Crying Wolf

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House: At the end of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," the wolf really does come. And he eats the sheep... and the boy... and his parents.
Chase: The wolf doesn't eat the parents!

House: It does when I tell it.

You know the story. A little shepherd boy cries wolf to get people to come running, because he's bored out of his skull (or whatever). They fall for it. He does it again. They fall for it again. Then, an actual wolf comes along, and the little boy screams his little lungs out (crying "You Have to Believe Me!") but this time nobody comes, since they think he's just playing that stupid prank again. Why Didn't You Just Say So? may then ensue. Grimmer versions will end with the wolf eating the boy. Or the sheep. Or everyone.

Some have the variant plot of the hero kid getting caught in a relatively minor lie, or at least they thought they have, and then the kid alone spots something truly serious and no-one believes him. Fortunately, the kid is either able to find witnesses to support him or is able to prove his claim, even if he has to save the day on his own. Eventually, the kid's reputation is restored either being the authorities impressed by his heroism or the people he helped coming forward to praise his character.

Moral of the story: nobody believes a liar, even when he's telling the truth. This can be taken two ways: "Don't be a liar" or "Don't assume liars are always lying." Less traditional possibilities are "Never tell the same lie twice" and "Don't leave a known liar on watch."

Older Than Feudalism, the Trope Namer being from Aesop's Fables. Which also makes it one of The Oldest Ones in the Book.

A frequently subverted Undead Horse Trope.

Not to be confused with the Metal Gear Solid 4 boss, Crying Beauty / Wolf.

See also: Cassandra Truth, Not-So-Imaginary Friend, No Mere Windmill, Mistaken for An Imposter, Not Now, Kiddo. If the character crying wolf turns out to be right, and people still refuse to believe him, then he is either an Ignored Expert or The Cassandra.

Examples of Crying Wolf include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Usopp's introductory arc in One Piece is modeled on the Boy Who Cried Wolf (or Pirates, in his case), and his name is a portmanteau of "Uso" (lie) and "Aesop". By the point we meet him, he's done it every day for ten years. By then, the village sets their watches by it ("Usopp's coming, time to go to work.").
  • Minor instance with Lucky Star, where Konata can't convince her teacher she's too sick to attend class after she spent the past two days giving other (dumber) excuses.
  • The opposite is played with in Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei. After some incidents on April Fool's Day, Itoshiki concludes that if a person is always honest everyone will believe them even when they're lying. Then a fairy tale book is shown with the opposite of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" story, where an entire village is destroyed after a perfectly honest boy cries wolf as a joke.
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni the reason why social services do not believe that Satoko is being abused by her uncle is because she used a Wounded Gazelle Gambit one too many times against her innocent stepfather and they were afraid that she was doing the same thing again. This is rather tragic when you read the TIPS and learn that abuse from previous stepfathers has really messed with her head and she can't tell the difference between her current stepfather and the ones before. In other words: There's a good chance she really believed she was being abused.
    • Although the social services actually DID show up at her house when her teacher called them. However, this time Satoko refuses to admit to the abuse, so they can't do anything.
  • Code Geass uses a variant of this in R2. During the Second Battle of Tokyo, Suzaku says he's carrying a Weapon of Mass Destruction in an attempt to deter the Black Knights. Lelouch doesn't believe him because a couple of episodes earlier, Suzaku lied about a private meeting and brought along soldiers who nearly captured Lelouch....except that Suzaku did come alone; Schneizel was the one who sent the soldiers, to destroy any remaining bonds of trust between the pair. This results in Tokyo getting destroyed.
  • In Angel Beats!, Yurippe told this story (lies repeated make them less believable) and her new alternative is to use different people and invent new gags. The gags used are: Hinata - bamboo shoots shooting out the ground (Hinata's chair launches), Takamatsu - look thinner on the clothes (Takamatsu's chair launches with style), Ooyama - confess to Tenshi (Hinata's chair launches). All for the sake of making Kanade Tachibana aka Tenshi fail.
  • This also shows up in an episode of the Little Lulu anime. After three false alarms involving falling out of a tree, freaking out over a caterpillar, and thinking that Alvin was going to fall into the lake while rolling in a barrel, Lulu is no longer believed by Tubby and the other boys when she tries telling them that the Westside Gang really did show up. Up until the end of the episode, that is.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • Happened in a Disney comic featuring Scrooge McDuck staging "tests" to see how his employees (among which, Donald Duck) reacted. Hilarity Ensued when a real thug attacked Scrooge, but he failed to learn anything, refused to admit he was ever at fault, and ends up chasing Donald out of town trying to clobber him.
  • A Tale Spin comic had Baloo be late for work due to running into a ghost plane flown by skeletons. Rebecca naturally thinks he's lying until he flies her up there to see it for herself. After the plot is resolved (it was a Scooby-Doo Hoax created by Shere Khan to hide his secret Airborne Aircraft Carrier. Really.) Rebecca vows to never doubt Baloo again. The comic ends with Baloo loafing around Louie's while calling Rebecca to tell her he was caught in a hurricane and may be stuck the whole night.
  • Takes on a more literal meaning in Fables. Jack Horn is brutally attacked by a group of living wooden soldiers and escapes to tell Bigby and Snow about it. They don't believe him, despite the fact that he is bloody and carrying a wooden leg, because Jack has basically made a career of scams and get-rich-quick strategies and they think this is just one more. When he protests, Snow White asks him "Jack, have you ever heard of the boy who cried wolf?" to which Jack replies in total seriousness, "Yeah, he lives on the seventh floor. What's that got to do with anything?"
    • To be fair to Snow and Bigby, in the first arc Jack and Snow's sister Rose had faked her death to get out of paying Bluebeard, staging the crime scene with actual blood.
    • There's also a flashback in a later chapter that shows Jack tried to steal the Naughty or Nice list from Santa Claus back in the fifties.
    • The Jack of Fables series has more flashbacks with Jack pulling off even more outrageous schemes for cash.
  • Parodied in a Far Side cartoon.
  • The swedish comicbook Kunskapens Korridorer had a scene where the school was having a standard fire drill... when an actual fire broke out. The principal (who earlier had complained how no one takes the fire drills seriously) is amazed how serious everyone is about the drill... while he's idly pottering around the school halls instead of evacuating, because he still thinks it's just a drill. The whole event culminates with him going out on an upper-floor balcony while everyone waves and shouts at him, and prepares to make a speech... and only then realizes the room behind him is on fire. The fireman who rescues him even asks him why he didn't evacuate like a smart person should.


Films -- Animation[edit | hide]

  • Mulan pretends to be male to get into the army, makes up a fake identity for the sake of pretending to be male, lies about her reasons for her actions for the sake of both, etc. And when the military doctor treating her injuries discovers that she is female, this takes down pretty much her entire web of lies. So, when she finds out that the Huns are still alive and tries to warn the others about this, she isn't believed.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup says that "This isn't like the last time! I really did kill a Night Fury!" Though even if he had never lied about killing one before, nobody would believe Hiccup killed a Night Fury anyway.


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • This is the entire plot of Big Fat Liar.
  • The movie Cry Wolf.
  • Chunk has this problem in The Goonies. None of his friends believe him when he starts a story with "I just saw the most amazing thing in my entire life." More importantly, the friendly sheriff doesn't believe him when he says he's in trouble because the last time several times he called it was a prank.
  • Tremors. The boy Melvin Plug repeatedly plays pranks on Earl and Valentine, including wrapping a Graboid tentacle around his head and pretending it's attacking him. Finally he starts yelling and Earl, thinking he's still joking, says he's going to kick Melvin's ass. When they go outside, they see Melvin cowering on top of a metal pole—making them realize that this time he isn't kidding—the Graboids are here.
  • Captain Jack Sparrow is an interesting case. It's not that he tells outright lies, but usually half-truths, and it's always for the purpose of manipulating people for his own ends. As a result, nobody actually trusts Jack fully and when it turns out he's been honest about something, it's pretty shocking.

Norrington: You really were telling the truth.
Jack: I do that quite a lot. You people are always surprised.
Will: With good reason.

  • In Bedazzled (1967), George (the Devil) gives poor shlub Stanley seven wishes for his soul, but grants them all in the worst-case ways possible. Having claimed more than enough souls to get back into Heaven as an angel (as per a bet with God), he gives Stanley the deed to his soul back, maybe out of pity, but more to make himself look good. At Heaven's gate he's turned away for this selfish gesture - he rushes back to Stanley, desperate to give him back his soul in an altruistic way, but Stanley has been tricked too often, burns the deed, and slips away.
  • In How to Steal a Million, Simon Dermott used a boomerang to repeatedly set off the alarms guarding a priceless counterfeit Cellini statuette (actually made by Nicole Bonnet's grandfather). Very, very loud alarms. After the third or fourth time awakened someone hinted to be French President Charles de Gaulle, the chief guard turned off the alarm system altogether. And then, of course, Simon swiped the statuette so that an art appraiser wouldn't have the chance to examine it and realize it was a fake. Wouldn't you help an Audrey Hepburn character cover up her family's tradition of art fraud?


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The title comes from one of Aesop's actual fables, making this Older Than Feudalism. Interestingly, the boy in the original fable only loses his sheep; the detail of being killed by the wolf himself only being added much later.
  • Hilaire Belloc's poem Matilda, who told lies and was burned to death, features Matilda, who...told lies and was burned to death, for

... every time she shouted "Fire!"
They only answered "Little Liar!"

  • Willo D Robert's " The Kidnappers" has a protagonist, Joel, with this Problem. so, when he says he saw the school bully kidnapped, no-one will listen( except his friend, sister and the bad guys themselves) this proves to be a really, really BAD thing.
  • In Jennifer-the-Jerk Is Missing, Malcolm's past history of reporting nonexistent crimes to the police (that he genuinely thought were occurring) has destroyed his reputation with them. So when he does see the kidnapping of a bratty classmate, no-one believes him.
  • In one of Nyx Smith's Shadowrun novels, an assassin returns to a location several nights in a row to shoot a security camera. While the security guards do keep checking each time it goes on the blink, their response-time becomes slower and slower, until it's long enough for her to sneak inside and swiftly eliminate her target.
  • In the Kim Newman story "Kentish Glory: The Secret of Drearcliff Grange School", one of Amy's schoolfriends, Smudge, is constantly telling wild stories. Then another friend gets kidnapped by sinister hooded figures, and they go to report this to the staff:

"Smudge told the story first, which was a disaster."

    • Amy corroberated the story, which might have helped if a third girl hadn't said she simply ran off.
  • In Gordon Korman's The D- Poems of Jeremy Bloom, the narrator of the poem "Why I Was Late" comes to school late every day for a week, always giving a ridiculous excuse (an asteroid enveloped Earth in a time-distortion field which means he's actually on time, he had to tiptoe around an unexploded atomic bomb in his front yard, etc.). On Friday, his excuse is actually plausible: he missed the bus because he had to rescue the family cat from a tree, and he couldn't ride his bike to school because he left it in the driveway and his father accidentally backed the car over it. He insists that he was telling the truth this time—honest—but his enraged teacher refuses to listen.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Regained, when Eramus blames himself for not heeding Prospero's message, Prospero blames himself for having cried wolf once too often.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Combined with Playing Sick on an episode of Community. Leonard's comrade Richard continually says, "Where am I? What year is this?" and the rest of the seniors laugh at this genius ploy of getting out of trouble. This leads to a Tear Jerker moment towards the end when Pierce and the others discover Richard is actually suffering from dementia, and may or may not have been previously faking.
  • On an episode of Scrubs the Janitor plots to get J.D., who is living in a tent on his half-acre. The Janitor calls the police from a nearby payphone for several days, reporting a wolf. When the police arrive and ask J.D., there is no wolf. The plan culminates in the Janitor releasing an actual wolf in JD's tent, only to have the wolf turn on Janitor instead.
    • Played fairly straight in an episode where the Janitor claims to have been a world class hurdler in his younger days. J.D., who had been victimized by the Janitor's compulsive lying for years, finally cries foul and tells him that the hurdling bit is a bridge too far. J.D. finds out later that the Janitor was actually telling the truth this time.
    • Yet another time, the Janitor offers an apology and tickets to a sporting event as a way to make amends, and J.D., having been tricked by this sort of thing before, denies him. The Janitor then turns, pulls the tickets out of his pocket, and says "Fine, see if I ever reach out again."
  • Few believe Lost's Ben Linus when he says the Boaties are Bad Guys who plan to kill everyone on the island, since Ben has spent the last season and a half destroying his own credibility through series after series of intricate lies.
    • Likewise, when he tries to get Hurley to come with him next season, having joined forces with Jack to take the survivors back to the island, Hurley refuses to listen.
    • Also, in season six, when Ben finds an injured Sun in the jungle, the others refuse to believe he had nothing to do with it, even though he had switched sides at that point.
  • In an episode of Psych, Shawn alone believes the testimony of a man who's known to be a chronic liar, because he can read the man's "tells" that reveal he's not lying this time. He spends the rest of the episode trying to prove the man's case.
  • On Dexter, the title character builds up Sergeant Doakes' suspicions of him covertly to make it look like Doakes has an irrational vendetta against him. When he finally makes a blatant move against Doakes by lying to him about a blood report and causing him to arrest and terrorize an innocent man, Doakes' superior doesn't even bother to check his insistence that Dexter set him up.
  • In an episode of House MD, a woman with Munchausen's Syndrome (which is a condition that causes you to try to get medicine in any way, often by pretending to be sick) turned out to actually be sick. Also, see the quote above.
    • In another season five episode, House references the story by saying "I don't care how many time he lies, Mom's gonna come running." Which is sad, but true.
  • In one LazyTown episode Ziggy was playing pranks by saying untrue things, such as there being a monkey playing trumpet outside or Trixie having a spider on her shoulder. The other kids get sick of it, and decide to ignore him, then, when he stumbles on Robbie plotting out loud in a cow costume, they refuse to believe he saw a talking, evil cow with a catapult. Kind of a Broken Aesop, in that it would have been a pretty reasonable thing for them to doubt anyway, even without Ziggy losing their trust by telling lies.
  • Played with in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: When Bashir tells the story to Garak, the Cardassian (coming from a Planet of Hats of untrustworthy schemers Magnificent Bastards) concludes the moral is not to keep telling the same lie.
    • The problem with that interpretation is, if the boy was exposed for repeatedly starting false alarms, they still would have stopped believing him no matter how many different stories he had told.
  • In Misfits, we have a rare case of a character crying wolf both metaphorically and literally. Nathan is convinced that his step-father is a werewolf—and not without reason—but unfortunately his mother, Louise, is so used to her son attempting to sabotage her relationships (and generally spouting fantastical lies at the drop of a hat) that she sternly refuses to listen.

Louise: This is like the time you said Richard was sexually abusing you.
Nathan: It's nothing like that! This is true!

    • This trope is actually played with quite a lot in Misfits, and not merely with Nathan and his various lies. As the protagonists are all convicted petty criminals, when they find themselves committing horrible acts through necessity (they are forced to kill an Ax Crazy guy in self-defence), they know that no-one would believe them if they told the truth—which is understandable, the truth being that they were caught in a freak electrical storm that gave them all superpowers and transformed their supervisor into a psychotic zombie. Hence they are given little choice but to lie.
  • In an episode of Lexx, Xev refused to heed 790's warnings that Stan was possessed by a malignant alien influence, since 790 was always saying similar things about Stan and begging anyone in earshot to kill him.

790: Not that I didn't mean it before, but this time I really mean it!

  • On Sanford and Son, as well as the Revival series Sanford, Fred's fake "heart attacks" were a running gag. An episode of the latter show starts out with him complaining about feeling sick and having numbness in his arm, but the other characters blow it off as the usual goldbricking; after they've left, however, he suffers a real heart attack and they come back to find him collapsed on the floor.
  • The Colbert Report: Stephen warns about crying wolf or rather crying zombie in the end of this clip about college students playing zombie tag. According to Stephen this game will leave us vulnreanble when the rage virus escapes.
  • On Cougar Town, Jules pretends to be hurt to get her son to come into the room faster than if she just called him. The second time she does it, she's lying on the floor, and says, "No, really this time! I twisted my ankle!" Not really.
  • In 90210 sequel series one of teachers exploits this trope when his student Naomi falsely accused him of sexual harrasment. She later admits her lie, but soon afterwards he rapes her for real.

Mr. Cannon: Who's going to believe you? You're the girl who cried wolf.

  • In one episode of The Practice, Jimmy defended an accused rapist whose victim had a record for claiming to have been raped in two previous occasions only to have the authorithies investigate and find no evidence to confirm either case. That record makes Jimmy believe his client's claim that the "victim" consented. However, the law prohibits defense from bringing up the victim's sexual life in rape cases. Jimmy even tried (and failed) to convince the judge to allow it. While trying, Jimmy literally accused the "victim" of crying wolf.
    • In another episode, Hannah Rose discredit a rape victim by pointing out said victim had been diagnosed with Münchausen.
  • El Chavo del Ocho and La Chillindrina were playing a game where Chavo was a sports commentator and the lollipop he was holding was a microphone. When Chavo ate the "microphone" and she told her Dad about it, he thought she was talking about a real microphone. Later on, Don Ramón refused to believe when Chavo told him Quico swallowed a radio. (No, really. There was a radio that small)
  • On Mash, Klinger lies repeatedly about family emergencies that require him to be sent home. When he receives word in the mail that his wife wants a divorce, nobody believes it's for real.
  • Played with on an episode of The Golden Girls. Rose is regaling Blanche and Sophia with another St. Olaf story. It starts off like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, only this boy Shepard actually WAS losing his sheep to a wolf, but he never caught him in the act. So he became known as "The Boy Who Didn't Cry Wolf". Finally, when the boy did catch the wolf, this being St. Olaf Insane Troll Logic comes into play. The townspeople assumed that if the boy never cried wolf when it was there, now that he was crying wolf it probably wasn't. It was a bear. The boy is now known as "The Boy Who Cried Continuously".
  • In an episode of Top Gear where the boys turn cars into trains, Jeremy Clarkson passes James May on an adjacent track and sees that James' buffet car is on fire. When Jeremy tells him his train is on fire, James doesn't believe him; the fire was on the side he couldn't see and Jeremy isn't the most trustworthy co-presenter around. As a result, the buffet car burns down completely and all the passengers James is carrying run away.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]


Puppet Shows[edit | hide]

  • A Muppet sketch on Sesame Street adapted the classic fable, with Cookie Monster taking the place of the wolf.
  • The Muppet Classic Theater special adapted the classic fable as well, with Gonzo as the titular boy who cried wolf. Unlike most of the other examples, though, Gonzo is not deliberately lying; he's just over-excitable and jumps to conclusions a lot, his imagination well-helped along by overreacting sheep who panic over everything (a couple of falling rocks means an earthquake, a few drops of water hitting him is obviously the signs of a tidal wave). He honestly believes it every time he rushes to warn the villagers of impending doom, but since the disasters are always ludicrous and never even remotely true, the result is the same: When the Big Bad Wolf shows up, the villagers don't bother to listen to Gonzo's cries for help.
    • It becomes a bit of a Broken Aesop when the moral weirdly enough remains "don't lie" and the villagers all chew Gonzo out for lying—except Gonzo never tells a single intentional lie over the course of the story. A better moral for this version of the tale would have been "before making public statements about something, try to make sure you have the basic facts right and haven't misunderstood the entire thing."
    • Which might be interpreted more along the lines of The Sky Is Falling than of deliberate pranking.


Radio[edit | hide]

  • Attacked in a That Mitchell and Webb Sound sketch depicting the shepherd boy's uncle being cross-examined during a court inquiry into the incident, where the prosecutor questions why the boy was chosen as the one to watch the sheep in the first place, and suggests a better moral for the story would be "If you have grounds to believe there is a ferocious predator at large, don't appoint as your sole watchman a twelve-year-old child who you have resolved to ignore." It then goes on to suggest the shepherd intentionally set the boy up.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • The Transhuman Space suplement Cities On The Edge describes an ultra-tech version of the car/shop alarm problem described under Real Life. If criminals can keep fooling an AI security system into making false alarms, then eventually the owners will either start ignoring it or set it to be less vigilant.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio is a melodramatic jokester, so when he gets into a mock fight with Tybalt and screamed that he is dying, while making witticisms about his injury, all of his friends laugh at him. He is, in fact, dying.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Super Mario RPG, the boy Gaz tells his mother he's just seen Geno walking around outside. She's heard excuses involving Geno before, and "Geno" is just a doll Gaz likes to play with. Or is he?
  • In Half-Life 2: Episode 2, after an (offscreen) unending stream of false alarms due to crows, nobody takes seriously the first Combine assault on the White Forest base. Several lives are lost for not reacting faster, and of course it's Gordon's job to fix things.
  • At the beginning of Banjo-Tooie, Kazooie cheats at a game of cards by telling everyone that Gruntilda has come back to life. While they're looking out the window, Kazooie steals some chips. During that very same game of cards, the whole house starts shaking, and Mumbo leaves to investigate. He comes back and reveals that Gruntilda really has come back. Bottles doesn't believe him and stays inside while everyone else is running out, which doesn't end so well for him.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in this strip of Order of the Stick. Vaarsuvius' party members refuse to believe that V really has a familiar and that it's been with them the whole time, largely because V completely forgot about it until recently. The trope is even referenced in the title: "The Elf Who Cried Raven".
  • Oglaf uses it—see the page image. Please be aware that much of Oglaf is extremely NSFW.
  • Cyanide & Happiness shows how the pandas suffer because of this.
  • In chapter 32 of Gunnerkrigg Court, Annie's attempts to reconcile with Kat by inventing dangerous situations for them to "solve" become so exaggerated that Kat assumes a huge, clearly real kraken to be another of her antics.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • False Alarm by Glenn Jones. [1]

In case of false alarm, repair glass


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In The Ewoks episode "Cries of the Trees", Wicket, Paploo and Teebo are caught trying to lie their way out of playing a forbidden game and sentenced to join the ground work crew. Suddenly, a whistie (magically enchanted by Morag the Tulga Witch) appears to light Wicket's broom on fire and the boys frantically attempt to put it out, but only make it worse until the Elders come do it properly. Unfortunately, given that the boys were caught lying before, the Elders don't believe their story that they didn't start the fire which seemed to begin on its own. Thus the boys are given a harsher punishment, which puts them in an area to see Morag's larger scheme at work, but this time, Wicket's brothers, responsible as their warders see what is going on and immediately back up the boys when they run back to warn the tribe. In the end, the boys save the day, the Elders decide they were too hard on them.
  • In a Darkwing Duck episode, Honker is mistakenly thought to be lying about something when it was the supervilllain's, Splatter Phoenix, fault. At the climax, Splatter literally steals the lips of the Mona Lisa (which protests all the way) and Honkers saves them. His parents come to punish him, but the lips stuns them by protesting their mistaken judgment of the boy, whose character he praises.
  • In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Orson the Pig tells the story of "The Wolf Who Cried Boy" about a wolf who cries "boy" too often until finally none of his pack believe him when a young hunter comes up the hill. In the middle of telling the story, Orson realizes that Roy the Rooster's constant cries of "Wolf!" throughout out the episode may not be another prank.
  • In Rugrats, the only times the babies don't believe Angelica are when she's telling the truth.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Foney Fables", a running gag is this story where the boy does it just to piss off the townsfolk, greeting them each time with a characteristic laugh. At the end the wolf does come and the woodsman comes to discover that the wolf has eaten the boy and laughs just like the boy did earlier.
    • Inverted a chicken was in real danger as a fox continuously tries to get him, and constantly pulls the alarm but The Barnyard Dawg couldn't understand him and only thinks he wants water (each time the fox fled as soon as the alarm rang).
  • There was an episode of The Simpsons with an actual wolf, although it started out with Bart pretending to be sick to avoid schoolwork.

Grandpa Simpson: Did you ever hear the story of the boy who cried wolf?
Bart: Boy cries wolf, has a few laughs, forget how it ends.

    • Later, an actual Alaskan timber wolf escapes its owners and attacks Bart right outside the classroom. Groundskeeper Willie rescues him (beating the wolf handily) and Bart staggers back inside all scratched and bloody...and still isn't believed, of course. He gives up and "admits" he was lying about the wolf, and Mrs Krabappel says "Don't you feel much better for telling the truth?" before noticing he's lost consciousness.

Bart: I'm just gonna lie on the floor now. Please don't let me swallow my tongue.

  • Inverted and subverted in the South Park episode "The Death Camp of Tolerance". The boys tell their parents that Mr. Garrison and Mr. Slave are gay, but their parents accuse them of being homophobic and take them to a tolerance museum. They tell them again, but It Got Worse because they end up in a tolerance camp run by a pseudo-Nazi who threatens to kill them if they screw up. And it's then that the parents see Garrison and Slave are doing stereotypically gay things, and then they bail out the nearly-dead kids while Garrison and Slave themselves are sent to the camp.
  • Subverted in My Life as a Teenage Robot: Tuck spent all day calling Jenny to do his chores and impress his friends by making her guilty about having him as last priority over Saving the World. One of his new friends in particular has weird yellow eyes and pointed teeth. Later, his brother persuaded Jenny to read the story, and she decided not to go after Tuck anymore...until she reads what happens to the boy at the end of the story. The last time he calls her, she eventually goes—but finds that he was calling her to see a friend's pet (a dog that was half wolf).
  • An episode of The Angry Beavers deals with Dagget discovering how much fun slapping his tail on the surface of the water is. Norbert tries to get him to stop abusing it because of this reason (even though the whole thing comes off as a metaphor for something else...), and indeed an actual wolf shows up and no one takes Norb seriously when he tries to warn them with the tail slap.
  • This is also done in The Powerpuff Girls. The Gangreen Gang trick the Mayor into leaving his office so they can use his hotline to Powerpuff Girls to play crank calls on them, sending them after Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins, and finally Him when they were just minding their own business. When the trio finds out that the gang was responsible for the girls attacking them, they attack the gang and when the real Mayor gets back to his office and sees the fight, he calls the Powerpuff Girls, but they don't believe him and even incinerate their phone.
    • Buttercup pulls this on her sisters in the comic book story "Who's Afraid Of The Closet Monster?" (issue #29).
  • Naturally, this occurs in the Three Little Pigs' followup Three Little Wolves: Practical sets up a horn as a wolf alarm, only to find his brothers abusing it and laughing at his expense. He warns them that "Someday the Wolf'll get ya. Then you'll be in a fix. You'll blow that horn and I won't come. I'll think it's one of your tricks." Which is exactly how it plays out, though they finally get his attention by tricking the wolf into blowing the horn with all his might.
  • A Dexter's Laboratory short had DeeDee pulling the old "What's that" gag, pointing to Dexter's chest then flicking his face when he looked down. The 3rd time, she cries out "What's that" for real and Dexter's got his eyes closed, refusing to fall for the gag as a face-sized bug is latched onto his head.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 series, Zach's parents sent him to a military academy for falsely reporting several crimes he believed to happen.
  • In Yogis Gang, the animals and "Mr. Fibber" convince Yogi to land the flying ark, twice. Both times they claimed an emergency situation of some sort, but it turned out they just spotted a lemonade stand and then an ice cream factory. When the animals spot an approaching tornado, Yogi refuses to land, thinking it's another trick.

Yogi Bear: You fooled me twice. Three times isn't nice!

  • The second Animated Adaptation of Clifford the Big Red Dog had a story called "The Dog Who Cried Woof" in which Cleo pranks Clifford and T-Bone with a ghost story.
  • The Raccoons: In one episode, Bert Raccoon found out Cyril Sneer wanted to pave the forest but nobody would believe him because of how he jumped into conclusions before.
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The rest of the gang initially refused to believe Shaggy and Scooby about Dr. Croaker because they assumed it was another exaggeration as the ones they invoked to justify their skepticism.
  • Wheel Squad had an episode where Enzo was having a tunnel built to grant potential customers easy access to World Mart. Unfortunately, the construction was threatening the neighborhood, so they started a petition. Fearing the petition wouldn't be ready on time, the heroes tried to forge signs of dinosaurs having lived there so archaeologists would delay the work until the petition was ready but the hoax was soon exposed. Later on, the heroes investigated and found out remains of an Ancient Roman bath house. As it sometimes happens when the hero finds out the villain's secret, the villain appeared to confront them about it. One of the heroes told Enzo he couldn't keep them from telling about the bath house and Enzo said he didn't have to, since nobody would believe them after the dinosaur hoax. Neverthless, they did convince someone to investigate and the truth gets out.
  • Some Care Bears invoked the trope using a swamp monster instead of a wolf and the others refused to believe when they were attacked by a "real" swamp monster, who was actually Mr. Beastley in disguised but the Care Bears didn't know it.
  • Played straight and inverted in Regular Show. One Episode, Grilled Cheese Deluxe, revolves around Mordecai and Rigby having a lying contest. Their lies end up escalating to them using a Grilled Cheese Sandwich to save the city from an Antimatter Explosion. (It Makes Sense in Context) When habitual liar Rigby tells the truth about what happened to the sandwich, he's not believed. Mordecai then lies about what happened, and is believed.
  • In the second season of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle gets worked up over nothing on several occasions, on one occasion throwing a whole town into chaos. This bit her in the plot big time when she realized Princess Mi Amore Cadenza was Not Herself, but nopony believed her.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Does anyone even bat an eyelash anymore when a car alarm goes off?
    • Some car thieves actually count on this, setting off a car alarm until the person gets frustrated and shuts it off entirely. Robbery ensues.
  • Similar to the car alarm example, store staff will frequently disregard the beeping of electronic article surveillance systems because these alarms often go off accidentally. Makes you wonder how many shoplifters set off an alarm and still walk out of the store without getting caught.
    • On the other hand, many store employees not trained to handle shoplifers will be told not to engage any one that actually is one (ie anyone that doesn't immediately stop when the alarm goes off). In no small part due to the potential for untrained employees getting hurt by someone desperate enough to snatch and grab. The employees trained to handle that sort of thing generally are not the obvious ones and most are caught on camera any way at which point they're much easier to catch if they come back (or for severe offenders, elsewhere as stores will typically share information about such people as it hurts everyone in the area).
  • In Real Life, this happened to Andy Kaufman. Having built his career on an increasingly outlandish series of worked shoots, a lot of people thought his increasingly fragile, sickly appearance in 1984 was another prank in the making (indeed, he had once considered faking his death). But he really was dying of lung cancer, succumbing that May... though there are still a few who think He's Just Hiding.
  • In a somewhat related example to the above, GG Allin would have friends call his brother (who was also in the band) and say that GG died, which is nothing compared to his onstage antics (throwing his shit into the audience, bashing his head in with a microphone, beating up audience members, et cetera). Eventually, he got used to it, so he ignored all calls like that. When GG Allin died of a drug overdose, band members, friends, and others called him to say that he died. Guess what happened?
  • Forcefully averted in Real Life by many high security areas (prisons, army bases, top secret labs and so forth) when all alarms are always answered, even when it seems to be just another false alarm as its always a possibility that the false alarms may be engineered by intruders hoping to exploit the Crying Wolf syndrome in the hopes of breaking in without too much resistance.
    • A violinist travelling to Chicago made a joke about having a machine gun in his case. Airport security did NOT have a sense of humour, but deliberately so. He missed the flight.
  • In World War I, both sides spread propaganda about the enemy, which included a genocide perpetrated by the Germans. While there were indeed occasional war crimes against the civilian population (what with the western front being most of the time in Belgium and France), but genocide... less so. This came to light after the war, of course. Now, if you have been paying attention during history lessons, you might remember that Germany did indeed start a program of genocide within the next 20 years. The response to warnings this time was rather... lukewarm. Ouch.
    • Anne Frank and her family knew from British radio that if they were captured things would be bad, yet the soldiers liberating the camps were utterly surprised/horrified.
    • The Germans actually did commit a genocide shortly before WWI broke out, the Herero and Namaqua genocide in German South-West Africa (modern day Namibia).
    • Highly disputed. German planning did in fact provide for long term ethnic cleansing (by deportation if possible, by outright slaughter if not), and that is what they did to varying degrees in pretty much every country they occupied. And even when they chose to cut back on willy-nilly killing, they were entirely willing to use famine and forced labor in any event. If anything, the main fault with the propaganda was not in creating a genocide where there was not one but in exaggerating the scope of the existing ones.
  • "This is not a practice alert. I repeat, this is not a practice alert!"
  • In a Midwest town, the tornado warning sirens are tested on the first Tuesday of each month during tornado season. Jokes that tornadoes better not strike on a first Tuesday are so old, even the weather reports seldom do them anymore.
    • In another hometown, they test the sirens on the first Wednesday of every month, as long as the weather is clear. If the weather is cloudy, they wait a day, and so on until a clear day.
  • This is precisely why today joking that you have a bomb isn't a good thing to do. Not only will you be detained, you can be outright arrested.
  • Workplaces and schools which conduct regular fire drills can result in people becoming complacent when there really is a fire and the alarm rings.
    • This can be a good thing: it ensures that nobody panics and treats the threat as a routine incident, so everybody can exit the building in a safe and orderly manner.
      • Unless there's a really big problem, like a teacher assuming it's another fire drill, when in fact it's a tornado drill. (It happened.)
    • On a related note, a dormitory at Seton Hall University had a problem with idiots setting off the fire alarms as a joke. This happened repeatedly over a matter of months and caused many students to ignore the alarms and not evacuate the building when a real fire started.
  • Starblade, the furry who made "Fuck you! I'm a dragon!" a household phrase among /b/tards, often asserted that the backlash to his behavior on the Internet constituted death threats. Since the general consensus was that every other sentence he typed was A) totally lulzy and B) in itself evidence for a need of stronger medication, most Internet denizens dismissed claims that someone was trying to kill him as standard Starblade fare. It became a little harder to classify his claims as paranoia when his friend stabbed him to death.
  • One Chinese emperor loved playing with the country's emergency beacons to entertain his favorite concubine. This resulted in the downfall of his dynasty, as when China was actually invaded the soldiers didn't believe it was an actual emergency.
  • This post on FMyLife.com.
  • During the Apollo 13 mission, astronaut Fred Haise turned a valve in the Lunar Module that produced a loud bang, as per a joke. So when the accident occurred and produced a similar bang, the other astronauts Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert initially didn't think anything about it until they saw Haise's concerned face.
  • Groups like DARE, and to a lesser extent the U.S. education system in general, have been known to lie about the effects of milder illegal drugs like marijuana, causing many to take less seriously their warnings about more significantly dangerous drugs like heroin and meth. This has led many to give them a fair bit of the blame for the high rates of use of hard drugs. John Cheese of Cracked.com, for example, has this to say: