Toxic Friend Influence

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Regine: Why would you do that?
Sinclare: Because I feel guilty.

Maxine: Guilt is a trick emotion. It's put there by your parents to stop you from doing things that feel good.
Living Single

A lot of times in media and in Real Life there's a friend (or a group of friends), a very good friend whom you may have known since you were kids. But there's one small flaw within the friendship. The friend in question always gets you into serious trouble. It's usually stuff like trying to get you to break curfew, violate your parole, drink underage and do drugs. The toxic friend will guilt-trip you for not going along with what they want and accusing you of "changing." They'll say things like "Man, you have changed. You used to be cool!", or "Come on it'll be fun!" And of course, all of the above will almost certainly lead to serious consequences. This is almost the 2000's variant of The Aggressive Drug Dealer.

More often than not these characters are usually plot devices for the protagonist to get into a horrible situation for the purposes of an Aesop. Under normal circumstances, the protagonist in question is usually a rational thinker when not around these types of friends. But when they hang around them they become ridiculously impressionable and naive and easily misled. The friend could be generally well-intentioned and benevolent, but still not a good friend in the greater scheme of things. Also expect these friends to be from the Wrong Side of the Tracks, and almost always a troubled promiscuous female, while the protagonist usually has a squeaky-clean square background (though not always). If they're malicious, they may try to cut off their new friend from old ones because "They Were Holding You Back."

The toxic friend could also possibly be a passive-aggressive Et Tu, Brute? and saboteur, like a crabs-in-a-barrel kind of thing. Can be a comedic trope but more often than not it has darker implications. It's also possible for the Toxic Friend to be a significant other as well. Oh, and expect the Toxic Friend to have a very low mortality rate. In a darker sense, serial killers can be Toxic as well by turning their friends, family, and lovers into accomplices.

Sensei for Scoundrels is this trope applied to the student/mentor relationship. See also Peer Pressure Makes You Evil. May also overlap with Femme Fatale.

See also Poisonous Friend, who is "toxic" in a completely different way than a Toxic Friend.

Examples of Toxic Friend Influence include:


  • Randall from both Clerks films. As much as his friend Dante is responsible for his own malaise, Randall's actions do quite a bit of damage on their own (and certainly never help things).
  • Ferris from Ferris Bueller's Day Off springs instantly to mind. Cameron must have the patience of a saint.
  • Paige from The Last House on the Left lured her friend into a bad situation trying to get marijuana.
  • Arguably Louise was this to Thelma in Thelma and Louise.
  • Needles in the Back to the Future movies.
    • Needles was never really portrayed as a friend to Marty, however. He came off more as a bully, as Marty's equivalent to his father's Biff.
  • Amanda from Taken. Enticing her friend to lie to her father, and sleep with French men, because she heard that they are good in bed.
  • LifetimeMovies tend to love these characters. Almost always female, almost always bitchy, and always ready to cause trouble to the Girl Next Door.
  • Some people see Juno from The Descent as this. Her intentions may be debatable, but the fact she slept with her friend's husband indisputably put her in this category.
  • In Brokedown Palace Alice Marano is this to Darlene Davis. Some fans also believe that Alice was the one responsible for the drugs, and that she was a drug smuggler all along.
  • Evie Zamora from Thirteen to the highest disturbing degree. Evie introduces Tracy to shoplifting, underage sex, hard drugs, and seducing older men.
  • The girls from Heavenly Creatures were this to each other.
  • In the obscure 1990 romance thriller called A Girl to Kill For. Sue is this to sweet natured yet gullible Chuck. More or less seducing him into situations that kept getting worse. Can't help but feel sympathy for the poor guy.
  • Same could be more or less said for Julie Walker from Return of the Living Dead III.
  • Male example from Save the Last Dance: Malakai to Derek. Derek is one of the few young men in his school who is headed for (and actively seeking) a brighter future, while fresh-from-juvie Malakai seems bound and determined to drag him into the gang scene. Derek, for being a bright guy, gets really stupid where Kai is concerned.
  • Ellie from And Soon the Darkness annoyingly veered into this trope in both versions of the film.
  • Kumar from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. The 2nd film goes out of its way to point this out.
  • In the film Cherrybomb Malachy's parents view Luke as this. Whether it's justified is open to interpretation.
  • Megan Stewart is this to sweet wholesome Amy Herman in Megan Is Missing. Amy really wanna prove she's not a sheltered little girl to Megan. Of course naturally this leads to disturbing disastrous consequences for both.
  • Played cartoonishly straight with the thriller/horror film Chaos.
  • A vampire version in Let the Right One In, though played more sympathetically than usual.


  • The "Use Your Decision Process" examples in most American high school Health textbooks are filled with this. A typical example is "Alice has a friend named Bob who she has known since she was a kid. But Bob has been acting erratic and paranoid lately. Alice thinks he is doing drugs but is not sure. What should she do?" or "Bob's girlfriend Alice has been pressuring him to have sex with her. She claims she will break up with him if he doesn't. What should Bob do?"
  • John Dies at the End has John Cheese, an irresponsible, carefree, hard-partying rocker and drug enthusiast. Although he technically serves as an example of this trope for his friend Dave, since he's constantly getting the duo into trouble, we later learn that Dave is an Unreliable Narrator and codependent borderline sociopath, and John is Dave's only friend, as well as the Plucky Comic Relief and, arguably, the real hero of the story.
  • That Was Then, This Is Now has two friends, Mark and Bryon. Mark is a sociopathic but charming thug, and Bryon goes along with him until the end.
  • Mademoiselle de la Rue from Charlotte Temple.

Live Action TV

  • In House the eponymous protagonist is this for Dr Wilson.
  • In How I Met Your Mother Barney plays this role to the rest of the main cast, but mostly to Ted, whose corruption he views as a pet project.
  • Eddie Haskel is the trope maker from Leave It to Beaver.
  • Lilly Kane was this to Veronica Mars.
  • Sam Puckett in iCarly. Although it's more in general mayhem on the show, a 'real' Sam would be dragging Carly and Freddie in a debauched world of drugs, booze, sex and criminal behaviour.
    • Well... Maybe. She doesn't much seem to like seeing Carly get into actual trouble, if only because of Carly's inability to handle guilt well and because Sam sees it as her job to protect her. She's certainly a Poisonous Friend, but she doesn't actually try to push her lifestyle onto those around her all that much. In fact, the only occasion where she actively tries to get the other two involved in something shady is when she raises Carly's grade after a teacher marks her down for lack of three hole punches; she tries to convince Carly and Freddie to cover up the truth on the grounds that Carly deserved the higher grade in the first place.
      • Sam has instigated the other two in the group to perpetrate breaking and entering, property damage and vandalism.
  • Dave was this to Hurley in the flashbacks in Lost, except for the small detail that he doesn't exist.
  • In some ways, Del Boy is this to his brother Rodney in Only Fools and Horses. At one point, Rodney is trying to defend his brother to his wife by saying, "Look, I agree that Del can get a bit out of hand, but I think it's unfair to say that everything he touches goes wrong." At this point the bus behind him promptly explodes due to a faulty radio Del installed over the main fuel line. Some of his more notable exploits have been things like convincing Rodney that he is the 'man of the house,' causing him to break his wife's boss's nose, and convincing Rodney to stay on a trip with him despite the fact that Rodney, 26, will have to pretend he's 14 the entire time he's there.
  • Faith to Buffy, in season 3, especially in the episodes Bad Girls.
  • Tony in the first two seasons, then Cook, in Skins.
  • Georgina is this to Serena in the Gossip Girl series.
  • Larry (yes, dead Larry) is this to Michael in his appearances on Burn Notice. Well, until he loses the 'friend' part...
  • Kramer to everyone he encounters in Seinfeld. It's nearly impossible to follow Kramer's advice and not get into trouble, yet people keep listening to him. Kramer, of course, never gets into trouble himself.
  • On Suits Mike is an extremely smart guy with a photographic memory and a talent for learning new things. However, his bright future is derailed because he lets himself be talked into illegal schemes by his best friend Trevor. After Trevor talks him into an exam selling scheme, they get expelled from college and Mike's dream of going to law school is crushed. In the pilot episode Trevor talks Mike into doing a drug deal for him which turns out to be actually a police sting operation. Mike narrowly escapes being arrested and sent to prison for a long time and ends their friendship
  • On Community, Leonard and his 'Hipsters' gang have an extremely negative influence on Pierce. Eventually getting him caught by campus security and requiring Jeff to bail him out.
  • On American Dreams Roxanne sometimes borders on this in her friendship with Meg. Occasionally subverted — although she was normally the "good girl", Meg was quite capable of doing dumb and/or rebellious things all on her own.
  • Sugar and Kim from Sugar Rush, although to a somewhat lesser degree than is presented in a lot of other fiction.
  • Jay to Spinner in season 4 of Degrassi.
  • Lucy to Ethel in I Love Lucy, one of the earliest TV examples. Ethel becomes very Genre Savvy about Lucy's influence on her, but still can't resist Lucy's wheedling to join in on her latest Zany Scheme.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Luann, T.J. fulfills this role with Luann's brother Brad. He has gotten Brad into trouble with his borderline illegal schemes and other inappropriate behavior.

Video Games

Web Comics

  • Lackadaisy Cats: Rocky to his cousin 'Freckle'.
  • Vriska from Homestuck. Dealt with realistically, as most of the other characters can't stand her as a result of her acting like this - by the time her story starts, most of her best friends have already dumped her over an incident where she caused one of them to get seriously injured, with even Karkat calling her a backstabbing sociopath.
  • In Dominic Deegan, Bumper and Stunt are introduced as a pair of thieves, but Bumper quickly proves to be the sweeter and more rational of the pair. This increases until in the Two Thief or Not Two Thief storyline Stunt is pretty much exactly this, going for bigger and more problematic illegalities all the time and dragging his best friend along. Until Bumper can't countenance the stuff they're involved in anymore.
    • For bonus points, Bumper turns out to be from a good family fallen on hard times.
    • The Bumper-going-a-sleight-of-hand-show-to-raise-Stunt's-bail-again scene that opens T To NTT is pretty emblematic.
    • At the end of the Two Thief storyline after nearly getting him and Bumper killed, Stunt realizes that he's been a pretty bad friend to Bumper. When Bumper offers to join him on another adventure, Stunt tells Bumper to stay in Barthis where he's made a decent life for himself for his own good.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Patrick in SpongeBob SquarePants. Then again, it's just as often Spongebob with Patrick, or Spongebob with Squidward.
  • Bart Simpson is often this to Milhouse, to the point that one episode focused on Luann forbidding Milhouse from seeing Bart because he's such a bad influence.
  • Charlie "Big Time" Bigalow to Terry McGinniss in Batman Beyond. Before Terry became The Atoner and Batman, he was a juvenile delinquent due to Charlie's negative influence. It's because of Charlie that he did time in juvenile hall.
  • Gorillaz bassist Murdoc was this to singer 2D, who remained oblivious to their Type 1 Vitriolic Best Buds relationship throughout Phase 1, attempted and failed to fight back in Phase 2, and now appears to be realising exactly how toxic Murdoc is to him.
  • In The Boondocks Grandad had a hot young blaxploitation ninja girlfriend who was also extremely clingy and kind of crazy. Not helping her was her best friend (she's only heard on the phone and she's so crazy she might not even exist) who kept feeding her paranoia that Gramps was cheating on her. The friend pushes blaxploitation ninja to such extremes she ends up killing her self due to said friend's suggestion to do so.
  • When Family Guy's Brian goes to rehab for his coke problem, his therapist points out that Peter is a horrible influence on Brian.


  • In Aimee, Aimee is thought to be this to Zoe.
  • In Adventures in Odyssey, Erica plays this role to Aubrey Shepard in "Under the Influence". She has the advantage of having been her childhood friend whom she implicitly trusts years later.