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Playing With / Disproportionate Retribution

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Basic Trope: A character is receiving a punishment that is out of proportion to reason to said punishment.

  • Straight:
    • Bob plots to murder Alice after she insults him.
    • Judge Alice sentences Bob to life in prison for petty theft.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Bob plots to murder Alice and her entire extended family after she accidentally brushes against him on the subway.
    • Bob stubs his toe on a rock coming out of the ground, so he destroys the entire planet.
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    • Judge Alice sentences Bob to death for littering.
    • Alex throws Bob into the turbine of a jet for making a joke about transgender people.
    • Bob has a headache and Alice gets excited and raises her voice a tiny bit. He beats her to death with a skillet for it.
    • The Empire's standard operating procedure for dealing with peaceful protests involves flamethrowers.
  • Downplayed:
    • Bob plots to break Alice's leg after she gets him fired.
    • Judge Alice fines Bob $20,000 for jaywalking.
  • Justified:
    • Bob is extremely mentally unstable and psychotic, prone to blowing things out of proportion.
    • In fact, Bob doesn't know the meaning of the word "proportion."
    • Bob hates Alice so much he believes that she deserves it.
    • Bob believes Alice intended to get him fired so she could have his position, when it was somebody higher up who wanted Bob fired.
    • Bob is The Sociopath, so he has no moral conscience and thereby believes that killing Alice would be an appropriate response to getting fired.
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    • Getting fired caused a chain of events: Bob's wife leaving him, getting evicted, losing all his money, and the death of his beloved cat. Bob believes that ruining Alice's life is justified by this
    • Bob is in a violent Crapsack World, or at least subculture, where keeping a reputation for permitting no slight against himself is necessary if he wants to be taken seriously.
    • Judge Alice is a Hanging Judge with extreme views on law enforcement.
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted:
    • Although Bob's reasons for revenge initially seem trivial, it is revealed that Alice has in fact wronged Bob in a more serious and justifiable fashion.
    • Bob makes it look like he murdered Alice's family as an elaborate practical joke.
    • Alice shoots Bob after he demotes her, but not on purpose: the gun was only meant to scare him.
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    • Bob mildly insults Alice, but feels so bad about it that he punishes himself by committing suicide.
  • Double Subverted:
    • Bob's planned revenge is still drastically over-the-top.
    • The staged murders are just the first step in an elaborate process of making Alice suffer psychologically.
    • Jim (the cop in charge of the murder investigation) points out that Alice still pulled a gun on Bob because he demoted her.
  • Parodied:
    • Bob attempts to murder anyone who accidentally throws a paper airplane at his head.
    • Bob shoots a rocket launcher at someone he caught jaywalking.
  • Zig Zagged: Bob plots to get Alice murdered after she gets him fired. He hires a sniper to shoot Alice. However, the sniper, Charlie, doesn't fire at the last moment because Alice is his girlfriend. Bob, seeing all this, knocks out Charlie and grabs the rifle. It misfires when he tries to fire at Alice, however, so Bob, in frustration, throws the rifle... at Alice.
  • Averted:
    • Bob's revenge is entirely proportionate to Alice's offense.
    • In this factor, Bob plans to get Alice fired after she gets him fired.
  • Enforced: In Bob's culture and the story's time period, this escalating Cycle of Revenge is perfectly (and disturbingly) normal.
  • Lampshaded:
  • Invoked:
  • Defied: "Seriously, what happened to me wasn't that bad; I'm not going to go crazy here."
  • Exploited:
  • Discussed: "Ran into Bob yet? Well, be very careful, he set Charlie on fire for giving him scalding hot coffee once."
  • Conversed: "You have to wonder what those people who make overblown revenge plots are compensating for."
  • Deconstructed:
    • Bob spends all his money and loses his job, friends, and credibility trying to get his disproportionate retribution. He probably fails, too, since the Rube Goldberg Device of a plot is likely to implode. And even if he succeeds, Being Evil Sucks and he realizes it cost him more than it was worth.
    • He realizes how insane this plan is after he executes it, then it comes to bite him in the ass.
    • Those around Bob see his attempts in revenge for something small as being petty and immature. Authority figures see him as unhinged for the extent he is willing to go for revenge and suggest he be institutionalized.
    • Judge Alice's extreme sentencing makes crime even worse as criminals decide to try and kill all their witnesses as the punishment for their crime is already so severe that any additional penalties resulting from murder are irrelevant.
    • Bob's disproportionate retribution means that Alice feels free to escalate her own retaliation. Bob eventually figures out that he's not quite prepared for this game of chicken.
    • Alice insulted Bob. Bob had her killed. The police come for him. Bob can paint it anyway he wants, but ending in prison for fifty years sure doesn't sounds like a good price to pay.
  • Reconstructed:
    • Bob has serious repressed anger from being wronged by Alice in a way that does merit his over-the-top vengeance, her recent mistreatment of him just happened to be the straw that broke the camel's back.
    • Based on Machiavelli's "People should either be caressed or crushed" and to avoid "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind", Bob carries out a very potent revenge on his target to fully neutralize them, as said target is the kind to violently retaliate when properly punished.
    • Bob decides to continue his escalation after a moment of hesitation, in the hopes that he will be the one on top and thus it will be Worth It.
    • The policemen of Judge Alice's district escalate to summary execution of all criminals, as a result of the criminals' escalation. It will take some time, but eventually enough criminals will be culled and the crime rate figures will start to look acceptable.
  • Played For Laughs:
  • Played For Drama:
    • This all results from a serious anger problem and a lack of understanding of consequences and what is proportionate; every time his little brother, sister, or son is picked on, a building goes down.
    • Bob intended to only break Alice's knee, but Bob was unaware that Alice was a hemophiliac, leading her to bleed uncontrollably and die, forcing Bob to run, as he is now a murderer.
  • Played For Horror: The knowledge that Bob is perfectly willing and able to murder anybody that insults him (and plan how to get away with it) means a whole lot of paranoia is in the air every time people even thinks of him.

If you go back to Disproportionate Retribution, I will kill your pet turtle!
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