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Too bad Homer just doesn't understand "irony".
"As for his sentence, remember what he said in the courtroom? His only thought, his only desire, was to be 'reunited with his crew'. I can't help thinking, after everything that's happened, after everything he's done, we gave him exactly what he wanted."


The punishment equivalent of Attack Backfire: A character is legitimately guilty of some offense, tried and convicted, and sentenced to punishment, except that (whether intentionally or otherwise) the punishment in question is something that the character actually desires — they consider it some kind of reward instead (or maybe they don't, really, but they man up and take the punishment in stride just to piss off their punisher).

This can be the result of a successful Briar Patching; alternately it may be the result of Deliberate Values Dissonance or being Too Kinky to Torture. It may even be deliberate Restrained Revenge on the part of the punishers themselves, as a poetic way to combine reward and punishment for those who technically messed up but are Saved by the Awesome. Can overlap with Springtime for Hitler if a character intentionally tries for this and it fails. Not to be confused with Cool and Unusual Punishment (which is still a legitimate punishment, and it's the audience who desires to see it executed).


See also Cursed with Awesome and some cases of Infernal Paradise. Get into Jail Free is a subtrope in which getting into prison in pursuit of another agenda is the desired goal. Compare also Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving, when his "crimes" were actually helpful. Compare Chew-Out Fake-Out, where instead of being reprimanded the guilty party is excused or even praised. Contrast Curse That Cures, where a Curse is actually welcomed by a character because it cures them of a sickness or injury, Cruel Mercy if the character spares another's life only for it to suffer a Fate Worse than Death, and The Not-So-Harmless Punishment when a character's punishment is introduced as seemingly trivial but is revealed to actually be far worse than initially thought.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In After War Gundam X, after some rather risky stunts, the Kid Hero protagonist is given the "punishment" of... guarding the girl he has a huge crush on. By this rate, it's obvious that everyone can see he'd do anything for her.
  • In Hoozuki no Reitetsu, Dakini is the head of the Welcoming Commitee, and inflict Corporal Punishment on her subordinates when they misbehave. The thing is, everyone know this, so the only persons working there are masochist who actually enjoy it and want to be punished. They even thank her when she does so. All in all, things work well because the spanking motivate them to work harder, so Hoozuki leave the situation as it is.
  • Overlord (2012): As punishment for a mind-controlled defection and requiring expensive resources to resurrect, Ainz orders Shalltear Bloodfallen to act as a living chair for him during a meeting. Thing is, Shalltear is incredibly depraved and is soon panting and squirming under him. The trope gets played with, as Ainz was completely aware that would happen, despite his station requiring him to hand out discipline, he feels like the above spoiler was his fault. So he picks something Shalltear won't mind, but that he finds deeply uncomfortable.
  • In Pokémon Generations, Cyrus, the leader of Team Galactic, wakes up in the Distortion World after being stopped by Giratina from messing with Dialga and Palkia. The Distortion World is a dimension void of emotion and a place of nothingness with no one present, but Giratina. Cyrus decides he is content to remain in the Distortion World as he believes it is the perfect world he sought for and informs Team Galactic to not look for him.
  • In Tenchi Muyo!, Ryoko is tortured with electric shock... and apparently finds it arousing.
  • In Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Kanna's parents banished her for pulling pranks, which led to her meeting Kobayashi. Given the fact that the only reason she was pulling pranks was so they'd actually pay attention to her, it's probably the nicest thing they ever did.

  • Bill Cosby's famous "Chocolate Cake for Breakfast" joke, from his stand-up special Himself. Bill's wife wakes him out of a sound and much-desired sleep, at six o'clock in the morning, in order to serve his children breakfast. When his daughter comes down for breakfast, she asks for chocolate cake, which Bill deduces must be healthy, because it has eggs, milk, and wheat in it. When his wife finds out, she flips out and sends Bill back to his room... "which is where I wanted to go in the first place. So you see, we are dumb, but we are not so dumb."
  • Whitney Cummings jokes about how women are actually rewarding their man by giving them the silent treatment, not punishing them.
  • One comic relates the founding of Australia as a penal colony by imitating a griping English criminal who can't believe he's being shipped off to some godforsaken island halfway around the world for stealing a loaf of bread. Then the prison ship passes Bondi Beach, a beautiful stretch of beach that is today one of the most popular and well-known places in Australian to visit. "Lemme get this straight... I steal a loaf of bread, and I get to spend the rest of my life on that beach?" And 200 convicts go, "Hell, yeah!"
    • Bill Hicks did a similar joke. "So I get to stay here, with the shitty food and shitty weather, or go to a tropical paradise? ...I'm Jack the Ripper."
    • Canadian comedian Ryan Belleville as well, doing a bit of Self-Deprecation when he claims Canadians are stupid. Why? Because they descended from the British. And why are the British stupid? Because they came to Canada and decided "Hey, let's live here in this lifeless frozen wasteland while sending our criminals to Australia!"
  • That Mitchell and Webb Sound - Room 102 What happens when people get wise to Room 101 (oh no, don't exploit my crippling fear of beer and intimacy!)
  • British comedian Mark Steel sometimes jokes about the fact that he was expelled from school for truancy, pointing out that the punishment basically amounted to being forced to do more of the thing that earned him the punishment in the first place.

    Comic Books 
  • The Punisher:
    • Frank Castle has said that he doesn't mind being sent to prison when caught by the authorities. After all, there are lots of criminals in prison. And he's repeatedly surrendered to the police so as to get close to an otherwise untouchable criminal. And once to rescue Daredevil.
    • During one notorious Dork Age in the late 1990s, Frank died and became a disincarnate spirit sent by angels to fight supernatural menaces. At the beginning of Garth Ennis's character-rerailing "Welcome Back, Frank" arc, Frank was suddenly human again with no explanation beyond that he "didn't like it" and "told the angels where to stick it". A later issue revealed that from the angels' point of view, Frank pissed them off so badly that as punishment they resurrected him as a normal human being and dumped him back into the blood and filth of a corrupt world... which of course was just what Frank wanted.
  • Fables:
    • Flycatcher, better known to the reader as the Frog Prince, is honor-bound to return to the Homelands and attempt to rescue his wife and child, a Suicide Mission that would almost certainly be pointless as they are probably dead already. To stop this from happening, Sheriff Bigby writes him up for minor infractions— usually violating the masquerade by eating flies in human form— and sentences him to community service in the form of janitorial work. Flycatcher finds this work rewarding and occasionally returns to do it for free even after the need for this informal arrangement is obviated.
    • In one arc, Boy Blue steals the Witching Cloak and the Vorpal Blade to invade the homelands by himself. When he returns safely, with important intelligence for Fabletown, his "punishment" for the theft is to be sent to the farm, where Rose Red just has him help her out with her daily work.
  • Darkseid once appeared in the book Young Justice, where he attempted to turn the ghost-girl Secret into a protege. When this failed, he angrily used his Omega Effects to restore her to life, leaving her a perfectly normal teenaged girl with no powers or abilities. This happened to be exactly what she wanted the most in her (un)life, and she wisely decided not to tell him that.
  • Archie Comics:
    • In a one-shot, Archie's dad sends the teen to his room for some infraction. Fred then realizes that Archie has video games and other toys in his room. The comic ends with Fred playing with Archie's stuff, telling his son to go back to the living room.
    • Another comic had Jughead getting several detentions. It turns out he found being in a quiet classroom a perfect chance to do his homework.
  • Judge Dredd: A museum guard gets laid off (after training his robotic replacement), and the boredom results in him flipping his lid and opening fire on the street with a rifle. (This is noted as very common in Mega-City, due to the 3% employment rate.) Dredd stops him, and sentences him to ten years... in a labor camp. The man is absolutely ecstatic about the chance to work again, and hopes he'll get to do really hard labor, like smashing rocks. Dredd reflects that sometimes, the law can be kind.
  • In The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Shockwave’s Start of Darkness involves the corrupt Senate subjecting him to brainwashing that all but destroyed his emotions as a punishment for speaking against them. In the present day, Shockwave notes with bemusement what a stupid idea for a punishment that was; removing his emotions meant that he was incapable of feeling bad about it, thus defeating the entire purpose. It also caused him to lose any sense of morality or restraint he had before, causing him to help murder the whole Senate in cold blood for his own benefit.

    Comic Strips 
  • In a Bloom County arc, Oliver hacks into the electric company's system and reduces his dad's bill to only a dollar. His dad scolds him, and tells him if he does it again, he'll have no glazed beets at dinner for a month. (Then adds that if he does it to the phone bill, it will be two months.) Of course, he knows that glazed beets make Oliver throw up, as his son quickly notes.
  • Used as a punchline in For Better or for Worse, after April steals one of Elizabeth's bras and uses it as a slingshot to shoot Koosh balls at the dog (which Elly admittedly found amusing), she is sent to her room... and instead of thinking about what she did, takes a nap.
  • In one series of Peanuts summer camp strips, Charlie Brown was called to the head counselor's office; he dreaded why, and hoped they wouldn't make him work in the kitchen and "clean out the grease trap". Instead, the staff said that his name was mentioned in the girl's camp when some commotion broke out; figuring Charlie Brown was a troublemaker, they sent him home early. To be honest, he was glad to leave early, seeing as he never liked camp, and flattered that his name had been mentioned in the girl's camp. "And best of all," he said on the bus home, "I never had to clean out the grease trap!" (In truth, he had never done anything wrong; the true troublemaker was Peppermint Patty, who saw the Little Red Haired Girl who he had a crush on, and felt jealous when she saw how pretty she was, presumably starting the altercation.)
  • Dilbert introduced Wally as an employee doing his best to get fired in order to take advantage of lucrative severance packages. Scott Adams based the character on someone he knew in Real Life that did the same thing.
  • In The Wizard of Id, Spook is given ten days in solitary for trying to escape in this strip. However, it seems the prison has a bit of an overcrowding problem...
  • Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes tried to pull this on his babysitter Rosalyn, tackling Rosalyn while wearing his Stupendous Man outfit (pretending that she's yet another female supervillain), letting her chase him around the perimeter of the house, then sneaking back inside and changing from his mask and cape into pajamas. When Rosalyn finally confronts him, he appears to have been in bed the whole time, denying any knowledge of what "Stupendous Man" did. But even when Rosalyn tells him she knows he is Stupendous Man, Calvin tauntingly points out that she can't punish him anyway, since her punishment is always sending him to bed and he already is in bed. Rosalyn then makes him go downstairs a write a confession of his misdeeds for his parents to read when they return.
  • Garfield: It's so hot that Garfield decides to kick Jon while the latter is watering the flowers. Jon retaliates by hitting him with water, which Garfield liked. Realizing what just happened, Jon kicks Garfield hoping to receive the same retaliation. Garfield instead pulls down Jon's shorts and wraps him with his hose.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • The end of When Duty Calls sees Scarlet Glade being punished for helping her half-siblings. The punishment is suspension and a transfer but since she did a good deed, in practice, it's more like a vacation and a promotion.
  • In Fever Dreams after Light "confesses" to being The Mole for Kira when cornered the taskforce decide it would be best if Light remains under house arrest under L's supervision which of course is exactly what Light wanted.
  • Towards the end of Past Sins the punishment faced by Nyx is being released to the care of Twilight Sparkle, who is charged with seeing that she has a proper foalhood and never again becomes Nightmare Moon, to their absolute delight. Interestingly, there is some opposition to this from those who recognise it as not being any punishment at all.
  • In RealityCheck's Nyxverse, Prince Blueblood's father, Duke Blueblood, is hatching a plan to take over Equestria. Blueblood goes along with it until he realizes to just what lengths his father is willing to go, and assists with exposing him instead. Celestia punishes the Prince for his complicity by assigning him a diplomatic mission to repair the damage done as part of the plot. This is also a reward for his Heel–Face Turn by involving a lot of traveling by ship, which Blueblood loves.
  • In a possible homage to the Albanian fairytale below, the protagonist of the manga A Thousand and One Knights in Wonderland is changed from a woman into a man through a dragon's curse. Which is perfect for him because he has fallen in madly in love with a princess.
  • Duel Nature: Rainbow Dash thinks that Twilight's sentence for her fight with Princess Luna might be this when she learns that Twilight got to read an advance copy of Daring Do and the Spear of the Windigos as part of it.
    “You beat up a Princess and they punish you by letting you read the book I’ve been dying to get my hooves on for nearly a year? If I punched Princess Celestia, like, right now, could I get in on this too?”
  • Happens twice in quick succession in Address Unknown: Derpy is put on probation by the Cloudsdale Mail Delivery Service and demoted to ground delivery in Ponyville. While she initially sees it as humiliating for a pesgasus as its supposed to be, she quickly realises that she's better suited to walking than flying anyway, especially in a storm. Then she gets fired after a few hours in Ponyville, over an accident caused by Twilight, but it frees her up for a permanent position with the Ponyville Postal Service, offered by Post Haste because she was able to finish her rounds well ahead of schedule in spite of the accident.
  • Noir Et Blanc has an instance of this when Harry gets annoyed with the other Gryffindors hounding him when "he'd made it perfectly clear that he didn't feel like associating or being bothered. Now they'd decided to ignore him, as 'punishment'. That didn't bother Harry in the least. He preferred it so."
  • In A Growing Affection, as punishment for not informing Tsunade of Naruto's plan to act out again to get demoted, Hinata is instructed to help Naruto clean the Hokage Monument. Or as Hinata put it: "So my punishment is to spend the morning with you? I think the Hokage might be getting soft."
  • In The Lunaverse, Twilight Sparkle eventually turns herself in to the law for her crimes. Her punishment? House arrest and community service, in Ponyville, as their new librarian. Thus she gets to atone properly to the ponies she had hurt (she rejected the initial sentence of house arrest at her family's estate, as it would just be a long vacation), and she can spend almost all her time reading and studying magic, which she loves.
  • The Wrong Reflection: Due to a Noodle Incident where Eleya "cussed out three ambassadors, a rear admiral, and the Proconsul of the Romulan Republic", Eleya gets a massive black mark on her service record and is told by Admiral Riker that she'll probably never make admiral now. Then the author's note for the chapter goes and quotes Kirk's advice to Picard in Star Trek: Generations, just to drive it home.
    Eleya: Respectfully, sir, can you see me stuck behind a desk directing fleets or running a research office?
    Riker: Mm, no, I can't.
    Eleya: Then I think I'll survive. Sir.
  • Varrick's "punishment" for his actions in Book 2 are elaborated on in Seeking Sato, where it turns out in addition to being pardoned, he has his own company again, with all its profits going towards Kuvira's campaign, which he works for. And it's not like he can't conceal his money under "business expenses".
  • In I Am Not Going Through Puberty Again, Itachi's punishment for committing the Uchiha massacre is being stripped of his ANBU Captain rank and being demoted to Chunin. Justified, since the Hokage decided to make the attempted Uchiha coup public, and thus Itachi's actions were seen under a completely new light. The demotion came because, since he killed his almost entire family, he had to face SOME form of punishment.
  • Due to the Ranma signing the marriage licenses to Ukyō and Shampoo in Ranma: Happenstance Gone Right, he's kicked out of the Tendō home. Even though he now lives out of a tent in a vacant lot, Ranma no longer has to deal with his father or the Tendōs so he's actually much happier; besides, he's used to roughing it after spending most of his life on the road.
  • And The Giant Awoke: Getting sent to the Wall, joining an order of men who are forbidden to marry? No doubt, a horrible punishment for Loras Tyrell!
  • Purple Days: In one of his lives, Joffrey sentences Eddard Stark to a "banishment" to the North, never to return to the capital again.
  • Lady Black, Lord Potter:
    For their reluctance to tell Molly one shred of what happened at their meeting with the goblins after the reading of Sirius' will the twins were sent to their room. This made Harry smirk, because if anything Molly had just encouraged them to do... whatever Fred and George wanted to do, as they valued secrecy.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic "Best Hell Ever", Twilight finds herself in Hell and is condemned to sort and reshelve Hell's library, which has an infinite number of books and shelves. She is also allowed to read any book she chooses.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Shrek, Shrek discovers that his land has been occupied by fairy tale characters who were exiled by Lord Farquaad, and the reclusive ogre wants them all gone ASAP.
    Shrek: Attention, all... fairy tale things. Do not get comfortable! Your welcome is officially worn out! In fact, I'm gonna see this guy Farquaad right now, and get you all off my land and back where you came from!
    [beat; everyone bursts into cheers and applause]
  • At the end of Lilo & Stitch, Stitch's sentence for the havoc he caused is exile to Earth, a punishment chosen very deliberately by the alien councilwoman in order to avoid separating him from his newfound family while still satisfying the law.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Trek:
    • Done deliberately in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Admiral Kirk had stolen the USS Enterprise for an unauthorized mission, and, upon returning in a stolen Klingon Bird of Prey, ended up using it to save Earth from total destruction. The Federation Council notes that he has to be punished for his actions, so they winkingly "demote" him to Captain and give him command of a new ship, knowing full well that's the best way to reward him.
    • Becomes a subvert in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, when this demotion in response to Kirk working outside the bounds of authority becomes key character evidence in a trial to convict him of assassination of the Klingon chancellor.
  • The main character of North by Northwest causes an uproar in the midst of an auction by placing outlandish bids and getting confrontational with anyone who outbids him. Eventually, security is called to escort him out of the building — which is exactly what he wanted, since there were two men in the room who were planning to kill him.
  • Duke from M*A*S*H: "If I nail Hot Lips and slug Hawkeye do I get to go home too?" Subverted, since Burns was punished and went home in a straitjacket. (Maybe Double Subversion, because he was then Kicked Upstairs.)
  • Midway through The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, the main character has a complaint lodged against him for committing an act of Police Brutality against an elderly woman. Until the complaint gets sorted out, he is put on modified assignment and placed in charge of the precinct's evidence room. Since he's a Functional Addict and the evidence room is where seized drugs are stored, this is the equivalent of punishing a small child by locking him inside a candy store.
  • In My Cousin Vinny, the title character hates his hotel accommodations, which include being unable to sleep due to the screeching owl in the tree, and the train outside his window. After being locked up for contempt of court, even with the rowdy prisoners making noise all night, hard-nosed New Jerseyite Vinny sleeps like a baby.
  • Given a passing mention in X-Men: First Class. A prison guard where Alex Summers was staying at the beginning of the film remarks that he's "the only prisoner I've ever seen who actually prefers solitary." Sure enough, when we first see him, Alex is in solitary. A subversion, since Alex doesn't really enjoy solitary, he's trying to stay away from people so he doesn't actually hurt them with the energy blasts that are his mutant power, and which he has great difficulty in controlling.
  • In Coming to America, King Jaffe Joffer is outraged with how Prince Akeem and his servant Semmi have been living in a squalid New York City apartment, and working for a local fast food restaurant. He tells Semmi "You have disgraced yourself, and you must be punished. You will confine yourself to our royal suite at the Waldorf-Astoria, [to Oha] see that he puts on some decent attire, [to female servants] and I want you to bathe him thoroughly.", making Semmi happily say "Oh, thank you, your majesty!", before shamefully lowering his head again.
  • Done in National Security, where a cop is accused of assaulting a black man (he was really swatting a bumblebee, which wasn't visible on a tourist's camcorder) and put in prison. As soon as he arrives in prison to serve his 6-month sentence, he sees every large black prisoner give him the "throat-cut" gesture. A guard holds him and warns him against trying anything, threatening the guy with solitary confinement. Seeing all the angry black prisoners, the guy elbows the guard in the face. Three months later, he is released from solitary. He immediately punches another guard, and goes right back inside.
  • Referenced in Kill Bill 2, when the Bride has been tied up by Budd and refuses to respond when he talks to her. A misogynistic friend of Bud's laughs:
    Ernie: White women call this the "silent treatment". And we let 'em think we don't like it!
  • In the Disproportionate Retribution training film Law Abiding Citizen, Clyde Shelton confesses to a murder because he wants to be imprisoned.
  • In Ever After, King Francis threatens to punish Prince Henry for balking at his Arranged Marriage: "I'll simply deny you the crown and... live forever!" Rebel Prince Henry immediately fires back, "Good. Agreed. I don't want it!" and walks off.
    King Francis: [to Queen Eleanor, in frustration] HE'S YOUR SON!
  • In Zebra in the Kitchen (1965), a boy who works at the zoo is so distraught by the animals' substandard living conditions, that one day he takes the zookeeper's keys and lets all the animals loose. They wander all over town before they can be recovered. But this act of protest did call the town's attention to the deplorable zoo conditions. So the boy's punishment was that he had to do volunteer work at the zoo every day for the rest of the summer, which was clearly what he wanted.
  • In Iron Eagle, the main character manages to "steal" an F-16 fighter plane to rescue his father from a Middle East dictator. The boy's punishment was government appointment to the US Air Force Academy; at the beginning of the movie, his application to the Academy had been rejected because of his high school grades. The government officials were convinced by the boy's friend that, having stolen government property, he needed the discipline the Academy instills.
  • In Sexy Beast, retired safecracker Gal is confronted in Spain by an old comrade-in-arms with an unwanted offer to do One Last Job in London. Things get messy, forcing Gal to go to London to do the job against his wishes. In the end, the chief London gangster finds out what happened in Spain and banishes Gal from London as punishment. Gal can now return to Spain and be left alone, which is what he wanted all along.
  • One of the more famous examples is from Song of the South, in which Bre'r Rabbit manages to escape Bre'r Fox's clutches by pleading with him not to throw him in the briar patch. Of course, the briar patch is Bre'r Rabbit's home, and a place that it would be impossible for Bre'r Fox to get to him from. Johnny, who hears this story from Uncle Remus, later uses a similar ploy against the Favers brothers, begging them not to tell their mother about Ginny giving him her puppy. They do, and get a good thrashing for it.

  • During the Cold War, an underground joke from behind the Iron Curtain ran as follows:
    Person А: Why do we send saboteurs to Siberia, which is part of our socialist paradise, instead of exiling them to the capitalist hell of the West?
    Person Б: Because we could not afford the increase in sabotage.
  • There's this old joke about a man asking for a leave from his boss to accompany his wife to the opera:
    Boss: I'm sorry, John, but this is a busy month. We can't spare anyone.
    John: Thanks, boss, I knew I could count on you!
  • Another joke told of an avid First-Person Shooter (Doom in this version of the joke) gamer who discovers he won't be let into Heaven, but St. Peter grants him a consolation prize of three wishes. His wishes? IDDQD, IDKFA, you can drop me down now. The joke may, however, be interpreted as a subversion — the man was let into Heaven, figuratively speaking; it just hadn't the expected form.

  • In The Baby-Sitters Club, when Mary Anne tries to sneak over to the boys' side and Logan starts a food fight at summer camp, they are punished... by being barred from their least favourite activities.
  • In the short story "Zeepsday" by Gordon R. Dickson, a human is placed on trial in a galactic court for insulting an alien. He is found guilty and sentenced to be "confined" by his fiancée for a year, with all expenses paid by the insulted alien. The judge recommends they spend the year at a very expensive vacation spot.
  • In the short story "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow" by Kurt Vonnegut, a cheap, easily available immortality serum has made the world extremely crowded. At the end, the protagonists end up going to prison — which grants them far more room and privacy than they ever had on the outside.
  • The Conquerors Trilogy: The Zhirrzh Thrr-gilag was punished by the Overclan Prime by being stripped of both his family and clan names. It seemed a punishment until the Overclan Prime explained that Gilag was to start his own clan whose purpose would be to deal with other species, in effect raising the new family to a status almost equal to the Overclan themselves. There's a reason Gilag's main political enemy was absolutely furious....
  • In Love From Your Friend Hannah, the title character is punished for cursing at a bully on the school bus by being forbidden to ride the bus—which she hated doing in the first place.
  • In the Forgotten Realms short story "Reunification (Body & Soul)" by Jeff Grubb (which follows on from his Forgotten Realms comic book) Vartan, a former member of the Realms Master crew who is now an agent of the Elven god Labelas Enoreth, steals from his god in order to save his former captain's life (something Labelas secretly allowed him to do, but couldn't be involved in). His punishment for this transgression is to be banished from the god's presence, i.e. reunited with his friends.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Snape's punishment to Neville, Luna and Ginny for trying to steal Griffindor's sword from Snape's office is... to go to the Forbidden Forest and help Hagrid, their friend. That's all happening when the school is under the Death Eaters' control, corporal punishment is usually used along with crucio curse! Possibly deliberate, considering Snape's true loyalties...
  • In The Inheritance Cycle, the dwarf Orik interferes with the Twins as they try to read the intentions of Eragon and Murtagh on discovering the Varden. When brought before the Varden's leader Ajihad, Ajihad reprimands Orik for interfering and removes him from service to the Varden, thus returning him to the service of Orik's king Hrothgar, but also appointing him as Eragon's guide to their headquarters (located in a dwarven city), now making him exempt from the Varden's rules and above almost every normal member of the Varden when working with Eragon, who lampshades it
    Orik: *grins* That he did, and in such a way that the Twins can't complain about it.
  • Gordon Korman:
    • In Don't Care High, Sheldon and Paul get kicked out of Geography class (the class before lunch) for laughing hysterically at another student's mistake. Sheldon is happy about this because they now have a two-hour lunch break.
    • In "Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag", the protagonists destroy the broken generator and are sent away to a place where they can't mess with it again. The way this is done is by making them win a contest to go to a Greek island, which was their entire goal. Bonus points because another character actually tries to comfort them about it, before they reveal their goal.
  • In The Red Vixen Adventures, Alinadar, a former Child Soldier Space Pirate, is convicted of twenty-eight counts of piracy and sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor. Since it's to be served under the direct supervision of the planetary governor, who is the love of her life, she doesn't mind at all.
  • In the O. Henry story "The Cop and the Anthem" a hobo named Soapy attempts to invoke this, hoping for a relatively warm and safe winter in prison. Despite all his efforts this fails, until he's inspired by organ music to try to change his life. Naturally he's immediately arrested for vagrancy.
  • This is the theme of the novella ''Two-Coloured Eraser". A youngster has been sent to headmaster because of his pranks. He notices a two-coloured eraser on his desk. The headmaster explains one end of the eraser is meant to erase pencil inscription and the other ball-point pen inscriptions. The kid gets interested. The kid is punished by writing hundred times "I shall not make pranks at school" on paper. The headmaster then comes to check him after a hour. The kid describes he wrote fifty-five times with pencil until he broke its tip and then wrote fifty-five times with ball-point pen, and he erased the extras. Everyone is happy...
  • In The Belgariad, Polgara punishes Salmissra, Queen of the Snake Worshipping Nyissans, by turning her into a giant Snake. Upon re-visiting her a couple of years later, it turns out to have worked wonders for her running of the state. Being turned cold-blooded soothed her temper and desires, turned her from a Hot-Blooded The Vamp in a Deadly Decadent Court to a depassionate Queen who rules with an iron fist and who has a pragmatic view on politics. It also immediatly cleansed her mind from the multitude of drugs she was on and her new body were completely detoxed, leaving her sober for the first time in her adult life.
  • Aragorn's judgment of Beregond in The Lord of the Rings. To help save Faramir from his father's madness, Beregond abandoned his post as a member of the Tower Guard during the siege of Minas Tirith, and shed the blood of his comrades on the Rath Dínen when they attempted to force their way past him to carry out Denethor's will, all of which would have earned him a sentence of death in the past. Aragorn instead had the death sentence remitted in recognition of Beregond's valor during the subsequent Battle of the Morannon, and that his actions were out of his love for his Lord. He therefore decrees that Beregond would be removed from the Tower Guard and the City order to take up his post as Captain of the White Guard when Faramir departed to take up his posting as Prince of Ithilien.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Prison Break is basically built on this trope. A main plot point for the first few seasons is that Micheal Scofield attempts bank robbery so that he may go to prison in order to help his brother escape.
  • This trope is called "Alexment" by Justin Russo on Wizards of Waverly Place. This is the way his sister, Alex Russo, generally gets away with things.
  • During the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Trouble With Tribbles", Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott isn't interested in taking shore leave, because he has a bunch of technical journals to catch up on. Kirk specifically "orders" Scotty to go along in order to keep the lower-ranked men from starting trouble with visiting Klingons. Instead, it is Scott himself who starts a brawl with those self-same Klingons. This sparks the following exchange:
    Kirk: Scotty, you're restricted to quarters until further notice.
    Scotty: Yes, sir. [smiling] Thank you, sir! That'll give me a chance to catch up on me technical journals!
    • Note that the punishment is doled out after Scotty informs Kirk that he started the fight to defend the Enterprise's honor while he had previously remained silent while the Klingons were insulting Kirk. Also, Scotty is almost immediately seen back out working again; it's not stated but likely that Kirk realizes how pointless it all is.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Natural Law", Tom Paris was forced to take a spaceship driving test for violating local rules, and was banished from this sector of space for leaving before the test was over to help Voyager; considering that he was planning to leave this sector, that was hardly a punishment for Paris.
  • In the third season of Lexx at one point Kai is malfunctioning due to falling from the top of one of the cities of Fire. He's later captured by the authorities of another city who put him through what will apparently become an extremely long and bureaucratic trial. He then learns that the maximum penalty of the city is to be thrown off the top... which is exactly what Kai needs to repair himself. After unsuccessfully asking them nicely to receive that punishment, they oblige when he uses his grappling hook to put the judge's neck in a choke hold.
  • In the Blackadder Goes Forth episode "Private Plane", Blackadder and Baldrick are captured by the Germans and the Red Baron shows up to tell them they will suffer "a fate worse than a Fate Worse than Death"... being sent to Germany to teach young girls Home Economics. Naturally, Blackadder is thrilled with the thought of being sent away from the trenches and the war. Unfortunately, Lord Flasheart arrives to "rescue" him....
  • In That '70s Show, when Eric is preparing to go to Africa for missionary work, Kitty and Red find out what the gang has been doing in the basement for the past 8 years. Despite their rage, Red is unable to punish Eric because he can't think of anything worse than sending him off to Africa, which Eric was doing of his own volition.
  • An episode of The George Lopez Show involved Max hitting on an attractive house guest. George tells him to go to his room, then decides against it, considering that it wouldn't be a punishment at this point.
  • Married... with Children:
    • Bud is studying to join Oxford but then he meets Marcy's niece Amber and considers her a reason to stay. When Al decides to punish Bud for failing the test, Bud convinces Al to send him to his room (where Amber is waiting for him) as punishment.
    • In another episode Al makes a deal with the devil and when the devil comes to cash in, he tells Al he will be in hell forever and he can never see his family again. Al is euphoric.
  • M*A*S*H: After Hawkeye slugs Frank in the eye, he is placed under house arrest in the Swamp while awaiting a court martial. He enjoys having a break from his duties. The whole camp admires him for standing up to Burns and supports him; the cook even goes out of his way to get him a grilled buffalo steak for dinner and Father Mulcahy even arranges it so that the weekly movie is shown in Hawkeye's tent instead of the Mess Tent so Hawkeye can see it as well. The trope is then neatly subverted when Hawkeye is cleared and Frank is in hot water for supposedly assaulting a woman — he's actually innocent, but no one is interested in making Frank's house arrest pleasant.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Amy pretends to be sick far longer than she's actually ill because Sheldon takes it upon himself to treat her illness, including Vicks chest rubs and bathing her. When he finds out she's been lying, he regretfully informs he has to spank her. She tries her best to hide her excitement.
    Sheldon: Excuse me! You're not supposed to be enjoying this!
    Amy: Then maybe you should spank me harder.
    Sheldon: Maybe I will!
  • In an episode of Roseanne, DJ needs to be punished due to playing a prank on Darlene. The initial suggestion of grounding him is dismissed as this because "he never goes anywhere" anyway. So instead he gets a Cool and Unusual Punishment in having to go to school in a suit and tie.
  • Subverted in The Brady Bunch episode "Confessions, Confessions", where Peter has to assign punishments to his siblings for breaking a vase. Peter actually broke it, but all his siblings confessed to it so Peter wouldn't be grounded from a much-anticipated camping trip. His parents put two and two together, so they made Peter assign punishments as a Batman Gambit to get him to confess himself. So Peter let them pick their own punishments: Jan has to help Mom bake cookies, Marcia would have to take Bobby to the amusement park, and Greg had to take Cindy to a mantinee. The parents, however, pulled rank and replaced the unishments with more appropriate punishments, such as yardwork.
  • In the pilot of Still Standing, Lauren misbehaves, and Bill responds by telling her to go to her room. When Judy reminds Bill she has a TV and a stereo in her room, he then gets wise and tells her to go to his room.
  • In an episode of Bones, Booth only gets a rapper to cooperate with an investigation by promising to put him in jail for a month and charge him with murder. The rapper is ecstatic, while Bones is completely dumbfounded, unable to comprehend the term "street cred".
  • In Cutthroat Kitchen, sabotages are meant to put chefs at a disadvantage. However, some of the sabotages work in the victim's favor because they have gotten an ingredient they were missing. Other times, chefs have nullified the punishment by gaming the auction.
  • Fletcher spends an episode of Porridge just wanting some peace and quiet alone in his cell but being constantly bothered by visitors, including other prisoners, warders and a fact-finding team from the Home Office. When the prison chaplain comes to see him he finally snaps and attacks him. He is brought before the prison Governor... who punishes him with three days' solitary confinement.
  • On Good Eats, the Dungeonmaster has used Alton's credit card to purchase a fancy needling machine. When Alton finds out, he sends the Dungeonmaster to skim the moat. The Dungeonmaster gleefully goes off to do it, with his "lucky straw."
  • Played for laughs on Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell, when Heinrich McNg explains why Senator Jackie Lambie was banned from attending party meetings that she hadn't been coming to anyway.
    Shaun: In retrospect, do you think it was wise not only to demote Ms. Lambie but suspend her from attending any Palmer United meetings?
    Heinrich: We had no choice, Shaun. She hadn't attended the last three party meetings.
    Shaun: Yes, but do you think preventing her from coming to the meetings she wasn't coming to was the most effective form of punishment?
    Heinrich: If she wasn't going to come to the meetings we weren't going to let her stand by and not come to them.
    Dolly: She wasn't coming to them, just 'cause, she wasn't coming to them. Not 'cause you told her not to.
    Heinrich: No she wasn't!
    Dolly: Yes she was! Not! Coming to them! Idiot!
    Heinrich: No, she wasn't not coming to them because she wasn't coming to them, she wasn't coming to them because we said she couldn't.
    Dolly: You can't stop her coming if she's not coming! What are you stopping?
    Heinrich: ...Well we did! And you're an idiot!
  • The Batman episode "The Greatest Mother of Them All" subverted the usual formula of "villains go to jail at the end of the two-parter" by having them get captured toward the end of the first part. One by one Ma Parker and the four other members of her family/gang are easily nabbed, some without even putting up a fight; unfortunately, Batman and Robin aren't suspicious about this. When the gang members are brought before the prison warden in their blues and stripes, they look very helpless and ashamed... until the two "guards" flanking the warden suddenly grin and take their "boss" hostage. All along, Ma Parker had been infiltrating the prison with criminals posing as cops, until the warden had been the only legitimate lawman left; once he was out of the way too, Ma declared herself the new warden and let all the inmates have total run of the place. But when Batman and Robin finally caught on to what was happening (after a "prison trustee" hides a bomb in the Batmobile) and come to investigate, the Parkers temporarily move into jail cells and force the former warden (who is made to look as if he's still in charge) to show them "safely in their cells" to convince the Dynamic Duo that nothing is wrong. So the prison just becomes the Parker gang's new hideout, with them coming and going as they please to commit more robberies, never worrying about getting punished because they're already being "punished". Their ruse is finally discovered during a robbery attempt, when Batman (who can't see their faces because he's coming at them from behind and they're wearing trenchcoats over their prison uniforms) rips the shirt of one of the Parker boys as the gang is escaping and later confirms that the cloth came from the penitentiary.
  • In Supernatural, Crowley makes some changes to Hell after becoming its new king. He noticed that Hell was full of masochists who were Too Kinky to Torture with the usual fare. So he scrapped all of that and replaced them with one giant line that everyone is forced to wait in for eternity. "Nobody likes waiting in line."
  • Played with in The Kicks. "Breakaway" sees Devin getting the standard punishments for the events of "Go Big or Go Home": Two weeks without her phone or laptop, and, because she mouthed off about the previous two, television privileges. She's initially as devastated as you might expect, but by the end of the episode, she decides that she didn't mind being unplugged for a little while. She even declines her parents' offer to return all of the above early.
  • In one episode of Chopped, the remaining chefs have to make a dessert using grits. The show normally forces chefs to make dishes out of ingredients they're not too familiar with, but this time, one of the chefs blurts out, "I love grits!" when he finds a box of the stuff in his basket. Not only did he win that round by a landslide, somehow, the other required ingredients happened to line up exactly with his grandmother's grits recipe, allowing him to cook it exactly the way she would've.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: After it comes out that Hitchcock and Scully stole a bag of money from a crime scene to help an informant, Internal Affairs and Captain Holt try to punish them by sticking them in desk duty for a whole year. Given that this is Hitchcock and Scully, they see it as a reward and even cheer with delight when they receive the “punishment”.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Baby in Dinosaurs. Every time Earl gets mad and throws him into the wall, Baby just yells "AGAIN!"

  • Delay of game infractions in American Football are charged on the offense when they allow the play clock to run out without snapping the ball as a way to prevent a team in the lead to just sit on the ball for huge chunks of time and make the game boring. The penalty is five yards. There are some occasions, though, when a team will intentionally get flagged for delay of game because they want to back up five yards to give their punter more space to punt the ball deep in the "coffin corner" (as close to the opponent's goal line as possible without crossing it - a punted ball that touches the end zone is called as a touchback and the opponent will get the ball at their own 20-yard-line). Usually this is when the offense stalls on their opponent's side of the field but not close enough to try a field goal and the line to gain is too far.
  • The 1993-94 New York Rangers had, amongst their roster, hotshot winger Alexei Kovalev. One game in February saw him stay out on the ice longer than he was supposed to — a hallmark It's All About Me superstar move — so strict disciplinarian coach Mike Keenan forbade him from returning to the bench for the next shift... then the next shift... then the next shift... all the way to the end of the period.note . Apparently, Kovalev concluded exactly the opposite of what Keenan intended and thought that he was being rewarded for good play — and at any rate, he did score a goal in that super-long shift.
  • This is often invoked in sports events, like football. It occurs multiple times that a player is one yellow card away for getting a suspension for the next match, but that following match is actually meaningless. For example in the case of a round robin stage where the team already qualified for the next round, but they still have one match to play in the group. The player deliberately commits a foul that results in a yellow card. The player is then suspended for the next, meaningless, match. After he sits out his suspension he can begin again with a clean slate. However, the governing bodies regularly see through these acts and suspend the player and/or coaches for additional matches due to unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • Minor infractions in Ice Hockey are punished by having the individual offender sit in the penalty box while the opposing team's power play units (five skaters at a time) play against the offending team's penalty kill units (four skaters at a time). How effective that is as a punishment depends greatly on the relative abilities of the power play and penalty kill units.

  • In Hamlet, the title character has a perfect opportunity to kill Claudius, when he finds him praying for forgiveness for his sins, but he does not take it as he fears that Claudius dying shortly after being absolved would send him to Heaven. As a result, Hamlet decides to wait for a time when Claudius is in the middle of some sinful behavior.
  • In the Rodgers and Hammerstein version of Cinderella, when the stepmother tells her to go sit in the corner, she sings a song about how she doesn't mind being told that as nobody bothers her in the corner and she can escape the drudgery of her life through fantasy.

    Video Games 
  • Eddie in Silent Hill 2 may be an example, if you believe the idea that the town calls out to the guilty and punishes them. Two of the other characters are clearly suffering punishment for the things they've done. Eddie is punished by being faced with the visages of all the people who have tormented him throughout his life. Instead of breaking down, he sees this as an opportunity to dish out Disproportionate Retribution against his tormentors, and takes full advantage of it until he finally crosses James Sunderland. Subverted given that Eddie ends up being put down for his bloodlust.
  • Ignus from Planescape: Torment. He was an insane pyromaniac mage who burnt down half of the Hive. His punishment? Being turned into a living conduit for the Elemental Plane of Fire, giving him even better ability to burn stuff. In fact, the only part of the punishment that worked was that it made him so happy that he was content to remain floating in one place in reverie, not causing problems for anyone... Until The Nameless One comes along.
  • League of Legends has a few:
    • Soraka's previous lore involved trying to punish the mercenary alchemist Warwick through a Karmic Transformation, which turned him into a bloodthirsty werewolf. While this seemingly did strip him of his scientific knowledge, he instead had way too much fun using his new form to rip people apart to care. He was already a sadistic monster; she basically gave him the ability to indulge his appetites directly. Their redone lore makes this a bit more of an actual curse, as Warwick will eventually fully become a mindless beast unless he devours Soraka's heart.
    • Cassiopeia was a Noxian spy who specialized in seduction for information, but when she broke an oath of secrecy to a Freljordian diplomat she wound up turning into a Naga. Because of her position as a noble's daughter she faced no shame or shunning from Noxian society, and upon finding out that her new form came with extremely toxic poison and a petrifying glare, the Noxian army gave her a new position as an assassin and eventually a Champion, which is easily one of the greatest honors a Noxian can obtain aside from high military rank. That was before the Retcon. Now her transformation was caused by an Ancient Shuriman security system to much the same effect.
  • Disgaea:
    • In the ending of the first game, Flonne is guilty of helping an army of demons invade heaven, admittedly to bring down a Knight Templar. As punishment, she's turned into a flower. However, if you unlock the Golden Ending (by completely avoiding any ally kills), then she's instead sentenced to be restored, but as a "fallen angel" note . Meaning she can now survive in the Netherworld and stay with Laharl and Etna. However, that was the actual intent of the punishment in the first place. And as of Disgaea 4 the punishment has proven even more mild: she was able to become an angel again after the events of Disgaea Infinite, and is now an archangel.
    • Disgaea 4 also has the characters cross this with Cruel Mercy on the evil Nemo, an Omnicidal Maniac who tried to pull a Redemption Equals Death when he realized how corrupt he'd become. This would have meant the destruction of his soul, and thus the escape of any real punishment for his crimes, so the heroes instead rescue him and kill him normally so he will have to labor in the afterlife as a Prinny. This means he will suffer, but will also have a shot at eventual reincarnation, as there are no sins that can't be paid off eventually. Nemo accepts this as probably the best fate he can possibly hope for.
    • Prinnies that accept their fates, like Nemo, Kurtis or Laharl's mother seem to have this mentality about their punishment. They realize that no matter what kind of evil they have committed, eventually they all can look forward to the Red Moon having to do basically menial tasks, and happily work towards that end. Though since prinnies are treated as slave labour and cheap explosives in the Netherworld, they may take a LOT of time before they begin to think like this.
    • Disgaea 3 takes place in a demonic boarding school where being an "Honor Student" involves cheating, skipping class, bullying other students and so forth. Delinquents on the other hand do their homework, pick up litter, and follow a self-imposed curfew. The worst delinquents in the school, Raspberyl and her friends, are such a nuisance to the faculty that they deal with them the only way they can: making them the first students in the history of the school to graduate. Naturally they are thrilled, as this cements their reputation as legendary delinquents.
    • Sicily in Disgaea Dimension 2 is punished for hurting angels when they try to force her to go back to Celestia, which she deliberately ran away from because she was unhappy there. Her punishment? She's banished from Celestia.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, an Avvar chief's son tries to kill the Herald of Andraste for personal glory and unsurprisingly gets his ass handed to him. The chief, who figures he needs to respond to this somehow, throws a goat at the Inquisition's fortress and explains he really wanted his son to fight the Tevinter Imperium. One of the possible judgements the player can lay upon him is to "exile" the chief and his clan to Tevinter with as many weapons as they can carry. The chief has no problems with this verdict. Neither do your companions; this is one of the few choices in the game that will earn their unanimous approval.
    Movran the Under: My idiot son got me something after all! [walks off laughing]
  • In Super Mario RPG you can sleep as many nights as you like in the ridiculously expensive hotel of Marrymore, but if you don't have the money to pay off your stay you're forced to work off your debt at the hotel. Of course, if you do a good job the tenants will tip you with some rare and otherwise Too Awesome to Use items, making it well worth doing over and over just to stock up.
  • You come across a few black chests in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, each with a being trapped inside, begging to be let out. After you find the key and let it out, it curses you... with a new ability that helps you progress further through the level. It's heavily implied this is intentional because they're the four heroes who sealed up the shadow queen, and were destined to curse whoever opened them to be free, but a thousand year has let them think flexibly on what counts towards towards being a "Curse".
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past features an NPC, who upon being disturbed, punishes Link by halving his magic's power consumption. Meaning you can now use twice as much magic.
    • The Game Boy sequel The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening features the same mechanic for bombs, arrows, and magical powder, him justifying its status as "punishment" by telling you "now look at all that junk you have to carry!". However, at the end, the character lampshades the trope by saying "Take care, see you again." This makes sense, as the entire game is a dream of all the things Link has faced before.
  • Kicks in twice in Dragon Quest VII for Ruff. First, a villain tries to curse the town he was being raised in by turning all the animals into people and all the people into animals. But Ruff was a white wolf, and it turns out he likes humans and wants to be one. Later, that same villain (after being mostly depowered) tries to get revenge on Ruff for defeating him by turning him back into a wolf, but instead he accidentally gives Ruff the ability to speak perfectly (whereas he could only say about three words before). Ruff, who has grown fond of the party at this point, is overjoyed at being able to properly express himself and communicate with his friends.
  • In Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, the Columbine killers naturally wind up in Hell after they commit their shooting rampage and kill themselves. However, being fans of Doom gave the two the skills they needed to take on everything Hell could throw at them, and they proceed to have A Hell of a Time extending their killing spree to The Legions of Hell, in between meeting famous historical figures like John Lennon and Friedrich Nietzsche. By the end, even Satan, the Final Boss, is impressed, and proceeds to make them his minions.
  • Fate/Grand Order's event based on Journey to the West involves the Gorgon Sisters, acting as the Demon Kings, forcing Medusa to take Sanzang's punishment for all of them. Sanzang considers 10,000 push-ups, but decides that Medusa is too strong for that to bother her, and instead sentences her to write a 10,000 page reflective essay on the temple library's scriptures. Your character conspicuously decides not to tell Sanzang that Medusa is a bookworm who would love such a big research project, as well as getting away from her sisters' bullying for a while.

    Visual Novels 
  • In 10 Days with My Devil, it's forbidden for angels and demons to fall in love with humans, or to interfere with their fates as determined by the Fate Database. Haruhito is already on thin ice for a past infraction, for which he's been sentenced to personally collect 10,000 human souls. When during his route he not only fails to complete his sentence but falls in love with the protagonist and manages to circumvent her fated death, the punishment is expected to be much more drastic, and it is: he's stripped of his powers and banished from both the angel and demon realms to live as a mortal. Which leaves him free to be with the protagonist. Haruhito is, unsurprisingly, completely okay with this.
  • Danganronpa's Big Bad Monokuma loves giving punishments to the losers in his killing game. So, rather uniquely, The Ultimate Punishment would be a legitimate and horrifying punishment for anyone else, but Monokuma/Junko Enoshima is a sadomasochist who loves spreading despair and even gets off on suffering despair herself, so when the remaining students unravel her plans, she's all too happy to kill herself in a Rasputinian fashion.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Mustang Sally (a member of the Texas Rangers superhero team) was convicted of aggravated assault on a very litigious (and technically innocent) supervillain. Her sentence was commuted to time served, probation, and a thousand hours of community service as a "civilian adjunct" to the Austin Police Department. In short, she was sentenced to serve as a superhero for the city... which was her job in the first place.
  • Occurs in Worm, when the girls bullying Taylor are given only a two week suspension for an extensive campaign of abuse. Turns out to be subverted for one of them, though that isn't known until it is revealed that one of the bullies is a teen superhero already on probation.
  • A couple of examples from the Not Always series:
    • From Not Always Learning, a fight breaks out over the bullying of a disabled student, and the vice principal has to punish all involved for fighting. The bully is suspended for bullying a disabled student and fighting. The student who fought the bully on behalf of the victim, and won, is assigned to write an essay about winning a fight.
    • From Not Always Related, a family had trained a cat not to jump on counters or meow incessantly for the fancy canned cat food or else he gets sprayed with cool water. One very hot day the house's air conditioner broke, so it was miserable inside and the cat began to act up — the family didn't realize the cat was doing it on purpose for the "punishment" until he started purring.

    Western Animation 
  • In the House of Mouse cartoon Topsy Turvy Town, Mickey and Minnie Mouse are "punished" by the court for breaking the town rules by having to go on a tropical vacation.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Bart is punished for vandalism by being forced to work in the house he vandalized... which turns out to be a burlesque house. He thoroughly enjoys his time there and develops a rapport with the owner.
    • In one Treehouse of Horror episode, Homer sells his soul for a donut and is sent to Hell upon finishing it, where he is subjected to the Ironic Hell of being force fed "all the donuts in the world". Homer's gluttony proves to be too much even for the forces of Hell to handle, as he keeps asking for more donuts even after finishing the lot, leaving the demon who was "torturing" him very frustrated.
      Demon: I don't understand it. James Coco went mad in 15 minutes!
    • In "Marge Be Not Proud", when Bart is caught shoplifting a video game from a supermarket, Homer suggests that Bart be punished by being grounded; no leaving the house, not even for school.
    • Double Subverted in "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson". Bart expects to be told to go to his room, but Homer realizes that's not a punishment and sends him to the garage instead. But then Bart uses this opportunity to steal a riding mower.
    • Also used in "Dead Putting Society". Bart and Todd Flanders end up competing against each other in mini-golf and Homer, always looking for an opportunity to mess with Flanders, makes a side bet: The "father of the boy who doesn't win"note  would have to mow the other's lawn in his wife's best Sunday dress. In the end Bart and Todd both forfeit because the game isn't fun anymore; Ned thinks it's over, but Homer points out that neither boy won, so they both have to go through with the bet. However, Ned actually ends up having fun since it reminds him of his college days, while Homer made an ass of himself for nothing.
    Homer: D'oh! Oh my god, he's enjoying it!
    • In "The Old Man and the Lisa," Lenny is temporarily put in charge of the nuclear plant. Homer makes a bad mistake and Lenny sends him home to think about what he did. He soon forgets what it was and spends the rest of the day watching TV.
    • In "Homer's Odyssey", Bart is being disruptive during a field trip and Mrs. Krabappel punishes him by making him sing "John Henry Was a Steel-Drivin' Man" in front of everyone on the bus. This is intended to humiliate him, but he sings with great enthusiasm and obviously enjoys it, to the point that Mrs. Krabappel has to yell at him three times before he reluctantly stops the song.
    • Used in "Homer the Great", where Homer takes the Stonecutters' Oath, which says that if he violates the organization's trust "may my stomach become bloated and my head be plucked of all but three hairs". Moe interrupts, saying that he thinks Homer should have to take a different oath, but Number 1 insists that "Everyone takes the same oath."
      Moe: 'Cause he's already kind of heavy, you know, and...
  • Played straight, discussed, then invoked in one episode of American Dragon: Jake Long. Near the end of the school year, Jerk Jock Brad pranks the school principal by sending him a cake which, when cut, bursts apart in his face, for which he gets suspended. The main characters discuss the fact that this seems to be a pathetic punishment, because it's no secret Brad didn't like school anyway. This causes Jake Long, who is sick of the responsibilities that come with being the American Dragon, to pull the same prank on the Dragon Council, who punish him by removing his ability to become a dragon for one week.
  • On Dexter's Laboratory, Dad decides to punish Dexter and Dee Dee by sending them to each other's rooms. While it's sheer torture for Dexter, it's the best day ever for Dee Dee, because she gets free rein of the secret lab in Dex's room... or so Dexter thinks. While he's driven insane by paranoia and tears her room apart, she spends most of the time napping. Dexter ends up having to switch living quarters with the dog as punishment. The dog, you guessed it, completely trashes the lab when Dexter doesn't even suspect it.
  • In an episode of Hey Arnold!, Harold is caught stealing from the butcher, Mr. Green, and is forced to work there to learn his lesson. After a while, he loves it and dreams of being a butcher when he gets older. Once his sentence is up, he tries stealing another piece of meat, just so he can get sentenced to work at the butchery again, but Mr. Green doesn't fall for it as he found Harold more trouble than he was worth (Harold had pretty quickly cost more than the ham he stole or the work he would give in accidentally destroyed merchandise). However, when he needed help with his annual meat sale he's forced to accept Harold's, and afterward is so impressed he takes him on as an apprentice.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends:
    • Subverted. To get out of a horrifying dinner called "It" (which basically consists of vomit), Bloo keeps making trouble, expecting to be sent to his room without dinner. Unfortunately, Mr. Harriman is fighting a carrot addiction, and he sends anyone who sees the carrots to their rooms without dinner; Bloo's pranks, including smashing a wrecking ball into the house, actually help Harriman. In the end only Bloo remains and has to eat the dinner. He's even punished for those acts by Frankie by being forced to eat "It".
    • Subverted in the first episode. After getting caught in her scheme to get rid of Bloo for inadvertently ruining her chance of getting adopted by a wealthy family, Dutches hopes that Mr. Harriman will send her away as punishment. However, he realizes that's what she wants, and says she has to stay instead.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Timmy Turner has to brave the "horrifying trials" of the "sadistic" Yugopotamians. Of course, Yugopotamians are Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: The Species, so these trials include walking through a flowery meadow, hugging a teddy bear, and eating chocolate. All of these would be unbearably painful or even fatal to Yugopotamians, but are enjoyable for a human.
  • The Warner Bros. cartoon "Hobo Bobo" entails a small elephant who is tired of carrying logs in the jungle and yearns to be a baseball player in the U.S. He paints himself pink so as to be inconspicuous (he is completely ignored by people who think they must be getting delirium tremens), but he is arrested for causing a panic after his pink paint wears off. The judge sentences Bobo to — working for the local baseball team! As the batboy.
  • Subverted on Bob's Burgers when the family decides to rent out rooms and Louise, wanting her own room back, deliberately gets in trouble in an effort to get sent to her room, but then Linda clarifies that by "Go to your room" she meant the room the family is sharing.
  • When most of the main team in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command are captured by Zurg, his scientists put them in Tailor-Made Prisons that were supposed to both torture them and counter their specific powers: XR has his extendable limbs stretched out to their limit, Booster is stuck in a cell that keeps bouncing him around so he can't break out, and Myra can't phase through the walls because loud sirens keep breaking her focus. Except XR finds the stretching pleasant (like a form of chiropractic therapy), Booster finds the bouncing fun, and Myra just finds the sirens slightly annoying, all of which frustrates Zurg and leads to him calling his torture division incompetent. The planned torture for Myra consisted of making her watch XR and Booster being tortured while she's unable to do anything to help them. Since they don't feel tortured, that plan failed. This is subverted later on in the episode though, as XR's stretching eventually turns incredibly painful while Myra and Booster find their helplessness far less fun when Star Command is about to be destroyed.
  • In an episode of T.U.F.F. Puppy, Snaptrap plans to sink the T.U.F.F. cruise ship by ramming a mobile iceberg (with an all-you can eat salad bar) into it. Larry, however, wants to go to Acapulco, so at one point in the episode, he tries pedaling there instead of the cruise ship. When Snaptrap finds out, he bans Larry from the salad bar. Larry doesn't care, because he doesn't even like salad. This example is also in contrast to the series' running gag of Snaptrap dropping Larry in the shark tank (usually for little to no reason).
  • King of the Hill:
    • The episode "The Son That Got Away" has Bobby (and Connie) disrupting their music class, and Hank decides to punish Bobby by making him clean the rain gutters. He later finds out Bill and Dale took the job from Bobby out of personal satisfaction.
      Bill: You say punishment, I call it funishment.
    • In the same episode, Hank berates Kahn for making Connie mow the lawn, thinking of that as a privilege.
    • Also in the episode where Hank makes Bobby get a job during the summer instead of stay in his room playing video games the entire break. He gets a job working for Strickland and almost gets into a lot of trouble. So after Hank rescues both of them he tells Bobby his punishment for all of this is that he is grounded for the rest of the summer (aka staying in his room). Bobby clearly catches what his father means and thanks him.
    • In another episode, Bobby is punished with summer school because he wrote in his Texas History textbook. Hank is upset, but then he finds out that what Bobby wrote was a speech Hank had given earlier about the Alamo, presenting the bare facts rather than the "pop history" version that depicts the Texans as drunken cowards. Smiling, Hank says that since Bobby has to take summer classes anyway, he might as well skip school the next day and they both take a trip to Six Flags.
    • Averted in the episode "High Anxiety", where Hank allowed Bobby to punish him for accidentally using drugs. Bobby decides to punish Hank by not allowing him to mow the lawn for a week. To almost anyone but Hank this would be an Unishment, but it's a genuine punishment to Hank, who even complains to Bobby that the punishment is too harsh.
  • Chris from Family Guy was once caught with his hand down his pants at school. The principal punished him by ordering him to keep his hand down his pants all week. Boy, what a week that was!
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • Gumball and Darwin throw a bowling ball into the Robinsons' backyard, so Mr. Robinson has them do chores as punishment. Gumball and Darwin do them with gusto, such as raking the leaves, cutting the grass with a nail clipper, and painting his fence repeatedly, which creeps him out.
    • When Nicole assumes Gumball and Darwin have been stealing stuff from around the house, she tells them that they can't come to the museum with the rest of the family, but as it turns out they didn't want to anyway.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb special "Summer Belongs to You", Buford tries to invoke this trope, citing that he will eat a bug if he loses the bet. Phineas quickly points out that Bufford would eat a bug if they merely asked, and he refuses to accept their counter-suggestion unless it also includes eating a bug.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Ghoul Fools", Patrick gets sent to an Ironic Hell where he has a talking donut on his head that he can't eat because when he tries to grab it, it makes the top of his head grow so the donut is out of his reach. Patrick complains that it's a plain donut and makes it turn into different flavors, then asks for it to turn into a stack of pancakes then a Krabby Patty before deciding he wants a plain donut again, leading to the donut's Big "NO!".
  • South Park:
    • The episode "Here Comes the Neighborhood" had an influx of rich (black) people moving into the town causing most of the native poor (white) people to resent their presence to the point that they passed laws forbidding rich people from mingling with poor people. Much of the episode was actually a subversion, since the rich people were outraged that they were excluded from South Park's blue-collar lifestyle. But on at least one occasion it was played straight: poor people at the back of a bus object to Bill Cosby and his kids sitting down next to them, and the passengers make them sit in the front in much more comfortable chairs. They obey, and then a passenger tries to taunt Cosby by sarcastically remarking how pleasant it must be sitting up there - only for Cosby to sincerely tell him that, yes, in fact, it is.
    • In several episodes, Saddam Hussein is shown to be way too comfortable and happy in Hell, and is even in a sexual relationship with Satan himself. Both Satan and God realize that he's not getting punished as is intended, and the two eventually cooperate to give him a fitting punishment: he's sent to Heaven instead, which is full of people who constantly rope Saddam into social activities he considers boring, making this an Inverted Trope too.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • "Lock-Up" has a particularly ironic example, perhaps even a subverted inversion: Former Arkham Asylum guard Lyle Bolton becomes the psychotic vigilante Lock-Up because he believes that the criminals confined there are not being punished harshly enough. After he starts terrorizing non-criminals too (because they are too "sympathetic" to the criminals), he is straitjacketed and put in a cell in Arkham among all the inmates for whom he has such contempt. But Lock-Up is happy about this punishment, because now he can keep an eye on all the lunatics 24 hours a day — blind to the fact that he is now one of them, and that if any of them escape, he will be helpless to do anything about it.
    • In "Fire from Olympus", Maxie Zeus perceives his incarceration in Arkham as "coming home" to Olympus, interpreting his glimpses of Poison Ivy, the Joker, and Two-Face as Demeter, Hermes, and Janus.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Snips and Snails "punishment" for luring an Ursa, a massive Eldritch Abomination bear, into town to see if Trixie can actually back up her claims of having defeated one in the past is to get given mustaches from Twilight Sparkle. This and how Trixie was blamed for the incident (and lost her home to boot) played a huge role in making the audience so vocally loathe Snips and Snails and swiftly sympathize with Trixie that an entire episode was devoted to Trixie showing up corrupted by an Artifact of Doom to take vengeance on Ponyville (especially tormenting Snips and Snails) and ultimately leave on more or less good terms.
    • Starlight Glimmer's punishment for her actions is to be made Twilight Sparkle's personal student. However, the Mane Six acknowledge that she is too dangerous and unstable to be left unattended and that her magic power (which may even be on par or stronger than Twilight's own) can be a great benefit to Equestria. It helps that she saw what her actions may lead to, and didn't like it.
  • A case of this happens in The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries in the episode "A Good Nephew Is Hard to Find". After Granny's nephew Paul Freleng is found out as being behind the Kaiju sightings, he is sentenced to 200 hours of community service working as a costumed carnival mascot. He ends up enjoying it so much that he signs up for even more hours of community service.
  • In the "Let's Play Teachers" episode of Kaeloo, Stumpy tries to get Kaeloo, who is playing the teacher, to send him Standing in the Hall, after Mr. Cat notes that only a teacher can be stupid enough to think that being expelled from class is a punishment. Kaeloo decides to give Stumpy lines to write instead.
  • In the Johnny Test episode "Johnny of the Jungle", when Hugh refuses to let Johnny go on a field trip to the zoo at night, Johnny graffitis one of the walls of the house so Hugh would get angry and send him to his room for the rest of the night, allowing Johnny to sneak out and go to the zoo without Hugh checking on him. Johnny then had to get home before the sun would come up and Hugh would see that Johnny has replaced himself in bed with an inflatable decoy.
  • The Loud House: This is what kicks off the plot for the episode "Rita Her Rights". Rita Loud is sentenced to do community service, namely picking up trash in the park, after getting too many traffic tickets. But she finds her stay at the park much more relaxing than being at home, and thus keeps committing small crimes to get more community service.
  • Francine and Binky attempt to invoke this in the Arthur episode "Desk Wars" by trying to get Arthur to argue with them so Mr. Ratburn will split them up and someone will be moved to Brain's empty desk, which is right in front of the fan on a very hot day and which Brain's fitted with a solar-powered supplies dispenser. Subverted when Arthur protests that he likes his desk and doesn't want to argue with them, making Mr. Ratburn send Arthur to Brain's desk. Arthur's not happy about this, especially after Binky moves to his own desk and sweats on in.

    Real Life 
  • Several recent parenting books mention that sending kids to their room isn't so much of a punishment as it used to be. When kids had little in their rooms except a desk and a bed, their rooms were boring, but nowadays kids might have a computer with internet, smartphones, game systems, and numerous other diversions. The only way to truly punish a kid now is to completely take away access to any form of modern technology (and with how plugged in most rooms are these days, you have to wonder if it's more punishment for the kid or the parent)... or send them outside. Granted, this would be more effective in a small village where there really isn't anything interesting.
  • In a similar vein, a kid who behaves obnoxiously during dinner will often be told by a parent to leave the table. The kid was likely behaving badly because they didn't want to be at the table in the first place.
  • And then there's the "punishment" for kids who hate school — misbehaving can lead to suspension, which means time away from school. This is why a number of schools have in-school suspensions — effectively, detention by another name but all-day long. However, this can still be Unishment for some because it means they're out of class all day and while they may be given work, they may not exactly be forced to do it. In fact, most ISS teachers really don't care what the students do as long as they're quiet and don't use electronics. Students sometimes even go for this intentionally if they are antisocial or unable to concentrate in a crowd, and so will be given a day of peace to focus on their schoolwork.
  • Played desperately straight with the (US) prison system. Some people simply cannot succeed outside of prison, so they keep doing illegal things. This is a major theme in The Shawshank Redemption.
  • One American school required violators of dress code to wear prison jumpsuits. As you might have expected, many students deliberately violated the dress code just so they could wear these prison jumpsuits.
    "I don't think that jumpsuits are going to work, because my friends actually, instead of it being a punishment, they'll see it as an opportunity to be like, rebels," said Meredith, who also isn't sure whether his hair, dyed bright fire-engine red, will pass muster. "I don't think there's going to be enough jumpsuits for everyone in the school."
  • In many schools, students will purposefully violate the dress code just to be sent home early. As one could imagine, this is especially Unishment for high school students, mainly juniors and seniors, as they likely can just go home themselves and don't need their parents to pick them up. Some schools attempt to avert this trope by instead requiring violators to wear a set of school-supplied clothes kept in the office.
  • Similarly, some students intentionally get suspended because they dislike being in school and see suspension as an opportunity to be excused from school while causing mischief. In-school suspension seeks to avert this trope by having kids come to the school during breaks or weekends. Also, some kids will get kicked out of extra-curricular activities intentionally if they no longer want to be part of the activity but are forced to continue being involved.
  • Many Real Life prisoners prefer to spend their entire sentence (sometimes decades) in solitary confinement because it's safer than mixing with the other prisoners. Continually violating the prison rules will achieve this.
  • Drug lord Pablo Escobar arranged to serve his prison sentence in a prison he was allowed to design himself and staff with his own guards. Since he was able to run his criminal enterprise from in there and it actually served to protect him from assassins, he probably didn't mind too much. Eventually the authorities declared he had to go to a regular facility after he brought some people into his prison to be killed, and Escobar became a fugitive by just walking out the back door.
  • Often when an adult punishes two children equally ("You're as bad as each other!"), the instigator gets just what they want: to see the other child get in trouble and isolate them from their support mechanism, at the "cost" of a punishment that they themselves are too thick-skinned to take seriously. The fact that the adult often knows the children are bully and victim, and punishes them both to avoid losing face (by avoiding having to admit their personal failure or inability to prevent the bullying), rubs salt into the wound. This is also a similar case in schools where zero tolerance polices are enforced by punishing two students that get into a fight, regardless of the circumstances. Bullies that really hate someone will try to provoke their victim into fighting them so that the school punishes them for fighting. This can take a turn for the worse if the victim also realizes that they'll be punished no matter what and will have little reason to hold back.
  • Australia began as a penal colony to remove cons from England's crowded prisons. However, as featured in Great Expectations, if you survived your sentence (which was far from guaranteed) then it was quite possible to become very wealthy indeed from the abundant mineral resources and cheap grazing land. And public outcry eventually mitigated the worst excesses of neglect and brutality in Transportation, to the point where inmates travelling to Australia on a Prison Transport were less likely to die at sea than paying passengers; the shipping lines were paid per living prisoner, on arrival.
  • The founding principle of Mahatma Gandhi's program of non-violent resistance, Satyagraha, is that the best way to defeat an unjust law is to break it, and then insist on being punished for it, as the forces behind the unjust law and the public that supports them will then have their noses rubbed in just how unjust it is.
  • In March 2014, Utah resident Andrew Wilcox lost a bet to his brother, and had to dance on a busy street intersection for 30 minutes to whatever music his brother chose. He quickly started a dance party which became an internet sensation and got a date out of it. Read about it here.
  • At some speeches about Autism, a few speakers mentioned being told to go stand in the hall because they were being a disruption. They actually used this as an opportunity to relax. Somewhat subverted in that being told to stand in the hall (or sit in another room) isn't always intended as a punishment — sometimes they just need a bit of time to cool down.
  • Some political criminals of the German Democratic Republic were punished by forcing them to move to West Germany. As a matter of fact, most political prisoners in the GDR were "bought" by West Germany to be released into the West. The GDR was desperate enough for hard currency to ignore the political ramifications of this and West Germany knew enough about East German prisons to want to spare political prisoners that fate. Depending on the decade, this trope was subverted — if Russia felt like it, then the order of the day was to send political criminals to the Gulags in Siberia.
  • Radical labor leader Eugene V. Debs spent much of his incarceration in the prison library reading socialist literature — guaranteeing that once he was released, he would be even more radical.
  • Many small-time criminals in Depression-era America actually looked forward to jail, since it offered them some measure of employment, as well as guaranteed square meals and a relatively comfortable place to sleep ("three hots and a cot").
  • In certain countries, homeless people will often commit small crimes every now and then (especially in winter) to be put into a police cell for the night where it's warm and dry. In a similar vein, some homeless people injure themselves badly on purpose to end up in a hospital for the night.
  • Being fired from a job you hate may be this. Some people even purposely mess up or slack off at work, just so that they'll be fired.
  • In past times, when homosexuality was actually a criminal act, it carried a jail sentence — locking up the perpretrator with a lot of sex-starved people of their own gender!
  • "Punishments" in BDSM are this by design.
  • If you get into an Internet fight with a stranger on social media, being blocked can be seen as a badge of honor, or for the particularly unscrupulous, a Victory by Endurance. Being put on a politically motivated block list carries similar connotations, and can additionally provide a reprieve from having to interact with the block list's target audience.
  • There was a boycott of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 in which the boycotters went around buying as many copies of other Sonic games as possible. Naturally, Sega's financial department wasn't complaining.
  • In the late New Tens, a new, impressively ineffective boycott strategy was devised: buying the item in question in bulk in order to destroy it, usually on a stream not many people actually watch. The issue is that the company making the product doesn't really care what you do with it once they have your money. As a case study, when Ethan Van Sciver bought a whole crate of die-cast Rose Tico action figures to destroy them in order to complain about The Last Jedi, Disney's money people could not give less of a shit whether he intended to give them away as Christmas presents, paint them green and stick them up his nose, boil them up with peas and carrots or, as actually happened, attempt to cut them in half with scissors, fail because they were clearly marked as die-cast, and have to break out heavier equipment; all they cared about was the bit where he bought a whole crate of Rose Tico action figures.
    • Something similar occurred to The Beatles after John Lennon's infamous "bigger than Jesus" comments; outraged, hordes of outraged Christian fundamentalists organised mass burnings of Beatles records and merchandise. Except, of course, they would have had to buy them first in order to burn them, meaning that as Lennon and the other Beatles would later archly note, it wasn't quite the punishment to them it may have seemed.

Alternative Title(s): The Unishment