Mugging the Monster

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

So Fingers McStealy is lurking in an alleyway waiting for a victim. Ah here comes someone, and that fetching hat and coat look expensive, he's smiling too, so maybe he just came into money? Ooo, he even has something shiny under his coat. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Basically this is when some random crook, and occasionally a pretty stupid one at that, has the misfortune of targeting someone much more powerful than he anticipated. When the Big Bad monster/alien assassin/robot from the future appears, the criminal acts as an Acceptable Target (specifically, an Asshole Victim) for them to begin their massacre. Alternatively The Hero is held up while going about their business. If they have a Secret Identity then it can lead to a Bruce Wayne Held Hostage scenario, but if the criminal attacked them in costume or the hero is just some Badass Walking the Earth then it typically just serves as an introduction. Bonus points if the would be victim looks particularly vulnerable.

When an assailant targets a crowd of people not knowing that Everyone Is Armed, you get this trope with strength of numbers replacing individual dangerousness.

Tends to make a good Establishing Character Moment, depending on how (and how easily) the crooks are dealt with. Occasionally this can lead to them recruiting a sidekick or other ally. Can be deeply satisfying. When the person looks vulnerable due to chronological endowment, it's Never Mess with Granny.

When a Video Game character does this, it's often due to Suicidal Overconfidence. Compare Bullying a Dragon, when the perpetrator knows full well how dangerous their victim is (but is reckless and/or stupid and/or drunk and/or desperate enough to provoke a confrontation anyway). See also Dude, Where's My Respect? when this keeps happening with no signs of anyone figuring out the pattern. Compare Colliding Criminal Conspiracies. Supertrope of Robbing the Mob Bank. Compare Superweapon Surprise, which is like this, but involves more people.

Please note: the trope need not include actual mugging (though it is a popular method). As long as the provoker or provokers intentionally and excessively antagonize someone much more powerful than they are without knowing beforehand what they are screwing with, and the provoker or provokers are thrashed because of it, then it's Mugging the Monster.

Not quite what it sounds like....

Examples of Mugging the Monster are listed on these subpages: