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Threat Backfire

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Darwin Mayflower: I'll kill your friends, your family, and the bitch you took to the prom!
Hudson Hawk: Betty Jo Biarski? I can get you an address on that if you want.

A character threatens another with something that not only fails to scare them, but in fact they would consider a favor. For example, saying "I'll Kill You!" to the Death Seeker, or describing the tortures you could use to the person who is Too Kinky to Torture, or telling someone "I Have Your Wife" to be met with the response that You Can Keep Her!.

Compare Insult Backfire, Attack Backfire, Unishment, and Screw Your Ultimatum!. Often a Sub-Trope of Tempting Fate and the related Be Careful What You Say, Threat Backfire is also a common effect of telling someone they have to Go Through Me, responding to someone else's threat with You and What Army?, or using virtually any Stock Phrase featuring the words "over my dead body" or "from my cold, dead fingers". Also a common response to challenges along the lines of "Oh yeah? And what are you gonna do about it?" when the threatened person treats this as if it were a real request for information, to be answered with a practical demonstration of more or less devastating force, accompanied by the answer "This".

This one has a few variations:

  1. The person being threatened is not being funny, just very Literal-Minded or socio-linguistically tone-deaf. The Comically Serious will often give this kind of response. May also be caused by or overlap with Blunt Metaphors Trauma.
  2. The person being threatened knows it's a threat, but decides to purposely take it at face value for comic effect at the other's expense. Most common when the person threatened is The Trickster or Deadpan Snarker. Can still be fatal.
  3. The person being threatened has run out of fucks to give and does not even register the threat as words being strung together to form a sentence, much less as some horrible consequences that are about to befall them. Bonus points if the one making the threat is thrown completely off their game at this non-reaction.
  4. The person making the threat is either grandstanding or bluffing, and now finds they have to follow through, possibly to their own defeat, if they're even given time to respond at all.
  5. The person making the threat means it literally, even if they might be hoping it doesn't have to come to that: not quite such a straight play, but still straight-ish. May lead to an Oh, Crap! moment on the threat-issuer's part.
  6. Not infrequently sighted subversion: the person on the receiving end of the threat is trying to exploit the fact that it will be taken in Exact Words terms, and is actually Briar Patching. And then, of course, it turns out this one can backfire, or at least misfire, too.
  7. The target of the threat is so much more powerful than the one making the threat that it's a case of either Mugging the Monster, Bullying a Dragon, or Do Not Taunt Cthulhu.
  8. The thing being threatened is something the target of the threat would actually want.

Super-Trope to Blackmail Backfire, which is when the threat is a blackmailing attempt. See also Machiavelli Was Wrong, for when fear as a general means of control doesn't work.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Baccano!: When Victor assures Huey that he's about to undergo the worst experience of his life, Huey takes it as a challenge.
    Huey: I wonder... You see, currently, my worst memory is the experience of watching my mother die to prove her innocence in exchange for the execution of many of the people I loved. Another would be the memory of being unable to rescue my wife, back when we were in our hometown. It is positively fascinating to hear you insinuate that you could force me to experience something even more painful than these two memories. Could you perhaps enlighten me to the specifics?
  • The yakuza boss's wife in Back Street Girls thinks that her husband is cheating on her with the idol group he's managing, so she tries sending them innocuous but dangerous animals (such as a softshell turtle, which has a bite that can take off fingers) to one who had publicly stated she wanted a cute pet as well as thinly-veiled death threats (in the form of a straw doll with a knife buried in its chest) to another. She isn't clued into the secret that the idol group is composed entirely of yakuza/mob enforcers, however, and a Gilligan Cut jumps to the group happily eating the turtle and fawning over the high-quality knife while commenting that their fans are finally sending them gifts they really like.
  • Black Cat: Train's first meeting with Creed. Train, being annoyed that he's assigned a partner, disdainfully tells Creed that he doesn't need him, and pretty much threatens him to shove off or he'll kill him. Unfortunately, Creed is a masochist. Cue Creed constantly stalking Train and bothering him.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Gohan is fighting Cell and is at a distinct disadvantage. However, he knows that he can beat Cell if he goes into an Unstoppable Rage and warns Cell of this, hoping to get him to back down. Unfortunately, Gohan fails to consider that Cell is the kind of person who wants him at full strength for the sake of a challenge, and Gohan's revelation just makes Cell determined to keep pushing Gohan's buttons until he snaps and unleashes his hidden power. It works.
  • Fairy Tail: During the Luxus arc, Evergreen threatens to turn many of Fairy Tail's female mages into dust if Erza doesn't submit to her. Erza immediately responds by pointing dozens of swords at Evergreen and praising Evergreen for valuing victory above her own life.
  • Full Metal Panic!: The I'll Kill You! to a Death Seeker variant appears between Sōsuke and Gauron. Sōsuke, who is sick and tired of Gauron repeatedly not dying when he's supposed to, constantly yells that he'll kill him out of frustration. And Gauron, being Too Kinky to Torture and a depraved thrillseeker, responds to this with ecstasy and joy, normally along the lines of: "OH, I'M SO HAPPY KASHIM!"
  • In chapter 516 of Naruto, after Kabuto brings Deidara and Sasori back as revenants this exchange occurs:
    Sasori: [referring to Kabuto] The Akatsuki must have gone to hell in a handbasket to be taking orders from such a ragged fool...
    Deidara: I wouldn't be so arrogant considering you died, master. "True art is beauty that endures eternally", especially when your weakness is a huge bulls-eye in the middle of your chest! Hm!
    Sasori: [menacingly] You want to die too, Deidara?
    Deidara: I am dead, both of us are!
  • One Piece: The leaders of the World Government keep raising the bounties of the Straw Hats Pirates because of how much they want them dead. Seemingly unbeknown to them, pirates see bounties as testaments of both notoriety and strength, to the point that some sea dogs have been known to make up fake bounties in the past to intimidate other people to their advantage. As such, the Straw Hats and Luffy in particular see them as irrefutable proof of their might. For that reason, a pirate being threatened by a World Noble really doesn't do much either, especially if they had a high bounty to begin with.
  • Shaman King: When Tokagero possesses Ryu and threatens to kill him, Anna outright threatens to send him to Hell if he does go through with it. Tokagero tells her point-blank that the thought of going to Hell doesn't scare him; having been born into poverty and forced to eat his own mother's corpse to survive, he already lived through Hell.
  • ST☆R: Strike it Rich: After capturing Hina, Ichika notes that she can't claim legitimate defense for her fight with Nozomi since there's no evidence and tells her that "[her] life is between [their] hands". This completely fails to intimidate Hina who calmly counters that "[their] life is in [her] hands". Her response sent chills down Nozomi, Ichika, and Hana's spines, since she probably isn't bluffing.

    Comic Books 
  • Star Wars Tales #7, "Outbid but Never Outgunned": A sleazy little creep is cornered by Boba Fett and Fett's ex-wife Sintas and tries to use a hostage to save his life. It doesn't go quite as planned.
    Pizztov: Drop your weapons, or I will be forced to kill this annoying female.
    Fett: No, kill her.
    Sintas: Yeah, I don't care.
  • In Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller is usually good at getting people to back down. But she finally meets a match when therapist Simon LeGrieve announces he's finally had enough and is quitting the staff.
    Waller: Don't push me, Simon. You quit and I'll fire your assistant, Dr. Herrs.
    Simon: Marnie left weeks ago, Amanda. You didn't even notice she was gone.
    Waller: I'll make sure she never gets any work in this profession again.
    Simon: I've already written her a sterling letter of recommendation.
    Waller: I'll make sure your own funding dries up.
    Simon: With all respect, Amanda, you're going to be too busy keeping your own funding, your own job, and yourself out of prison. Don't push me on this, Amanda.
    Waller: ...Good luck, Simon. Now get the hell out of here.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin's mom once told him the all-too-common parental threat that making faces too often would cause his face to freeze that way. She should have known better than to try that with Calvin. It actually encouraged him to do it more.
    • Calvin wonders what Hobbes would do if Calvin threw a water balloon at him. Hobbes tells him to think of the worst thing he can imagine, then imagine something a hundred times worse. Calvin says, "You'd do that?" and Hobbes says no, he'd do something even worse. Calvin soaks him with the water balloon anyway, explaining, "He piqued my curiosity."
  • Nearly happens to Jason in one FoxTrot when he goes to science camp for the summer. His councilor, who has been incredibly nasty to him all summer, is a nerdy high schooler named Morton. Jason had been planning to get his revenge by trying to set Morton up with his sister Paige, whom Jason considers completely horrible. Morton, however, considers Paige a goddess and worships the ground she walks on. As Jason is leaving camp, Morton practically begs Jason to help him get together with Paige, causing Jason to rethink his revenge plans...
  • In Darby Conley's Get Fuzzy, Bucky owes a large sum of money to feline mobsters, who send a cat named Whitey to collect. Whitey's threat backfires because, unlike other examples of this trope, Bucky happens to be a sociopath:
    Whitey: You have one week to pay up, Katt, or your dog buddy meets with an accident, capisce?
    Bucky: That's fine, kill the dog. In fact, kill him now, it'll save you a trip next week.
    Whitey: OK, I see how it is. Forget the dog, we'll take out your human.
    Bucky: You know, that's not a bad idea. He'd probably be easier to take out, yeah.
    Whitey: Okay, wait, gimme a minute, I'll think of something.
    Bucky: Hey, my neighbor's a total melvin too, any chance for a twofer?
  • In an early The Wizard of Id strip, a witch flies into the Wizard's laboratory and threatens to inflict great misery if he cuts into her territory. The Wizard's wife Blanch comes downstairs and asks what he's doing, with the Wizard telling the witch that she's too late since his marriage to Blanch is already a greater misery than anything the witch could ever do.
  • In one Zits strip, Walt, who was doing the laundry, was getting really sick of Jeremy sending his socks down the laundry chute wadded up and inside out, and eventually lost his temper:
    Walt: (screaming up the chute) New rule! The next sock that comes down this chute inside out, I keep!
    (what has to be every sock Jeremy owns tumbles down the chute on top of him, all of them inside-out)
    Walt: Well, I guess I deserved that.
    Connie: You guess?
    Jeremy: (from upstairs) MOM! I need new socks!

    Fan Works 
  • Upon becoming a male Slayer in Always A Bridesmaid, Xander is warned by his Watcher that he'll be on the front lines now, fighting vampires one on one. Rather than being intimidated, Xander's happy to hear he won't have to fight two or three vampires at a time anymore.
  • In this parody of the interrogation scene from The Dark Knight, Batman can't get anywhere because the Joker can't understand a word he's saying.
  • Feralnette AU: Lila runs headlong into this when she learns that Felix is nonbinary. She's so eager to exploit this that she immediately starts threatening to forcibly out them. Not only does this prove to be too much for Alya to self-justify, causing her 'best friend' to call her out, Mrs. Mendeleiev is clearly unamused once she learns about the incident.
  • For the Glory of Irk: Xia attempts to intimidate the Syndicate Chairman through a show of force, but unfortunately for her, her assistant Sym misunderstands her orders to "send a message" and literally sends an angry message, before informing Xia that she doesn't actually have the authority to launch any real attacks. In the end, the Chairman is only left deeply confused by the whole situation.
  • In Of Good Men and Monsters, Xander swears to kill C.C. after he learns she made a contract with a child. Upon realizing how serious he is and that he very well could kill her, C.C. smiles genuinely and declares his threat to be their contract.
  • In the Totally Spies!/Ranma ½ story How I Learned to Love the Wild Horse, Clover becomes very impressed with Ranma (despite the girls thinking he's a supervillain) after he tells off Mandy and, at her own urging, asks Clover on a date.
    Clover: I am going to do evil evil things to that man.
    Sam: Clover!!! That's probably what he wants to do to you!
    Clover: God, I hope so!
    (this is soon followed by a dope slap)
  • Karma Overbalance spins off The Karma of Lies in this fashion. During her final chat with Lila, Ladybug implied that she'd visited the future and seen Lila meeting a terrible end. While this Paranoia Gambit was meant to make Lila consider changing her ways, she instead decides to return to Paris, intending to bring Marinette down. Unfortunately for all involved, Lila then runs into Adrien and attempts to recruit him into her anti-Marinette scheme; Adrien, blaming her for completely destroying his life, promptly strangles Lila to death, leaving Marinette horrified at the unexpected outcome of her gambit.
  • Book Three of The Last Son has Superman turning it around when Doctor Doom threatens to go public about his secret identity:
    Superman: I think I know you better than you do, Victor. I know you won't go public... because if you do, you'll have to explain how Victor von Doom, the supposedly most intelligent man in the world, the Lord of Latveria... (smiles coldly) the snot beaten out of him by a Kansas. Country. Farmboy. [...] Go ahead, Victor. Go on and tell Fury; he'll laugh you right out of the Triskelion! Tell your neighbors; they'll never look at you with respect, ever again! Tell your people; you'll become the biggest joke they've ever heard! Heck, tell the whole world; then everyone will know what we do — that Victor van Damme is the world's biggest loser! Go ahead, Victor; tell them.
  • From The Life and Times of a Winning Pony:
    Changeling: I suppose I should thank you, though. I admit, some of my plans did not develop entirely to my satisfaction, and the fact that you found my papers earlier than planned was unfortunate. However, I'm sure my queen will overlook such minor affairs when I present her with the corpse of one of the Element Bearers.
    Rainbow Dash: Over my dead body!
    Changeling-Nimbus Gust: That would be the idea in presenting your corpse, yes.
  • In Miraculous! Rewrite's version of "Syren", Master Fu overhears Adrien threatening to quit unless Plagg starts spilling secrets. Naturally, he responds by taking the Ring back. Adrien's protests that he didn't really mean it don't help, either, as Fu points out that he still disarmed himself in the middle of an akuma attack.
  • Scarlet Lady:
    • When Volpina takes a building full of people hostage, she's shocked by Scarlet Lady blithely dismissing the threat. She simply doesn't care about the lives of innocent civilians, not when she can 'bring them back' with her Miraculous Cure. Even threatening Adrien doesn't work; when Volpina seemingly takes him hostage (secretly using an illusion), Scarlet Lady declares this to be a 'win-win' scenario — either she saves him for a "romantic moment", or lets him die and gets praised after reviving him for 'her sacrifice'. Volpina is completely stunned at how callous and self-centered Paris's 'heroine' really is.
    • Prime Queen also gets a taste of this when she takes Lila and Alya hostage. Once again, Scarlet Lady is completely dismissive towards her threats, casually declaring that she can just bring them back after they die. This time, however, all of Paris gets to witness her callousness.
  • After Saito suggests a pair of nobles arguing over who will duel him first in Soldier of Zero simply duel him at the same time, one of said nobles becomes utterly enraged and asks if Saito is implying he can't beat him on his own.
    Saito: What would you do if I said yes? Challenge me to a duel?
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fanfic to lose someone, Lila Rossi makes her canon threat that she will destroy Marinette and make her lose all of her friends with her lies and Marinette answers back that the class needs her more than she needs them before walking out of the bathroom. Skip to several weeks later and Lila's latest plan (convince Alya and some other goons to tear apart Marinette's sketchbook in retaliation to Mari "bullying" Lila) hits a very severe snag when Mari points out that the sketchbook was the one she used to fulfill all of the class' personal requests and her work as class president, and now not only will she have to cancel all of the planned class trips, but they also destroyed all of the clothing, webpage, music set and comic book designs she was doing for them for free and she will not make them again without being paid the proper price for them (which, with her high quality, is in the ballpark of thousands of dollars at the least) and they stop treating her like shit with the most absolute sincerity before walking away.
    Marinette, to Lila: I told you, didn't I? They'd lose me, too.
  • The Ultimate Evil: When Nat threatens to kill Shendu in the 24th chapter, he responds with a more effective threat.
    Nat: Give me one good reason why I shouldn't slit your throat!
    Shendu: Because I'll be sure to make my next body yours. Perhaps I'll then let you watch as your Tutor runs the blade through you, demon-hunter. (Nat flinches slightly at the thought of her father and grandfather, prompting Shendu to grin) A member of the family, perhaps? All the more enjoyable.
  • Ultra Fast Pony:
    • From "A Library With No Twilight":
      Applejack: You take that back or I'll cut ya!
      Rarity: Oh, yeah, will you? (hopefully) Will you? ... You can if you want...
    • From "How to Control Freaks:"
      Twilight: Screw you, Discord!
      Discord: Only on my birthday!... Which is tomorrow, by the way...
      Twilight: Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?
  • A Very Potter Sequel: Draco orders Crabbe and Goyle to shake Ron and Hermione to win Harry over.
    Draco: Thinking about being my friend yet, Potter?
    Harry: No way!
    Harry: Yeah. You can torture my friends all you want!
  • When The Roses Bloom Again: When Draco's son Lucius declares that "My father will hear about this!", Harry just smiles, musing that "I don't suppose your father ever told you what happened when he tried to cross me, did he?" He even offers to supply the parchment.
  • A Wolf Amongst Lions has Arya Stark found by Tywin Lannister and taken as a "ward" of his house. While arranging a marriage between Arya and Jaime, Tywin (as much as he won't admit it) soon grows fond of the girl. When Arya, her brother Bran, and Robb Stark's wife are abducted by the Freys, they send a message to Tywin to back off and leave their lands and include two of Arya's severed fingers. Within moments, a royally pissed-off Tywin vows to wipe the Freys and all their allies off the face of the Earth. He's soon firing off letters to his bannermen declaring war on House Frey. His final letter is to Walder himself, unsigned and containing a single line: And soon the rains weep o'er their halls with not a soul to hear.

    Films — Animation 
  • In How to Train Your Dragon 2, Astrid tries to play up Hiccup's legend as a dragon tamer in front of Drago Bludvist to make him back down. Instead, Drago treats Hiccup as a rival that needs to be eliminated and is that much more motivated to kill him.
  • In Disney's Mulan, the Big Bad Shan Yu invades China. As a guard explains to him a few seconds later, he immediately alerts China of his presence using a signal fire. He turns out to be happy about it, and he uses the fire to burn an imperial flag.
    Guard: Now all of China knows you're here.
    Shan Yu: Perfect.
  • In Dreamworks' The Road to El Dorado, two Spanish con men (Tulio and Miguel) find the city of gold and are mistaken for gods. Immediately taking advantage of this, they warn that they are not to be trifled with, or else they will bring their wrath upon the city. "And you don't want that, do you?" Unfortunately, that's exactly what the High Priest wants - for the gods to cleanse the city of the wicked and visit their wrath upon the non-believers. Moments later, a series of coincidences makes it look like Miguel and Tulio avert a volcanic eruption, so their cover isn't blown yet.
  • In Shrek, Shrek warns the fairytale creatures that have settled in his front yard not to get comfortable there because he’s going to go see this Farquaad guy and get him to get them back where they came from. They cheer wildly at this idea.
  • In Shrek 4D at Universal Studios, when Lord Farquaad is about to send Fiona over a waterfall:
    Lord Farquaad: With you as my spirit queen, I'll be king of the underworld!
    Fiona: Over my dead body!
    Lord Farquaad: Exactly!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hudson Hawk, as quoted above.
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: Austin takes Scott Evil (Dr. Evil's son) hostage.
    Austin: It seems the tables have turned again, Dr. Evil.
    Dr. Evil: Not really. Kill the little bastard. See what I care.
  • Men in Black:
    • When a flying saucer lands next to a farm and the farmer investigates the crater:
      Bug: Place projectile weapon on the ground.
      Edgar: You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.
      Bug: Your proposal is acceptable.
    • Also:
      Dr. Weaver: You don't want to eat me. I'm a very important person on my planet. Like a queen, a goddess even. There are those who worship me. I'm not saying this to impress you, I'm just warning you it could start a war!
      "Edgar":note  War? Good! That means more food for my family. All 78 million of them! That's a lot of mouths to feed, your highness!
  • Spider-Man 2:
    Doc Ock: [entering the carriage] He's MINE!
    Train Passenger: You want to get to him, you gotta go through me!
    [all the other passengers take up his claim and surround Spider-Man]
    Doc Ock: Very well...
    [Doc Ock shoves the passengers aside with his tentacles]
  • In Ruthless People, two clueless kidnappers snatch Danny De Vito's wife and threaten to kill her, not realizing that he was planning to murder her the same day. He refuses their ransom demands and becomes increasingly irritated when they hesitate to follow through on their threats.
  • A dark version in Ronin (1998) as Gregor meets Russian gangsters, one of whom is the boyfriend of gorgeous skater Natacha. Gregor tells them he has a sniper in the arena when Natacha is performing and that if the Russians don't pay up fast, she'll be killed. Too late, Gregor realizes the boyfriend has absolutely no qualms about letting his "love" die rather than pay more money.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope:
      Greedo: Jabba's through with you. He has no use for smugglers who drop their shipments at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser.
      Han Solo: Even I get boarded sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?
      Greedo: You can tell that to Jabba. He may only take your ship.
      Han Solo: Over my dead body!
      Greedo: That's the idea... I've been looking forward to this for a long time.
    • And then Han inverts it on Greedo:
      Han: Yes, I bet you have. [shoots Greedo]
    • In the Revenge of the Sith novelization, when Obi-Wan and General Grievous face off on Utapau:
      Grievous: I have been trained in your Jedi arts by Lord Tyranus himself!
      Obi-Wan: Do you meant Count Dooku? What a curious coincidence. I trained the man who killed him.
  • In The Matrix series:
    Seraph: I need to speak with him.
    Club Hel bouncer: The only way you're getting through that door is over my big, dead ass.
    Seraph: So be it. [asskicking ensues]
  • In Star Trek (2009):
    "Cupcake": Maybe you can't count, farmboy, but there's four of us and only one of you.
    Kirk: So get a few more guys, and then it'll be an even fight.
While Kirk may have thrown a few good punches, he was eventually thrown on the table and beaten to a pulp. In the sequel, he fondly remembers that fight, apparently assuming he did well. Pike reminds him exactly what happened.
  • In Dave, when Dave starts acting on his own initiative, rather than just following Bob's orders, Bob threatens to fire him. Dave calls his bluff and offers to inform the press immediately. Bob quickly realizes that he has no power in the situation other than revealing the attempted stealth coup, and he'd have a lot more to lose than Dave if it became public.
  • In The Dark Knight, Lucius Fox to accountant Reese, who is threatening to expose Bruce Wayne as Batman: "Let me get this straight: You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands. And your plan is to blackmail this person? Good luck." At first, this convinced him not to reveal the secret, but Reese decided to reveal it when the Joker was killing people while hunting for Batman. Of course, by this point the Joker had decided that the world was more fun with a masked Batman in it, so he puts a hit out on Reese. Bruce saves Reese in his civilian identity, and Reese remains quiet.
  • Similarly in The Dark Knight Rises, Catwoman tries to escape by holding a gun to Dagget's head. When Bane's henchmen continue to advance anyway, we get this exchange:
    Catwoman: I'm not bluffing!
    Batman: They know. They just don't care.
  • In Unstoppable, Galvin threatens to fire Frank if he tries to chase down the runaway train. Problem is, Frank was 13 days away from getting laid off, so he doesn't care if he loses his job a little earlier than he was planning. He then threatens to fire Will. Since it's his first day on the job, Will really doesn't have anything vested in it either and just quips it would be a shame as he was "just starting to like" being a train conductor.
  • Happy Gilmore:
    • Shooter McGavin gets nailed this way multiple times.
      McGavin: I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast.
      Happy: You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?
      McGavin: [Beat]
    • Then, later.
      McGavin: Yea, and Grizzly Adams had a beard.
      Lee Travino: Grizzly Adams DID have a beard.
  • In the horror film Midnight Movie, the cop tells the killer that if he wants to get to the girl behind him, "You'll have to go through me." The villain obliges. Literally.
  • Transformers (2007):
    • In the third act, Agent Simmons of Sector Seven tries to use his authority as a senior member of an Over-the-Top Secret organization to force Captain Lennox and his men to stand down from a Mexican Standoff with other Sector Seven agents as they try to apply their plan to get the Allspark well the hell away from Hoover Dam (and Megatron). After a whole film in which Simmons has gleefully abused his status as one of The Men in Black, his authority gets tossed back in his face by Lennox saying:
      Lennox: We don't take orders from men who don't exist.
    • The Transformers themselves also have one moment, when Jazz asks Megatron "Do you wanna piece of me? Do you wanna piece?!". Megatron responds with "No, I want TWO!" and tears him in half.
  • Towards the end of The Rocketeer, as Cliff Secord fights movie star Neville Sinclair who's actually a Nazi spy, aboard a Nazi zeppelin:
    Cliff: [after punching Sinclair] Where's your stuntman now, Sinclair?
    [Sinclair punches Cliff back]
    Sinclair: I do my own stunts.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The Avengers (2012):
      • In The Stinger. Although it probably wasn't intended as a threat or warning, it sounds like it to the audience.
        The Other: Humans... They are not the cowardly wretches we were promised. [...] To challenge them is to court death.
        [cut to Thanos, whose comic incarnation is a Death Seeker who is literally in love with the The Grim Reaper, with a Slasher Smile on his face]
      • Banner in general gets guns pointed in his face several times throughout the movie, which he just laughs off. Him getting shot would be much worse for the shooter than for him.
        Banner: Why don't we do this the easy way, where you don't use that, and the "other guy" doesn't make a mess? Okay?
    • This is a Running Gag in Thor: The Dark World:
    Thor: You betray me, and I will kill you.
    Loki: [grins] When do we start?
    Sif: Betray him and I will kill you.
    Loki: It's good to see you too, Sif.
    Volstagg: If you even think about betraying him—
    Loki: You'll... kill me? Evidently, there will be a line.
    • At the climax of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Big Bad tries to get Natasha to stop uploading all of SHIELD and HYDRA's secrets onto the internet on the grounds it'll reveal all her dirty secrets as well. Natasha doesn't stop. Later on, this means she has to go up against a senate committee, and warned that after all she's done they could very well arrest her then and there (especially if she keeps mouthing off at them). Natasha calmly tells the committee they're not going to, and then walks out telling them if they do change their mind they know where to find her. They do not arrest her.
  • A diplomatic example in The Wind and the Lion
    Ambassador: Have you ever heard of the "Big Stick", Your Excellency?
    Bashaw: Do not threaten me, Mr. Gummere. I have been threatened by the French, the Germans, the English... I have been threatened by...experts.
  • In Money Train
    • John and Charlie find Patterson's threat "I'll fuck ya dead" more confusing than intimidating. In private, Charlie asks John "do you think he's gonna fuck us before or after we're dead?" They later make a complete joke out of it by saying how they have to stay a step ahead of "That necrophiliac Patterson."
    • A subversion causes the climactic heist on the money train: when the Loan Shark who gave Charlie money arrives to get it or hurt Charlie, Charlie is so shellshocked from how bad things have gotten with his lifenote  that he is okay with the loan shark's retaliation. Seeing that threatening Charlie is not going to work, the loan shark threatens to hurt John instead, making Charlie very desperate.
  • In The Godfather, the film producer wasn't intimidated by the threat that "either his brains or his signature" would end up on the paper. Corleone's men famously found a more persuasive tactic.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End has a threat backfire for a simple reason. Barbossa and Elizabeth are pressured by Sao Feng by the threat that he will "kill this man" who he assumed was a spy of theirs; Barbossa simply says "Kill him. He's not our man!" Will is the first one to figure out the ramifications of this.
    Will: If he's not with you, and he's not with us... who's he with? [cue a dozen or so EITC soldiers kicking down the doors and opening fire]
  • In The Fantastic Four, after his lair gets invaded by Doctor Doom, the Jeweler tries to get him to back off by threatening to kill Alicia Masters. Doom responds by leaning over to take a look at Alicia (someone he's never even met and couldn't care less about) and then deadpanning, "So?"
  • Played with (and ultimately averted) in Rob Reiner's adaptation of Misery. Annie withholds Paul's pain meds until he burns up the only copy of his book Fast Cars, in manuscript form. He tries to save it by falsely claiming he's made other copies and that burning it up won't mean anything to him, but Annie knows too much about him—mainly, that he never makes more than one copy of a new manuscript out of superstition. When he still fails to comply, she proceeds with an oblique threat to "accidentally" set him on fire instead. That works. (In the novel, Paul doesn't have the presence of mind to consider this tactic, as he is in horrific pain, but later is grateful he didn't because he realizes that to thwart Annie in her efforts to destroy the "bad book" might've resulted in a worse fate for him.)
  • Downplayed but present in Casablanca when Rick holds Louis at gunpoint, ordering him to call the airport to hold the last plane to Lisbon for Victor Laszlo (Louis was actually calling Strausser to alert him to Rick's plan).
    Rick: And remember, this gun is pointed at your heart.
    Louis: That is my least vulnerable spot.
  • In True Lies, when Harry decides to use Omega Sector's resources to bust his wife and the used car salesman that's stringing her along, Gib, his partner threatens to go to the head of the agency over how he wants to use top secret government funds to solve a domestic matter, Harry threatens to do the same to him. When Gib says that he has nothing to hide, Harry snaps back: "What about that time you blew a six-week operation because you were too busy getting a blow job?" Gib immediately starts following Harry's lead.
  • In Knives Out, Walt tries to convince Marta to refuse Harlan's inheritance. He presents his threats to have her mother deported as an offer to help, pointing out that the family could hire top lawyers and provide whatever resources were needed to get her legal residence. Marta replies that, under the terms of the will all the family money belongs to her, so the best way to protect her mother is to take the inheritance.
  • In My Science Project, Ellie warns Sherman that if he touches the orb, he'll end up in another dimension. Sherman is delighted and immediately touches it, causing a time warp that engulfs the school.
  • Seven Psychopaths: Early in the film, one of the psychopaths Marty interviewed for research as he writes the titular script, Zachariah, threatens Marty that if he doesn't add a secret message for Zachariah's disappeared-and-also-a-Serial Killer girlfriend, he will kill Marty. By the time he calls Marty during The Stinger to say he will carry his threat because he did not add the message Marty is so fed up with life from his friends being killed by the film's events that he does nothing to defend himself. Zachariah for his part eventually notices Marty's depression, apologizes, and hangs up.
  • In The Transporter 3, the Big Bad Jonas Johnson is holding the daughter of Environmental Agency Minister Tomilenko hostage to force him to sign a contract with Ecocorp. While he is complying to ensure the safety of his daughter's life, he's far from harmless and when they try to threaten him with the safety of his daughter to silence his demand to speak to her he coldly threatens them right back, calling Jonas by name, and reminds them exactly how much power he has a Ukrainian government official. Jonas' Oh, Crap! face says it all:
    Jonas: Another foolish move and you'll lose your daughter forever. You're in no position to play hardball, Mr. Minister.
    Tomilenko: Neither are you. Mr. Johnson. Yes, I know who you are. If anything happens to my daughter, I will do everything in my power to find you and make you pay. In the most hideous way.
  • In Angels with Dirty Faces, a high-ranking gangster calls the cops on Rocky after he admits to kidnapping a corrupt lawyer. The problem is that it turns out Rocky also stole some highly incriminating documents that could put the gangster and all his associates away for good for embezzlement, bribery, and racketeering.
  • In The Last Samurai, the American ambassador trying to negotiate a trade deal with Omura to supply arms to the Japanese military complains negotiations aren't proceeding quickly enough and makes an implied threat of negotiating with Omura's competitors. Omura retorts that he can easily negotiate a trade deal with France or Britain to provide weapons for the Japanese army, and the ambassador backs down.
    Omura: I'm sure your documents are in order, Ambassador Swanbeck. Leave them on my desk and I will address them at the appropriate time.
    Ambassador Swanbeck: With all due respect, sir, our President's patience is wearing thin. Perhaps there's someone else we should be speaking to.
    Omura: With all due respect, Ambassador, perhaps there's someone else we should be speaking to. For instance, the French, or the English? Or any of the delegations waiting in the next room?
    Ambassador Swanbeck: Yes, well...we look forward to hearing from you.

  • The Astounding, the Amazing and the Unknown by Paul Malmont. During World War 2, Robert A. Heinlein is threatened with being sent to the Pacific by an Obstructive Bureaucrat in the Navy Yard. Heinlein responds with outrage, saying that only a coward would regard being sent to the front line as punishment.
  • In the Discworld novel Interesting Times, Cohen the Barbarian does this quite often — killing people that have said in substance: "I'd rather die than..." — because the barbarians' concept of honor is rather devoid of subtlety. To the point that Cohen's companions start warning people beforehand to not say this kind of thing around their leader. As Cohen states in exasperation, "Why are they saying this if they don't mean it?" and they actually take along the one guy they meet who says "I think I'd rather live" because they recognize he's Too Dumb to Fool and deem him useful.
    • When the Klatchian leader in Jingo is told that the Morporkians believe he will run away after "tasting cold steel" he licks his blade and asks why that would make him run away.
    • Lavaeolus in Eric leads a raiding party through a fortress's secret door and at once recites a prepared speech demanding that the enemy force surrender. As the only person in the room he's penetrated is a small child on a potty, his well-rehearsed demand rather falls flat.
    • In Lords and Ladies, the Queen of the Elves threatens to take Granny Weatherwax's mind, her strength, and leave one small part of her that remembers who she is but is powerless. Granny retorts that this is called "becoming old" and happens anyway. And if that's the best threat the Queen's got, it just shows how little she understands mortals.
  • Unknown spy story: the Soviets produce a movie with a look-alike of a south-east Asian leader having sex with women. After showing the leader the movie and threatening him, the leader asks for a copy of the movie, knowing that the spectacular sexual abilities of the actor would only increase his standing among his people.
  • O. Henry's 1910 story "The Ransom of Red Chief" is a perfect example. Two men kidnap a rich man's son, but when they send the ransom note, the father decides to let them keep the kid for a while. The kid, who calls himself 'Red Chief' is a terror, forcing the two kidnappers to play games and being a general nuisance. When they return the boy, the father has to actually distract his son from chasing after them as they flee out of town.
  • In Neverwhere, Richard tells Croup and Vandemar that if they want Door, they'll have to kill him first. Vandemar is (quite unironically) delighted: "Thanks!"
  • In the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, a shadowy group called the Rakshana kidnap the titular character's brother, and tell Gemma that if she gives the group her magic, they'll let him go. This is after a phenomenally bad day. So, Gemma snaps, and informs the Rakshana that their plan has backfired: up until then, she's been polite and played nice. And now, the only thing keeping her from kicking all of their asses is the fact that her brother is still alive. If they kill him, she'll kill them. They call her on this, and she kicks their asses without killing them.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In Proven Guilty, Harry confronts what turns out to be a White Court vampire during a horror convention. When Harry starts getting threatening, the vamp smugly says that Harry wouldn't dare risk The Masquerade by using magic in public. Harry responds that he's in the phone book, under "Wizards." The vampire becomes notably less smug.
    • Also, just as a general point and principle, Harry tends to do this to every wannabe warlock and uppity vampire that he runs across, as they tend to have egos bigger than their powers. For instance, in one of the short stories, Harry runs across Darth Wannabe, who is a pompous idiot with a dark mark tattooed on his forearm. Said idiot keeps trying to challenge Harry to a duel over a semi-imagined slight. In response, Harry pulls out his .44. They quickly lose their sneers.
      Idiot: [armed with only a plastic Harry Potter wand] Wh-what are you doing?
      Harry: [Southern accent] I'm a-fixin' to defend myself.
  • In X-Wing: The Bacta War Ysanne Isard tries to retain her subordinates' loyalty by making examples of their entire families if they turn traitor. In one case, however, a freighter captain remarks that Isard'll be doing him a favor if she has his wife executed.
  • Used very darkly in Lovecraft Country. At the end, the Big Bad threatens the protagonists: they will never be safe in America. Because it's the time of Jim Crow and the protagonists are African-American, they burst out laughing; they're not safe anyway.
  • During a fight between the Feuding Families in the Rose of the Prophet series, Khardan calls off one of his men who is fighting with Khardan's wife Zohra, intending to subdue her himself and drag her before the chiefs to humiliate her. Unfortunately he somewhat underestimates her:
    Khardan: Death will not rob me of my chance to see you humbled, wife!
    Zohra: Oh, won't he? [slashes his leg with her dagger]
  • Error of Judgement: When Prince threatens to blacklist Stiehl all over again, Stiehl just gets more determined to testify and retorts that the people in the town he currently lives in reply respect him and have never heard of Prince, so his efforts would amount to nothing.
  • In the Tom Clancy Ops Center entry Divide and Conquer, it turns out the Vice-President of the United States was behind a plot that nearly plunged the Middle East into war, all in hopes of an overthrow of the Iranian government to ensure access to oil (which would have also made him rich). The VP smugly assumes only a few other high-ranking officials will be blamed as if this gets out, it'll be an ugly scandal that will make it look like the President was suffering a breakdown. He prepares to leave before attending the afternoon security council or go on TV to talk about the administration's policies. Instead, the President demands his resignation on the spot and brushes off the VP's threats to go public on his mental state, making it clear he'll take the scandal before "I let a proven traitor be next in the line of succession." Realizing the President is serious and, if this goes public, he'll be the one the public tears apart, the VP resigns.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Band of Brothers: To keep him in line, Captain Sobel arranges some obviously frivolous charges against Winters, and tells him he can either lose his weekend pass, which he never uses anyway, or face court-martial. Winters requests trial by court-martial, which winds up revealing Sobel's pettiness to the higher-ups and gets Sobel Kicked Upstairs to non-combat training dutiesnote .
  • In the Blue Bloods episode "Men in Black," Jamie Reagan and Vinny Cruz arrest the previous mayor's daughter and her friend after catching them in the act of smoking pot on a park bench. The former tries to invoke the "Do you know who I am?" card, but Jamie, who himself is the son of the current police commissioner and who's never used his father's pull to get his way, smirks and tells her, "I don't really care."
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    • Detective Peralta has arrested a perp with no evidence to support holding him, risking the possibility of the case falling apart and the perp having sufficient claim to sue the police department for millions. Towards the end, when the perp's alibi that he was at a nightclub appears to be substantiated, he gloats that he's going to buy said nightclub with his lawsuit settlement winnings and erect a massive statue of Peralta right in the middle. Peralta immediately points out that he's exactly the kind of guy who would love having a massive statue of himself right in the middle of a nightclub, thus making that a pretty lame threat.
    • Police union boss O'Sullivan tries to blackmail Holt into something by threatening to put out rumors Holt is gay. Holt dryly points out he has a rainbow flag on his desk, his marriage to another man is well-known and, oh yes, he came out thirty years earlier.
    • O'Sullivan tries it on Rosa only for her to relate she too came out to her family and the department a while ago.
      O'Sullivan: Oh, come on, you can't blackmail anyone anymore!
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("Buffy versus Dracula"), Xander, who has been Renfielded, tells Riley that if he wants "The Master" "you will have to go through me first". Riley flatly responds "Okey-dokey" and punches him out of the way.
  • Cheers:
    • During Sam and Diane's argument at the end of season 2, Diane tries to warn Sam not to kick her out of the bar, because she won't come back. Since Sam is beyond angry with her, he just coolly stares at her.
    • Happens again during an argument at the end of season 4, when Diane dares Sam to fire her, believe he won't. She doesn't even finish saying this before he does, so Diane starts refusing to leave, due to her fixation on getting the last word. When Sam calls back the event a season later, he makes clear that he didn’t want to push his luck by calling the police on her.
    • During "Veggie Boyd", Cliff gets into a sulk over some napkins that've been going around the bar, which rattle off Little Known Facts, which Cliff sees as his territory. He eventually tries declaring that the bar must choose between him or the napkins. This is met with resounding silence.
  • Chernobyl: Near the very end of the series, Aleksandr Charkov is giving Legasov the whole spiel about how he will be Unpersoned for embarrassing the Soviet Union, and how he will die utterly forgotten and erased, with utter confidence that Legasov wouldn't dare do anything other than let it happen. This falls utterly flat because one, Legasov is basically already dead from rad poisoning, and two, Charkov's wording is such a perfect example of the "reputation above reality" mindset that caused everything to begin with that Legasov can't help but just laugh.
    Legasov: ...and if I refuse?
    Charkov: Why worry about something that isn't going to happen?
    Legasov: ...heh. "Why worry about something that isn't going to happen", oh that is perfect. They should put that on our money.
    (Charkov just storms out without a word)
  • On Dan for Mayor Mike believes (rightfully) that Dan caused Mike's fiance to break off their engagement. To get revenge on Dan, he buys the bar where Dan is working just so he can fire him. Dan is quite happy about it since he was going to quit later that day, and this way he is owed severance pay which he would not get if he quit on his own.
  • Daytime Divas:
    • Maxine is going in for cosmetic surgery (one of a few she's had) when she boasts about being a "natural beauty." She suffers complications and is in a coma but recovers quickly. Mo manages to find out about it and uses it to threaten Maxine to give her more time on the show or she releases the news. On air, Maxine confesses the truth, making it sound like her first time and she's grateful she didn't go through with it. It turns out to be a great moment to win over viewers and thus defuses Mo's leverage.
    • Subverted when Mo's assistant tries to hold out for more money or he'll release a sex tape of them. Mo snorts to go ahead as she doesn't mind folks knowing how hot she is. But the man fires back by reminding Mo about how this would count as sexual harassment and get her fired so she has to keep him on at higher pay.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor is very good at these. When you spend your free time battling galaxy-destroying madmen and monsters, it comes naturally. Such as this instance from "The Doctors Wife".
    House: Fear me! I've killed hundreds of Time Lords!
    The Doctor: Fear me. I've killed all of them.
    • Then in the episode Deep Breath, it was Clara's turn when the Monster of the Week tried interrogating her.
      Half-Face Man: Where is the other one? There was another. Where is he? Where is the other? You will tell us, or you will be destroyed.
      Clara: What did you say?
      Half-Face Man: Where is the other one? There was another. Where is he? Where is the other? You will tell us, or you will be destroyed.
      Clara: What did you say?
      Half-Face Man: You will tell us.
      Clara: Yeah, I know. Or what?
      Half-Face Man: You will die.
      Clara: Go on, then. Do it. I'm not going to answer any of your questions, so you have to do it. You have to kill me. Threats don't work unless you deliver.
      Half-Face Man: You will tell us where the other one is.
      Clara: Nope.
      Half-Face Man: You will be destroyed.
      Clara: Destroy me, then. And if you don't, then I'm not going to believe a single threat you make from now on. Of course, if I'm dead, then I can't tell you where the other one went then. You need to keep this place down here a secret, don't you? Never start with your final sanction. You've got nowhere to go but backwards.
  • The Drew Carey Show sees Mr. Wick attempt to force Drew to sell his house by threatening to build a mall around it — only to learn that it was an ultimately empty threat given the plans would put a movie theater, an ice cream shop, and a lingerie shop around Drew.
  • On Glee Sue tries to force Principal Figgins to back one of her insane plans by threatening to post a video Figgins made years earlier of an embarrassing flight attendant tryout. At first, Figgins seems cowed but later ends up refusing to aid Sue. When Sue threatens to leak the video, Figgins scoffs that he already put it up on You Tube and it got only three views.
  • On Grey's Anatomy, Weber's AA sponsor is checked in, having relapsed and wants him to help her "die with dignity." When he naturally refuses, she first threatens to go over his head but he points out how "I'm married to the owner of the hospital and I mentored the chief surgeon." She then crosses the line by stating she will out him as an alcoholic to any doctor he sends in. He immediately brings in Meredith and Maggie, both of whom already know all about Richard's past problems, and snaps that "I trust them completely so feel free to share anything you want."
  • On Grimm some of the nastier Wesen like to reveal their Game Face to their human victims before they kill them. Usually the victims are so freaked out by seeing a monster straight out of a horror movie that they are too stunned to fight back. However, a number of humans close to Nick know about Wesen and have become accustomed to seeing Wesen in their true form. A Wesen who tries this trick on Hank gets a shotgun butt to the face. One who tries it on Juliette gets a kick to the groin and a frying pan to the face. Things go even worse for the attackers when they try it on Nick who is a Grimm. When Nick sees a Wesen transform it triggers a supernatural reaction that lets the Wesen know exactly what Nick is. Most Wesen are utterly terrified of Grimms so the confrontation usually ends with the attacker freaking out and begging Nick not to kill him/her.
  • In Hannibal, Will Graham's threat to Freddie Lounds only gives her more material to work with in making him look mentally unstable.
  • It's impossible to count the number of times on Highlander that an Immortal just smirks when someone threatens to kill them.
  • In an episode of Homeland, Saul and Carrie try to blackmail information out of a rich Middle Eastern man. Their first threat, exposing him as gay, doesn't work, possibly because part of him wants to come out anyway.
  • On Judging Amy, the slimy lawyer of an abusive couple specializes in threatening judges with some shady rulings of their past and he'll bring them up to make them look racist, sexist, etc. He tries it on an elderly judge (Kathryn Jooster), claiming that the father is Latino and the judge has removed eight children from abusive person of color couples. The judge holds him in contempt. Even as he's handcuffed, the lawyer tries to press it.
    Lawyer: You have the reputation of an aging judge. Allegations of racism and wild behavior could very well taint the end of what has been a long and well-regarded career.
    Judge: Go ahead. This is my last day. I retired. And who cares about the reputation of a retired judge?
  • On Justified Quarles approaches US Marshal Raylan Givens in a bar and threatens that one day he will shoot Raylan dead. As Quarles is leaving Raylan fires a round into the ceiling and tells Quarles that this day is as good as any to have a shootout. Quarles backs down.
    • Raylan threatens Wynn Duffy by throwing a bullet at him and saying that "the next one will be coming faster". Duffy and Quarles use that bullet with Raylan's fingerprints on it to frame him for murder.
    • In general, Raylan reacts very badly to threats against himself or people he cares about. As a result, someone who threatens Raylan will have that threat backfire on him fairly quickly.
  • One of their early encounters in Kamen Rider Dragon Knight has Len threaten Kit with venting, basically the story's equivalent of death threat. This falls flat because contrary to Len's suspicion, Kit really doesn't know anything and thus is only intimidated by the threat's delivery.
  • On Keeping Up Appearances, during an outing with Hyacinth that's gone terribly wrong, Elizabeth tells her brother Emmett that if he doesn't stop grumbling, Hyacinth won't invite him anywhere again. As he hates Hyacinth, this just makes him complain much louder.
  • On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, FBI forensic psychiatrist Dr. George Huang decides to help an addict get clean with a controversial drug that's not been cleared in the U.S., knowing it's a risk. The boy helps the detectives trick the doctor who got him hooked on drugs in the first place to get on tape confessing to murder and assault. When the man threatens to reveal what Huang did, Huang relates he already reported himself, being put on unpaid leave by the FBI and his license suspended for 30 days but as far as he's concerned, "it was worth it".
  • In an episode of Lost, Hurley is in prison. When he has an Imagine Spot that he's underwater and a scuba diver is trying to drown him by breaking the window to the cell and calls for help, the prison guard threatens to send him to the mental hospital. Hurley thanks the guard and hugs him, then is taken to the mental hospital.
  • On Lucifer, the title character is up front on how he's the Devil come to Los Angeles but no one believes it. Thus, when someone threatens him with a gun, his reaction is to literally laugh it off as nothing can harm him.
    • Subverted if Lucifer is with Chloe as, for some reason, her presence does make him vulnerable to harm.
    • Lucifer discovers that Pierce is actually Cain, the world's first murderer, condemned with eternal life. When Pierce is walking away, Lucifer threatens to tell everyone the man's secret. Pierce scoffs to go right ahead as "no one even believes you're the Devil."
  • Napoléon: After Napoléon Bonaparte's humiliating defeat in Russia, France is at war with a new coalition already consisting of Britain, Russia, and Prussia. The Austrian foreign minister, Count Metternich, visits Napoleon in Paris to witness French military strength first-hand. Napoleon makes a display of showing off his new regiments and stressing his family relationship with Emperor Francis, but Metternich is unconvinced, prompting Napoleon to finally threaten to "reduce Vienna to rubble" if they join the Sixth Coalition. It clearly didn't work out and just made him seem desperate and too dangerous to remain in power from the Austrians' perspective.
  • On NCIS, Gibbs is threatened in the usual way by a gangster: "...I'll kill your brothers, your uncles, your father. And after their funerals, I'll kill you." Gibbs responds, "No brothers, no uncles, my father passed years ago. I do have three ex-wives, whose names and addresses I will gladly fax on to you..." "huh. He hung up." Gibbs was bluffing since his father is still very much alive and whatever issues he has with his ex-wives, he would never let any harm come to them.
    • Another NCIS example: In "Bloodbath" (Season 3, Episode 21, original airdate April 25, 2006), McGee has to protect Abby from someone who wants her dead (she is testifying in a trial.)
      McGee: My car keys. Now, listen to me, you do not answer the door, okay, not for anyone... (Abby gives him a mock salute) ...Or I will tie you up.
      Abby: (excited) Really?
  • On The Outpost, the once-noble Garrett is captured by the Prime Order who (with drugs, a supposed "secret nurse aide" and faked evidence) convince Garrett that Gwynn is not the true Queen and send him after her. After being captured, Garrett mocks Gwynn on how the Prime Order know the truth about her and will use it to undermine her. Of course, his threat is hollow as he doesn't realize the entire "fake Queen" story was all a trick to brainwash him.
    • Garrett tries to sway Janzo to his side by talking of Gwynn a false Queen and Janzo is safer with him. Janzo clearly sees Garrett isn't in his right mind and, after all he's already been through, just brushes off the idea of his life in danger.
  • Sherlock: Sherlock and Moriarty face off properly for the first time:
    Sherlock: What if I was to shoot you now — [raises gun] right now?
    Moriarty: Then you could cherish the look of surprise on my face. [makes exaggerated O-face] 'Cause I'd be surprised, Sherlock; really I would. And just a teensy bit disappointed. And of course you wouldn’t be able to cherish it for very long.
  • On Silicon Valley, Richard is outraged to discover partner Colin has been using his gaming mics (which run 24/7) to collect and record private information of gamers. They use the mics to gather a thick file of Colin admitting to everything from drug use to embezzlement and threaten to reveal it to his investors. Colin immediately hands the file to the investors himself, to demonstrate how powerful his data mining setup is. They're far too pleased with the profit potential to care about anyone's personal ethics.
  • Star Trek:
    • The mirror universe version of Sulu threatens Spock if he doesn't carry out the Empire's secret orders in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Mirror, Mirror" with an Implied Death Threat. In return, Spock tells Sulu that his operatives would avenge his death and some of them were Vulcans. Sulu's facial expression says Oh, Crap! as he realizes just how dangerous attacking Spock would be for him.
    • In Star Trek: Picard, Picard relates that when the attempts to aid the Romulans evacuating their doomed homeworld hit a political brick wall, he told Starfleet to either help or accept his resignation. Picard admits he meant it as a bluff as he figured there was no way Starfleet would endure the public relations mess of cashiering one of their most revered officers who had saved the Federation a dozen times. To his shock, Starfleet didn't hesitate to accept Picard's resignation and calling the evacuation off.
  • Played for laughs on The Suite Life of Zack & Cody when London and Maddie go head-to-head in a competition.
    London: I'll beat you so bad that you won't have a penny to your name! And you'll have to work like a dog for the rest of your life!
    Maddie: Ha! I'm already there!
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two" (S02, Ep22), Jake was not really thinking when he defies the King of Hell.
    Jake: Go to hell.
    Yellow-Eyed Demon: Been there. Done that.
  • In Teenage Bounty Hunters, Sterling has sex with her boyfriend when both are in a strict Christian school. Alpha Bitch April finds the used condom and threatens to expose Sterling, getting her kicked out of school, unless Sterling quits their Fellowship council. Sterling's sister, Blair, simply tells some classmates how a used condom was found in a classroom. Within minutes, the entire campus is buzzing on how it's anything from a pair of teachers to a mini orgy of students. April realizes accusing Sterling will be just another story to add to this pile that no one takes seriously.
  • On Terriers, private eye Hank still has a torch for ex-wife Gretchen, who's about to get married to nice guy Jason. He brings Jason a file revealing that the man was implicated as part of a molestation case years ago. He openly states there will be no wedding and "you tell her or I do." Later, Hank goes to Gretchen to give her the file and she's upset...because Hank was going so far investigating Jason. When Hank snaps at him for keeping this secret, Gretchen reveals Jason told her about this on their second date and how she checked it out herself to know he was innocent. Too late, Hank realizes Jason set him up for Gretchen to disinvite him to the wedding.
  • In The Wire, a moment happens where Burrell threatens Cedric Daniels' career if he doesn't drop the Barksdale case. Daniels is not fazed:
    Ervin Burrell: FBI field reports... You came into a lot of money quick. You can go to jail just as quick if I start asking the right questions. This case ends, or you are done. Hell, I don't even need you to lock up Barksdale. I can have your major debrief the detectives and type the warrants himself. This case is done.
    Cedric Daniels: You do what you feel. You wanna pull Avon in on half a case, you go ahead. You wanna put my shit in the street, feel free. But the Eastern had a lot of stories - mine ain't the only one. A lot of people came through that district. If you were gonna do me, I'd already be done. But there ain't nothin' you fear more than a bad headline, is there? You'd rather live in shit than let the world see you work a shovel. You can order warrants, and I'll serve 'em. But as long as I have days left on those dead wires, this case goes on.
  • In Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, a Monster of the Week captures some of the Kyoryugers and tries to intimidate their teammates with the Hostage Situation. Daigo immediately blows him off, snarking that the monster is an idiot for capturing superheroes — he'd worry about random bystanders, but he trusts that his friends have the strength to take care of themselves.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Around about the start of the InVasion angle, when The Undertaker was in his American Badass persona, he threatened "Stone Cold" Steve Austin that he would "make [him] famous" if he messed with his family. This comment inspired Diamond Dallas Page to start stalking Taker's wife Sara as part of his plan to get into Taker's head and upset him because, as DDP explained in his promo when he revealed himself as the stalker, he wants to be famous.
    Diamond Dallas Page: Duh! Taker, you idiot, Stone Cold Steve Austin's already famous! [...] Taker, you got a problem with me? Cool. I'm begging ya- make me famous!
  • The Sandman's famous entrance in ECW included him busting himself open by smashing a beer can against his forehead, making himself bleed before he even got into the ring. This nullified any threats his opponent might have made about making him bleed.
  • Elias, sick of having his performance interrupted, threatened "The next person who interrupts me is a dead man!". Which, naturally, summoned The Undertaker.
    • In a similar vein, during one episode of Smackdown where he was in charge, Paul Heyman concluded his monologue by saying, "There’s not gonna be a man alive who’s gonna stand in my way." Obviously, that caused Undertaker to attack him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In BattleTech, just before an enemy force touched down on the planet Twycross, the local commander of the Falcon Guard, Ravil Pryde, complained to a technician that one of the lasers was malfunctioning on his mech- as soon as his computer cycled to it it was automatically firing. He threatened the technician with reassignment somewhere else if he failed to fix it before the upcoming battle. As Twycross is regarded as a very unpleasant planet to live on due to being a desert world known for constant, heavy winds that blow huge sandstorms across the surface of the main continent, the technician did not regard this as much of a threat. When Ravil went into battle against the attacking Archer's Avengers, his laser misfired, hitting their dropship as it was landing. This attack violated the safe conduct Ravil had previously guaranteed for the landing, and the Avengers proceeded to attack all out, destroying the entire Falcon Guard and killing Ravil in the process.

    Video Games 
  • Destroy All Humans! 2: In the last level, Crypto threatens to use his anal probe on the Big Bad, who calmly shrugs it off on the ground he already takes a weekly high colonic.
  • Devil May Cry 5: At the very start of the in-game Goliath boss fight, Nero quickly returns the giant demon's threat by twisting the word "sorry" in another context:
    Goliath: You'll be sorry for this!
    Nero: Yeah, maybe I will. Sorry I'm about to kill ya!
  • A similar variation in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening if your Warden Commander in the expansion is the same one from the original. Early on, your Warden is established as the ruler of a portion of land in your country. Your estate receives a letter from a noble, informing you that his daughter is kidnapped and begging you to pay the ransom for him because he can't get the money quickly enough. When you arrive at the meet, the bandit leader is angry that someone other than the noble showed up, and your Warden can casually mention "yeah, he couldn't make it, so he sent the commander of the Grey Wardens instead." The bandits get worried, and you can almost see one of them losing bladder control as he yelps out "The one who killed the Archdemon??", but the leader says "well, make any moves and we'll kill the girl!" Your character can basically shrug and say "Really? There's a river of blood behind me. Well, if that's what you want," which causes half the bandits, including the ones holding the girl, to run like hell. Bonus points if your Warden is an Arcane Warrior. Of course, the rest of the bandits decide to fight you. Guess how that ends. You can play it straight and, rather than intimidate the bandits with your past accomplishments and complete nonchalance at a normally high-stakes, high-risk situation, tell them that you're going to kill them no matter what. With nothing to lose, they immediately kill the girl, then turn on you.
  • Drache, the first boss of the Shoot 'Em Up Einhänder is a large dragon-like walker machine who threatens the player ship "Dies ist eine Warnung! Entladen Sie alle Ihre Waffen!" before the fight starts. This translates to "This is a warning! Unload all your weapons!". Not a very smart threat, since the player promptly unloads all their weapons into the boss.
  • Immortal Souls has this little exchange between the main character and the Hero Antagonist. Considering Desmond is both a Jerkass and has No Sense of Humor it's hard to tell whether he's being obtuse or intentionally antagonistic.
    John: You'll pay for what you've done here, you self-righteous bastards!
    Desmond: Indeed, we shall be rewarded greatly in the pinnacle of Heaven.
  • The climax of Legacy of Kain: Defiance has the Elder God threatening the vampire Kain with an And I Must Scream fate of being buried beneath a mountain of rubble until he goes mad with hunger and prays for the release of a death that will never come. Kain's response:
    Kain: Your words are heartening... for you would not fear us... unless we could truly do you harm!
  • Variation is the Mass Effect 2 DLC Lair of the Shadowbroker. The person Shepard's pursuing takes a hostage and demands Shepard back off Or Else. One possible response is Shepard listing off the decisions s/he has made that have resulted in mass casualties/genocide/unleashing hostile aliens, and then asking if she believes Shepard won't be willing to shoot a single hostage is really her plan. On assorted occasions, various characters make threats about coming after Shepard. Usually just before Shepard shoots them in the face.
  • Played for Laughs in one interaction in Mortal Kombat X featuring Kenshi and Ferra.
    Kenshi: Your voice is somewhat annoying.
    Ferra: Ferra bite ears off!
    Kenshi: Well, that's... considerate?
  • In one interaction in Mortal Kombat 11, Sheeva threatens to rip Geras to bits, but she doesn't realize she's threatening someone who can't die.
    Geras: Hail Kronika, Keeper of Time.
    Sheeva: Hail me or I'll rend you to bits.
    Geras: By all means, Sheeva, make me stronger.
  • In Overwatch, if Zarya and Zenyatta are on the same team, they may engage in pre-battle dialogue in which Zarya tells him "I have my eye on you, Omnic," as Zarya distrusts Omnics (sentient robots, basically) due to personal reasons. Zenyatta mistakes this for a Declaration of Protection and kindly informs her that he will "watch [her] back in return."
  • In Tales of Monkey Island, McGillicutty captures the MerLeader and threatens hir with death by drowning if s/he doesn't turn over the MacGuffin. The threat proves less than effective and McGillicutty is too crazed to realize it.
  • In a Genocide run of Undertale, any attempts at threatening Burgerpants will get you nowhere. He's been beaten down by his job to the point that he truly does not care about being threatened at all, even though you're an Omnicidal Maniac at that point.
    Burgerpants: Sorry, little weirdo. Threats won't work on me. I can't go to hell. I'm all out of vacation days.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Dies Irae spin-off Interview with Kaziklu Bey, the being known as Methuselah threatens Reinhard and the whole of the Longinus Dreizehn Orden with complete annihilation should they give chase or try to stand up to him. Unfortunately for him, he seriously underestimated just what kind of person Reinhard is and just how monstrously powerful he really is. What follows is a battle that can best be described as an all-out war. It only ends when Reinhard finally stops playing around and actually starts trying, shooting down Methuselah in a single blast.

    Web Animation 
  • Etra-chan saw it!:
    • Akamatsu and Azami threaten to disown Tokusa if he and his wife Karin don't apologize to them for making them miss the former's mother's funeral, even though they've been ignoring their phone calls. Tokusa doesn't care about being disowned at all, since he disliked their attitude since the beginning.
    • Yuzuriha threatens to break up with Tachibana when he tells her off for splashing beer at his sister, Karin, mistaking her for a girl he's cheating on her with. He responds by breaking up with her.
    • Hiiragi was having a one-sided relationship with Akamatsu. When confronted about this, he threatens to quit his job if he doesn't leave his wife. Akamatsu has no problem with it, and it's treated as a voluntary retirement.
  • Tanabata Manga: Yomeko threatens to divorce Tanao if he refuses to give her money to buy expensive stuff. Unfortunately for her, Tanao already submitted the papers because he found out that she was cheating on him with another man.


    Western Animation 
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Factory", the shareholders of the factory where Nicole works threaten to move her desk to a bathroom stall if she doesn't return to their meeting in two minutes. Nicole points out that since they're not allowed bathroom breaks, that would technically be an improvement.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Frannie 911", Roger gets kidnapped and Stan's response is...complete and utter indifference. He even manages to negotiate the ransom down to a handful of pocket change, but still doesn't pay it. However, it turns out that Stan knew the whole thing was a Faked Kidnapping orchestrated by Francine (she was making the calls from her cellphone, and the Smith household has Caller ID); that said, the terrible way Roger treated her throughout the whole ordeal demonstrates to Francine exactly why Stan hates him.
  • Cheryl from Archer causes this on a few occasions: threaten to kill her and she'll probably rip her top off in anticipation of her world's splooshiest orgasm.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series Bane confronts Killer Croc proclaiming he will be the one to defeat Batman which Croc declares over his dead body. Bane opts to grant his wish as he injects himself with Venom and cue No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Croc.
  • Batman Beyond: In "Payback", Terry suspects that the titular villain is linked to a teens' counseling center, so he goes to a session and makes some complaints about Bruce in order to bait Payback into attacking him. When he is confronted by Payback, Bruce isn't fazed by him at all.
    Payback: You're a mean old man!
    Bruce: Mmm-hmm, and what are you?
    Payback: I'm Your Worst Nightmare.
    Bruce: You have no idea what my nightmares are like.
  • One of Family Guy's Cutaway Gag bits had a slave trader getting annoyed by the slaves constantly asking "Are we there yet?" Finally he yells "If you don't stop it I'm turning this ship around right now!"
    • In another episode, because of a comedy of errors, Peter sent a letter to ABC that read "bring back Coach or I'll kill Craig T. Nelson". Cut to one day later and Mr. Nelson arrives at Peter's home, hands Peter a gun and says a resigned "do it".
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
    • In his debut episode, Hoss Delgado has Grim under his gun and tells him he's gonna send him back to hell. Grim gleefully cheers for him to do it, as it would free him from Billy and Mandy. Hoss changes his mind and leaves.
    • The episode "The Wrongest Yard" has two backfires in short order. First, when the football coach plans to replace Mindy with Mandy as the captain of the cheerleading squad, Mindy states that she's taking the other cheerleaders with her if that happens, and the coach remarks he doesn't care since Mandy's better than they are anyway. Then, Mindy angrily tells Mandy that she will never speak to her again if Mandy becomes the captain; Mandy simply tells her, "Well, I can't pass up that offer," and takes the job right then and there.
  • Justice League:
    • The episode, "Divided We Fall" provides this example:
      Brainiac/Luthor: (to a restrained Flash) Looks like The Question was right all along... I kill you, and then Armageddon. Right on schedule. (points gun at Flash)
      Flash: No! (vibrates arms fast enough so as to escape from Brainiac's mechanical guards)
      Brainiac/Luthor: Are you going to fight me, boy?
      (threat appears to take effect; Flash slumps forward and cautiously retreats, then turns around and speeds away; Brainiac relaxes)
      :::: Brainiac takes a hit from the opposite direction. And then another hit. And another hit. And another and another and another... Flash ran around the world in less than a fraction of a second, hitting Brainthor each time and extracting Brainiac from Luthor molecule by molecule!
    • Done even earlier by Vandal Savage in the episode 'Hereafter'. Superman is shot 30,000 years into the future, where he and Savage are the only remaining people on Earth. When Superman hears how Savage killed the Justice League, he beats him downnote  before lifting a rock and declaring:
      Superman: I should smash your skull.
      Savage: Go ahead. We both know it wouldn't work.
    This one works on a couple levels. First, Savage is correct that it wouldn't affect him. Second, he's gone through thousands of years of My God, What Have I Done? after causing the complete extinction of the human race, and would almost certainly be a Death Seeker if it were at all possible for him to die. Basically, there is no level on which the threat is effective.
  • King of the Hill: In the episode "Won't you Pimai Neighbor?", a group of Buddhists are pestering the Hills because they believe Bobby is the reincarnation of their leader. Hank eventually tells one of them to back off or he'll get rough, but the Buddhist just calmly accepts he will be beaten up, which unnerves Hank further and leaves him be.
    Hank Hill: I'm gonna kick your ass!
    Junior Monk: If my ass is going to be kicked, then it will be kicked.
    Hank: What... (Exclaims in frustration)
  • In the Looney Tunes cartoon A Street Cat Named Sylvester, as Tweety tries to hide from Sylvester, a bedridden Hector the bulldog tells him to stay with him, saying that Sylvester "will have to get you over my dead body," to which Sylvester, hearing everything, says, "Okay, buster, I can arrange that!" He then tries to crush Hector with a fridge, only to miscalculate his aim so that the fridge lands on him instead, resulting in him being bedridden, too.
  • From the series finale of Megas XLR.
    Evil Coop: You know you don't have a chance.
    Coop: I. DON'T. KNOW. NOTHING!"
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode "Daring Don't" when Daring Do is confronted by her Arch-Enemy Ahuizotl, he demands that she give him the Ring of Destiny. Daring Do turns his threat on its head by mockingly flirting with him and acting like the ring in question is their engagement ring. Rainbow Dash, a fan of Daring Do, gets a knowing smirk out of this exchange.
    Ahuizotl: The ring, Daring Do! Give it to me! (slams his fists at Daring Do, who dodges)
    Daring Do: Now Ahuizotl, you know I love you, but I can't give you the ring til I've properly proposed.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar, when Skipper has stolen the batteries from Julien's boombox to shut him up:
    Skipper: You can have this battery when you pry it from my cold dead flippers!
    Julien: Ew, sounds gross. But do-able!
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Today I Am A Clown", Santa's Little Helper sires a bunch of puppies, which look like him with tufts of the mother's poodle-like fur accenting it. Bart and Lisa trying to get rid of them (in a box labeled "Free Puppies", no less), and run afoul of Snake:
      Bart: Hey, mister, would you like a puppy?
      Snake: No... (flashes his pants-holstered gun) but I'll take one!
      Bart: ...okay!
      Snake: (running off to his car with a puppy, brandishing his gun) I'm gonna love and cherish this little dude... and there's nothing you can do to stop me!
    • In the episode "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish", after Marge ruins Burns' attempt at running for governor, Burns threatens Homer by swearing that he will destroy all of Homer's dreams and desires. After he leaves, Marge reassures Homer by telling him that his dreams and desires are so small and petty (which is true - Homer once found endless entertainment in constantly raising and lowering a bed, for instance) that Burns can't destroy them all.
    • In a Treehouse of Horror episode, Maggie is revealed to be Kang's daughter and he and Kodos have come to take her away. After Jerry Springer fails to solve the problem, they give an ultimatum:
      Kang: Anywho, this is your last chance. Turn over the baby now.
      Kodos: Or we will destroy all your leaders in Washington.
      Marge: (knowingly) Oh, you couldn't destroy every politician.
      Kang: Just watch us. (laughing menacingly, they board their flying saucer and take off)
      Bart: Don't forget Ken Starr!
      Marge: Suckers.
  • Grandpa Marsh is a Death Seeker on South Park.
    • "Death:"
      Cartman: You piece of crap! I'll kill you!
      Grandpa: That's the spirit, tubby!
    • "Quintuplets 2000":
      Officer: Freeze, asshole!
      Grandpa: Aw, go ahead and shoot me! I dare ya!
      Officer: Don't push me, man!
      Grandpa: Pull the trigger, you little pussy!
  • From The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper:
    Kat: You're a dead man!
    Casper: No duh!
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "Growth Spout", when Mr. Krabs resorts to stealing food from his employees' homes to feed Pearl's growing body, Squidward threatens to call the police after he caught Mr. Krabs stealing his gourmet food. When Mr. Krabs threatens to fire him, Squidward dials 911. When even stating that if he goes to prison, no one will take care of Pearl is not enough to hang up the phone, Squidward demands Mr. Krabs give him his gold tooth.
    • In the episode where Spongebob runs away after he's called "idiot boy" for accidentally causing some mishaps, Mr. Krabs asks Sandy, Patrick, and Squidward to help him look for Spongebob so that the Krusty Krab can be profitable again. Everyone is intent on looking for Spongebob, with the exception of Squidward, who voices his happiness at the thought of Spongebob being gone forever. When Mr. Krabs threatens to fire him if he doesn't help look, Squidward says he can go right and do it, as he would consider getting fired a great favor. Mr. Krabs only gets Squidward to help by promising him a fabergé egg.
  • Teased in the Soviet cartoon Trio from Prostokvashino. "Uncle" Fyodor brings home a cat. His Mama is less than pleased and ends up playing the "either that cat goes, or I do" card. Fyodor's Papa has to think it over for a minute, but he eventually sides with her.
  • In The Venture Bros., a villain threatens Dr. Venture with the death of his sons, shouting, "GIVE ME THE HAND OF OSIRIS!" Doc's response? "Give me head." Sure that Venture just misheard him, the villain declares "I'm about to KILL your sons!" to which Venture nonchalantly replies "Join the club!". This horrifies the villain.

    Real Life 
  • The standard response when somebody threatens to leave an Internet forum or other online group, particularly if they're not well-known: "And nothing of value was lost." Alternately, "Yeah, sure, see you next week," implying the threatening party will just slink back at some point.
    • Some forums have admins who, by policy, give these people a helpful whack with the ban hammer on the way out to make sure they follow through.
    • Same for when a terrible customer says "I'm never shopping here again." The store staff will still try and placate them as best they can, but in their heads, they're thinking "Good." Especially if the cashier didn't actually do anything wrong and the store is unlikely to be affected by one person not shopping there. If the store staff still have their jobs the next day and one less terrible customer, this threat is more likely to be laughed at as soon as the person leaves than actually work.
      • A good example happened when Gord threw an obnoxious pain-in-the-ass out of his gaming store and told him never to come back. The guy shouted he was never coming here again and Gord responded "I just said that."
  • As anyone who has ever been told something along the lines of "You wouldn't dare" can tell you, the statement often feels less like an implied threat and more often like the one saying it is trying to goad you into going for it, which quite obviously can easily result in this trope unless self-restraint is observed.
  • Marco Guttierez, co-founder of an online group of Latinos supporting Donald Trump's candidacy, claimed that his culture was becoming too dominant. For example, he said if Trump didn't become President, there would be taco trucks on every corner. The Internet saw that as a promise, not a threat. Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, referenced this in her first debate with Trump.
    • In a similar vein, a Fox News business correspondent ran a segment denouncing Danish social programs, claiming (among other things) that they killed work ethic, leaving Danish students wanting to do nothing but start cupcake cafes. A Danish politician ran a response pointing out that, even if that were true, a country full of entrepreneurs starting small businesses is a good thing, and a country full of cupcake shops sounds even better.
  • In a similar vein, GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan warned of Bernie Sanders becoming the chair of the Senate Budget Committee in the wake of a Democrat takeover of Congress. Sanders promptly ran with the idea, raising over $2 million in the span of two days and spawning the sarcastic #ThanksPaul hashtag.
  • This is why, if you are thinking of threatening to resign from your job, you had better a) have a damn good reason for doing so, and b) fully expect to have to look for another job, especially since, at least in the US, voluntary termination is considered ineligible for unemployment.note 
  • The above workplace version shows up repeatedly on Not Always Working. In all three cases, the Reasonable Authority Figure replies to the threat with "Okay, go pack your stuff", and after frantically trying to backpedal, the threat-makers are shown the door.
    • Here, an engineer threatens to quit because other people with better credentials are making more.
    • Here, one threatens to quit because a latecomer to a project was awarded bonus pay for working on the project.
    • And here, a school's vice principal threatens departure because the IT sysadmin came in late (with permission) the day after pulling an all-nighter.
  • Former Arconic CEO Klaus Kleinfeld sent a letter and soccer ball to Elliott Management founder Paul Singer in what was believed to be an attempt to blackmail Singer. Singer's company owned a substantial amount of Arconic stock and had been trying to oust Kleinfeld for some time as they blamed Kleinfeld for Arconic's lackluster performance. Elliot's lawyers sent the letter and ball back to Arconic's board telling them they didn't much like Kleinfeld's antics. In the aftermath, Kleinfeld was forced to leave his CEO job at Arconic.
  • The Attack on Pearl Harbor is a partial example. One of the reasons the Japanese launched their surprise attack on the US Pacific Fleet was to demoralize the American public so much that they would want to back down from any conflict with Japan and instead sue for peace on the Japanese terms rather than suffer another devastating loss. Needless to say, while the attack was indeed a shock, it ultimately had the opposite effect in this regard. It instead became a rallying cry for the American People to fight & defeat the Empire of Japan to avenge those lost at Pearl Harbor.
  • When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, they claimed it was to put a stop to NATO's eastward expansion, even though Ukraine was not in the process of applying for membership. However, it has become clear that this was also meant to intimidate Russia's other neighbors from joining...except it backfired with Sweden and Finland both announcing plans to join NATO in response to Russian aggression. The invasion also rejuvenated NATO, causing member states to increase their defense budgets rather than cowering as Putin had expected. Finally, in September, Ukraine submitted a request to join NATO, officially doing what Putin had hoped to avoid by invading.
  • This is a driving reason why threats of collective punishment in the military utterly backfire unless they are used incredibly sparingly and alongside a lot of perks. Sure the threat of everyone losing perks like break periods, early dismissals, fun physical training, days off, or being given longer hours or extra duties, in response to one (1) person screwing up may entice people to work harder, but the chain of command will get away with actually following through once, maybe twice, before the entire troop realizes "when I apply myself I still get punished, and when I slack off I still get paid." Not only does this completely diffuse the threat of punishments for poor performance, as troops are expecting it as an inevitability, it also leads to a feedback loop of mediocrity where soldiers, either due to low morale or simply not caring enough, do little more than the bare minimum and the chain of command, angered by poor performance, won't restore said perks, which in turn lowers morale and performance even more, and so forth. While there are all sorts of reasons for poor attrition in the Armed Forces in the new '10s, the number one reason you'll hear from any soldier as to why they are getting out is "I'm sick of being treated badly by the chain of command for no reason."


O'Sullivan’s Blackmail Fail #1

O'Sullivan tries to blackmail Holt, only to fail.

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