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Worrying for the Wrong Reason

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Butch: Alright. I'll jump first.
Sundance: No.
Butch: Then you jump first.
Sundance: No, I said.
Butch: What's the matter with you?!
Sundance: I can't swim!
(Butch starts laughing hysterically)
Butch: Are you crazy?! The fall will probably kill you!

One character expresses some concern about a situation. Another character corrects them, telling them what they should really be worried about. Not to be confused with Skewed Priorities, which is about being disproportionately concerned over something comparatively trivial, or with It's All About Me, which is about putting one's own interests ahead of everyone else's. This trope is about a character who has a legitimate fear that is then replaced with another, legitimate fear.

A subtrope of Right for the Wrong Reasons, and related to False Reassurance. See also Morton's Fork and Assurance Backfire.


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  • This Castlemaine XXXX advert.
    First fisherman: There aren't any sharks in here, are there?
    Second fisherman: Nah. Crocodiles ate all the sharks.

    Comic Books 
  • The Killing Joke ends with the Joker telling Batman a joke based around this trope: Two crazy guys break out of a Bedlam House and plan to escape by jumping to the roof a nearby building. One makes the jump, but the other fears that he'll fall. The first man tries to help by shining a flashlight across the gap and telling his friend use the beam of light as a bridge. The second man responds "What do think I am? Crazy? You'd turn it off when I was halfway across!". The entire joke is clearly a metaphor on Joker's part for his relationship with Batman; Batman is insane but somewhat functional and tries futilely to help people like Joker who cannot safely function in society.
  • The Ultimates: The Chitauri have decided that there is no more time to try to assimilate earth: it has to be destroyed in a single explosion instead. Herr Kleiser is sad about the loss... he was about to consume and replace the Wasp, but now he will never be able to experience the female human form.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Outside, an agoraphobic Satsuki does have reasons to think that the world outside of her house is dangerous but she doesn't consider what can make outside world dangerous (to list a few, car accidentsnote , diseasenote  or peoplenote ), let alone, that being confined indoors has its own dangers.
  • After Apophis' throne world is attacked in The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor, his son Klorel is warned by the Jaffa that he has to leave immediately as he's in danger. Klorel believes it's because his father is finished politically after the attack, his failure to destroy Earth, and the failed invasion of the Celestial Empire. The real danger is that the millions of human slaves on the planet witnessed thousands of Goa'uld deaths and realized they're not gods, inciting them to rebel en masse.
  • Owen Grady gets sick of hearing calls for his raptors to wear muzzles in Tainted, citing that their claws are more dangerous and a muzzle just means they can't eat you after killing you.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Care Bears Movie, a couple of kids and a couple of Care Bears are stuck in a tree and afraid of falling when Friend points out that they should be more afraid of the lion that's climbing up for them. (Fortunately, the lion turns out to be friendly and just wanted to help.)

    Films — Live-Action 

  • When the Animorphs find themselves on a cliff on the meteor-wrecked Hork-Bajir planet, they notice the planet's molten core far below them. One character worries about the possibility of falling into the magma. Ax says that this won't happen — if they fell, they'd be vaporized by the heat long before they reached it. Similarly, when Ax tells the group about how their excess mass is extruded out into Zero-Space when they morph something small, they begin to worry about the possibility that a ship passing through Z-Space might splatter their mass across its hull. Ax reassures them that such a thing would be impossible- their mass would be disintegrated by the ship's shields first.
  • Belisarius Series: Belisarius' popularity made Justinian so nervous that Irene hinted that Belisarius would actually be safer on a long and dangerous fact-finding trip to India. He didn't notice the Malwa conspiracy.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when Augustus Gloop falls into the chocolate river and gets sucked up a giant pipe, his parents express fear that he'll be made into marshmallows, and Mr. Wonka tells them not to worry... because that pipe goes to the fudge room, not the marshmallow room.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Last Continent, there are very few poisonous snakes in XXXX... because most of them have been eaten by the spiders.
    • In Going Postal, Moist is relieved to hear that a dangerous pass has very little bandit activity nowadays. Then he's told that isn't good news because "We still don't know what killed them".
    • Making Money introduces the drink Splot, a sort of Klatchian Coffee. People are often reassured when they hear Splot is nonalchoholic...until they're told it's because "alcohol wouldn't survive."
  • The Mote in God's Eye: As MacArthur travels through the outer layers of a red supergiant star, Dr. Buckman comments that if the Langston Field collapses, "it'll ruin everything" — referring to the loss of his data, not the destruction of the ship and the deaths of all aboard including himself.
  • New Jedi Order: In Traitor Nom Anor panics about the possibility being executed by Warmaster Lah if Jacen manages to destroy their worldship after he escapes confinement and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Vergere wryly calls Nom an optimist for assuming that they'll survive Jacen's rampage itself.
  • Deliberately invoked by the supervillain Phanthro in Relativity to taunt the heroes: He has them trapped in an abandoned coal mine, with a (sort of) nuclear reactor in an adjacent room which will eventually explode and destroy the city. But they don't need to worry about that — the reactor is generating intense heat and they'll burn to death long before the explosion.
  • Rise of the Elgen: During the trip to infiltrate the Peruvian compound, Zeus refuses to get on a boat, telling their guide that if he fell into the water, his electrical powers would kill him. The man starts laughing, making Zeus angry, but then explains his outburst: he's not making light of what Zeus said, but this is the Amazon. If he fell in the water, caimans, anacondas, or piranhas would kill him even if the electricity didn't.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Pangs", Xander is in a panic because he has been cursed with a host of diseases. He's most stressed about the syphilis. Anya says comfortingly:
    Anya: It'll make you blind and insane, but it won't kill you. The smallpox will.
  • Criminal Minds "The Bunker": JJ and Reid are searching a doomsday bunker when they get sealed in a corridor by doors Reid quickly identifies as airtight. JJ asks if they're going to run out of air:
    Reid: No high carbon dioxide levels are going to kill us before low levels of oxygen do.
  • Firefly: When Serenity's engine breaks down, shutting down life-support, the crew worries that they'll suffocate. River informs them that they don't have to worry about that; they'll freeze to death long before the air runs out.
  • The Practice: One of the clients of the week was a thief that had accidentally committed a murder while mugging someone. That "someone" happened to be a Jewish rabbi, and the comedic Running Gag of this plot (such as it was) was that the thief was much more concerned about being tried for a hate crime (and thus being labeled a racist by the media) than the actual "murder" part of the accusing.
  • Played with in Red Dwarf when the captain of the ship charges the main character with crimes they are innocent of. In the process of clearing their names, they commit other crimes, the punishment for which works out to be exactly the same.
  • One of these occurs in The West Wing in the episode "The Fall's Gonna Kill You". It takes place during the arc about President Bartlett having to reveal to the public that he has MS, which the staff has been frantically preparing for. In order to gauge reaction, they put out a poll asking the people of Michigan how they would feel if they found out their governor had concealed a similar disease. The Title Drop comes in when Josh mentions to C.J. that Bartlett and Leo are worried that if anyone learns about this, it'll look like Bartlett only told the truth because a poll told him to. C.J. finds this hilarious at the end of a long day.
    CJ: You guys are like Butch and Sundance peering over the edge of a cliff to the boulder-filled rapids three hundred feet below, thinking you better not jump 'cause there's a chance you might drown! The President has this disease and he's been lying about it, and you guys are worried that the polling might make us look bad? It's the fall that's gonna kill you!"

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Recurring joke in Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!. "[Planet Name Here]... Isn't that the planet with the giant poisonous snakes?" "Good heavens, no. Those were all wiped out by the giant poisonous tarantulas."

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Zia starts to panic when her mother calls her while she's notably absent during a school evacuation. Ciro assumes that it's because her mother is angry, but Zia clarifies the real problem- her mother is worried.
  • Persona Rising Reverie: Conrad Shepherd's personality in a sentence.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Peter Kay's standup act relates the story of a meal interrupted by a cellphone call from a child who's scared to go to sleep because of monsters in his cupboards. Our hero tells him he needn't worry about monsters in his cupboard - it's burglars breaking into the house he should be worried about.

    Video Games 
  • In Day of the Tentacle, Dr. Fred tries to send the main characters back in time using his... er... highly experimental time machine. Just before he turns it on, he and Bernard have the following exchange:
    Bernard: Have any people ever been hurt in this?
    Dr. Fred: Of course not!
    [grins all around]
    Dr. Fred: This is the first time I've ever tried it on people!
  • In The LEGO Movie Videogame, Vitruvius warns Emmet and Wyldstyle that they should get on another train in the mission "Escape From Flatbush".
    Vitruvius: Hurry up! They haven't finished building the track this train is on!
    Emmet: It's going to derail?!
    Vitruvius: No!
    Emmet: Oh, phew!
    Vitruvius: It's going to fall off a cliff!


    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Julie tells Ben that only 24% of the surveyed people think he is a threat to society. When Ben shows relief, she clarifies that the other 76% wants him dead.
  • In one episode of Kaeloo, Quack Quack decides to leave Smileyland thanks to Kaeloo. After he leaves, Kaeloo starts to worry that he might not be safe. Stumpy tells her that the real reason they should be worried is that Mr. Cat seems to be going insane since Quack Quack isn't around to torture, and is now going to kill them.
  • In the first episode of Milo Murphy's Law, Milo and Zach end up in Coyote Woods, but Milo assures Zach there aren't any coyotes in it. It was actually named after actor Peter Coyote, who donated the property to the city... as a wolf preserve. Cue wolf howl.
    Zach: You do get how that's not better, right?
    (Smash Cut to Zach and Milo being chased by a pack of angry wolves)
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In Dragonshy, the citizens of Ponyville are panicking over the massive clouds of smoke on the horizon, assuming it's from a fire. Twilight tries to dispel those fears, but the truth doesn't help matters...
    Twilight Sparkle: But don't worry, I've just received a letter from Princess Celestia informing me that it is not coming from a fire.
    Fluttershy: Oh, thank goodness.
    Twilight Sparkle: It's coming from a dragon.

    Real Life 
  • In his book Conceptual Physics, Paul Hewitt explains (in one of the proposed exercises near the end of the chapter on gravitation) that the interior of a black hole has an extremely powerful gravitational force that is likely to tear apart anything and anyone unlucky enough to fall there. However, he remarks that there's no need to worry about that, as a person approaching a black hole would die long before crossing the event horizon due to the surrounding gravitational tides. He proposes the reader to explain why the tides are so deadly.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Worrying For A Wrong Reason


Escaping the Super Posse

Butch and Sundance have been backed into a figurative corner and Butch thinks their only choices are to fight or give. Then he comes up with a third option: to jump-- but Sundance isn't having it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / NoEscapeButDown

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