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Skewed Priorities / Literature

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  • Catch-22:
    Finishing last in three successive parades had given Lieutenant Scheisskopf an unsavory reputation, and he considered every means of improvement, even nailing the twelve men in each rank to a long two-by-four beam of seasoned oak to keep them in line. The plan was not feasible, for making a 90 degree turn would have been impossible without nickel alloy swivels inserted in the small of every man's back, and Lieutenant Scheisskopf was not sanguine at all about obtaining that many nickel alloy swivels from quartermaster, or enlisting the cooperation of the surgeons at the hospital.
  • Harry Potter:
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    • There's a Running Gag in both the books and the movies that Hermione Granger is especially prone to this. This is justified to some extent, since if Hermione is expelled from Hogwarts, she must return to the Muggle world and be disconnected from magic forever, which is possibly a Fate Worse than Death.
      • Lampshaded and explained in the movie of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; Hermione's line is also in the book, but Ron's rejoinder is not:
        Hermione: I'm going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed. Or worse ...expelled!
        Ron: She needs to sort out her priorities.
    • Two years later, after Harry accidentally causes his aunt to inflate like a balloon due to her pushing his Berserk Button once too many, he meets up with Ron and Hermione, who are told of the incident by this point, at Diagon Alley. Ron finds it hilarious, but...
      Hermione: That's not funny, Ron. Personally, I'm surprised Harry wasn't expelled.
      Harry: Forget expelled. I thought I was going to be arrested.
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    • This is also manifested in Hermione's boggart in Book three, which is not Voldemort, or death, or giant monsters, or anything like that — but failing all her classes. It's at a time when she's heavily academically stressed due to taking so many classes she needs to resort to time travel just to attend them all.
    • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Harry and Ron crash a Flying Car into the Whomping Willow and get beaten up by it, Snape tries to get them in trouble for, among other things, damaging the tree. Ron tries to point out that the tree did more damage to them.
    • Also, after Harry and Ron escape the tree; Ron, who is holding a broken wand, watches the car drive away under its own power and moans, "Dad's gonna kill me." Granted, to a 12-year-old like Ron, his father's ire might seem far more important than anything else at the moment.
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    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: During Fudge's campaign to undermine him, Dumbledore is demoted from Chief Warlock on the Wizengamot and is threatened with being stripped of his Order of Merlin. Dumbledore's response, according to Bill Weasley, is he doesn't care what they do so long as they don't take him off the Chocolate Frog trading cards. Then again, this being Dumbledore, political honors literally may not matter as much to him as being on a Chocolate Frog card!
    • When Luna gives a speech to Harry about how she believes him, Hermione just has to attack her about the silly things she believes in. Harry understandably calls her out for this: "Mind not offending the only people who believe me?"
    • Minutes after that, Ron has to interrupt Cho and Harry's conversation to attack her about supporting the Tutshill Tornadoes.
    • Harry himself falls into this at one point in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as he gets distracted by Quidditch, his feelings for Ginny and assorted other mundane stuff when Dumbledore needs Harry to recover a crucial memory from Professor Slughorn that could confirm some important things about Voldemort. Dumbledore gently chastises Harry for this.
  • Nightfall (Series): At points, Myra seems more concerned with preserving art and science, and even developing her own writing skills, than with ensuring the enemy is defeated and humanity survives. Zack, Alerie, Franka, and even Prince Vladimir call her out on it multiple times.
  • Debated among a few characters in The Pale King as the IRS deals with drastic changes brought on by the Spackman Initiative. Focus on ideal output and civil service is shifted toward a free-market approach that attempts to maximize profits.
  • In Death: Some characters have demonstrated these. For instance, in New York To Dallas, when Isaac McQueen escaped and murdered a nurse in the process, the prison staff reacted by trying to cover it up. They showed no real concern about the escape of a murderous pedophile, and about the murder of one of their own employees.
  • The Ferengi in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch, all the time. In The Left Hand of Destiny, Pharh is horrified to have stood up to Klingon warriors - he reflects that he could have been seriously injured, or even robbed. Then there's Zek:
    Gaila: It's why he’s destroying your legacy at the same time as he'’s ruining your retirement.
    Zek: How dare he! Nobody ruins my retirement and gets away with it!.
  • Played with in one of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers stories; a character trying to violate his world's laws and contact the Federation for help is chased down, and the police plead with him to surrender so they don't have to shoot - which might damage the building he's in. The character actually feels pride and hope that they consider the building's health more important than his, reflecting that "perhaps there's hope for my people after all".
  • In Can't Get There From Here, an animal-rights activist is more concerned about getting a group of homeless kids to give up the dog they rescued to her rather than doing anything about helping the kids themselves.
  • Older Than Feudalism: One of Aesop's Fables details a boy who swam too far into the river and was about to drown. A nearby man decides to stand there and scold him for being an idiot instead of, you know, rescuing him.
  • Twilight:
    • When Bella gets involved in a traffic accident, she is more concerned with the embarrassment of having to wear a neck brace when the ambulance people take her to the hospital than with anyone being hurt. In the hospital she is more concerned that a person who was also involved in the accident is annoying her with his apologies for almost killing her, than that he is traumatized and feels guilty about almost killing a classmate.
    • Lampshaded by Edward in Midnight Sun when he tells Bella he can read minds but not hers, and she worries that it means something is wrong with her. He does it out loud in the Twilight movie.
  • In The Tome of Bill, when Tom is Brainwashed and Crazy, is it a threat to his girlfriend that snaps him out of it? A threat to his best friend since grade school? No. It's a threat to his action figure collection that does the trick.
  • A serious example comes from the prologue of the Perri O'Shaugnessy novel, Breach of Promise. The narrator is reading a news story about a man who was mugged on his way home from the movies, shot and killed the mugger, and later died of the stab wounds that the mugger had given him. This was all over sixty dollars.
    "So two fools died for sixty dollars, and two fools killed for it....That's not even enough to buy a decent meal in a restaurant these days. Not enough to pay rent on a cardboard box. Not enough to die for."
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony, Holly is attempting to flee Paradizo Manor, and is relying on Foaly to provide covering fire with a stun gun. Foaly stuns one of the mooks, then quickly uses the stun gun's heat setting to evaporate the cup of coffee he was carrying. He points out that coffee stains would have been murder to get out of the Tunisian carpets, causing Holly to doubt if he has his priorities right for the situation.
  • In The Guns of the South both the Confederacy and the rest of the world have this view on the others' opinions on slavery. The Confederacy finds the world's hammering on about the evils of slavery while ignoring all the merits of the Confederacy a bizarre fixation, while the world can't understand how the Confederacy can defend that monstrous institution.
  • Where the Red Fern Grows describes a simple, yet effective raccoon trap: take a hollow log, cut a hole in the top, stick some nails through at an angle, and put something shiny inside. The raccoon will reach inside, grab the bait, and be unable to remove its now-enlarged fist. It won't let go of the shiny, not even to save its life.
  • When Simon gets turned into a rat in City of Bones, Alec's says this is bad... because it's illegal to turn mundanes into rats. Then Jace points out that it technically wasn't their fault, before Clary screams at them to shut up and save Simon.
  • Captain Underpants features this with the comics that the book's main characters George and Harold draw - a villain would come and something bad would always befall the gym teacher, but the principal would be more concerned with some other less significant thing that the villain did, like knock over chairs or drinking all the coffee from the coffee pot.
    • Subverted in one occasion when the principal was concerned that the villain hit someone, but sighs in relief when it was just the gym teacher.
    "Thank goodness! I thought it was someone important!"
  • In the first Guardians of Ga'Hoole book, owlet Soren gets snatched up by St. Aggie's owls. Rather than trying to wriggle and escape, he's more upset about how the owl carrying him just called him stupid.
  • Ciaphas Cain: As the Valhallans are trying to get non-combatants out of a doomed mining facility on shuttles, the evacuation is held up by Mechanicus priests insisting various bits of large and heavy machinery be taken as well. The problem is solved when the officer asks which one of them is staying behind to make room for it.
  • The Sorcerer's Daughter: Odette is turned into a swan, can't leave the lake, and doesn't know whether the curse will ever be lifted – and she's mad with worry that in her absence someone else might get her throne.
  • In Mortal Engines, the London Guild of Historians learn that their mayor is planning to besiege and destroy the shield wall at Batmunkh Gompa, with the assistance of the Lost Superweapon MEDUSA. Their first thought is worry for the historical artefacts stored at Batmunkh Gompa that will be destroyed, rather than the innocent people living there who will be killed.
  • Sleeping Beauties: Early in the book, Frank Geary watches news footage of a man removing the cocoon from the face of his wife, upon which she violently attacks him and bites off his nose, causing the husband to utter a curseword, which strangely enough gets censored while the rest of the footage did not.
    Frank: The news network had bleeped out "motherfucker" but had permitted America to see a woman tear off a goodly portion of her husband's nose. Something in those priorities was badly screwed up.
  • Stephanie Plum: In one of the novels, Stephanie is kidnapped by the bad guys and in the process of escaping manages to lose all her clothes (it's a long story). She manages to find a replacement T-shirt and some jeans, but no undergarments. When she returns to safety, her mother is much more concerned about Stephanie's going braless than that she's been held captive by murderous criminals.
  • Zigzagged in Ranger's Apprentice. In book 8, Halt is more put out that Ferris doesn't like coffee than by the fact that his brother stole the throne of Clonmel from him. Horace laughs about this, but it also shows Halt's Humble Hero personality very clearly.
  • Skippy Dies: Acting Principal Costigan prioritizes the school's image over the well-being of the students. He makes it very clear that he thinks molesting a student and driving him to suicide if you're important to the sports program is much less bad than chickening out of a dangerous teen prank. He also has a tendency to hold minor, teenage physiological accidents against his students, insisting that Skippy throwing up in class or Ruprecht popping a boner in the gym class showers are incontrovertible proof that they are bad kids.
  • In a poem titled after this trope, Skewed Priorities has the subject remembering that her relatives brought a game console instead of a car (something they needed) and thinks of them as stupid for that.
  • Overlaps with Even Evil Has Standards in Destroyer Angel. Reg refuses to kill a crippled dog because it would be wrong, despite displaying willingness to murder a paraplegic woman and a teenage girl. His boss is understandably confused by this.
  • In the Ravenor trilogy, Carl Thonius is a consummate Dandy whose desire to look fashionable sometimes eclipses his survival instincts and common sense. When Nayl tackles Carl into cover to protect him from gunfire, Carl complains that his jacket might have been deformed. When the team is launching a raid on a suspect’s hideout, Carl insists on dressing to the nines when everyone else is wearing bodygloves with body armour. This behaviour is part of the reason why nobody on the team respects Carl or takes him seriously.

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