010 season, eventually the turmoil began to affect the team's performance and McCarthy was fired in during the 2018 season.

  • In The Book of Mormon, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham get into this towards the climax of the play. Price and Cunningham are having an argument, with neither being particularly fond of the other at the time — Price is undergoing a Crisis of Faith thanks to Cunningham's success, and Cunningham is still mad at Price for trying to abandon him. But with the mission president coming to preside over their mission and check their progress, Cunningham says that it would be in both his and Price's best interests to at least act like everything is fine. Price agrees, but the animosity remains until close to the end of the show.
  • In the Mrs. Hawking play series: This is one of Mrs. Hawking's M.O.s: she hates working with anyone else. Every play except Gilded Cages sees her reluctantly allowing someone else into her circle— Mary in Mrs. Hawking, Nathaniel in Vivat Regina, Clara in Base Instruments, and Clara again (plus Madam Malaika) in Mrs. Frost. Mrs. Hawking does eventually come to admit that she needs their help, but her extreme dislike of doing so (and struggles to admit her own weaknesses) are a major source of conflict for everyone involved.
  • The Music Man: The members of the school board at first. They have hated each other for years and can't seem to agree on how to do things, but because they are all on the school board together, they have to work as a group. After Hill organizes them into a barbershop quartet, they forget their bickering and gradually become friends.

  • BIONICLE has this trope in several instances:
    • The Toa Nuva team. It's mostly just Tahu and Kopaka, though, and they settle most of their differences by the Karda Nui story arc. In the Toa Metru's case, Whenua and Nuju could barely stand one another and Onewa and Matau got on the nerves of everyone on the team. Both teams are True Companions, however, and their reluctant teamwork can be very effective when the situation calls for it.
    • The Piraka on the other hand really hate each other, and are only temporarily working together to get the Mask of Life in Voya Nui, once one of them has it they plan to betray each other. Even then, they spent just as much time backstabbing each other as they did fighting the heroes, sometimes while they were fighting the heroes.

    Visual Novels 
  • Akai Ito: Uzuki the demon hunter openly despises supernaturals since her big brother was killed by one, Sakuya yields an undying grudge toward the demon hunters due to their act of genocide on her clan, while Tsuzura just want to get the hell out since she hates being the leader of the demon hunters, and don't like people in general. However, they must set aside their difference because Nushi is the real threat.
  • All over the place in Danganronpa, because forcing multiple volatile teenagers into solving murder cases under the threat of death is bound to cause some friction. The Rival characters, in particular, tend to make life even more difficult for their respective protagonists while simultaneously being a valuable asset in the investigations and trials.
  • Fate/stay night is full of this, though it usually lessens as the parties get to know each other or come to a mutual understanding. Rin and Shirou, Shirou and Saber, Saber and Rin, Illya and Rin, Illya and Saber, everyone and Kotomine... but nothing tops the sheer molar-grinding of Shirou and Archer. Shirou cannot stand Archer, as his callous nature and willingness to sacrifice innocent people to achieve victory so long as he saves more than he kills fly in the face of Shirou's ideals of "saving everyone, regardless of the cost to myself". Archer, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to murder Shirou in cold blood so that he can be erased from existence, but typically he can't either because Rin has him under a Command Seal to not hurt Shirou, or because he considers keeping Rin alive to be more important. The one route where Archer manages to Xanatos Gambit his way into being free to act on that desire? Everything goes to hell very quickly.
  • M and Mary sign a contract in Shikkoku no Sharnoth in order to destroy the Metacreatures. M is completely dispassionate, while Mary grows to hate him more as time passes. In the end, she finally understands him and saves him in some sense, but contrary to what might be expected this does not develop into a romance.
  • Ban and Rosé from Spirit Hunter: NG are both professionals who work well in assisting Akira, but due to their wildly different personalities they can barely go a minute without sniping at each other.

    Web Animation 
  • Broken Saints gives us a villainous example: Benjamin Palmer and Lear Dunham clearly have no great love for each other, but they need each other's help to execute the Evil Plan. Of course, once Palmer has outlived his usefulness, Lear is quick to dispose of him.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Between Asia and Julie vs their Darkness counterparts in 'VRcade'.
  • Red vs. Blue
    • This is true for pretty much the entire casts, especially at the start of the series, with neither team getting along with each other, let alone with the opposite team. This is downplayed somewhat as the series goes on, with them becoming more or less True Companions, but even then they still have their squabbles, especially with Sarge insisting on acting like the war between Red and Blue is still on, long after both teams had more or less made peace with each other.
    • This is noted to have been Felix's and Locus' relationship during the war. They greatly disliked each other and were extremely competitive, but they were on the same side in a very deadly war, so they worked together to survive it. Now that the war is over they still work together, due to the fact that they make a disturbingly effective team, allowing both of them to make a good living for joint mercenary work. But they still most certainly hate each other, and are implied to want to kill each other, but they both know they will never get another partner who works in sync with them as well as the other.
  • This is the conflict driving RWBY's first season. Three mostly good people are forced to work with a bratty, arrogant Alpha Bitch (although she eventually becomes more of a Lovable Alpha Bitch as she undergoes Character Development).
    • This also applies to Ozpin's personnel circle and the Atlas Military, most notably between Qrow Branwen and Winter Schnee who only barely reluctantly associate with each other and in the first appearance together quickly get into a fight.

    Web Original 
  • The behind-the-scenes work for Bennett the Sage's anime review show Anime Abandon is largely done by Marc the Engineer, who seems to barely tolerate Sage and does his job extremely grudgingly. Outside the show's 'verse, they are genuine friends.
  • Zhong Hui and Deng Ai can barely lead two completely separate armies on the same mission in Farce of the Three Kingdoms.
  • In Marble Hornets, Tim and Jay pretty much hate each other when they first start working together (admittedly, Tim did attack Jay, albeit while temporarily insane, and Jay kept Tim in the dark about things he couldn't remember). However, after a while, they eventually develop a strong friendship.
  • Our Avatars Were in a Room Together: The Continuation: When Sol steals the Fireseal and beats up a bunch of knights in order to get to Justice and destroy her himself, Ky is forced to join Sol out of desperation to end the war, despite disagreeing with his methods.
  • The SCP Foundation and other groups frequently engage in this. Especially the Global Occult Coalition - while their end goal is the same (protection of baseline reality), their methodology is quite different.
  • The Vindicators of the Whateley Universe. Kismet, the leader, won't admit she ever makes a mistake. Lemure hates her and is only still on the team because of Sizemax. Dynamaxx enjoys playing them off against each other. Captain Canada! is likely to go off the deep end at the first serious stressor.
  • Jreg: The four political extremists don’t get along with each other, especially Authoritarian Right. That is unless they're fighting centrists, in which they're united.


Video Example(s):


The Extremists

The Extremists are anthropomorphic personifications of the four extremist political ideologies. While their natures are incompatible on a fundamental level, they are willing to band together to wipe out the Centrists.

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Main / TeethClenchedTeamwork

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