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Wounded Gazelle Gambit

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"The first girl to cry always wins."
Sae, Peach Girl

Using self-inflicted injuries, real or fake, to deceive others and manipulate them into doing what you want. Often used to frame a third party, this strategy is particularly effective for, and often used by, women, due to societal prohibitions against hurting women. Named for the trick sometimes used by a mother gazelle (as well as certain birds and deer) of pretending to be injured, and thus an easy meal, in order to lure a predator away from her young. Once a safe distance is reached, the pretense can be dropped, and the mother can bound away, leaving the hapless predator in the dust.

Pretending to be a victim can be a great way of disguising your own guilt, so this is a common trope on a mystery series. In Film Noir, this became a stock trick for the Femme Fatale or The Vamp. May involve Crocodile Tears. When the self-inflicted injury is terminal, it can become a case of Suicide, Not Murder.

This is by no means limited to personal injuries. The Evil Overlord can injure his own people and try to blame another country, providing a quick and easy justification for war. This is mentioned as #34 (not that kind) in The Thirty-Six Stratagems, making this one of The Oldest Tricks in the Book. Do note, however, that feigning injury so as to attack an enemy who comes to render you aid is a war crime under the Hague Conventions; on the other hand, making your own position look untenable to lure the enemy into attacking you, then flipping the tables on them, is fine.

Can cover anything from a lame excuse to Malicious Slander. For a slandered party, it often precludes I Can Explain, and can lead to Poor Communication Kills. Can overlap with I Surrender, Suckers. If you're a member of a minority, Everything Is Racist is a convenient way to invoke this trope. When done against police, it's often a Police Brutality Gambit. When done on a large scale, it's often a False Flag Operation. False Rape Accusation is a very specific subtrope of this. If done against a motorist for insurance money, see Staged Pedestrian Accident. If the target is actually guilty, see Framing the Guilty Party. The Bully Hunter and Wife-Basher Basher easily fall for this trick. The Hero with Bad Publicity also tends to get their bad reputation from these.

Compare Decoy Damsel, Arrested for Heroism, Why Did You Make Me Hit You?, Playing the Victim Card, Defensive Feint Trap, Insidious Rumor Mill, Luring in Prey, and I Surrender, Suckers. Often related to Guilt by Association Gag and Et Tu, Brute?. Contrast Wounded Gazelle Warcry where it's not a trick. Not to be mistaken with Deliberate Injury Gambit as well; that one is about someone getting themself hurt for real to achieve a goal. Compare Sick Captive Scam for instances where a prisoner pretends to be sick or injured to get the drop on his captor. Feigning Healthiness is an inverted variant.


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  • Subverted in this advertisement for Snickers, where a soccer player tries this tactic. Unfortunately, he didn't count on Mr. T and the tank.
  • This ploy is used in a Pepsi ad in a job interview, all but one of the next interviewees fleeing in terror and assuring him the job. He turns out to be in cahoots with the "victim" of the faked beating. One wonders, however, why none of the scared job applicants called the cops or how that guy managed to be certain he'd be picked first to pull his stunt or that all the other people would run away in fear, as a single other interviewee could unravel the entire plan. Or for that matter, why the interviewer didn't use the information on that guy's job application to call the cops.

    Asian Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy:
    • In Season 2 episode 9, Adu Du pretends to be badly hurt by BoBoiBoy and on the verge of dying to gain the audience's sympathy in his talk show and cause them to side with him. While BoBoiBoy did hurt him, it was to stop Adu Du, the bad guy, and wasn't anywhere near as bad as he makes it out to be.
    • In Season 3 episode 12, Ibu Bu successfully convinces her son, Adu Du, to return to evil by exaggerating her pain of being hit by BoBoiBoy, who accidentally pushed her out of the way in his efforts to contain the bomb that Ibu Bu set off to attack the heroes. As Adu Du swears revenge, Ibu Bu smirks from atop her stretcher.

  • Comedian John Heffron has a joke about this; whatever he was doing to annoy his brother would lead his brother to yell out "I can't breathe!", leading to Heffron being grounded.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: In a 40's issue, a low-level crook fires a bullet through his own hat (which he's holding in his hand), while yelling "Drop it, Wayne!" He proceeds to put the hat back on and tosses the gun to Bruce Wayne, who catches it. The police barge in and see Bruce Wayne with a smoking gun in his hand, and a hole in a bystander's hat.
  • Black Widow excels at this.
    • Her very first appearance (back when she was a Russian agent) had her tricking Tony Stark into thinking she was in danger to set him up for a trap.
    • Years later, Tony finds a supposedly badly wounded Nat in the streets to take her to his apartment. Just as Tony is musing that a scanner can't find more than scrapes and bruises on her, Natasha takes him out.
      Natasha: Makeup and acting, Tony. You've always been a sucker for both. Thanks for the access.
    • It can't be counted how many bad guys think they have a wounded and captured Natasha at their mercy only to realize too late she's led them into a trap.
  • Doctor Zero answers a fake distress signal from an American nuclear submarine only to find that the whole thing's a trap staged by the Merchants, Elite Agents Above the Law, who want to attack him in a confined location where he can't use some of his powers.
  • After massacring a presidential candidate, his family, and an entire room of armed security, staffers, aides, and journalists during her "field test" for the Facility, X-23's exit strategy was to masquerade as the badly wounded, sole-surviving victim of an attack she herself carried out. She successfully duped Captain America.
    • For that matter, her entry was a variation of this: She masqueraded as a physically disabled child wearing leg braces and needing crutches to walk, made a scene in the lobby when a security guard tried to deny her request to meet Candidate Johnson, and played on her "disability" in order to gain access to him and carry out the attack.
  • Used in the second arc of Copperhead by Zolo's gang. One flags down his police car to request aid for an injured man, but as soon as Boo approaches several guns are pulled on him.
  • In Hex Wives, Bradley pretends to be badly burned as part of a scheme by the Architects to dissuade the women from wanting to leave the cul-de-sac.
  • Identity Crisis: When Elongated Man's wife Sue is murdered, it looks like an isolated incident; until Jean Loring, ex-wife of The Atom, is nearly killed as well. It seems someone is murdering the spouses of superheroes, and the hero community comes together to try to figure out which super villain might be behind it. Except, of course, that it's not a super villain; it's Jean, who staged her own attempted murder to both throw suspicion off herself, and to send the heroes on a wild goose chase by making Sue's murder look like part of a larger series of killings. And it turns out she did it all to get a man's attention.
  • Employed by proxy in "Jabba the Hutt and the Dynasty Trap", a Star Wars-inspired story by Dark Horse Comics. Having just acquired a valuable Nuffin freighter on one of his adventures, everyone's favorite gangster slug decides to travel to the planet Smarteel where his counterpart Sha Cabrool Nu'um has his palace, intending to sell the freighter to the wealthy warlord. While staying at the Nu'um estate, Jabba finds himself caught in the middle of a power struggle between the aging and demented dictator and his two Bratty Teenage Children, Norba and Rusk. After Cabrool has Jabba locked in his bedroom for refusing to perform a task for him, Rusk talks his way past the guards and offers Jabba the opportunity to kill his father in his sleep, which Jabba accepts. But once the Sha Cabrool is dead, Rusk proves to be every bit as tyrannical as his father had been, and when Jabba refuses to submit to his authority he has the Hutt imprisoned in a pit full of spiders. Norba then approaches Jabba and denounces her brother, explaining that the Nu'um family needs to be headed by a woman (Norba, of course) in order to function properly. Jabba agrees, so Norba brings him into Rusk's office under the pretense of informing her brother that Jabba has had a change of heart and is willing to do what Rusk had commanded. Rusk catches a sinister glaze in his sister's eye, but too late: Jabba grabs him violently by the throat and pulverizes him into a pulp with one mighty punch. Rusk's bodyguards almost immediately arrive on the scene and see their master's dead body (or what remains of it) - and the treacherous Norba reveals her true colors by claiming that she had nothing to do with Rusk's murder, and that Jabba did it on his own and against her wishes! She has the Hutt dragged off to a dungeon, with Jabba roaring in rage and reaching (feebly) for the little bitch's throat. Fortunately for Jabba, he ultimately manages to avenge himself by escaping from the dungeon, eating Norba in one gulp, and rejoining his own henchmen.
  • Jenifer. In both the comic book and the Masters of Horror television adaptation, she takes this trope to a horrifying extreme. Suffice to say her hideous appearance is the least disturbing thing about her.
  • In Mastermen #1, with help from Overman, the Human Bomb threw off Leatherwing and the rest of the New Reichsmen by pretending to be gravely injured by Leatherwing's interrogation, giving him the chance to wait to break free and then destroy the Eagle's Nest.
  • New Avengers: A demon possessing Luke Cage pretends to flee, in order to get Jessica Jones in closer. After a few seconds everyone figures out it's not her husband. Cue the enraged Flying Brick.
  • Queen Bee: When Alexa garners sympathy for herself by using her telekinetic powers to hit herself in the head with a lunch tray and blames Haley (who has the same powers as her) for it.
  • ROM: Spaceknight:
    • Jimmy Marks aka Hybrid tricked the X-Men into attacking Rom by blowing up his house and shapeshifting back into his human child form and blaming the death and destruction on Rom. Since Rom looked like a seven foot tall murder machine and Jimmy looked like a helpless child, the X-Men were easily duped. Fortunately, Hybrid got overconfident and revealed himself when he tried to kidnap Kitty Pryde during the battle.
    • The 32nd issue has Mystique pretend to be wounded to lure Rom into a trap.
  • Early in the Runaways' history, they took in a teenage boy named Topher, who claimed that his evil parents were forcing him to help them commit crimes. Topher was actually a vampire, and once they brought him back to their headquarters, he tried to feed on them, only to die after Karolina's blood turned out to be loaded with sunlight. Subverted in that Alex Wilder quickly realized that Topher was lying, but said nothing to anyone else, because he wanted to use the bastard's deception to make his team more distrustful of outsiders.
  • Sin City:
    • This was how Ava manipulated Dwight into murdering her husband in the story "A Dame to Kill For."
    • In "Daddy's Girl", a young woman, complaining of being abused by her father, convinces her boyfriend to kill him. Except that the gun she gives him is loaded with duds, and he's been set up to get beaten to death by the dad. And he's not the first guy she's done this to. Why? Because her father gets off on this, and she's daddy's girl.
  • Minor Spider-Man villain the Black Fox pulled this on a regular basis. Whenever Spidey was about to catch him, the Fox would give some sort of sob story about how he wouldn't survive jail time in his age or how he would swear to never steal again on the grave of his mother (who wasn't even dead!) and so on. And Spidey kept falling for it repeatedly. After about five or six encounters of this happening though, he finally got wise and sent the Fox to prison.
  • Superman:
    • In the beginning of Strangers at the Heart's Core, Supergirl throws villain Shyla Kor-Onn back into the Phantom Zone to defend herself. Shyla gets released from the Zone later in the story, and exploiting the fact that Kara was not legally authorized to imprison her, she claims the Girl of Steel sent her back into the prison-dimension because she was just jealous of the presence of another Kryptonian female on Earth.
    • In Escape from the Phantom Zone, Psi sends a telepathic distress call to Supergirl, pretending to be a wrongfully imprisoned Kryptonian psychic to trick Kara into breaking her out of prison.
  • Street Fighter vs. Darkstalkers: Morrigan uses this tactic on a duo of archaeologists in Brazil, by taking the form of a female explorer that twisted her ankle and is completely helpless. As soon as she has one of the men in her grasp, she completely sucks him dry. The other guy attempts to save his friend, but Morrigan hits him against a wall before he can even attack her.
  • A variation in Suicide Squad. When she's hit in the face with a pie, Amanda Waller naturally assumes it's resident troublemaker Captain Boomerang. Just as Boomerang is showing up, he's hit by a pie and berates Waller for setting him up for this. Over the next twenty issues, every member of the Squad (and others) are hit by pies as well. Murph finally arranges video to show the culprit is...Boomerang. Knowing he'd be the first suspect, Boomerang had cunningly set up a "boomerang pie" to hit him right off to deflect suspicion.
  • Early in his villainy, Venom disguised himself as a guard passed out in his cell. The poor schmoe who found him could have just passed through the barrier separating him and Venom, but he was new and unwittingly let it down. Venom pounced and suffocated him to death before escaping.
  • Wonder Woman (Charles Moulton): Simon Slikery covertly called the cops when Wonder Woman showed up to question him, then when he heard them entering his outer office smashed a bottle on his own face and accused her of being a crazed attacker when the cops came in.
  • The Wuzzles: In Walt Disney Comics no. 512, Croc gains sympathy from Butterbear by pulling up a board and pretending to have been injured. It works on her account, although Bumblelion overhears his plan and makes sure his stay is not a pleasant one. His plot? Well, his roof leaks and he was seeking shelter from a fruit salad storm. That's right, a fruit salad storm. Unconventional weather the land of Wuzz has, no?

    Comic Strips 
  • One Bo Nanas strip featured a woman asking the main character to hold her purse. Once he does so, she starts yelling, claiming that she's been purse-snatched. It didn't work; the policeman nearby saw the whole thing, and apparently she's done this before.
  • Curtis: Barry shows how it's done here.. He even manages to do it by accident on one occasion.
  • Humorously subverted in a Dilbert strip: Dilbert accidentally bumps the car in front of him and gets out to apologize. When he looks in the front window of the other car, he sees a man with a grotesquely twisted-up body who screams "LOOK WHAT YOU DID TO ME!" The alleged victim takes Dilbert to court, intending to sue him for all he's worth. "Now I'll never be able to work again!" he whines to the defense attorney. But the plaintiff's scheme fails when the defense attorney asks him what his job had been, and he's forced to admit: "Circus contortionist."
  • Garfield: Zigzagged in one strip. Garfield sees Jon lavishing attention on the cute kitten Nermal and becomes envious. He walks up to Nermal and—with Jon's eyes upon him—deliberately kicks the little guy over in the hope that Jon will become angry with him. He is disgusted when Jon simply takes pity on Nermal and completely ignores what Garfield did. Figuring that "two can play the sympathy game," Garfield takes up a plate of fine china and smashes it against his head, then "falls down unconscious" in an attempt to make Jon feel sorry for him. Instead, Jon scolds Garfield for breaking one of his most valuable plates—and, even worse for Garfield, it turns out that the plate-breaking really did hurt him, giving him a colossal headache!
  • Peanuts: In a 1952 strip, Charlie Brown is minding his own business and playing with a toy truck, when Lucy runs past him, yelling at him not to attack her. Patty overhears and threatens to beat Charlie Brown up, so Charlie Brown tells Lucy to stay away from him. Lucy gets upset, and when Charlie Brown tries apologizing to her, Lucy yells at Charlie Brown not to attack her again.

    Film — Animation 
  • Done by Steele in Balto. Steele says that Balto attacked him and tried to steal the medicine for the sick kids, only to fall off of a cliff. Balto actually demanded the medicine because he knew the way back. Steele didn't want to give it up because he wanted the glory of bringing the medicine back himself, so Balto took it by force.
  • Dee Dee pulled this trick to get the drop on Terry in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. When he showed up when they and the other Jokerz were in the middle of a robbery, they held each other and pretended to be terrified; when he turned his back to concentrate on the tougher-looking male members of the gang, they pounced.
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • In Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, Iago tries to trick Aladdin into letting him back into the palace by acting severally injured and claiming that he just escaped from Jafar. Naturally, Aladdin isn't fooled and attacks Iago.
    • Cinderella included a scene where Cinderella lectures the hound dog Bruno on getting along with Lucifer. While her back is turned, Lucifer lies down in front of Bruno and scratches his snout, yowling when he growls. The trope is played with a bit, however. Cindy does not try to play favorites with any of the animals, insisting that they treat each other equally. After she sends the abashed Bruno outside, she angrily sets down Lucifer's saucer of milk while snapping a remark that she knows Lucifer to be a bully himself, and that he probably deserved what he "got."
    • In Lady and the Tramp, the two Siamese cats do a lot of damage to the Darlings' house, and arrange for Lady to get caught in some drapes so that it looks like she did it. Afterward, they lie down on the floor and roll around piteously meowing, with (self-inflicted) scratches on them, to make it look like Lady attacked them as part of her rampage. (Of course, Lady did try to attack them, but it was out of righteous fury at the cats' mischief, not bullying.)
  • In Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Joe tells Miss Acacia about how he lost his right eye because of Jack's cuckoo clock heart, but makes it sound like Jack did it on purpose.
  • In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, the penguins pull one on the tourists. Private covers himself in red paint to make it look like the tour jeep ran him over, and as the tour guide gives him CPR, the others hijack the jeep.
  • At the end of the fourth Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf film, Mission Incredible: Adventures on the Dragon's Trail, Weslie manages to discover that Wolffy is only pretending to be badly injured from the events of the film so that he could have his wife Wolnie and his son Wilie help him to break into Goat Village and capture the goats.
  • In the Wallace & Gromit film, A Matter of Loaf and Death, the murderer deceives Wallace into thinking Gromit has attacked them, even going so far as to bite their own arm to provide an injury. This one only worked through Wallace's Cloud Cuckoolander tendencies, as it would be hard for Gromit, who has no mouth, to bite anyone.

  • From Sparks's "Waterproof":
    "I see you crying but I'm not buying your Meryl Streep mimicry
    It's misdirected, your voice inflected
    For maximum sympathy"
  • In Plan B's concept Album "The Defamation of Strickland Banks", after Strickland rejects a Loony Fan he had a drunken one-night stand with, she alleges that he raped her and he gets sent to jail.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In Genesis chapter 39 from The Bible, Potiphar's wife flirted with Joseph, who went about doing his chores as usual, until one day, she managed to get ahold of Joseph by his linen garment, and when he hastily flees, she claimed he tried to rape her (most translations soften this accusation to "mocking", but given the circumstances it's fairly easy to read between the lines), and Potiphar has Joseph sent away to an Egyptian prison.
  • In a midrash on the story of Cain and Abel, when Cain attacks Abel, the two struggle and Abel gains the upper hand. Cain then begs for mercy for their parents' sake, so Abel relaxes his grip. Cain immediately seizes the opportunity and kills him.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • This often happens in Professional Wrestling, of all places. A favorite tactic of the late Eddie Guerrero was, when the Easily-Distracted Referee's back was turned, slam a chair on the ground, throw it to his opponent, and then lay down like he'd just taken a chair shot. Ref turns around, sees the "carnage", and DQ's the opponent. And this was while he was a Face, mind you. In fact, this is exactly what he did (to Mr. Kennedy) in his last match before he died (may he rest in peace). CM Punk inverted this same move against Alberto Del Rio years later. Del Rio slammed the chair into the mat, then threw it to Punk— who caught it, threw it back to Del Rio, and fell to the mat. The ref ended up berating Del Rio.
  • Though Eddie Guerrero employed this trope regularly, he wasn't the first (though he may have been the first good guy). In the early 1990s, Michael Hayes was wrestling Rick Steiner in World Championship Wrestling. The referee was distracted; Hayes's partner, Jimmy Garvin—lurking at ringside—threw Steiner a length of two-by-four. Hayes dropped to the mat, holding his head and writhing in pain. The ref turned to see Steiner standing over him with the board and promptly disqualified him. This was particularly effective because Rick Steiner's persona was that of a lovable doofus with very little going on upstairs; thus it was perfectly in character for him to not only catch the board, but stand there holding it with a confused look on his face.
  • Parodied at TNA's Hard CORE Justice Pay-Per-View, where Brother Runt performed this stunt with Al Snow while the Ref was out, and while the ref was recovering, Snow similarly banged the chair against the mat, and then fell down, holding his head. The ref was quite befuddled. This also ties in to the Rick Steiner example in that both Brother Runt and Al Snow were using their mentally disabled gimmicks - Runt tripping on LSD, Al Snow mentally ill and talking to a mannequin's head.
  • The Florida Brothers from Dragon Gate used to do their own variation, where instead of dropping to the mat, one of them would instead catch a chair attack from an opponent, then actually open the chair and drape it around their neck while feigning pain. It may have been used one time by Genba Hirayanagi when he was a young heel in Pro Wrestling NOAH as well.
  • Lince Dorado has started using this in CHIKARA. It being a lucha libre promotion, unmasking an opponent is grounds for disqualification. He waits for the referee to turn his back, takes his mask off, throws it at his opponent, and lays on the ground, covering his face. Instant DQ. This spot has also been performed on MTV's wrestling program Lucha Libre USA.
  • ROH's Sixth Anniversary Show had Nigel McGuinness pulling a slick one against Bryan Danielson. McGuinness, the ROH World Champion, nearly walked out without defending the title against Danielson…until Danielson agreed to avoid blows to the head. Nigel ended the match throwing headbutts, attacking Danielson's injured eye, and using the trapped elbows to add more insult.
  • Cleverly employed by Randy Orton in early 2009, when he was still a heel and the leader of the Legacy stable. Having just won the Royal Rumble the night before, Orton announced that he was going to bring a lawsuit against WWE for threatening to fire him despite his having been guaranteed a title shot at WrestleMania (when in fact the McMahons had threatened to fire him before he won the Rumble match)....and also threatened a second lawsuit, this time applying the WGG in a subtle way. He claimed that he had slapped, kicked, and punted the head of Vince McMahon because he was suffering from a made-up disease called Intermittent Explosive Disorder that causes its victim to resort to violence when provoked (in Orton's case, he had been slapped by Vince's daughter Stephanie, heard his father "Cowboy" Bob Orton insulted, and seen Chris Jericho fired in a Kick The Son Of A Bitch moment and feared that he might be next). Randy accused WWE of knowing that he had IED but refusing to treat it, even though there was no way he could prove this. He announced that the two lawsuits combined would drive WWE to bankruptcy and cause WrestleMania to be cancelled. Orton's machinations backfired: not only did everyone in WWE outside of the Legacy turn bitterly against him, but he angered Stephanie's husband Triple H into launching multiple attacks on him and terrorizing his family.
    • Orton's father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton Jr. used the fake cast gimmick for years.
  • Vickie Guerrero followed in her late husband's footsteps on some occasions, starting in late 2006. After Chris Benoit accidentally knocked her off the ring apron during a match with her nephew Chavo, Vickie appeared backstage wearing a neck brace she didn't really need and sobbing hysterically, hoping to substantiate rumors at the time that Benoit was a "woman-beater" (which, sad to say, now counts as one hell of a Harsher in Hindsight). Vickie kept exploiting her "injuries" long after her neck healed, often appearing in a wheelchair and otherwise acting helpless in order to get her male companions (both members of her family and her romantic interests) to act as her servants.
  • Played with in a 2008 Raw sequence in which Chris Jericho stripped off his shirt before the crowd to reveal a collection of ugly red welts he had received when Shawn Michaels had thrashed him with a belt in their "Unsanctioned Match" at Unforgiven. He called Michaels a hypocrite for claiming to be a good Christian and yet acting violently ("What kind of a man would do something like this?"). In fact, Jericho fully deserved those welts, since he had earlier punched Michaels's wife in the face and looked forward to the match because he was sure he would win and wanted Michaels's kids to see him cripple their father on pay-per-view television.
  • The Rock defended the Intercontinental Title against Ken Shamrock at the 1998 Royal Rumble. He hit Shamrock with brass knuckles, and then hid them in Shamrock's tights. Shamrock eventually won the match, but the Rock claimed he had been hit with a foreign object. The referee searched Shamrock, found the knuckles and reversed the decision.
  • John Laurinaitis fakes the injuries he got from John Cena. When Cena looks for the Big Show for a little payback, Laurinaitis retorts that he doesn't know where he was...and goes off topic by cruelly saying that if Cena hurts him, he's fired.
  • Ivelisse Vélez returned to SHINE Wrestling from TNA with taped ribs, which would have been believable if one only watched SHINE but should have made any TNA viewers suspicious. Sure enough, the tape ended up off Velez's mid section and around the throat of Jazz.
  • On the first night of Super Card Of Honor X, Roderick Strong played one of these not so much to fool his opponent, Moose, but to fool his night 2 opponent Bobby Fish, using an "injury" inflicted by Moose as pretext to crawling over the announce table where Fish was doing commentary in order to draw the fight with Moose closer to Fish and give him a cheap shot.
  • Parodied in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. After Toru Yano and Sanada play hot potato with a turnbuckle pad (about the same size as a chair), Toru throws it to the referee and...while the ref looks away in confusion...drops to the ground as though he'd been hit by it. And the referee actually questions Sanada like he hit him with it!
  • Big Cass pulled this trope to pull suspicions away from him that he was Enzo's attacker during the build to Great Balls of Fire.
  • At Sacrifice 2007, Samoa Joe and AJ Styles had a match. When Joe suffered a bad fall out of the ring, he acted like his leg was injured, begging for mercy when AJ attacked it and even collapsing when trying to charge. AJ got overconfident and tried a top rope move, only for Joe to roll out of the way and spring up to show he was not hurt at all. Joe quickly defeated him.

  • In sports, this is colloquially known as flopping. Both the NBA and the WNBA have forbidden it.
  • In soccer/football this is often called "diving" - though diving is often used as a more specific term for falling over and pretending to have been fouled without any contact from the opposition player whatsoever. If the referee concludes that this trope has been invoked, he/she is authorized to punish the one who pulled it. However, if they're fooled and award a penalty, it still stands - the player and/or team can still be punished later, though. Referees will give out yellow cards for diving in the penalty area (or in a similar high-stakes situation).
    • It should also be noted that the tolerance for this trope overlaps somewhat with the general tolerance for physicality (while football/soccer is nominally non-contact, a certain degree of physical contact is inevitable) - in Britain, and to a lesser extent in Germany and Russia, players are harshly condemned for diving, exaggerating injuries, and other ploys, and a much greater lenience towards physical contact (there's a reason that the Defensive Midfield position is sometimes referred to as the 'Midfield Destroyer'). In Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, and Central and South America, there's a greater tolerance for it (the exaggeration part, at least, as well as berating the referee) and a correspondingly lesser tolerance for physical contact.
    • It's less common, but still has been done in hockey, in which the official term for the penalty is 'embellishment', often because the embellishment comes from a legitimate penalty (typically tripping or high sticking), but the 'victim' exaggerates how severe it was in order to draw a worse punishment for the offender and give their team a longer power play. (Often, though, all it gets them is matching minors, negating the power play in the first place.)
  • Brazil vs. Chile, 1990 FIFA World Cup qualifying. A firework fell in the field. The Chilean goalkeeper fell to the pitch with an apparent injury to his forehead, and play was suspended. Later it was discovered the player created the injury himself, with a razor blade hidden in his glove. Chile was banned for eight years, and the keeper for life.
  • Notorious troublemaker Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers admitted in a documentary that he "milked it" when Knicks player John Starks headbutted him on the court in 1993.
  • Terry Bradshaw was famous for this on the gridiron. He claims that at one point his teammates presented him with a mock-up Emmy statuette.
  • The 1974 Firecracker 400note  (the summer race at Daytona) featured a climax where defending Winston Cup champion David Pearson, shortly after crossing the start/finish line on the final lap, began pulling onto the apron as if he blew an engine. This led to Richard Petty momentarily taking the lead only for Pearson to catch up to Petty, ultimately slingshotting his way ahead of Petty on Turn Four for the win. Interestingly enough, Pearson and Petty were good friends when they were not racing, so you'd expect a gambit to strain their friendship. Not exactly. All that happened it that Petty swore at Pearson....then offered to buy him a beer!

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is a staple trick of any Tabletop RPG, used by both the Game Master and Players alike regardless of the setting. The common setup is something like this: a character is in trouble, whether held captive or simply seeking out help righting a wrong he or she cannot right. He or she uses his or her apparent vulnerability to manipulate the other parties into doing what he or she wants. Depending on the genre, mystical or technological augmentations can help with the con. Then, when the character gets what they want, they may either dramatically betray the others then or just leave their stooges in the dark entirely. Alternatively, play the victim when the paladins/Jedi/police/player characters show up.
  • Exalted has an entire Martial Arts style based around this trope.
  • In Warzone, the tabletop game set in the Mutant Chronicles universe, the "Dark Huntsman" is a Dark Legion unit in the form of a former human soldier who was brainwashed by the Dark Symmetry and then sent back to the no man's land between the front lines to prey on his ex-comrades. His modus operandi is lying in a ditch somewhere crying for help, claiming to be wounded, then killing any soldiers that come investigating. Of course, since he retains all knowledge of codewords etc., he is also a perfect infiltrator.
  • Pathfinder's Broken Wing Gambit feat allows a party to pull this off. A character makes himself appear vulnerable and grants the opponent a significant bonus to hit and to damage him. If the opponent buys it and attacks, the rest of the party gets to unload a whole mess of hurt onto the enemy beforehand.

  • In The Crucible, Abigail Williams stabs herself in the leg to frame Elizabeth Proctor. She also, later, pretends to be possessed by Mary Warren.
  • Subverted in King Lear, Edmund, the son of the Earl of Gloucester, cuts his own arm to make it look like his older brother Edgar attacked him. Although his father does disinherit Edgar, he barely acknowledges that Edmund is hurt.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa:
    • Occurs in the first game with the third case; Celestia lies to Hifumi that Kiyotaka raped her to give them due cause to plot out the victim's murder together. Hifumi then kills Kiyotaka to avenge them on this lie, and then Celeste further lies that the person in the "Justice Hero X" costume violently assaulted them to give themselves an alibi, based on the killer apparently leading up to gradually more lethal weapons.
    • In the Fan Game Danganronpa Another, the culprit of the second case, Ayame the "Ultimate Sprinter", ends up crippled by a tripwire that she herself set up in order to throw off suspicion. Part of the reason this fails is because she supposedly severed her rear tendon while walking forward, with the wire just happening to be positioned in the perfect place to cause her maximum damage, causing the plan to fall apart the moment the others start to suspect her.
      • In the sequel, Super Danganronpa Another 2, part of Nikei's plan in case four involved him knocking himself out with a stun gun in order to trick Yuki into thinking Shinji had attacked him.
  • Magical Diary sees Damien fake being in danger of dying, claiming that his demon blood is burning him out. But he's willing to die, he claims - he would never ask you or anyone else to pay the price for curing him. What would it cost? Just your soul, voluntarily given. If you believe him and offer your soul anyways, it does not go well for you: he admits that he's been playing you all year and didn't really love you - he just wanted someone stupid enough to give him their soul and figured that a wildseed freshthing would be perfect. Depending on how you play your choices, this can end with near-death because he really does love you (he just didn't know it) and can't bring himself to go through with it and significant damage that can take the rest of the year to repair (if you manage to fix it at all, in the time you have left) or possibly death (although this is not yet confirmed).
  • Done in Umineko: When They Cry Episode 6, Dawn of the Golden Witch by Erika, who pretends to have a Villainous Breakdown so that Battler will take pity on her and grant her the use of her dreaded duct tape. According to Episode 8, Twilight of the Golden Witch, Battler fell for the trick on purpose because it helped set up the logic error that revived Beatrice.

    Web Animation 
  • Puffin Forest: One of Ben's Neutral Evil characters was Trixie Starbright, a seemingly happy-go-lucky tween who enjoyed tearing her rivals down in sadistic life-destroying schemes. After one of her illegal pokemon-poaching (but technically heroic) adventures, she diverted suspicion from her injuries by bashing her head on a window and breaking her arm over a barrister railing in order to frame her social rival of pushing her down the stairs.
    GM:... Uh, Ben? I don't think you're playing an average high-school girl, like you said.
    Ben: *chuckles* You didn't go to the same high school that I went to, did you?
  • In Red vs. Blue, Felix lets himself gets shot in the leg by his partner, Locus, in order to trick the stranded Reds and Blues into trusting him. Later on when Felix's true motives are revealed, he takes great pleasure in taunting them about it.
    "Yeah, funny how an act of sacrifice like that buys you so much trust. And so much information."
  • RWBY: Mercury, with assistance from Emerald's illusions, tricks Yang into shooting him in the leg after she has already won a match against him, in order to horrify the audience and attract the Grimm. Mercury actually has prosthetic legs so he wasn't harmed at all; Emerald had to use more illusions to make the medics think he was really injured.

  • In Bastard, Jin was forced to pull this routine as a child where he would approach a woman crying and claiming to be lost, only to then lead her to his father, who would murder her.
  • Done by a vengeful bitch named Olena in this particular Dominic Deegan because Nimmel broke up a fight. It didn't end well for her pack-mates because Nimmel overwhelmed all of them with elemental attacks nor Olena herself due to a particularly nasty comment she made at that moment afterwards, only to find out her pack-mates were disgusted at what she said. The pack took Nimmel under their wing, and Olena was left out in the cold.
  • Endtown: Denise, the serial-killing Butcher, pretends to be one of their own victims so they can blame their accomplice. Bonus points for claiming that Portia was the heroine who stopped the killer, because they knew that they dealt fatal wounds. Unfortunately for her, Portia managed to survive long enough to point out the real traitor.
  • Freefall:
    • Mr. Kornada fakes a heart attack, forcing the nearby robots' "human preservation safeguards" to kick in and abandon Florence, who's currently stuck in the ocean during a hurricane, to take him to get medical care. And all this is because he's missing a meeting.
    • A later strip has an interesting variation when Sam sets Florence up to look like she's tried to kill him and present his body to the Mayor. This is for the benefit of them both, though - the Mayor hates Sam, and is extremely grateful to Florence for trying to take him down.
  • Girl Genius:
  • Grrl Power has Sidney pull this on a villain, pretending to be Blind Without 'Em to Velma-levels where she can't see a thing when, as she points out later, she may need glasses but the guy was four feet from her and so aiming a Groin Attack wasn't that hard.
  • This comic features a mob hitman who uses this as his modus operandi, screaming about an unspecified injury to...his butthole to lure his target closer for a Boom, Headshot!. This has apparently worked for him 47 times before with no signs of stopping.
  • Rain: When Maria gets expelled from St. Hallvard's, Emily (who is about four-and-a-half months pregnant) goes to the office with her to provide emotional support. After the two of them come up with a plan to get Maria to somewhere she can safely lay low, Emily fakes going into labor, and Maria sends office assistant Pete to get supplies, giving Maria the opportunity to escape.
  • Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki has Loki (yes, THAT Loki), who, acting under orders from Surt and/or as a Stealth Mentor, convinces his son that Yuuki forced him to stab himself. Sleipnir, who has completely forgotten that Loki is there to fight Yuuki, is easily convinced, since then it is personal.
  • In Spina Cage the thorn faerie pretends to be a gravely injured human in need of aid to lure the unsuspecting off the path so that he can eat them.
  • Winter Before Spring: When Hana admits her feelings for her friend Min-ji at the beginning of the comic, Min-ji seemingly accepts, only to turn out to be a homophobe and betray her. She tells the other students that Hana forced her attentions upon her, to rile them into ganging up on Hana and bullying her.

    Web Original 
  • Goodbye Strangers: The fressidrene imitates the voice of a person crying for help to lure people into climbing into its mouth. If a person actually does crawl into its mouth it switches to laughing at them. Luckily it can't actually close its mouth and doesn't digest its victims so it is possible, though difficult, to just climb back out. And since the fressidrene isn't actually intelligent, it is possible to tell whether or not a real person is trapped inside of it by by paying attention to if the voice can actually have a conversation.
  • How to Survive Camping:
    • Rule #9 warns campers about the lady in chains: she pretends to be in distress so that people will attempt to help her, but it is merely a ruse so she can kill them.
    • The little girl weeps outside the owner's house all night long, begging to be let in, and gets dragged away by a monstrous beast before dawn, screaming in terror all the way. Inviting her inside would however lead to a gruesome death, with the last person to have done so implied to have been ripped to shreds.
  • An oft-parodied self-defense video from the Facebook page "Las Vegas Gunfights". An old man is approached by a mugger with a knife, and then begins to clutch his chest as if he's having a heart attack. This is actually a ploy to stall the mugger so the old man can draw and aim a gun he had stashed in his coat pocket. What really sells it is the old man's accompanying dialogue:
    Old Man: Call an ambulance! Call an ambulance! (draws gun) But not for me!
  • In the Search and Rescue Creepypasta series, the protagonist hears a crying child, and goes to investigate. He then notices something wrong: the "crying" is the same sound over and over again, like a song on repeat. He wisely nopes out of there.
  • In Twig, Sylvester uses the pain bullets used by the rebels against warbeasts to invoke sympathy from his enemies by being a screaming, injured thirteen-year-old. This is enough to overcome the fact that the rebels have been ordered to shoot suspicious children on sight.
  • Super Best Friends Play: In one version of the Rustlemania 2: Superbrawl Saturday III opening, Woolie and Matt are in a match. While Pat distracts the ref, Woolie tosses Matt a folding chair and takes a dive. Matt looks at in confusion as the ref turns back around and looks at him.
  • One interpretation of the infamously scary SCP-087 (an infinite dark staircase where one can hear the cries of a girl, and no one who went far enough down has come up again) is that there is no girl at all, but a creature resembling a girl that uses this to lure in victims.


Video Example(s):


Dracula Prince of Darkness [Helen's Plea for Help]

Scene from the 1966 film, Dracula Prince of Darkness. After Charles and Diana narrowly escape Dracula's castle, they're found by the local monks and taken in. But Dracula, along with a newly vampirized Helen, follow after them. When night falls, Helen locals where Diana is sleeping and pleas for help to get away from Dracula's control.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / WoundedGazelleGambit

Media sources: