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The Tyson Zone

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Han Solo: I heard a story about you; I was wondering if it's true.
Lando Calrissian: Everything you've heard about me is true.

Some celebrities allow their reputation to become so bizarre that any story about them is believable. These celebrities have entered The Tyson Zone.

The term was coined by columnist Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons in "honor" of heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson. Examples of Tysonic behavior include offering a zoo handler money to box a gorilla, threatening to eat an opponent's children,note  biting said opponent's leg at a press conference after attacking his associate to start a brawl, biting off part of the ear of another opponent in the ring, saying he was ready to "fight Jesus", and blowing $300 million on hookers, cocaine and an enormous collection of pigeons.note  And yes, Iron Mike really did all of these things and more.

Ideally, the nuttiness should be sustained for years. Continual craziness, ideally manifesting in a number of different forms, is required for someone to truly enter the Zone. The subject must be also famous. Being crazy in your house is one thing; being crazy on national television or in the global media is a whole different story.

Related Tropes:

Compare No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, Controversy-Proof Image, Pop Culture Urban Legends, and Shrouded in Myth. Contrast Role-Ending Misdemeanor, Contractual Purity, Creator Killer.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Haruhi Suzumiya has entered this zone among all who know of her. She's done so many outrageous and varied things that nobody doubts it when they hear of some other bizarre thing she did. Lampshaded by Haruhi herself in the first story: "Whatever it is you've heard about me, it's probably true."

  • Invoked by John Oliver in one of his routines, where he talks about encountering Tyson in Las Vegas and realising that he really should go to bed now — this being the purpose of Mike Tyson: to turn up to let you know you when you're about to go too far and should instead go home. Oliver theorises that deploying Mike Tyson might be a more effective means of dispersing riots than tear gas.
  • For Richard Jeni, it was Michael Jackson.
    Michael Jackson is a cautionary tale for the rest of us. That's what happens when you keep fixing it until it's broke.
  • This was the reason John Mulaney gave up drinking. He would always drink so much as to black out, and had to hear about his acts of Alcohol-Induced Idiocy second-hand from witnesses because he couldn't remember any of them himself. He had no way of knowing which of the stories about himself, if any, were true. He compares it to Michael Jackson not being able to confirm the crazy paparazzi stories about himself:
    I saw an interview with Michael Jackson before he died and they were like, "Is it true you bought the Elephant Man's bones?" And he was like, "I don't know!" Ya know, 'cause how could he keep track of that?

    Comic Books 
  • Diabolik:
    • The title character has done so many weird heists that when someone else does an heist in a larger-than-life manner people tend to blame him unless there's a clear indication it wasn't him, like the heist involving guns or the caper being executed by too many people (he only has one accomplice, his lover Eva Kant). And even then, some may suspect it's part diversion, as, after all, he did do both...
    • On a meta level, the authors and writers of the stories may pull any and all examples of Superdickery and many readers will fall for them every time. Because if one of the earliest tricks they've pulled on the readers was to give Diabolik a Secret Identity of sort and set up Elisabeth Gay as his lover and future accomplice only for Elisabeth to get him arrested and exposed by accident in Eva's debut story, they could do something like that again. And the numbers of those who have they wouldn't do it anymore are greatly diminished since the 2012 special "The Return of Gustavo Garian", in which the title character Gustavo Garian, the first named character to be introduced and the one who first mentioned Diabolik, was Killed Off for Real.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye:
    • Over the course of the series, Whirl acts so bizarre and outrageous that the rest of the crew stops being able to tell whether or not any act he claims to have done or opinion he expresses is for real. Any accusation or claim about him is treated as semi-plausible, no matter how ridiculous, simply because it's Whirl. It doesn't help that Whirl also has a really warped sense of humor.
    • Played for Drama with Prowl; when Bombshell mind controls him and forces him to act as a Decepticon agent, nobody sees his sudden ruthless Jerkass behavior as suspicious. Prowl was already a pretty shifty and manipulative guy, so they were willing to believe, however subconsciously, that Prowl would really commit crimes for utterly inscrutable reasons and generally be an obnoxious jerk. When he's freed from Bombshell's control, Prowl is understandably disturbed that his supposed friends saw things like emotional manipulation or covering up politically inconvenient crimes as normal behavior for him.

    Fan Works 
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:
    • Harry himself develops a reputation at Hogwarts for being able to do anything with his trademark finger snap, but that comes to bite him in the ass when Lesath Lestrange, certain that he can do anything, went on his knees and begged Harry to release his mother Bellatrix Black from Azkaban. He makes sure that The Daily Prophet releases absolutely ridiculous rumors about him, so that no one ever believes what the papers say about him anymore. He scares a Dementor in front of the Wizengamot, and they take it in stride, because he's The Boy-Who-Lived and it fits story logic. Well, most of them do.
    • Draco Malfoy cannot do a good deed without everyone thinking he is plotting something nefarious.
    • Dumbledore's Obfuscating Insanity confuses people as to whether he's sane pretending to be insane, or insane pretending to be sane pretending to be insane. Add one more layer of sanity. He may or may not have used Obfuscating Evil on the Death Eater faction to stop them from taking people's families hostage, but now they think Dumbledore isn't above stooping to any low. But people still have trouble believing that he's set fire to a chicken.
    • Defence Against The Dark Arts Professors have had such a terrible record over the last decades that any accusation against them is plausible... which is why the teachers don't want to hear them, because they don't want to have to fire the professors mid-year; this is for the sake of their students' education.

    Films Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • "Some say..." that The Stig from Top Gear is often hyped this way in-show. This includes his occasionally-appearing 'relatives'.
  • 30 Rock's Tracy Jordan not only draws this image (he has admitted that some of the things people think about him aren't true), but actively cultivates it. Despite (secretly) being a happily married monogamous man with a stable—if eccentric—family life, he frequents strip clubs and financially supports an "illegitimate son" (who turns out to be 2 years his senior). On one occasion, he gets a (washable) facial tattoo because he's afraid a magazine article will lead people to believe that he's normal.
  • On QI, a BBC panel show dedicated to winkling out 'quite interesting' facts about the world and correcting common misconceptions (points are deducted for giving obvious-yet-wrong answers and sometimes surprising correct ones are revealed — it is common for players to finish on negative scores), comedian Rich Hall jokingly suggested one episode that the show had got to the opposite of this stage: that Stephen Fry could say anything in his capacity as host and the public would believe it to be true.
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:
    • An episode about the Middle Eastern Terrorist group ISIS had John noting that they had become so outrageous in their actions/claims that people will believe anything about them.
    • An episode about the scandals of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump, the two leading candidates in the 2016 US Presidential election, had him make up a fake corruption scandal about Clinton simply to see how many of his viewers vaguely remembered hearing about it on the news, in order to make a point about how she was perceived as a Corrupt Politician.
  • Bob Mortimer's stories on Would I Lie to You? are some of the most outlandish ever told... and also almost always true. Lampshaded by team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack:
    Lee: Don't you remember the last time Bob was on this show?
    David: Yes, and it's ALWAYS TRUE! It was true about the masks in Castle Douglas, it was true that he can tear an apple apart with his bare hands, it was true about the games in the gardens!
  • Game2: Winter was a Deadly Game reality show pitched by a Russian tech millionaire named Yevgeny Pyatkovsky that turned out to be an elaborate publicity stunt done for market research purposes, but not before a lot of people reported that a real-life Hunger Games was going to be held in Siberia. It turned out that Pyatkovsky was specifically hoping to exploit Russian stereotypes with the announcement, as the idea of somebody actually doing a real-life Hunger Games would sound more believable if it were being held in Russia, a country widely seen as a semi-anarchic World of Badass where, if you have the money, the law is merely a suggestion. His fellow countrymen reacted to the news by accusing him of fueling that stereotype.

  • The entire genre of Visual Kei (especially in its original iteration of Visual Shock) was and is about intentionally entering this with one's persona, one's band's image, and sometimes even one's own personal life. Some artists have been especially good at it (although, sadly, some of the best at it became so due to mental health or alcohol and drug problems).
  • Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, infamous for his drug use, once claimed to have snorted his own father's ashes. It's when Richards tried to claim he was joking that no one believed him.
  • Alice Cooper did an interview where he said maybe 30% of the stories about him, Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson are true, then said EVERY story ever told about Keith Moon is true, and people have only heard about a tenth of them.
  • Kanye West entered into this around the time his upstaging of Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs made him more famous for his self-aggrandising antics and maximalist artistic grandeur than for his music (despite the music itself remaining highly critically regarded, at least at first). His extremely ugly Creator Breakdown following his diagnosis with bipolar disorder, decision to stop taking his medication, his divorce from Kim Kardashian, and his attempt to run as an explicitly antisemitic President caused both justified revulsion and unjustified panic as people were unable to figure out whether he was kidding when making music videos threatening Kim's new boyfriend.
  • Eminem, from 1999-2003, was a resident of the Zone less because of his own behaviour (which was, in fact, pretty bad and full of stupid details) and more because of an overblown, racist moral panic about his music led to people believing his satirical Kayfabe Music act was literal, no matter how over-the-top he made his performance art and however often he stated it was not to be taken seriously. Numerous biographies and kiss-and-tell articles capitalising on his controversy-magnet Slim Shady persona came out during this time, many of which made extraordinary claims about his rampant drug abuse, violence, homophobia and chaotic relationship with his abusive mother which sound far more like the persona of Eminem's satirical songs than anything possible in reality, and are still believed by some people, even as Eminem's image has softened as he aged into a legacy pop star.
    • For a sadder example, Eminem entered thoroughly into this around the time he withdrew from the public eye due to his depression and drug abuse. Absurd news stories circulated (many based on statements by his mother) that he was so fat, spotty, unshaven and had let his dark roots grow out that he was unrecognisable, that he ate expensive steaks every night, that the FBI were trying to kill him, that he was refusing to leave the house, that he was in a wheelchair, and that he was dying of a secret illness. Most of these stories were true.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Ric Flair survived a plane crash that broke his back in three places and returned to wrestling 8 months later. He also survived two lightning strikes (once while holding an umbrella, the other while riding another plane), wrestled in North Korea with Antonio Inoki in front of what is believed to be the largest pro wrestling crowd ever gathered (at least 165,000 people, some estimates put it as high as 190,000; for the record, the largest WWE crowd is just over 100,000 people), and had a Signature Move where he would Face Fault into the mat like a goddamn comedy clown despite being one of the most revered wrestlers on the planet. He also claims to have slept with 10,000 women, has stripped naked in public a whole bunch of times (most famously on a plane ride with a bunch of other wrestlers), and once stripped down to his socks and boxers on live television and then handcuffed himself to the ring ropes and hung on like a monkey.
  • Teddy Hart is already infamous for no-showing shows he's booked for and being an extremely dangerous spot monkey, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Stories include being fired and/or blackballed for not going with previously agreed finishes; being blackballed for getting in a fight with another wrestler; selling cocaine; being fined for failing to control one of his many cats; being arrested for enabling Masada's drunken rampages; being investigated for involvement in a domestic abuse, kidnapping and murder case; and acting out gay-for-pay chloroform fantasies and passing them off as custom matches.
  • Andre the Giant was billed at 7 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 520 pounds. Because of his size, many stories crop up regarding Andre's size related feats. He had a reputation for moving cars at night as a prank and his farts were said to be massive expulsions of gas that could go on for a solid thirty seconds. One particular area that often has larger than life anecdotes is his ability to drink truly mind boggling amounts of alcohol.
  • The list of believable stories of any kind wouldn't be complete without Tonga Uliuli Fifita, a.k.a. Haku/Meng. From cop stories being unable to contain his rage, to dumbasses wanting to pick a fight with him and predictably losing, to WCW being afraid of firing him...

  • On The Unbelievable Truth, if the subject of a lecture is a living person, then often just David Mitchell announcing what the subject is will be enough to get a laugh. Examples include John Finnemore's lecture on Boris Johnson, Arthur Smith's on Simon Cowell, Graeme Garden's on Jeremy Clarkson and, most memorably of all, Ed Byrne's on David Mitchell himself.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Unhallowed Metropolis, the only reliable way to cultivate a Controversy-Proof Image is to become a Black Sheep. After this point, more scandals aren't going to damage your reputation anymore.
  • Old Man Henderson shows how this trope can be weaponized in tabletop games; the creator of the titular character gave him a ridiculously thorough 300-something page backstory to not only justify Henderson having an absurd Game-Breaker skill set, but to also let him sneak in new skills as the situation demanded since nobody was ever going to read the whole thing, so he could pretend it had been in there the whole time. His skills were so outrageous and his backstory so impenetrable that the GM and other players began believing anything the creator made up about Henderson, figuring that the justification was probably buried somewhere in the backstory. Henderson ended up using this to hijack a helicopter during a key moment; he had zero skill or experience with flying and should've died in the attempt, but the GM just let it happen.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, this is invoked when discussing the possibility that Family Patriarch Kinzo may have built a hidden second mansion on Rokenjima, to house a mistress that nobody ever found out about. While some details vary, it turns out he not only did, but also rigged the island to explode if he wished, in line with his beliefs about chaos being required for magic. This also comes up when Battler argues he escaped a locked room by jumping from the second story window despite being the oldest in the family. Everyone accepts the argument because it seems in character.

  • This Wondermark strip demonstrates the phenomenon in action - a man considers debunking a false rumour about Donald Trump but decides it would just lead to a pointless argument.

    Web Videos 
  • Invoked by Bob Chipman in his review of Transformers: The Last Knight, where, due to the fact that he'd run out of ways to criticize these films without repeating himself from his reviews of the prior four films, he simply presented most of the review as a list of twenty things that actually happened in this movie. One of them is not like the others.
    14. There's an extended comedy sequence where Crosshairs loses his testosterone regulation cog and reverts to exaggerated effeminate mannerisms, which plays out as background slapstick during an unnecessarily long foreground discussion of what gender differentiation even means for the Transformers in the first place, and pays off in a deeply uncomfortable joke about "hybrid cars".
    15. I just made that last one up, but admit it, you didn't know that for sure.
  • The Nostalgia Critic brings this up when discussing Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, arguing that the movie rides on Angelina Jolie's wild child personality she had cultivated. Everything Lara does in the movie almost makes you wonder if the camera crew was just following Jolie around. Specifically, at one point she was just doing an acrobatic bungie cord sequence in the main hall of her mansion for no reason. He points out when black ops sent by the Big Bad show up, she gives one of them a look mixing "Do you really want to do this?" and "I've been waiting for you."

    Western Animation 
  • South Park: Eric Cartman is the poster child for this trope in a fictional setting starting with season 5. Acknowledged and played with in a twisted manner in season 15's "1%".
  • In DuckTales (2017), Scrooge McDuck has gone on so many adventures and done do many extraordinary things that people are willing to believe anything about him. It's even gotten to the point where people assume he can do things simply because "You're Scrooge McDuck."

Alternative Title(s): Tyson Zone