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Victimized Bystander

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"Delirium's driving warrants attention from a highway patrol officer, who scolds and angers her. She punishes him by inflicting hallucinations upon him: 'I think you'll have invisible insects all over you now for all your life and for ever and always.'"

Victimized Bystander is an Umbrella Trope that can be divided in 3 types:

Type I

  • Broken Bystander (or Scarred Bystander): This is a bystander who suffers a traumatic experience because of the main plot; usually these characters are nameless and rarely mentioned. Example: The Matrix has a little girl whose mother morphs into Agent Smith to her astonishment.

Type II

  • Victimized Bystander: This bystander is usually used for comical or exemplified purposes: their cars will explode, houses wrecked or they will be assaulted. Quintessential example of that is the Cabbage Man from Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's a Running Gag that the Gaang will somehow cause his cabbage cart to get destroyed and he'll scream "MY CABBAGES!". His life might not be ruined forever, but his livelihood is ruined for at least the rest of the day

Type III

Victimized Bystanders are bystanders who mostly will be chosen at random to suffer for an action usually not punishable. When they're just doing their duty, these replaceable minor characters' entire lives will be ruined. The latter can be described as a form of Disproportionate Retribution. Type III is named after Capri Sun's commercials concerning the Disrespectoids where the victims are never mentioned again.

In case of some the bystanders will never be able to speak, see, hear or do anything again. In case of the others, they must now live without teeth. In more common cases, they are crippled for the rest of their lives. And for what? Five seconds of mild comedy?

Explained: Someone's life is ruined so the protagonists can move further in the storyline and the unfortunate associates of either good, evil, or neutral suffer off-screen.

This trope manifests when a (often a minor) character's life is ruined in a few seconds and never mentioned again. Opposite this trope is when a character wins the lottery and is also never mentioned again (or anything in that direction.).

But in particular this trope is reflected in Capri Sun's Disrespectoids' commercials since the children who turn into the disrespectoids are (instantly) faced with ridicule and laughter, while there isn't a single plot line which undoes the spell (more like a curse). This is often associated with Fridge Horror, but it happens often enough to recall it a million times. This trope can be applied a lot to victims of Mind Control, since (usually due to The Masquerade) no one will ever know the person wasn't acting of their own free will.

The most fundamental differences between the types are: Type 1 only sees a traumatic experience. Type 2 suffers a comical accident. Type 3 is permanently damaged for the rest of his/her life.

Compare Offscreen Inertia and What Happened to the Mouse?


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  • Axe's chocostein used an Axe product and turned into a chocolate monster unable to express himself, not even when women start literally eating him.
  • The Disrespectoids in Capri Sun's commercial campaign often found themselves at the bad end of this trope.
  • In one of the early American Nintendo DS commercials, the protagonist is laughed at by fellow students in the showers. The protagonist responds by shrinking their reproductive organs. Later in the same commercial he drags an airplane across the sky to draw a heart. However, the plane sticks to his finger, shrinking it in the process. As he attempts to shake it off we see a shot from inside the cockpit of one pilot projectile vomiting on his co-pilot and an air stewardess. The ad ends with the pair walking away, the plane still attached to his fingertip.
  • In the online version of the Nintendo DS commercials, the site contains a mini-game where you must go into a movie theatre to test your DS Powers, but first you must shrink the afro of the gentleman blocking the view. Imagine his reaction after you've ruined his time at the theatre by constantly moving the movie, and his initial reaction to the loss of his hair, which he might've spent his entire life working on.
  • In a Dutch commercial about Greek cuisine somewhere in the early (20)00s, there was a woman cooking Greek food for her family. Her son tries to taste a piece of meat. Before he can eat it, she turns him into an ancient Greek statue. Later, when they all gather around the table to eat, he is not present, which makes the viewers believe that he'll be a statue for eternity.
  • A commercial for Turkish chips depicts three guys on the beach who discover that their snacks have the power to suck in and shrink people. One of the guys uses it to suck in a poor woman, who he then promptly devours. They then try to repeat the process with a lady on a boat, but just as she is about to be eaten she is saved by a group of women who get the guys back by doing the same to them.
  • Three jealous women try to court the attention of a guy at a party in this bubble gum commercial. When he decides to divert his attention to another woman, they get back at her by inflating her behind to a ludicrous degree. Cue her falling over due to the added weight, shooting a terrified look at the guy.
  • The Jackass-inspired series of adverts for Ratchet & Clank that ran from the mid-to-late 2000s absolutely reveled in this trope. Each advert showcased a bunch of young boys using a weapon from the series of games, always to disastrous results:
    • Three guys attempt to use a Sheepinator on a cat. The cat jumps away from the beam, causing it to hit a woman who just happened to be walking into the garden. After she's turned into a sheep, one of them yells, clearly distressed, "Dude, that's my mom!"
    • A guy gets shot with a weapon that turns him into a chicken. While his friends try to catch their scared chicken friend, one comments that they may not be able to turn him back into a human.
    • Two guys turn their friend's girlfriend into a cow while the pair is kissing.
    • A shrink ray is used so that a guy can sneak in to the girls' tent unnoticed. When the miniaturized guy makes a run for the tent, an owl dives down and grabs him, causing him to scream in pain while the owl carries him away into the trees.
    • While testing out the Gravity Boots, a guy gets catapulted into the sky. His friends on the ground try to reverse the effect to no avail, at which point one of them notices that a plane is flying directly above them.
    • One of the more sadistic ones features a bunch of kids playing with a decoy blow-up doll made to look like one of them. They place it on a riding lawnmower and push it into the road, causing one of their mothers to hit it straight on, believing she just ran over her own son.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Parasyte one of the parasites turned a boy's right arm into a giant penis after he offered to show her an animal.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Atem (Yami-Yugi) punishes people who lose at his shadow games with life-long delusions.
    • Though since Kaiba was subjected to one of these early on and recovered, apparently they aren't permanent.

    Comic Books 
  • The Sandman (1989): In the story "Brief Lives", Delirium gives a highway patrolman the permanent delusion that he is covered in stinging insects as "punishment" for pulling her over for very reckless driving. It is outright stated that he'll be suffering this delusion for the rest of his life.
  • In X-Men, we get a clue of just how badly Mikhail Rasputin's mind has cracked when a teenager on a bike crashes into him in the street and gets thrown into a tree (and judging by what the tree looks like, he might still be conscious). The boy receives no help as the other characters never find out about it. As far as we know, he is still there.


    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Iron Man 2, when Tony Stark was in court, he claimed that foreign nations and business competitors are decades away from successfully recreating his achievements, and that the armor is in fact his own property. He did this by showing video clips of their (the competition's) failures. One of these had Hammer testing his own suit, with a man in the iron suit, spinning the torso 360° while the legs remained still. Hammer noted later that the pilot survived.
  • In The Man with the Golden Gun Sheriff Pepper (from the previous film Live and Let Die) just happens to be vacationing in Thailand when Bond shows up and carjacks him (while he's still inside), ultimately crashing his car into a display window.
  • In Men in Black II, it's implied the video store guy murders his mother after being neuralized by the protagonists and misinterpreting their commands.
  • The "Very Unimportant Person" in Ocean's Thirteen has one of the worst nights of his life just because he was doing his job — reviewing the antagonist's hotel while Danny Ocean's gang was working multiple cons to ensure its opening would be disastrous. At least after harassing him, humiliating him, and making him physically ill, this trope is later averted when they fix a slot machine so he wins an 11 million dollar jackpot.
  • In Pulp Fiction after Butch runs him over a disoriented Marsellus Wallace starts shooting wildly into the crowd around Butch's wrecked car, missing Butch but hitting an innocent bystander who falls to the ground screaming.
  • In Son of the Mask, the neighbor's head was transformed into a giant nose. This was because the god Loki thought her to be nosy. She was later demonstrated to the protagonist's wife as an example to confirm his stories: Norse mythology being real and their son the product of a Mask.
  • Freebie and the Bean: Dozens of bystanders are injured or killed during the film's wildly destructive chase scenes. Probably the biggest example is when the villain drives through a parade and knocks over a bunch of marchers, none of whom are shown or mentioned after that scene.

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The four bratty children who suffer for their misbehavior in the factory survive, but with "reminders" of their mistakes. Augustus is thin as a rail from being squeezed through the pipes, Violet is purple, Veruca is covered in garbage, and Mike is a 10-foot giant (the end result of being put through a taffy puller to de-shrink him).

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Angel, there was a man who could turn any man he touched into a woman-beating and murdering psycho. At the beginning of the episode, he caused some man to murder his wife. He was apparently arrested by the police, and never discussed again.
  • An episode of CSI: NY played with this idea. It featured a fat woman at a basketball game who was chosen to try to shoot a basket from half court as part of a promotion. An obnoxious heckler started mocking her for her weight. Because the incident was televised, she became an object of ridicule around the city, her boyfriend broke up with her, and complete strangers would come up to her on the street and tell her to eat a salad. Unlike in most cases, however, she wasn't forgotten; the episode was about the Disproportionate Retribution she brought on the heckler.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis", the Gang, repeatedly and unknowingly, hit this one guy's car, eventually totaling it and sending it into flames. This is then promptly lampshaded when the guy goes mad from his misfortune—though our leads, being Jerkasses, fail to notice or care.
  • In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the title character was confronted by a security guard while going to a rock concert with a few of her friends. When the guard couldn't let them in, Sabrina cast a spell that caused his teeth to fall out. The guard noticed and ran off.
  • The final episode of Seinfeld played with this by having everyone whom the main characters had ever wronged track them down and see justice done.
  • On Warehouse 13, there are many artifacts that control a person, usually causing them to try to murder people. After an artifact is neutralized, they are usually freed from its control. It's rarely discussed whether they end up in jail for the rest of their lives because they happened to own an evil antique.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Daigo first uses his vampiric blood to transform a Disposable Vagrant into a monster, then has it kill a civilian and his dog simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It shows how much the advent of his powers has pushed Daigo over to the dark side.

    Video Games 
  • Starcraft II: In Heart of the Swarm, it's possible to destroy a car. A Marine will exit the nearby house and exclaim "My car, man, I just paid that thing off!". In Legacy of the Void, you can destroy another car... and the same Marine pops out and says "My car, man, why does this keep happening!?!"

  • The people who end up on minus's bad side in early minus. strips.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In May the Best Stan Win, Stan gets into a fight with his future self at Hershey Park. During their fight they knock a fat German boy named Augustus into a chocolate river. At the end of the episode the boys lifeless body is shown stuck in a tube of liquified chocolate.
    Augustus' Mother: <sobbing> Augustus is dead!
  • In Family Guy during the episode where Joe is introduced, a baseball player tastes joke gum that makes him addicted to heroin. After he laughed at the joke, he realises that he's feeling a cold chill.
  • In Gargoyles, New York City and all its inhabitants are turned to stone and many people are smashed, including one woman who had her arms smashed off, with their apparent deaths never acknowledged.
  • Noveltoons: In Out of This Whirl a motorcycle cop pulls over a suburban housewife to write her a speeding ticket. Said housewife is spending the day with a Martian who does not take kindly to this interruption. The Martian uses his ray gun to shrink the officer down to a tiny size. Once he's been miniaturized to the point he can no longer operate his motorcycle, the housewife and Martian drive off leaving the hapless patrolman behind to spend the rest of his life the size of a mouse.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • Abracadaver, of the episode of the same name, is seen transforming people into cards, saw-boxes, and trees. He also generates giant saws on skyscrapers. It gets worse when you realize none of the above (excluding the saws) get undone, yet people just happily laugh after the magical zombie magician is locked back in his Iron Maiden.
    • The girls tend to cause a large amount of collateral damage as part of their heroing. It's actually mentioned once in "Town and Out" when the girls move to a different city and they blow up a bridge to stop some bank robbers from escaping and are treated as criminals as they caused at least thousands of dollars in damages along with causing traffic problems for years all for a pair of bank robbers that stole at most hundreds of dollars.
  • The Simpsons: In "Fraudcast News", Squeaky-Voiced Teen accidentally crushes a man when attempting to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. The man's girlfriend, who he had just been making out with, makes Squeaky-Voiced Teen her new boyfriend.
  • One episode of South Park had a conflict between the recurring Goth Kids, Vampire Kids and Emo Kids, only for everything to turn out to have been part of a TV prank show involving a supposedly-haunted greenhouse, and none of the groups were actually the intended target of the prank (and the TV producers get away with this). The goth, vampire and emo kids are rather confused by what happened.