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Toxic Friend Influence

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You can tell he's thinking of doing it, too.
Regine: Why would you do that?
Synclaire: Because I feel guilty.
Maxine: Guilt is a trick emotion. It's put there by your parents to stop you from doing things that feel good.

A lot of times in media and in Real Life there's a friend (or a group of friends), a very good friend whom you may have known since you were kids. But there's one small flaw within the friendship. The friend in question always gets you into serious trouble. It's usually stuff like trying to get you to break curfew, violate your parole, drink underage, do drugs, commit acts of theft, and cause public disturbance. The toxic friend will guilt-trip you for not going along with what they want and accusing you of "changing". They'll say things like, "Man, you've changed. You used to be cool," or, "Come on, it'll be fun!" And of course, all of the above will almost certainly lead to serious consequences. This is almost the 2000s variant of The Aggressive Drug Dealer.

More often than not these characters are usually plot devices for the protagonist to get into a horrible situation for the purposes of An Aesop. Under normal circumstances, the protagonist in question is usually a rational thinker when not around these types of friends. But when they hang around them, they become ridiculously impressionable and naive and easily misled. The friend could be generally well-intentioned and benevolent, but still not a good friend in the greater scheme of things. Also expect these friends to be from the Wrong Side of the Tracks, while the protagonist usually has a squeaky-clean square background (though not always). If they're malicious, they may try to cut off their new friend from old ones because, "They Were Holding You Back." If the friend is female, expect her to be troubled and possibly promiscuous.

The toxic friend could also possibly be a passive-aggressive Et Tu, Brute? and saboteur, like a crabs-in-a-barrel kind of thing. Can be a comedic trope but more often than not it has darker implications. It's also possible for the Toxic Friend to be a significant other as well. Oh, and expect the Toxic Friend to have a very low mortality rate. In a darker sense, serial killers can be Toxic as well by turning their friends, family, and lovers into accomplices.

Sometimes, the friend they’re influencing will be aware of their flaws, but Turn the Other Cheek out of the belief that the toxic friend has Hidden Depths that makes their bad influences worth standing by them — until the toxic friend goes much too far with their misdeeds, making the good friend realize they is no Hidden Heart of Gold under their toxicity, leading to a Broken Pedestal and Post-Support Regret.

Sensei for Scoundrels is this trope applied to the student/mentor relationship. See also Peer Pressure Makes You Evil. May also overlap with Femme Fatale.

See also The Corrupter, who has a different kind of bad influence. Contrast Staging an Intervention. The Morality Pet and Morality Chain could be considered the inverse of this trope; their influence could serve as a counter to the Toxic Friend Influence and in fact, influence their troublemaking friend to become a better person. Positive Friend Influence is the polar opposite of this trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Note, Light Yagami is this to his girlfriend Misa; being a psychotic Serial-Killer Killer, he wins her allegiance by killing her parents' murderer and quickly turns her into a cruder, deadlier version of himself. Not that she minds, or that she wasn't more than a little unhinged to begin with.
  • In Fairy Tail, Erza essentially accuses Kagura of being this for their mutual friend Millianna, saying that since Millianna has finally started to live on her own after many years of being enslaved at the Tower of Heaven, and several more of being manipulated into working for Jellal, Erza doesn't want her caught up in Kagura's plan to get revenge on Jellal for killing Simon (Kagura's brother and Erza and Millianna's friend). Kagura angrily replies that it's something Millianna chose for herself.
  • In Fate/Zero, Gilgamesh is this to Kirei. He helps Kirei discover what brings him joy in life, which seems harmless until you realize that Kirei's joy involves the suffering of others.
  • Hidoku Shinaide: When meeting Maya for the first time, Nemugasa's mother immediately believes him to be this for her son because of his dyed hair and piercings, prompting her to question whether her son is drinking, partying or using drugs, and to put him in cram school to reduce the amount of free time he had so he wouldn't hang out with Maya. Akira intervenes after hearing of this when he introduces himself to Nemugasa's mother and convinces her that the opposite is true: Nemugasa is a Positive Friend Influence on Maya.
  • The primary duo of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans have a reciprocating case of this trope towards each other:
    • For Mikazuki Augus, Because Orga promised him when they were young to take him to a new world, Mikazuki holds him to that promise. Mikazuki for his part, despite being perfectly willing to be used as a tool to fulfill Orga's dreams is also constantly pushing Orga more and more into callous thinking being the one to snap and force him out of grieving Biscuit's death and later disobeying Orga's orders against fighting the Mobile Armor. That being said, in the wake of Shino's Senseless Sacrifice and Orga's resulting frustration and grief from it, he shows awareness of his role in often pushing Orga to go far, even too far, and doesn't sound proud of it.
    • As for Orga Itsuka, it's been brought up off and on that both he and Mikazuki have a mutually toxic relationship with one another. On Orga's end, he relies on Mikazuki's skills as a pilot even though it's continually coming at the price of the functionality of his body. Despite his guilt over this, Orga also can't find himself willing to actually bench Mika for his own good.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, nearly every bad decision made by Garma Zabi, from launching an insurrection to his fatal obsession with the White Base, was made with Char Aznable pushing his buttons. In particular, Garma had a deep need to prove himself worthy of the Zabi name, to step out from his siblings' shadow and show that his rank is not simply due to nepotism, and Char exploits this every chance he gets.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero, Ren is the most reasonable of the Three Heroes, to the point that he's the only one of them that Naofumi seems willing to trust. However, this only lasts until he's in a group with Motoyasu and Itsuki, at which point he'll tend to follow along with their idiocy.
  • Rei Hino from Sailor Moon occasionally has the tendency to encourage the other Guardians (particularly Ami) to pick on Usagi. This is even more prevalent in the DiC dub.
  • The narrator of The Tatami Galaxy sees his best friend Ozu this way. Turned on its head at the end of the story when we find out that Ozu feels the same way about him.

    Comic Books 
  • Cheshire does this a lot to Roy Harper in Teen Titans, mainly because she's the mother of his child. Roy has had a hard time getting over Cheshire, with the main factor being he doesn't want to make Lian watch her mom spend the rest of her life in jail, even though they both (Roy and Lian) know she deserves it for destroying the country of Qurac For the Evulz. Cheshire got even worse after Lian died in Justice League: Cry for Justice, whereby she eagerly takes advantage of Roy's mental deterioration to gang up on Deathstroke. Why? He shot her and made her look like an idiot.
  • Harley Quinn. Her desire to make the Joker happy is the whole reason she helps in his evil plan of the week. Before she met him, she was a normal, decent girl.
  • Inferno, the teenage version of Sun Boy in Legionnaires, was an insufferable lech and a pig, and Live Wire often acted similarly whenever the two were together. Granted, Live Wire was already something of an ass himself, but he'd act even worse when Inferno was around. Their bullying of poor Cera Kesh is what made the girl easy prey for the Emerald Eye of Ekron.

    Films — Animated 
  • A Goofy Movie has an example of a toxic friend getting a parent in trouble with his kid. Pete gives Goofy parenting advice to help improve his relationship with Max... but since Pete is both overbearing and distant, and has a bad relationship with his own son, PJ, the advice does more harm than good.
  • In Luca, Alberto plays this role, convincing Luca to ignore his conscience ("Silenzio Bruno!") while pushing him into increasingly dangerous and irresponsible activities.
  • In Pinocchio, there's Lampwick, a hooky-pulling troublemaker the puppet meets on the way to Pleasure Island. Though he does seem to genuinely like Pinocchio, his influence leads the wooden boy to do many naughty things, including smoking and drinking. Unfortunately, Lampwick learns too late that his bad behavior makes him a literal jackass in one of the most terrifying sequences in Disney history.
  • In Turning Red, Ming accuses Mei's friends of being bad influences for being encouraging with Mei's panda transformation. Turns out it was just because they were going against her standards for Mei.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Adam & Paul, the titular heroin addicts learn that their old friend Matthew has been dead for a month. It's implied that Adam and Paul turned him onto drugs and that he overdosed.
  • 11-year-old Audrey to young Tommy in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. She takes him shoplifting, tries to get him to huff paint, and eventually gets him drunk.
  • In Avengers: Endgame, it's revealed that during the time skip Thor has been eating and drowning his sorrows. He's spent the last few years living with Korg and Miek, who enable his self-destruction because they're content to just play games and binge eat with their good friend Thor instead of trying to talk him out of it.
  • The Beatniks, has Mooney, who absolutely refuses to let Eddy break away from the gang to start a singing career.
  • In Besties, when she's part of her gang at the beginning, Nedjma is driven to play a very nasty prank on Zina (filming her in a position that mimicks a blowjob and uploading the video on social media) but she soon comes to regret it.
  • Every single thing bad thing that happens in Body is Cali's fault, and she insists on dragging Mel and Holly with her: overriding their objections and badgering them until they agree with her.
  • In Brokedown Palace Alice Marano is this to Darlene Davis. Some fans also believe that Alice was the one responsible for the drugs, and that she was a drug smuggler all along.
  • Marcus from Cabin Fever Patient Zero has not one, but TWO toxic friends (one being a past fling who is now dating his younger brother) in addition to a toxic young brother. All three were a very jealous and bitter case of this trope. Mostly due to the fact they felt he was upgrading from them since he was getting ready to marry into money.
  • Randal from both Clerks films. As much as his friend Dante is responsible for his own malaise, Randal's actions do quite a bit of damage on their own (and certainly never help things).
  • Novella's friend Candice in Eat 2014 gives off shades of this in her efforts to "help", ranging from urging Novella to follow her dreams even though she's struggling to pay for rent and groceries, to hunting down and killing the man that a third party said had cheated on Novella and bringing his corpse back for her to eat. (It Makes Sense in Context)
  • Flipped: Despite best friends, Garrett is obviously toxic toward Bryce, but Bryce seems to be oblivious at first; he reveals to Sherry about Bryce's true intention of courting her note  that Bryce earns a slap from her. And he also constantly influences Bryce to keep hating Juli. Bryce eventually realized that Garrett is the one responsible for shaping up his thought about Juli (other than his own father, that is) that he finally cuts Garrett off.
  • In the obscure 1990 romance thriller called A Girl To Kill For. Sue is this to sweet-natured yet gullible Chuck. More or less seducing him into situations that kept going From Bad to Worse. Can't help but feel sympathy for the poor guy.
  • Kumar from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay goes out of its way to point this out, and Harold has ditched Kumar by A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas because of this.
  • Harsh Times: Jim, a Shell-Shocked Veteran with gangster ties and a self-destructive streak, is a terrible influence on his best buddy Mike, who went straight long ago and settled down with his lawyer girlfriend. Mike now finds himself jobless and susceptible to Jim's cavalier lifestyle. A great deal of the plot is dedicated to Jim convincing Mike to do reckless things against his better judgment.
  • In The Last Duel, the friendship of Count Pierre d'Alençon with Jacques Le Gris involves copious amounts of debauchery and orgies. It also gives Jacques a distorted view of romantic relationships and, crucially, teaches him to see women saying no to sexual advances as a flirty game of seduction, rather than an actual refusal, which leads him to rape Marguerite de Carrouges and genuinely think it's not a rape.
  • Paige from The Last House on the Left lured her friend into a bad situation trying to get marijuana.
  • In Masterminds, after Kelly loses her job, she falls under the influence of childhood friend Steve, who recruits her to help him rob a bank. She then turns around and recruits former co-worker David to be the fall guy.
  • Megan Stewart is this to sweet wholesome Amy Herman in Megan is Missing. Amy really wants to prove to Megan that she's not a sheltered little girl. Unfortunately, this leads to disturbing and disastrous consequences for both girls when they encounter an internet predator.
  • In Nerve, Sydney is a toxic friend to Vee. Ultimately it is Sydney's fault that Vee signs up for Nerve, and goes through all of the hell that follows.
  • Party Monster features the focal character falling victim to this from his boyfriend, and eventually becoming an example of this himself.
  • The entire plot of Risky Business is set up by the suggestions/insistences of Miles, Joel's stupid friend.
  • In Rounders, Mike is trying to avoid gambling, and later at least be an honest poker player, but his friend Worm keeps trying to drag him back into playing crooked games.
  • Male example from Save the Last Dance: Malakai to Derek. Derek is one of the few young men in his school who is headed for (and actively seeking) a brighter future, while fresh-from-juvie Malakai seems bound and determined to drag him into the gang scene. Derek, for being a bright guy, gets really stupid where Kai is concerned.
  • Played with in Shaun of the Dead. Ed has been holding Shaun back for years due to being an overweight slacker who has mooched off Shaun's hospitality (and Shaun's own usage of him as a crutch to convince himself he's not nearly as much of a loser as he really is), but Ed really does love Shaun as a friend and it's not intentional. To the point he's willing to make a Heroic Sacrifice for Shaun and Liz.
  • Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl: Beth inspires Adele to buy cheap versions of things her aunt Dora needs so she can pocket the difference, and eventually it extends to Dora's medication, which causes her death.
  • Amanda from Taken. Enticing her friend to lie to her father, and sleep with French men because she heard that they are good in bed.
  • Evie Zamora from Thirteen (2003) to the highest disturbing degree. Evie introduces Tracy to shoplifting, underage sex, hard drugs, and seducing older men. And the worst part is that she's such a Manipulative Bitch, she makes her mother believe it was Tracy who brought her into this, not the opposite.
  • Combo is this to Shaun in This Is England.
  • In The World's End, Gary's fixation on the pub crawl certainly gets the 'Five Musketeers' into a lot of trouble, and it's made clear that even in their younger days he wasn't a particularly good friend to them in many ways.

  • Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg: Played for Laughs. The Baron forbid the Jaegers from returning to Mechanicsburg under the assumption that they were a bad influence and the cause of most of the town's problems. Instead, the Jaegers proved to be perfectly capable and loyal soldiers with a few quirks, while the townsfolk undermined the Baron at every opportunity. He began to wonder who had been an influence on who.
  • Mary Anne's story in The Babysitters Remember paints Kristy as this: convincing little Mary Anne to play around with the laundry washing machine soap and other shenanigans that would earn them a grounding, time-out, or a scolding from their parents or a sitter.
  • The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford: "Bad Characters" centers around Emily, a little girl who makes friends with a miscreant named Lottie. Lottie introduces Emily to the joys of shoplifting and eventually gets her into trouble.
  • According to the Confessions, even saints can be terrible influences. During his twenties, St. Augustine reunited with a childhood friend and brought him into the horrid, false Cult of the Manichees. The friend only comes to his senses when he is baptized on his deathbed, at which point he rejects St. Augustine and refuses to see him before his early death.
  • The unnamed student in Decision of Fate has a 'friend' who uses peer pressure to get him to try drugs.
  • An interesting complicated example occurs in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Cho forces her close friend Marietta to come to the meeting at the Hog's Head and then forces her to join the D.A. While the D.A. is a good thing, and necessary as there's a war going on however quietly, it is a form of rebellion against the ministry and it is very obvious Marietta is uncomfortable with the whole thing even before it is against the rules. When Marietta goes to Umbridge to tell her of the meetings and is hit by a curse Hermione put on the sign-up sheet to identify any traitors since she's taking the fact that they're at war very seriously Cho gets mad at Harry and Hermione without ever admitting or taking into account the fact that she forced her friend into an uncomfortable position, and while downplaying just what Marietta did. note 
  • John Dies at the End has John Cheese, an irresponsible, carefree, hard-partying rocker and drug enthusiast. Although he technically serves as an example of this trope for his friend Dave, since he's constantly getting the duo into trouble, we later learn that Dave is an Unreliable Narrator and codependent borderline sociopath, and John is Dave's only friend, as well as the Plucky Comic Relief and, arguably, the real hero of the story.
  • The Origin of Laughing Jack: Played with. When Laughing Jack introduces himself to Isaac as his new friend for life, he says that he adapts to Isaac's changing personality. After Isaac is whisked off to boarding school and returns as a bitter adult, Jack's joy has faded too. However, it's when Isaac becomes a Serial Killer that Jack develops a similar interest in his sadistic activities as they all occurred in his view, although Isaac had no idea he was there.
  • This is basically Lord Henry's hobby in The Picture of Dorian Gray. He applies these talents to Dorian and succeeds rather wildly.
  • From A Song of Ice and Fire we get a fine example in the form of Cersei Lannister. Although she does tend to mix both Poison and Falseness into it, she's still very good at dragging other people's moral compasses and common sense down by example or cunning, too. Jaime, Joffrey, Tyrion, childhood friends and acquaintances of all kinds can attest to it. It's notable that once Jaime spends a considerable amount of time away from her, he begins to rediscover his long-lost morals.
  • That Was Then... This Is Now has two friends, Mark and Bryon. Mark is a sociopathic but charming thug, and Bryon goes along with him until the end.
  • In Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell, Gilda's friendship with Trixie seems to have reversed the latter's Heel–Face Turn.
  • The "Use Your Decision Process" examples in most American high school Health textbooks are filled with this. A typical example is "Alice has a friend named Bob who she has known since she was a kid. But Bob has been acting erratic and paranoid lately. Alice thinks he is doing drugs but is not sure. What should she do?" or "Bob's girlfriend Alice has been pressuring him to have sex with her. She claims she will break up with him if he doesn't. What should Bob do?"
  • In Wintergirls, Cassie goes to a theater-themed summer camp where all the other girls are binging and purging (i.e. eating large amounts of food and then throwing up). She becomes bulimic herself, causing her best friend Lia to develop a similar eating disorder as the two girls compete to become the thinnest. This leads to years of medical complications for both of them.
  • Enid Nightshade from The Worst Witch books. In chanting she deliberately sings out a tune, getting Mildred in trouble for laughing at her. She turns her cat into a monkey which escapes and is blamed on Mildred again. On the sports day, she bewitches a pole to shoot up into the air with Mildred on it (she ends up crash landing in Miss Cackle's office). Mildred is threatened with expulsion for this but Enid keeps on going, locking herself and Mildred inside a closet when the other girls are in assembly.
  • In Wicked Good, Archer tries to discourage Rory from spending time with Trish, who encourages him to break the law.
  • In Orange Clouds, Blue Sky, Mom's group of four "friends" isolate her by spreading false rumors about Dad and feed her addiction by selling prescription drugs.
  • Star Wars: Kenobi: The Gault children are a bad influence on Annileen Calwell's son Jabe. Jabe has recently joined Orrin Gault's work crews and spends evenings carousing with Orrin's children Mullen and Veeka (he has a crush on the latter), eventually participating in Orrin's Monster Protection Racket and nearly getting killed by actual Tusken Raiders before Ben Kenobi rescues him. The experience puts Jabe back on the right path.
  • In The State of Grace, Grace's thirteen-year-old sister Leah falls in with a group of more popular girls who introduce her to underage drinking, resulting in her being hospitalized due to alcohol poisoning.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: This trope is behind the "Hybrid" prophecy, the Myth Arc of series 9 of New Who: The Hybrid is the Doctor and Clara traveling together. Word of God confirmed that despite both being unambiguously heroic, they brought out each other's worst traits and each would bring ruin to the universe to save the other. Which is exactly what almost happened in the season finale.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Robert to Ned. Catelyn even lampshades in the first episode that he has a tendency to lead Ned into trouble. If only she knew.
    • Jaime suffers from this, or more so Toxic Incestual Twin Sister Influence. Cersei tends to bring out the worst in him. Cersei's wildfire plot seems to slowly wake him up to this, but he's more afraid of her than hateful of her.
    • Varys tries to buy Shae off because he believes that she's a dangerous liability to Tyrion, one of the few men who could make the country a better place.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Barney plays this role to the rest of the main cast, but mostly to Ted, whose corruption he views as a pet project. Ironically, as the show has progressed, even as Barney rubs off a bit on Ted (mainly by encouraging him to live in the moment and helping him to enjoy life to the fullest), he has really been more influenced by Ted in terms of growing emotionally and romantically (even taking a class taught by Ted on how to be a good boyfriend).
  • My Name Is Earl has this in the form of toxic brother influence. The titular character has been a jerk and delinquent for nearly his entire life and his dim-witted younger brother Randy followed suit. Their mom cites this as the reason she's forgiven Randy but not Earl.
    "There's a difference between you two. See, one of you is bad and one of you is simple. And Earl, you're bad."
  • Next (2020): Iliza tries to indoctrinate Ethan and turn him against his mother. Thankfully, he sees through its lies.
  • Del to Denzil on Only Fools and Horses. When Corrine listed a number of times that Del had screwed him over and conned him into joining one of his failed get-rich-quick schemes, Denzil's simple reply?
    Denzil: Yeah I know, but he's a mate!
    • In some ways, Del Boy is this to his brother Rodney. At one point, Rodney is trying to defend his brother to his wife by saying, "Look, I agree that Del can get a bit out of hand, but I think it's unfair to say that everything he touches goes wrong." At this point, the bus behind him promptly explodes due to a faulty radio Del installed over the main fuel line. Some of his more notable exploits have been things like convincing Rodney that he is the 'man of the house,' causing him to break his wife's boss's nose, and convincing Rodney to stay on a trip with him despite the fact that Rodney, 26, will have to pretend he's 14 the entire time he's there.
  • Faith to Buffy, in season 3, especially in the episode "Bad Girls". She convinces her to skip school (which is something she already did when she needed to fight monsters, but she didn't need to at the time) and steal.
  • Kramer to everyone he encounters in Seinfeld. It's nearly impossible to follow Kramer's advice and not get into trouble, yet people keep listening to him. Kramer, of course, never gets into trouble himself.
  • On Suits Mike was on his way to becoming a lawyer when his best friend, Trevor, convinced him to sell cheat sheets for an exam. The two end up expelled from college and blacklisted, crushing Mike's dreams of becoming a lawyer. The series kicks off with Trevor convincing Mike to act as a one-time drug courier, with the drop-off being a police sting, which he barely dodged. Both Harvey and Mike's grandmother have warned him to drop Trevor because he's the anchor dragging Mike down. Despite everything, he still was willing to give Trevor more chances... right up until he exposed Mike as having never attended Harvard.
    • As the series progresses Harvey is becoming this to Mike. He forces Mike to take sides in his dispute with Jessica even though he should realize how dangerous it would be for Mike to oppose the firm's managing partner. When Mike caves in to Jessica's extortion, Harvey treats it as the worst form of betrayal since he seemingly expected Mike to commit a Stupid Sacrifice over a fairly petty matter.
    • In the later seasons, Mike inadvertently becomes this to his friends as it becomes increasingly harder to hide the fact that he never attended law school. As they try to protect Mike, they end up committing increasingly riskier and more illegal acts. When a reformed Trevor shows up, he lampshades the situation and refuses to help Mike because doing so would result in Trevor sliding back into the bad behavior he worked very hard to get away from. Mike realizes that the only way to stop his friends from destroying their lives is to confess to everything in exchange for them getting immunity.
  • Deconstructed on Scrubs. J.D. and Turk's college friend comes to town and gets the guys to go drinking with him while on call. They got in trouble for showing up to work drunk. When they got mad at their friend, he pointed out that they knew they were on call and could have easily said no to drinking with him. He also pointed out that they had been complaining about their jobs since he arrived, then called them out on the fact that it was easier to blame him than face up to the fact that they were starting to fall out of love with the practice of medicine.
  • On Community, Leonard and his 'Hipsters' gang have an extremely negative influence on Pierce. Eventually getting him caught by campus security and requiring Jeff to bail him out.
    • Jeff himself can have a tendency to be this for his friends. They tend to look to him as The Leader, but it's gradually been implied that, while he can talk a good talk, his solutions to the various problems they face can do more harm than good and that he's not someone who should be followed or emulated that closely.
    • Jeff's former law firm colleague Alan is this to Jeff.
    • In a mutual version, Jeff and Shirley discover that despite being quite different on the surface they have a similar judgmental streak toward everyone around them, which makes them enjoy sharing gossip with each other. Unfortunately, this means that their combined talents can let them really hone in on someone's insecurities and destroy their life if they aren't careful, which almost happens several times. They end up agreeing that too much time one-on-one is bad for them.
  • On American Dreams Roxanne sometimes borders on this in her friendship with Meg. Occasionally subverted — although she was normally the "good girl", Meg was quite capable of doing dumb and/or rebellious things all on her own.
  • Lucy to Ethel in I Love Lucy, one of the earliest TV examples. Ethel realizes Lucy's influence on her, but still can't resist Lucy's wheedling to join in on her latest Zany Scheme.
  • True to her book counterpart, Enid is this in The Worst Witch TV series but this time Ethel Hallow becomes this for Drucilla. Ethel is the Alpha Bitch but Drucilla seems more of an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain and a genuinely nice person when away from Ethel's influence. She makes a Heel–Face Turn at the end of the series.
  • The Other Kingdom: Brendoni tends to occasionally play this role towards Devon and Astral. As back in Athenia, Brendoni would occasionally tempt Astral into sneaking off to the "other" world and causing mischief to the others — which he took great pleasure — and even in the "other" world, some of his tendencies tend to rub off on Devon, such as a time when he intentionally made a small mess and got Devon to overlook and not obsess over it, threw a house party without latter's consent and encouraged him to embrace the party and host it. And that's not even getting into having him create a fake identity of him as a legendary party king.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Saul Tigh is a man who is already prone to drinking, among other vices, but his behavior is made all the more worse by his horribly enabling wife, Ellen. If he tries to throw away the bottle, she pushes him Off the Wagon. When he deliberates on sensitive issues, she twists his reasoning to make him take the least reasonable option. And what's worse is that, because they're both immortal Cylons from the "orignal" Earth, they've been repeating this cycle of co-dependency for aeons!
    • The inverse also seems to be true. Ellen tends to be much more of a Team Mom when she is on her own. As soon as Saul enters the picture, she becomes a Manipulative Bitch prone to dabbling Fleet politics.
  • On The Mentalist, Patrick Jane is an absolutely horrible influence on the CBI team he works with. Over the course of the series so far, he's talked them into planting evidence, coercing confessions, entrapping suspects, and profiling. This corrosive influence on their respect for the law they're supposed to enforce (and its potential to endanger their careers) is lampshaded by a By-the-Book Cop in the episode "Black Gold and Red Blood," but as Jane is a Showy Invincible Hero who looks out for his friends, any negative consequences they suffer for going along with him rarely last more than one episode.
  • The Season 4 opener of NUMB3RS features a scene of Don watching Colby's videotaped confession (most of which was not shown in the previous episode), in which Colby tells Don how Dwayne Carter started asking him to do "favors" for him against FBI protocol and slowly worked him up to his Face–Heel Turn. Subverted later in the episode when it's revealed that Colby was never actually influenced by Dwayne at all; he reported Carter's requests and was directed to play along in an attempt to figure out who Carter was reporting to, and his confession was a part of that ploy.
  • In the backstory of Person of Interest Det. Stiles was this to Det Fusco. Stiles helped out Fusco when Fusco was going through a messy divorce and when Fusco wanted to repay the favour, Stiles got him involved in corruption, drug dealing and murder. Fusco is revealed to be a very decent guy but his unwillingness to turn his friends in caused him to become a Dirty Cop.
  • On The 100, whether Lexa is this depends on your point of view. The way she convinces Clarke to close herself off from her feelings, behave ruthlessly, and allow hundreds of her allies to die certainly makes her seem like this. However, since The 100 runs on Grey-and-Gray Morality, it's left up to the viewer to decide whether making Clarke act this way is truly a bad thing, or if it's actually turning Clarke into a better leader.
  • The New Adventures of Flipper. In the first season Mike Blondell was this for Maya Graham. He was always talking her into performing harebrained stunts (that she went along with against her better judgement) that got them in trouble with his mother and Dr. Ricks.
  • General Hospital: Emily Quartermaine befriends a classmate named Matt, who promptly introduces her to drugs. When they both overdose, she survives while he doesn't. As it turns out, he was such a lying and manipulative little brat that his mother is convinced it was Emily who was this to him. Not until hearing from the other kids whom Matt was selling drugs to is she forced to admit the truth to herself.
  • Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn: In "New Kid on the Block", Syd, their new next-door neighbor couldn't hang out with the quads because her parents thought they would be a bad influence on her.
  • Deconstructed in Better Call Saul, where Jimmy McGill isn't actively trying to make his friends complicit in his con games and is a genuine friend to many other characters in the series. However, his insistence on helping them out (whether they want him to or not) and their Undying Loyalty to him means that they end up putting themselves at risk to help him out of jams or preserve the gains they've made through his unsolicited help.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The First Duty", the leader of the stunt-flying team at Starfleet Academy acts this way toward the rest of the team. First he convinces them to attempt a dangerous (and forbidden) stunt that gets one of them killed, then pushes them to cover up the truth during the resulting inquiry, all in the name of friendship and solidarity. He somewhat redeems himself at the end by claiming sole responsibility and accepting expulsion to protect the others.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Dennis is this to the rest of the group. When he leaves at the end of season 12, the gang gets noticeably nicer, Paddy's Pub becomes successful, and the boys start complimenting Dee's appearance. Naturally things go straight back to the way they were once he returns.
  • Velvet: Cristina may have wanted revenge after realizing Alberto always loved Ana, but she never would have gone as far as she did without Barbara's influence.
  • A familial type is shown in the The Thundermans episode "Cookie Mistake". Max and Nora realize they don't hang out much because they bring out the mischief in each other.
  • Raising Dion: In Season 2, Brayden intentionally tries this with Dion; he befriends him, with the boys bonding over the fact that they're both superpowered, but then Brayden tries to make Dion use his powers for selfish reasons or even downright become a villain. Fortunately, Dion has none of it and breaks off the friendship.
  • Cobra Kai: Kreese provides this to Terry in spades. Terry had, by the time the series rolled around, got himself out of the toxic waste business, broken his cocaine addiction, gone through therapy to get his PTSD under control, and was generally living out his golden days in peace and harmony. It took one chat with Kreese to break decades of progress and bring the unhinged Manipulative Bastard back out. As the season goes on, Kreese realizes that Terry isn't going to be unquestioningly obedient, and hammers his Trauma Button to keep him in line, while Terry, at the same time, realizes Kreese will never consider his life debt repaid. This causes even more Sanity Slippage, and by the end, Terry is more than willing to beat a man nearly to death and frame his old friend for the crime just to be rid of him.
  • Elementary: In season three, Sherlock is forced to seek out a dealer he knew during the height of his addiction as the man is connected to his current case. Oscar, the dealer in question, is still using and quickly sets about dragging Sherlock back down with him. In the season finale, he manipulates Sherlock into looking for Oscar's sister (who Oscar knows has already overdosed). The search ends with Sherlock relapsing once he discovers the deception.
  • Subverted in Brassic. On the surface, Dylan's relationship with Vinnie is this. Dylan is smart, talented and had a chance to make something of himself, while Vinnie is a bipolar screwup and petty criminal who regularly drags Dylan into his schemes, and Dylan claims he can't leave their hometown because Vinnie couldn't survive without him. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Dylan prefers to live his life as a perpetual teenager and never attempt or commit to anything, and uses Vinnie as an excuse to not have to try. As several people point out, Dylan is a grown man with a will of his own, and he could just say no any time Vinnie asks him to do something stupid but chooses not to. Vinnie also turns out to be a lot more resilient and self-sufficient that he seems, and even tells Dylan that it's not his job to look after him.
  • Young Sheldon: In "A Stolen Truck and Going on the Lam", Paige is treated as such, being a veteran runaway, but the parents agree that this time it was on Missy.

  • Gorillaz bassist Murdoc was this to singer 2D, who remained oblivious to their Type 1 Vitriolic Best Buds relationship throughout Phase 1, attempted and failed to fight back in Phase 2, and now appears to be realising exactly how toxic Murdoc is to him.
  • Kendrick Lamar reflects on this a lot in Good Kid, Maad City, especially in "The Art Of Peer Preassure"
    Look at me, I got the blunt in my mouth
    Usually I'm drug-free, but, shit, I'm with the homies
    I never was a gangbanger, I mean
    I never was stranger to the fonk neither, I really doubt it
    Rush a nigga quick and then we laugh about it
    That's ironic, 'cause I've never been violent
    Until I'm with the homies
    My mama called: "Hello? What you doin'?" — "Kickin' it."
    I shoulda told her I'm probably 'bout to catch my first offense
    With the homies
    (Police sirens)

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Garfield, a January 1996 strip has Odie and Garfield eating junk food in a messy way and leaving the wrappers all over the table. Jon complains to Garfield he's a bad influence on Odie. Garfield denies it, but then Odie utters "Meow".
    • It's also been proven that because of how lazy and sedentary Garfield is, the mice around him have gotten lazy too. And they're using a sleeping Garfield as a bed.
  • In Luann, T.J. fulfills this role with Luann's brother Brad. He has gotten Brad into trouble with his borderline illegal schemes and other inappropriate behavior. However, he has done other things that were nice, and it's been implied he has Parental Abandonment issues...doesn't justify the borderline illegal schemes, though.

  • In the Sick Sad World episode "Writers Who Kill"; one case focuses on a pair of girls who re-enforced each other's bad qualities until the two ended up committing murder.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • AJ Styles fell prey to this twice at WWE. Both of his Face–Heel Turns were caused by his former Bullet Club allies Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. The second one especially stands out, as they poisoned him against his Friendly Enemy Ricochet and talked him into forming a heel Power Stable with them.
  • Aja Perera, who usually desires the friendship of everyone she wrestles, puts on a much more intimidating face when tagging with the Blood Knight Dementia D'Rose, becomes a lot more obnoxious when with the brazen Nina Monet and more mean-spirited alongside the royal snob Sahara Se7en.
  • After a stable run as a face for many years, Bayley ended up being lured to the dark side by her best friend Sasha Banks.
  • CM Punk to Colt Cabana, who was normally nice and non-confrontational but had promised Punk as a member of The Second City Saints that he would do anything needed to help them win.
  • Already being an experienced fighter, Ta'Darius recognized this was happening between himself and Truth Martini, who he went to in hopes of learning the art of professional wrestling and distanced himself from The House Of Truth once it was agreed he had trained enough with them. Unfortunately, Ta'Darius Thomas still fell prey to the manipulations of Jimmy Jacobs and joined Decade.
  • Se7en herself fell into this at Marvelous Pro Wrestling, with Tomoko Watanabe and Yuu Yamagata, who convinced her to abandon Mio Momono and join their Level 5 faction, where they did their best to turn the regal queen into a vicious savage.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Kev's mother believes that Daigo is a disturbed boy who's having a negative influence on her son. As much as Kev wants to believe otherwise, she's completely right.

    Visual Novels 
  • Downplayed in Daughter for Dessert. The protagonist smokes marijuana and gets very drunk with Kathy, but there aren’t too many negative consequences from doing this, especially long-lasting ones.

    Web Comics 
  • In Dominic Deegan, Bumper and Stunt are introduced as a pair of thieves, but Bumper quickly proves to be the sweeter and more rational of the pair. This increases until in the "Two Thief or Not Two Thief" storyline Stunt is pretty much exactly this, going for bigger and more problematic illegalities all the time and dragging his best friend along. Until Bumper can't countenance the stuff they're involved in anymore.
    • For bonus points, Bumper turns out to be from a good family fallen on hard times.
    • The Bumper-doing-a-sleight-of-hand-show-to-raise-Stunt's-bail-again scene that opens TToNTT is pretty emblematic.
    • At the end of the Two Thief storyline after nearly getting him and Bumper killed, the mayor of Barthis decides the best punishment for their latest crimes is to exile Stunt but not Bumper. When Bumper tries to leave with Stunt anyway, Stunt admits that he's realized what a bad influence he's been, and convinces Bumper to stay in Barthis where he's made a decent life for himself.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Nioi believes that General Shade Tail is this to Lord Tedd, corrupting him with his Blood Knight tendencies.
  • The Guide to a Healthy Relationship: It's probably not his friends' fault that Apollo is in his early twenties and a severe alcoholic, but they still enable him, constantly take him out for parties, give him pills and buy him drinks, encourage him to drink on the job — none of them seem to think there's anything wrong with that. (Granted, Apollo's also a little slow on the draw so he may not realize how toxic his "friends" are.)
  • Vriska from Homestuck. Dealt with realistically, as most of the other characters can't stand her as a result of her acting like this - by the time her story starts, most of her best friends have already dumped her over an incident where she caused one of them to get seriously injured, with even Karkat calling her a backstabbing sociopath.
  • Lackadaisy: Rocky to his cousin 'Freckle'.
    • Atlas was this to a significant portion of the cast, particularly Mitzy, Mordecai, and Viktor, all of whom he manipulated into being part of his blossoming criminal empire by ensuring that they would in some way feel indebted or otherwise emotionally attached to him and therefore willing to do awful things to keep his business going. It helps that he was charismatic enough to make this work without them really realizing what was happening before it was too late.
    • Viktor is deliberately trying to defy this trope in regard to Ivy, as he realizes part of the reason she stays in St. Louis is because of their friendship. He tries to drive her away so she won't want to stay and thus won't remain involved with the speakeasy.
  • In Modern Day Treasure Seekers, Cade's parents felt this way about Sam but came to accept her. However, the flashback shows her hopping a fence with a sign reading "No Trespassing", with Cade going along with her, implying that she influenced him to get into trouble.

    Web Original 
  • Momo from Cream Heroes is this to some of the younger cats. Before Lulu grew up, he was the top troublemaker among the cats and it's clear Lulu picked up a lot of his troublemaking habits from him. More recently he's become a bit of a bad influence on Nana and her kittens by showing them how to open cupboards and sneak inside.
    • Lulu is a downplayed example for Dodo. While he's clearly taught Dodo some of his tricks (like using the hole in the counter to quickly sneak food), some of Dodo's antics make him look mature and patient by comparison.
  • The My Little Pony: Totally Legit Recap version of Rainbow Dash is this to Scootaloo, even if she means well:
    Rainbow: Sweet! Scoot's, we're going out for margaritas.
    Scootaloo: I'm twelve.
    Rainbow: Don't worry, they have the little ones.
    Scootaloo: I woke up in a urinal three days ago and I'm almost certain it's your fault.
    • This is even Lampshaded in "Parental Glidence", where Rainbow Dash tries to use the whole "I'm the one that should be teaching you line.", only for Scoots to immediately call bull-crap on that, saying that line may work for the other members of the CMC and their sisters, but it does not for their relationship.
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: Mrs. Zales to Veronica Matthews. The former convinces the latter to say curse words in order to deal with stress. Guess what Veronica does next?
  • Coyote is written as one of these to Rabbit in this retelling of a Native American myth from Myths Retold.
  • In Red vs. Blue Season 13, Locus realizes he has this kind of relationship with Felix, the latter manipulating him and playing to Locus' desire to be a great soldier to get him to carry out monumental acts of evil for Felix's personal gain. Breaking their partnership is Locus' first step towards a full Heel–Face Turn and his becoming a true warrior.
  • In Ultra Fast Pony, Twist is initially presented as a toxic friend to Apple Bloom, always pushing Apple Bloom to deal with her problems by killing them or burning them down. However, it's eventually revealed that Twist is an Imaginary Friend. Apple Bloom was being egged towards violence by her own dark side all along.
  • A recurring theme in The Veronica Exclusive is how easily Veronica falls victim to this. Back when she was a Cool Loser with only Martha for a friend, she was snarky but pretty nice. When she joins the Heathers, on the other hand, she becomes a Lovable Alpha Bitch at best, and an outright Jerkass at worst. Then when she begins to date J.D., she becomes an accomplice to murder. The series ends when Veronica finally overcomes this and chooses her own path.
  • sn4tchbucl3r in You Suck At Photoshop is this for Donnie, at first, ruining Donnie's videos, getting angry at him for refusing to play MMORPGs with him, and even talking him into shitting his pants in public at one point. Then sn4tch actually begins to care for Donnie and look for a life outside of his gaming addiction. It all falls in at the end, though, inevitably.

  • This is what the saying "A few bad apples spoil the barrel" or "spoil the bunch" means, as bad or bruised apples release ethylene gas, which makes other apples around it begin to rot, too. To prevent the rot from spreading any further, you have to remove the bad apple(s).


Video Example(s):


Dance Party on School Roof

Sasha reminisces about how she encouraged Anne and Marcy to have a dance party on the school roof.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (22 votes)

Example of:

Main / ToxicFriendInfluence

Media sources: