What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Manager: I want to apologize, humbly, deeply, and sincerely about the fork.
Man: Oh please, it's only a tiny bit... I couldn't see it.
Manager: Ah you're good kind fine people, for saying that, but I can see it... to me it's like a mountain, a vast bowl of pus!

Monty Python's Flying Circus, "Restaurant Sketch"

This trope is when somebody does something wrong, but it's a mild wrong, like a white lie, a low misdemeanor (as in a $20 fine), or something that at most gets a "Hey! Not cool!" from your friends, and then the show treats it as crossing the Moral Event Horizon, or at least coming dangerously close.

That candy bar you shoplifted? Those 50 cents it cost will land you about 50 years in prison! You're scum! How could you! The store owners will starve because of you! I hope you can live with yourself!

This trope comes in four varieties:

  1. Writers believe this is as wrong as they are showing it. In this case, the "What do you mean," part is from the writer, so this overlaps with Values Dissonance. Straw Characters and Digital Piracy Is Evil are the most common forms of this. A prime source of Narm.
  2. Writers think this isn't that bad, but exaggerate for effect. So this isn't moral dissonance, it's just Anvilicious. Even if the thing is wrong, presenting it as something magnitudes worse usually makes it a Clueless Aesop. Can't Get Away with Nuthin' uses this a lot.
  3. Writers use Values Dissonance for dramatic effect. This is common in Dystopias, police states, histories, and cults. But it can also be used to make organizations look like this when they aren't, like with Straw Dystopias. But thanks to Values Dissonance, this is often about real cultures from the past or present.
  4. Writers invoke Values Dissonance for Comedic Effect. A lot of the well-written animated shows, even dating back decades, would do this. And Sitcoms will do this as well. Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking or Selective Enforcement is often invoked here.

Since laws all over the world are rife with Values Dissonance, things that are misdemeanors or not even illegal in one country but treated as serious crimes in others can seem like this.

Compare with:

Contrast with:

  • Kick the Dog: An action that helps characterize a morally neutral or ambiguous character as bad.
  • Moral Event Horizon: A crime committed really is horrific and unforgivable.
Examples of What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous? include:


  • The advertisements where the cow hunts down (and presumably kills) a man who decided he'd prefer eating dead chicken over eating dead cow.
  • Gamefly commercials. Various gamers having epic-level temper tantrums over a bad game they purchased, complete with screaming, destruction of personal property, and even chucking televisions off their roofs.
  • Subway has a line of commercials best paraphrased as "Fast food will ruin your life." Someone ordering a fairly normal fast food meal is told things like they'll instantly get fat, be abandoned by their significant other, and need therapy.
  • A carpet cleaning service, Stanley Steemer, has a commercial where two of their employees see a rolled-up carpet set up for trash collection. Both react as if it were a corpse, complete with one racing out to its side, cradling it tenderly, sobbing "I could have saved this one!", and ending with a Skyward Screamed Big No.
  • A commercial for the sweetener Truvia shows a woman committing a particular act. After she completes this act, the shame and self-loathing on her face is glaring. Her SO walks up and looks down at her with a look of absolute disgust. The heinous act this woman committed? Eating a tiny piece of cheesecake, which could have led to her getting fat.
    • Yay eating disorders!
  • In a similar vein to the Gamefly commercials mentioned above, there was once an ad campaign for a Shout laundry spray. The ad consisted of a woman tossing her washing machine and dryer out a second-story window, while screaming to the heavens, "I HATE SET-IN STAINS!" Her neighbor manages to one-up her by throwing the aforementioned appliances through the roof.
  • A laundry detergent commercial directed by Rob Zombie portrays some of the less favorable outcomes of a wash cycle (stretching, shrinking and fading) in the style of cold-blooded torture.
  • One credit card commercial showed people streaming through a checkout counter with astounding speed, swiping their cards with mechanical precision. Then one guy pauses for a moment to pull out cash. The line comes to a halt, and every single person there gives him a very nasty look for not being a credit-card-using speed demon.
  • We have HARD WATER!!![context?]
  • You don't give your children All-Natural Organic <Insert brand specifics here> snacks? Well, enjoy eating your pesticide-coated cardboard.
  • Johnny Turbo fights tooth and nail against the evil Feka corporation for trying to make a profit with a competing product.
  • Oak milk. One ad has a somewhat odd fellow walking through a near-deserted fairground at night rambling about a state of "hungrythirsty" before declaring:

I wish I'd given Oak to my son when he was a child, haha, just kidding, I don't have a son, well technically I do, but he's in real estate...

Anime and Manga

  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind features the third kind: "Show no mercy to the insolent!"
  • The Team Rocket trio of the Pokémon anime, in certain situations. Go after a group of WILD Remoraid to send to HQ? Ten thousand volts and a one way ticket to the stratosphere...
    • The Pokémon universe seems to have a rule: Use any method but a Poké Ball to catch Pokémon, and expect Laser-Guided Karma to get you. Note that when Jessie snaked a Yanma right out from under the kid who was battling it (using a Poké Ball), not only did Jessie not get a comeuppance, the Yanma evolved into Yanmega in its first battle. Pretty much all their blastoffs involving catching Pokémon also involve them either stealing other people's Pokémon or using a machine to grab them en masse. You'd think Team Rocket would have made the association by now.
    • Early in season 1, Ash made the mistake of voicing his opinions on thinking that perfume is stupid. He made the mistake of doing so in Erika's shop. Erika responds by not only kicking him out of her shop, but banning him from stepping foot in her gym.
  • Howard X. Miller in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX... crushed a poor, innocent flower! How could you!
  • Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu: There's a Horse headed pervert walking the streets. Does he flash his victims, grope them, molest them? No, he gives them ponytails. Sousuke suggests that they torture him. And then he actually gets arrested and is told that he'll be doing a long time in jail.
  • Elsee from The World God Only Knows once used her demonic powers to skip class to bake a cake, and commented that she's a bad demon for doing so.
  • A Certain Magical Index, Misaka 10032's reaction to Last Order taking her visor is to chase after her with an assault rifle.
    • Earlier in the same episode, three of the Sisters (10032, 10039 and 13577) react to the discovery that Misaka 19090 has been dieting and reading a women's magazine by chasing her down like red-eyed demons. We never find out what happened.
  • In Tiger and Bunny, Keith Goodman would like everyone to know that ruining birthday parties is a terrible, terrible atrocity.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: "Don't waste food... Or I'll kill you."
    • Wasting food is an ugly thing to do, though. The character also had a very plausible Freudian Excuse not to want to waste food.
  • Ranma ½: Pantyhose Taro's grudge with Happosai. His legitimate (potential) grudge (his curse) is a Red Herring to this.

Comic Books

  • Guess what hyper-fundamentalist comic company fits the first kind. If you said Chick Tracts, then you get a gold star.
    • It's even inverted many times in the tracts themselves: When normal people convert to Christianity they are disowned by their families, fired from their jobs and abandoned by their spouses and friends, for no other reason than embracing the Christian faith. Although,granted,this can be reality in some parts of the world.
      • To be fair, that is a logical reaction to someone who subscribes to Chick's version of it, as they'll just insult you and scream for your death.
  • An infamously memetic panel from Super Dickery illustrates the word "forty" by showing Lex Luthor stealing forty pies cakes. That's as many as four tens. And That's Terrible.
  • The Scarecrow Year One comic features a supposedly "horrific" crime spree by Scarecrow which includes killing one innocent person who had double-crossed him (his erstwhile mentor and fellow professor who refused to speak up for him when it would have saved his job because he didn't want to jeopardize his tenure), killing the grandmother who had wanted to murder him when he was born, and attempting to kill the father who abandoned him and his mother. On the side, he also kills his mother's abusive husband. When Scarecrow finally crosses the Moral Event Horizon for real by subsequently holding a gun on his own infant half-sister it comes across as more than a little abrupt, considering that up until that point he came off more as a a very angry nerd on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge than an ice cold killer. There's a few brief mentions of his murders-for-hire (a callback to his original origin story), which are the reason Batman and Robin are after him in the beginning, but these are pretty much sidelined in favor of the aforementioned rampage.
    • Granted, any instance of "killing people" is pretty heinous, of course, but, compared to some of the things Scarecrow has done in other stories like No Man's Land and Knightfall, Year One is nothing.
  • In Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, the "Vegan Police" treat vegans who don't adhere to a vegan diet as criminals. Of course, since veganism gives you superpowers, it seems reasonable to take it seriously.
  • Max Und Moritz by Wilhelm Busch: Killing her chickens was mean, but the widow reacts in a way you could think they had killed her children.
  • A type 4 example appears in The Flash, in a flashback to the exploits of 1930s Knight Templar the Clipper. At one point he rescues a family from a burglar and then starts handing out punishments for their "crimes"—right on down to the boy who accidentally broke another child's toy. The punishment is to have all of his toys set on fire.

Boy: Even Pooky?
The Clipper: Of course Pooky! Pooky is the stigmata of your evil!


  • The Big Lebowski, Walter pulls a gun on a fellow bowler for stepping over the line in a league match and refusing to take the penalty. "MARK IT ZERO!"
  • In Date Night, Tina Fey and Steve Carell take a reservation from two people who never show up. No matter how immoral the criminal they are facing, or how ridiculous the rest of their story is, every other character reacts to the reservation part with a shocked "Who DOES That?!"
  • Averted in My Cousin Vinny. The city slicker students think the small-town police are going berserk just because the kids accidentally shoplifted some tuna. Turns out they're actually the main suspects for murdering the convenience-store clerk.
  • Airplane 2: The Sequel plays this for laughs by having various characters on the lunar shuttle react deadpan to being told they're off course with a malfunctioning computer, but they go berserk when told they are out of coffee.
  • In Canadian Bacon, a group of American Sheriff's Deputies gripe about things they don't like about Canada while watching a Canadian hockey game. When one of them says Canadian beer sucks, the entire stadium goes quiet, then erupts into a gigantic melee. The cops even start beating on him when they find out what he said.
  • Follow That Bird: Despite The Sleaze Brothers' real crime through the film was attempting to kidnap Big Bird to put into their circus, they ultimately get punished by officer John Candy for "Stealing an apple from a kid's lunch box."
  • You've Got Mail: While Kathleen and Joe are having a tiff at a dinner party (shortly after small-bookstore owner Kathleen finds out Joe is the part of the corporate Fox Books hierarchy), he nonchantantly scoops some caviar off a dessert plate onto his own. Kathleen is offended by that ("That caviar is a GARNISH!"), prompting Joe to look her in the eye and wordlessly put more caviar on his plate.
  • In Dogma, Rufus was Pals with Jesus, literally, but is angry at Him because He owes Rufus 12 bucks.


  • Violet Beauregarde in original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory novel. The other "bad" kids were spoiled brat Veruca Salt, gluttonous Augustus Gloop, and Mike Teavee who has become violent from watching too much television. Violet's flaw was chewing gum too much.
  • In Les Misérables Jean Valjean got 5 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread (and breaking a window), and another 14 following escape attempts.
  • In Les Malheurs de Sophie every story is either a type 1 or a type 3. Sophie is forced to wear a necklace of the parts of a bee she dissected until they fall off, because obviously that is one of the biggest crimes that a six year old kid can commit.
  • A short story by a local writer in Singapore is about killer hamburgers attacking the protagonist because he switched his favorite food from burgers to fried chicken. It's supposed to be a horror story.
  • Type 3 is relatively common in Historical Fiction, and justifiably so: the authorities really did hang people for minor offenses such as petty theft. The punishment for stealing a spool of thread in England in 1660 was greater than it was for raping a baby. It was getting to be quite deliberate once they'd gotten the colonies up and running. Australia Needs Women!
  • The Book of Lord Shang advocates punishing minor offences severely, the idea being that the punishments will deter people from committing small crimes and thus keep them off the slippery slope towards major offences.
  • Dave Barry, in his 1987 year-in-review column, recounts a Reagan administration official's shocking admission:

[June] 8--In the most dramatic Iran-contra testimony to date, Fawn Hall, played by Farrah Fawcett, testifies that, as Justice Department investigators closed in, she and Oliver North stayed late in their White House basement office and "colorized" a number of classic black-and-white films.

  • In Oliver Twist, Oliver's famous request for a second pitiful helping of porridge is treated like a high crime by the miserly workhouse staff. "He asked for more?"
  • For an epic example of Type Four, look no further than Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. The Baron sneaks up behind the beautiful Belinda and snips off a lock of hair - and this divides the entire court down the middle and results in an all-out war of the sexes (fought with fans and scornful glances). To top it all off, it's Based on a True Story.
  • The Return of the Home Run Kid by Matt Christopher runs into this problem not on its own merits, but when considered in light of its predecessor. The focus of the story is the main character's baseball training under a fellow who was kicked out of the major leagues for betting against his own team, and said fellow teaches dishonorable tricks like pretending to have been hit by a pitch. Fairly bad, sure? But in the previous book, The Kid Who Only Hit Homers, our hero used magic to ensure that he never struck out, and this was treated as entirely proper. Anyone who considered that poor sportsmanship probably wasn't still reading the books, and anyone who accepted it would have a hard time telling how physical cheating is worse than magical cheating.
  • Yes, Cybomec from Stationery Voyagers gets a lot of Kick the Son of a Bitch points for killing Pentacko. But his other victims committed such offenses as 1) having been cruel to him back in elementary school, 2) having the same first name as another target, 3) being annoying when reminding him that he can't defeat the Definition Essentials, 4) denying him the chance to take out someone he'd sell his soul for the chance to kill, or 5) simply being in his way.
  • Alex And The Ironic Gentleman has the heroine spending most of the book repeatedly running away from the same implacable pursuers -- a bunch of little old ladies who want vengeance because she stepped over the velvet ropes in a museum.
  • The infamous tunnel disaster scene in Atlas Shrugged does this by claiming that every passenger on the train died justifiably due to their beliefs.
  • The novel The Last Catholic in America has a scene in which the main character is despairing over his imminent damnation for stealing a dollar after being told by a nun that a dollar is about the amount that would qualify for a mortal sin. The priest he confesses this to disagrees.
  • If you're reading a novel, short story, fluff piece or fanfic set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, you've got about a 2-in-3 chance of this happening, normally type 4 but sometimes type 3. Crowning highlights: a Guardsman is ordered to defend an outpost, but facing an overwhelming attack he pulls back and cleverly defeats them, only to be executed for not staying put and allowing the base to be overrun because those were his orders; a Space Marine stranded on a Death World is severely chastised for picking up an alien weapon and using it after his own weapons are out of ammo; any time the Eldar get pissy over the Imperium "selfishly" wanting to save a world housing tens of billions of humans they were willing to sacrifice to save a couple thousand (or less) Eldar.
  • Subverted in Starship Troopers. An officer tells some officer candidates a story from the Napoleonic era: a junior navy officer during ship battle picks up his heavily wounded commander and carries him to a safe place. During that time all other officers on the ship are killed, so the young guy winds up a commanding officer on the ship - and, because he left his post, he stands trial and is cashiered (and is lucky not to be hanged). It seems a gross injustice for the candidates - but the officer explains that the punishment was completely justified: for an officer to have left his post without an order is really a very Serious Business, because if a sudden catastrophe happens, it is much more likely to disrupt a unit without a commanding officer.
  • In a Richard Scarrey book called: Richard Scarrey's Please and Thank You Book (covers proper etiquitte) a mom absolutely freaks because her kid dared to ask why he had to do something as a bad example.
  • Marietta Edgcombe in the Harry Potter series is a Type One example. She once tried to tell on the DA to Umbridge, got a jinx from Hermione that labeled her a "SNEAK" all across her face for it, and will apparently have acne scars on her face for the rest of her life. An interview with J. K. Rowling confirms this is a Type One example where she said of Marietta, "I do so loathe a traitor".
  • Jeeves and Wooster: Tuppy Glossop once tricked Bertie into falling into a pool, and Bertie's been nursing the desire for vengeance ever since. (A bit of Hypocritical Humor when you recall that this is the guy who pushed Tuppy's cousin Oswald into a lake.)

I am not a vindictive man, but I felt, as anybody would have felt in my place, that if fellows like young Tuppy are allowed to get away with it the whole fabric of Society and Civilization must inevitably crumble.

  • Since Mommie Dearest is about growing up with an abusive mother, a lot of the things that set Joan off come off this way, including the infamous wire hanger scene from the film adaptation.
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The Herdman siblings aren't exactly nice kids, but right off the bat, the Narrator's claim that they are "the worst children in the history of the world" seems rather unfair, seeing as the worst crime they are known to commit is shoplifting. The narrator also sees their smoking, drinking, and cussing as reasons for her label - unpleasant vices, yes, but not habits that can truly make them the worst. When you learn their past of Parental Abandonment and see how they realize the darker aspects of the Nativity story (Mary and Joseph are fugitives because a king wants her child murdered; the Wise Men bring gold and incense when anyone who truly cares would have brought food) they not only come off as sympathetic, but much wiser than anyone else in the cast.

Live-Action TV

  • Monty Python's Flying Circus did the fourth kind quite a few times, satirizing the way British culture used to encourage the first kind. The page quote comes from their restaurant sketch, combining this with My Greatest Failure.
  • In the Seinfeld episode The Package, Jerry is interrogated by Newman for mail fraud... and let's just say Newman relishes in the thought of catching and fining Jerry, even if there wasn't much actual fraud going on. He still gets fined, though.
  • Deep Space Nine. Captain Sisko hunts down a traitor from his own chain of command. Traitor as in joining the Maquis, a group that attempts to harm only war-mongering Cardassians as policy. Said traitor believes that Sisko is blowing everything out of proportion, and references Les Misérables a lot. It's left up to the viewers to decide whether Sisko is truly upholding Federation values as he states, or is just secretly pissed that someone would dare "leave paradise" (The Federation), as the traitor claims.
    • Both deploy chemical weapons against civilians, take from that what you will. (Though the chemical weapons were meant to force populations to permanently evacuate the planets they were living on; they weren't immediately fatal.)
      • And someone subverted in that the chemical weapons the Maquis used were completely harmless to humans, and the weapons that Sisko used were completely harmless to Cardassians. You could argue that inflicting the same fate on both sides and forcing each other to essentially swap planets was a deliberate attempt to ferment mutual understanding. Though personally, I just think Sisko was pissed.
    • Important to note is that Sisko isn't pissed that the traitor left the federation for joining the Maquis (he himself has said that it is easy to be a saint in paradise (the federation) showing that he understand what they are going through) but instead it is that the traitor left Star Fleet that pisses him of. One of the unanswered questions is stated in the names of some of the episodes surrounding this: namely For the Cause which symbolise the question why the terrorist left Star Fleet, is it for the cause or is it for his own agenda (to finaly become a leader) and For the Uniform which symbolise Sisko's acts in this arc, was it for the Uniform or was it for revenge due to the negative mark on his record for failing to catch the terrorist.
    • This is played for laughs in all of its Values Dissonance glory in the episode "Bar Association"; Rom is tired of his brother Quark's cutting the pay of his employees using a reoccurring slump in business as an excuse and forms a Union, several of the Ferengi employees are so disturbed at the mere thought that they feel faint and Rom can barely bring himself to say the word.
      • Quark was even exiled from Ferengi society for a time for the unforgivable sin of...breaking a contract to sell his remains when he thought he was dying.
  • An interesting subversion in an episode of Cold Case: The victim was in prison for seven years for stealing a pair of shoes. He only got six months for the actual theft. The rest were added on from his repeated escape attempts.
  • M*A*S*H ended up like this. The protagonists in the book and movie weren't really moral, and the show never quite dropped those aspects, which clashed with the increasing Writer on Board.
    • The perfect example of this is in "Preventative Medicine" when Hawkeye tried to trick an incompetent Colonel into thinking he needed to have his appendix removed. (thus preventing him from getting his soldiers killed). This led to a scene with BJ berating Hawkeye about betraying his Hippocratic Oath by performing unnecessary surgery and a lot of guilt and angst from Hawkeye afterwards. Never mind that Hawkeye pulled the exact same stunt in an earlier season without any kind moralizing or guilt whatsoever.
    • The difference is that Hawkeye pulled that earlier stunt with Trapper John who tended to be very much like Hawkeye in his ethics. However, Hawkeye learns the hard way that BJ has an entirely different point of view. In fact, that the early drafts of the script was closer to recycled with BJ going along willingly, only to have the actor, Mike Farrell, objected that this was mutilation and he wanted his character to reflect that same revulsion.
  • Marvin in Weeds claims to have once brought back the wrong order from 7-11 for U-turn. He now has an artificial patella.
  • The opening sequence of Dexter is a borderline case, as the montage shows us the protagonist accomplishing mundane acts of his morning routine (shaving, cooking eggs and bacon, lacing his shoes) in a way suggesting his psychopathic nature.
    • In one of the DVD commentaries it is explicitly stated that the title sequence is set up to show the violence in everyday life.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Ted flashbacks to a date he had with a girl who had "the Crazy Eyes". As she and Ted are about to cross the street, a car screeches to a halt in front of them. The driver is apologetic, and Ted gestures that it's okay, but his date grabs a post and starts beating the car with it shouting "WATCH! WHERE! YOU'RE! GOING!"
    • When Barney discovered that Ted has an ex who was once a porn star.

Barney: You broke up with a PORN STAR?! FRIENDSHIP OVER!

  • On 30 Rock, Kenneth becomes addicted to caffeine and starts acting... out of the ordinary.

Tracy: So you had a little bender!
Kenneth: It's not just the coffee. I also went to a PG-13 movie. I bought a pair of sunglasses. I tried a Jewish doughnut! I'd always been told that New York was the 21st century city of Sodom, and looks what's happened... I've become one of them! I've been sodomized!

  • Touched By an Angel once featured a girl whose angelic voice moved God Himself... but her life was marred by a tragic addiction to chewing gum. Even earthly human society seemed to consider this a terrible moral failing. Perhaps Roald Dahl wrote for that show!
    • It was supposed to be a "anything can be bad if taken to extremes" moral, but it fell on its face pretty badly.
      • it falls even flatter once you consider that Monica has a caffeine addiction.
  • Played for laughs in Castle: when Demming, Beckett's new love interest, is suspected by the others of being a dirty cop planted into their recent investigation to sabotage it from within, they voice their suspicions of him from a distance. However, whereas the cops comment on things such as his suspicious reasons for requesting to be part of the case and his too-good-to-be-true dedication to the case, Castle's reasons for suspecting him—based largely on his insecurity over suddenly having a competitor for Beckett's attention—stem from his suspicion that "he probably goes to yoga classes just to pick up women" and "he probably subscribes to The New Yorker without even reading it".
    • There's also the episode "Hedgefund Homeboys" where Castle tells his daughter Alexis to tell him if she's ever in trouble or does anything wrong after he works on a case involving a bunch of teenagers and a shooting. She later comes to him in tears and reveals that she once jumped a turn stile at the train station late one night, inciting this trope with complete honesty. Castle responds with relief and amusement but Alexis grounds herself for her heinous actions.
      • Alternately, Alexis is Genre Savvy and is only pretending to play this straight in order to assure Castle that, although no one's perfect, she's not getting into any serious trouble and he can stop worrying.
    • Another time Castle and Beckett find out that Ryan's fiance slept with another man while she was already dating Ryan. They fear that this information will destroy the relationship and angst over wheter to tell him. When they finally tell him, he reveals that he already knew and did not thik that it was a problem since they were only dating for a month at the time and were not yet exclusive.
  • Jessie's (in)famous addiction to caffeine pills. This was the extremely common 1990's Very Special Episode about otherwise Lawful Stupid overachievers using stimulants to get better grades. Alex P. Keaton and Carlton Banks played this straight by actually getting addicted to prescription drugs, with Anvilicious results, but, because the show was expressly aimed at kids, the producers refused to reference or even imply illegal drug use in a Drugs Are Bad episode. The result is poor Elizabeth Berkley Chewing the Scenery over a bottle of no-doze as if it were Oxycontin.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Played for laughs in an episode when Mayor Wilkins is making a speech right before Ascending.

Buffy: Oh. God. (Beat) He's really going to go through the whole speech, isn't he?

  • More straightfowardly, the characters in Buffy had a tendency to get incredibly lecture-y whenever one of them had a little too much to drink. Even then the lectures were always a joke, except for the one time where Xander was binge drinking to try and forget about Anya.
  • Also played for laughs in "Buffy versus Dracula"; one of the many complaints Spike has about Drac is, "the bugger owes me £11".
  • Charmed reconstructed this in the episode "Morality Bites". The sisters use their powers to punish a man who lets his dog pee in their garden and Phoebe then sees a premonition of her own death in the future and the sisters travel there to find out that Phoebe used her powers to kill a man, got caught and was being burned at the stake while modern day witch trials were going on. When the sisters come back to their time, they discover that the man they punished at the start of the episode is the same man who was leading the witch trials in the future. Phoebe then suggests that them using their powers to punish the man starts them off using them for personal gain.

Piper: But this is just a little thing.
Phoebe: Once you break the small rules, it's only a matter of time before the big rules follow.

Olbermann: And there it was. All perfectly legal. Like the 1942 internment of more than 100,000 Japanese-American citizens or the forced relocation of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears or the monstrous injustice of our nation's Jim Crow laws. It was all perfectly legal and EVERY BIT AS WRONG if not, indeed, MORE SO!! Mr. Lieberstein, you speak of considerations of the rights of others! How DARE you, sir?! How DARE you?! Where, sir, in any of this, were the rights of Miss Precious Perfect considered? DAMN YOU, Mr. Lieberstein!! DAMN YOU TO HELL!!!

  • The Colbert Report: Played for Laughs in a series of segments called Nailed'Em where Colbert viciously attacks people who have got in trouble for doing something completely innocent. One segment features a high school student who was almost expelled because she was caught using drugs on school grounds. Said drug was her birth control pills.
    • Colbert is playing a Catholic conservative Strawman Political. Birth control pills would probably be worse in his character's opinion than some other drugs.
    • He also once presented us with the story of a girl who got taken from school by the cops because she had the audacity to bring pills to school. The pills? Ibuprofen.
  • Both contestants and fans of The Amazing Race are guilty of this. It's understandable for a team to overreact when they're Yielded or U-Turned (though calling a team "Dirty Pirate Hookers" was probably going too far), but there are those who are willing to vilify a team simply for copying another team's flight arrangements or, even worse, having a "bad attitude".
  • In an episode of The Nanny, a man that mugs Fran agrees to do community service and walks. Angered, Fran shouts out, "Meanwhile, I eat a couple of Bing cherries at the A&P, and I'm wrestled to the ground like Squeaky Fromme!"
  • iCarly has done this a few times, Freddie being the victim most often. The most notable example is the iMeet Fred episode, where Freddie says that he doesn't think Fred's videos are all that funny, and Fred announces he's not going to make videos anymore. Freddie then suffers a Humiliation Conga courtesy of everyone at school, and his aunt. And later, Sam beats him with a tennis racket. And then throws him out of a treehouse and jumps on him.
    • Another notable example is in iEnrage Gibby, when Freddie trips on Gibby's girlfriend Tasha, causing Gibby to think he tried to kiss her. Gibby then becomes a borderline Faux Affably Evil to Freddie and Tasha.
  • In Glee, Rachel and Finn were caught using the Cheerios' photocopier without Sue Sylvester's permission. Her response is to haul them to the principal's office and have them hobbled. He makes them pay the dollar or so for the paper and ink.
    • Sue seems to think everything the Glee Club does is heinous. When they performed "Push It" at the school assembly (admittedly, with school-inappropriate choreography), Sue's "first reaction was that all the children should be put into foster care."
    • Jesse's reaction to Rachel's triplecasting him in "Bad Reputation."
  • Parodied in an episode of The IT Crowd with an anti-piracy PSA which compared pirating films to stealing a handbag, stealing a baby, and shooting a policeman, stealing his helmet, pooping in it, sending it to his grieving wife, and stealing it again.
  • Abed's methods of teaching the study group to respect and fear him in Community episode Contemporary American Poultry. This involves cutting up a backpack, releasing a monkey from a cage, putting gum in hair, unplugging a TV, and feeding chicken fingers to a guy.
    • In "Basic Lupine Urology", a spoof of Law and Order, a ruined science experiment is treated with all the seriousness of a homicide. By contrast, Star-Burns is revealed to be stealing, selling drugs and running a meth lab from the trunk of his car, all of which are dismissed as irrelevant to the investigation.
  • In one Red Dwarf episode, Lister confesses his darkest secret to Kryten: once, many years ago, he went into a wine bar.
  • On a couple of episodes of Sports Night, Bobbi Bernstein substitutes for Casey as anchor, which Dan has a problem with, since she claims he slept with her in Spain, and then never called. He swears not only has he never slept with her, he never even knew her back then, he's never been to Spain, and he wouldn't treat a woman like that. Whoever he tells this story to has the same response; "Oh, Dan. You never called?"
    • Averted when he finds out that he had been to Spain and slept with Bobbi, he was just so drunk on the trip he forgot about it. Bobbi was also going by Roberta at the time and he didn't connect Bobbi with the name.


  • The video to John Waite's "Missing You" uses type 3 because this is about his girlfriend suddenly leaving him for no reason. At one point, he breaks a phone booth phone out of anger and heartbreak.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Don't Download This Song" mocks type 1 of the Digital Piracy Is Evil message (making it a type 4).

Cuz you start out stealing songs,
Then you're robbing liquor stores,
And selling crack, and running over schoolkids with your car!

We got a reputation round these parts,
We only leave a ten per cent tip -
Sometimes we don't return our shopping carts,
Stay out of our way and don't you give us no lip
'Cos we're young - dumb and ug-ly ...

  • "Why did you grow a beard? Why did you grow a beard? I can't leave you alone for five minutes! What the Christ! What the Devil! Why did you grow a beard?!"
  • Crime Spree by MC Frontalot. Front acts like a criminal mastermind, even though his crimes are petty at best.

I'm the number one menace for miles around/With the littering, the loitering, the mattress tags/all the piratated MP3s I grabbed/ All the cable I stole/certain bathroom stalls I wrote on/I'm so cruel and cold you'll put a coat on!

  • Arlo Guthrie's song "|Alices Restaurant" has a Type 4 example, where the singer and a friend of his get put in jail for littering.
  • Trouble on my Mind by Pusha T ft. Tyler, The Creator is about wanting to cause trouble yet has lyrics such as "Let's hit a couple bars and give some bitches wet willies." The music video features the two throwing eggs at random passerby, doing wheelies in a Rascal and trashing a hotel room.
  • Psychostick thrives on this, with songs like "I Hate Doing Laundry" and "Don't Eat My Food".

Professional Wrestling

  • This being a form of show business where Popularity Power counts for so much, it's really not surprising when this trope shows up in wrestling.
    • It's never more blatant than when the audience boos a foreign heel simply for being foreign. The heel might not even have had the chance to commit any misdeed yet, or at worst has simply declared his native country to be the greatest in the world (something that Americans are saying all the time, and they hardly ever seem to get scolded for it). A good example was French-Canadian wrestler Sylvan Grenier, who in the summer of 2006 became Quebec's "Ambassador to the World" and was forever talking up how great the province of Quebec was. He was certainly annoying, and perhaps a bit Faux Affably Evil, but the American crowds treated everything he said or did as negatively as if it came from King Booker or Mr. Kennedy (two of the biggest heels on SmackDown! at the time), even if it was morally neutral or an honest mistake. Of course, Sylvan was eventually given some Kick the Dog characteristics to retroactively justify all this hatred, but the principle still applies.

Recorded and Stand Up Comedy

  • In Stan Freberg's first big novelty record, 1953's "St. George and the Dragonet", St. George quietly informs the dragon that he's being arrested for "devouring maidens out of season". As the dragon bellows and rants, St. George adds that he's got the dragon on "a 4-12".

Dragon: (all but screaming) A 4-12? What's a 4-12?!!!
St. George: Overacting. Let's go.


  • In The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Jimmy's crimes, by increasing severity of the sentences he is handed by the Kangaroo Court, are: indirect murder of a friend (the man who killed him in the ring is unknown to the court because he's the prosecutor); breach of the peace; seducing a girl (i.e. a prostitute); singing a subversive song; and not paying for two rounds of whiskey and a broken bar-rail. For this last offense, which the court declares to be the most heinous crime in the world, Jimmy is sentenced to die in the electric chair. It may even be worse than premeditated murder (a crime which the prosecutor bewails using exactly the same words), because one accused of that might have money to bribe the judge.
  • In Zombie Prom, Miss Strict notices that Jonny Warner's jacket is missing an "h". Jonny explains that he's spelling his name without it now, Miss Strict tells him it's not wise to defile a good Christian name and tells him to put it back in. When he (calmly) tells her he kind of wants to keep the "h" out, she immediately decides that he is a hooligan ("With an "h"!") and the other students are in awe of the "Rebel Without An "H"!", as they see it.
  • In The Book of Mormon, Elder Price sings about the worst sin he's ever committed, one that's left him haunted by guilt for his entire life: when he was five, he blamed his brother for taking a donut that he actually ate himself. He also thinks that deciding to walk out on his mission in Uganda makes him literally worse than Hitler.

Video Games

  • Bangai-O's Excuse Plot revolves around the protagonists punishing a gang that smuggles fruit. Bangai-O Spirits doesn't even bother with the Excuse Plot, making new players wonder why destroyed enemies leave behind fruit pickups.
  • Guards in The Elder Scrolls games will call you "criminal scum" and pursue you to the ends of Tamriel, regardless of whether you've committed 5 or 5000 gold worth of crimes. This is generally a common trope in video games, due to simple-minded AI.
    • Not so any longer in Skyrim, in which you can convince guards you're not worth it if your bounty is low enough/speech is high enough.
    • Other example of AI simple-mindedness: you do something bad (stealing is most common example, but also offensive behaviour, etc. etc.), you are attacked. In other words, people try to kill you.
    • In the AAR blog Living in Oblivion, the main character is arrested for stealing a bouquet of flowers. Admittedly, he committed the theft right in front of the Count of Cheydinhal, the flowers were in memory of the Count's dead wife and said protagonist only got a day in jail for the whole experience. Didn't prevent him from being invited into the Thieves' Guild for his daring heist, though.
  • In the Fallout 3 addon "Broken Steel", there's a radio in the Jefferson Memorial. When you shut it down, all the Brotherhood of Steel soldiers inside it will try to kill you, even if you turn it on again. However, if they don't see you turning it off, they won't bother a second.
    • Fallout 3 and New Vegas are based off the same engine as the above The Elder Scrolls game Oblivion. It makes sense that the local citizenry react the same way; although this does get rather irritating when you're going to, say, go activate Trudy's radio so you can fix it, you turn an inch too far or stop an inch too short, accidentally hit "steal glass mug" instead... And now have the entire bar trying to shoot you in the damn head as you're yelling at the screen "MY HAND SLIPPED, IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!"
      • Related to this, everyone who sees you even look at something as seemingly insignificant as a coffee cup or pencil that doesn't belong to you (even if you don't actually select it) loudly makes it clear they're ready to throw down in an instant over it. People in this universe are paranoid about their random junk.
      • Note that if you pickpocket someone and get caught, they will just say "That doesn't belong to you!" and take it back (often with compensation). But if you take a bent tin can off the bar table, everyone wants you dead except your followers, who will always help you. So you can take Star Paladin Ross (good as good can be) into Megaton, steal some junk off a table, and she will gladly help you gun down all the not-exactly evil citizens.
  • In the Hitman series (especially in the first two games), guards will generally attack you with deadly force the moment your cover is blown. Now, this may be justified for your more murderous activities, but in Hitman 2, guards everywhere passionately hate runners. Run by a guard too closely? Expect to get shot in the head two seconds later, no questions asked.
    • Likewise, you're in a party posing as guest, you go to the back room or kitchen without permission, you get shot on sight. Those are some trigger-happy guards.
    • Thankfully, this kind of behavior is mitigated in the fourth game. If guards find you somewhere you are not supposed to be, they will generally shoo you out of the area, following you back out to make sure you do so. However, if you remain in the area in sight of them, or press further into the area after they have asked you to leave, they will ramp up their urgency, pulling out weapons to make clear that they will not accept non-compliance, and eventually firing them at you if you resist.
  • Early in Final Fantasy VII, Reno, a guy who wants to kill the main character and kidnap Aeris, orders his troops to go after Cloud... telling them "Don't step in the flowers".
    • It's likely that Reno was just being a sarcastic jerk. He was stepping in the flowers at the time, and Aeris had earlier talked about protecting them.

"But you just stepped in them yourself!"
"They're ruined!"
"You're gonna catch holy hell!"

  • In the Bathroom level of 'Nightmare Ned' features a mirror that shows Ned going through puberty. Even Ned thinks it's lame.
  • In Ultima VIII: Pagan, any crime committed in the main city will cause the local law-enforcing sorcerer to be summoned, who will promptly (and graphically blow you to smithereens, without any means for self-defense or escape. Crimes may range from murder, assault or theft right down to being rude to said sorcerer.
  • In GoldenEye: Rogue Agent you can get unlocks by earning "rogue bonuses" which are awarded for particularly "evil" actions. Said actions are things like headshots, taking human shields, shooting Exploding Barrels, hacking enemy turrets, etc... all things that are present in many other FPS and which an experienced player will already be doing by this point. Apparently we were evil all this time, who knew?
  • The dwarven justice system in Dwarf Fortress has values skewed along this trope's lines. Heinous crimes such as smashing nearly-valueless furniture or failing to manufacture the specific pointless trinket demanded by one of the fort's nobles can net a dwarf a month in prison (which is often a death sentence due to the fact that feeding prisoners is a low-priority task[1]) or a "beating" by an officer of the fortress guard. Note that the fortress guard assigned to deliver the beating will use whatever weapon he's carrying to full effect in the course of the beating, so if you've given your fortress guard battleaxes expect a fountain of blood and severed limbs to ensue. Conversely, outright murder is usually punished by a sentence of around 200 days in prison.
  • A lot of the "incidents" behind the Excuse Plots of Touhou fall into this trope, as apparently things like an unusual number of ghosts appearing, people having lots of parties, and lots of flowers blooming warrant going out and beating the crap out of whomever is responsible. This is mostly justified though, as the denizens of Gensoukyou are varying degrees of batshit insane and will use any excuse for a fight.
    • Interestingly, a number of "incidents" could be considered in the same category - "meteorological" - and could have also demonstrated either a failure of the Great Border or an ecological threat, both of which are terribly serious issues for a Pocket Dimension with a undefined degree of filtration from the Outside World. The red mist, delayed Spring, an incorrect gibbous moon, a delayed Autumn, earthquakes, geysers, more red mist.
    • Additionally, being youkai is a crime.

Reimu: A youkai was just sitting there minding its own business. And it was enjoying a book, too! I tried to exterminate it with a surprise attack ...

  • Some time before the start of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, Etna abandoned Larharl and set out to become an Overlord stronger than him, because he committed the heinous crime of... eating her favorite pudding.
  • In Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, Almaz will have you know that he would never indulge in such perverse, vile temptations as... wearing matching outfits on dates with his crush, or getting her to make him a sandwich.
  • Some of the Pokémon games for Game Boy included Professor Oak's voice appearing out of nowhere to admonish the main character before he or she did something stupid and dangerous such as riding a bike indoors or trying to use a fishing rod on land.
    • And it still continues today:

Juniper's words echoed... [Player]! There's a time and place for everything! But not now.

    • In Pokémon Red and Blue, one of the first towns you go to will have a police officer guarding the door to a house. If you speak to him, he will explain the the house has been burglarized, and that "Only Team Rocket could have performed such a heinous crime." Granted, robbery's not nice, but heinous?'
  • The sex scene in Six Days A Sacrifice was a combination of types 1 and 3 for Yahtzee, which he freely admitted in Quovak's Let's Play of the series. Yahtzee intended it to be a sign that the protagonist and his fellow prisoner were at the end of their ropes and opting to let go of those metaphorical ropes entirely; the audience saw a romance scene between a neurotic woman and a guy with nearly every bone in his body broken, and promptly asked, "Yahtzee, what the hell?!"
  • In Mass Effect 3, the Illusive Man's reaction to seeing Shepard after (s)he storms the Cerberus base.

The Illusive Man: Shepard. You're in my chair.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Episode 4 of Chobits Abridged has this. Loitering is so heinous, the police pull and cock their guns just to be sure.
  • Maddox's most recent article (yes, I know) about, among other things, the dubious villainy on display in Quantum Of Solace. "It's like the producers are challenging you to give less of a shit."
  • There was a TV advertisement in Poland: the man asks his wife if she wants Earl Grey, since the kids are asleep. After some Memetic Mutation, Polish Internet was full of pictures of a man in jail for drinking Earl Grey in presence of children.
  • Inverted in the fifth episode of the Irish comedy series I Am Fighter:

Barry 'The Blender' Henderson: This here's a picture of Thomas 'The Tanker' Smythe driving a tractor at the age of three, which you might think is completely illegal. But when you're on the fucking outskirts of Limavady, anything goes. Know what I'm saying? Keep it on the DL.

Some people considered them “cute”, he understood. There were even dolls and some dreadful Disney cartoon. He gazed at an animal face with outsized human eyes, a skull bloated to hold a man-sized brain, a foreshortened muzzle which somehow twisted itself to mimic human speech (he had been told that he would find Equestria full of English-speakers: very few humans could duplicate the whinnying local speech), and forelimbs that looked like tapering cones of hairy flesh until they bent with, again, that blasphemous plasticity…and he was to entrust his life to things like this one?

Western Animation

  • Fish slapping, from the Veggie Tales film Jonah. Justified in that it's all a story being told by the modern day Pirates, and saying what the real Assyrians did would be inappropriate for their young audience.
  • Fillmore!, a police-procedural-type show set in a school, is the undisputed master of this, both for the title character and the show in general. Fillmore himself is treated, by many people in the show, like an unstable/possibly violent ex-convict for his past crimes. What are those crimes, you ask? Directly ripped from the opening sequence: Chalk boosting, locker rigging, a comic book poker ring, cutting class, milk counterfeiting (non dairy creamer), and backtalkery. For this sordid past he has many The Atoner moments. This is before, of course, we even get into the scooter jacking ring, tartar sauce smuggling, and the time Fillmore's pet was almost killed by a boy in return for the answer sheet to a particularly hard test. Another episode features a psychotic, monotone, genius IQ boy who had to locked up in total isolation because the spray paint tagging he was doing all over the school were so traumatizing they could make people physically ill.
  • In Adventure Time, the earl of Lemongrab has some... er, interesting concepts when it comes to punishing those who do wrong. Making a mess? Thirty days in the dungeon. Asking questions? Thirty-TWO days in the dungeon. Refusing to clean up mess, or asking who exactly Lemongrab is talking to? Three hours dungeon. Harmless prank? Seven years dungeon, no trials. Assuring Lemongrab that the prank was harmless? Twelve years dungeon. Elaborate, painful prank involving spicy food? ONE MILLION YEARS DUNGEON!!! (Of course, Lemongrab isn't evil—he's just young, angry, and a bit of an idiot.)
    • Princess Bubblegum and Finn decide to play a harmless prank on the earl of Lemongrab—basically, they leave a sign beside his bed that says "YOU REALLY SMELL LIKE DOG BUNS." How does the earl react? He clenches his fists, starts shaking, and opens up his mouth wide to scream loudly in sheer outrage for several seconds. And how does he attempt to punish those responsible? Round up EVERYONE in the castle, to sentence them to seven years in the dungeon, no trials!
    • Marceline writes a heart-breaking, soul-crushing, tear-jerking ballad which questions if her dad even loves her because.... he ate her fries.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures had Plucky and Hampton steal a candy bar, and go through inner torment before they give it back.
    • Also, one beer shared between three people will turn all of them into stereotypical wino bums, who will then steal a car to go joyriding before dying in the inevitable crash.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants does the fourth kind quite a lot. In one example they steal a balloon and fully intended to give it back. It pops. Torment ensues. Eventually, they give in and turn themselves in to the police, and get thrown in prison. Then they learn it is Free Balloon Day, and stay in prison for all of three seconds before being let free.
    • Also, Squidward was once sentenced to ten years in prison for stealing a wallet and running (literally; he wasn't driving) a stop sign.
      • Not to mention, Spongebob's cousin, Squidward (again), and the Tattletale Strangler all have gotten sent to jail for the unspeakable crime of littering.
    • In "The Algae's Always Greener", Spongebob is ashamed of himself for accidentally giving a customer a large soda when they ordered a medium. "I've soiled the good Krusty Krab name! Soiled it, soiled it, soiled it, soiled it..."
  • Type 4 is used in the Mighty B episode "Toot Toot", which is about Bessie farting during a meeting and getting kicked out of the Honeybees for it. It sends her into a Heroic BSOD, and the other Honeybees are suffering without her. However, just as Bessie was about to burn her manual, she realizes that farting is a natural function, and that there is a badge called the "Toot-Toot" Badge, which is rewarded for those who go through farting in public with dignity.
  • The South Park episode "Christian Rock Hard" where they get caught downloading music, and are shown how the artists they stole from are "suffering", such as how they can't buy a private island or get new features for their private jets. Another notable example occurs in "Butt Out," when their parents act as if smoking is "the worst thing" Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman have ever done, never bothering to comment upon the fact that they've just burned their school to the ground!
    • South Park uses Type 4 a lot, like when Stan was exiled from the town for refusing to vote on the school mascot election between Turd Sandwich and Giant Douche.
    • Eric Cartman repeatedly insulted his friends, abused them (often brutally) and betrayed them just for the sheer joy of it. He also made at least two attempts to genocide a large group of the population, convinced women to have abortions for his own profit and, having arranged a couple murdered (one of which was his father), made them into a chili and fed it to their son. But eating the skin of all the fried chicken was the last drop that finally prompted his friends to ignore him. Kyle even calls out that Cartman did a lot worse before.
  • Almost all the villains in Codename: Kids Next Door are built on this. Simple things most kids don't like doing such as homework, washing dishes, and eating vegetables are blown to world-destroying proportions.
    • One episode featured a hardware store owner who wanted to eliminate two aviators who bought their plane parts from him. Why? Because they kept smudging his counter with chili. Disproportionate Retribution much?
  • Danny Phantom, with the episode "The Ultimate Enemy." Danny cheats on a test, and what are the consequences? Not a detention, or a lecture, or auto-failing the test. Rather, just about everyone he truly cared for (plus his English teacher) died in a horrendous explosion, and Danny became an omnicidal maniac with no humanity or morals whatsoever.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy thinks up several horrible punishments of what Lucius will do to him when he finds out what he's done. He laughs them off. When Samy tells him that he'll take away his TV privileges, he reacts with horror.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer is banned from the bar for loosening the lid on a salt shaker, in the aftermath of pranks which involved setting Moe's clothing on fire and loading his cash register with a live cobra.
    • In another episode he has to take care of a caterpillar, and almost kills it by mistake. He is sentenced to 200 hours of community service for "attempted insecticide" and "aggravated buggery."
      • It was an endangered species. But still. Made especially ridiculous because, as Homer put it, God clearly wanted it to die. (The species is sexually attracted to fire, for example.)
    • Another episode, which is widely considered the worst episode of the series, involves Bart failing to catch a fly ball in a championship baseball game when Springfield was one out away from winning in the bottom of the ninth, causing Shelbyville to win, and the entire town relentlessly boos Bart horribly (except his family). They sing a song on the radio about how horrible he is. They throw lots of food at him. And when Bart is about to jump off a water tower, they tell Bart they're not mad anymore, and when he falls off and ends up in the hospital, they continue to yell at him despite the fact that he almost died. The moral might have been to try as hard as possible in baseball, but still, the townspeoples' actions were 100% unjustifiable.
    • Principal Skinner talks about the horrible thing he did in the Vietnam War. He stole cupcakes.
  • In season 2 of The Boondocks, Grandad, Riley, Huey, and Jasmine all sneak into a movie without paying for it and are treated to a warning about movie piracy that insists that pirating movies makes you the most horrible, evil, violent person on earth. The boys all ignore it but by the time the completely over-the-top announcement is over, Jasmine is bawling her little eyes out and begging for them to take her out of the theater out of guilt.
    • This is based off a series of strips in the comic (which is in turn based off a series of PSA's about movie piracy) where they show various people's over-the-top tearjerking plights thanks to movie piracy - one of which is bootlegger who can't sell his pirated movies anymore.
  • In Futurama, Zoidberg accidentally destroys the Professor's model ship and decides to frame Fry in order to avoid blame. He later becomes wracked with grief and self-loathing after Fry has to pay for the damages to the amount of ten dollars.
    • Justified, as to Zoidberg, ten dollars is a VERY large amount. He's too poor to realize that Fry simply rummaged his pockets to pay off his debt.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Most of the Amoeba Boys' "evil schemes" fall under this trope. Stealing oranges and trespassing on private property are among their most insidious crimes.
  • Looney Tunes short "Daffy Doodles" begins with this ominous bit of narration:

In a large eastern city, a demon is on the loose. The people are terrified. The police baffled. With diabolical cleverness, the monster strikes without warning... and draws moustaches on all the ads.

  • Inverted: One episode of What's New Scooby Doo? has the culprit going through the whole You Meddling Kids speech for something that wasn't even technically illegal.
  • One episode of Batman the Brave And The Bold features Black Lightning acting like this in a dream sequence, during which he shoots lightning at people for the heinous acts of... putting sprinkles in coffee, not cleaning up after their dogs, driving an SUV, wearing white after Labor Day, and making "Smell That Pig IV". At one point he attacks Batman because he doesn't like his costume.
  • Recess liked to revisit the unwritten code of honor kids must live by on the playground. Everything from how a scuffle is conducted to weird superstitions is treated as deadly serious, and God help you if you don't automatically know all the rules; if you're really lucky, you'll have friends who not only do know the rule you broke, but how to restore your honor as well.
    • The world "whomp" is treated a so bad a swear that SWAT teams are brought in and the kids are out in court.
    • In the episode where the kids protest the tearing down of an old jungle gym by staying on it endlessly, Prickly decides to initiate "Plan P", which Ms. Grotke calls "extreme". The plan: calling the kids' parents.
  • Coop from Megas XLR typically does the fourth version in his Once an Episode speeches to the Monster of the Week. Ironically, HE normally did that along with at least one of the others he accused them of himself.
  • In the infamous Arthur episode "Arthur's Big Hit" Arthur hits D.W. in the arm after she destroys his model airplane. The punch is considered an abominable offense, while D.W. gets off scot-free for her thoughtless destruction of his treasured possession.
    • This also initially happens in a later episode, "Arthur's Family Feud", in which Arthur and D.W. get into a minor tussle which accidentally ends up causing a souffle that their dad just baked to get ruined. Dad gets so pissed off that he ends up initially throwing the book at them until Mom calms him down.
    • It's actually a fairly common theme through the series: DW is a consummate Karma Houdini, and Arthur's inability to get away with anything approaches Butt Monkey levels.
      • Justified, in a way - older kids are often punished more harshly than younger ones because they're supposed to know the rules by their age. DW is only four, and thus makes mistakes and has a lot of learning to do. Arthur, on the other hand, is eight, and should really know better most of the time. Not to mention that Arthur is an Unreliable Narrator, being eight, and might not cover whatever punishments DW suffers for her own actions.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Pinkie Pie invokes this with her deadly-serious attitude towards keeping secrets in "Green Isn't Your Color".

"Losing a friend's trust is the fastest way to lose a friend forever! FOR-EV-ER!!!"

    • Rarity simply cannot abide crimes against fashion and/or fabulosity.
    • Later, in "Lesson Zero", Twilight Sparkle actually suffers a psychotic breakdown when she thinks her weekly aesop of the week letter to the princess might be... gasp... tardy!
    • Also, in "The Cutie Pox", it turns out Pinkie Pie ate not two, not three, but six corn cakes (and possibly even more than that)!
    • "NOPONY breaks a Pinkie Promise!"
    • Twice in Read it and Weep, as not only does the plot revolve around non-egghead Rainbow Dash being into reading, she also gets the hospital's staff on her case because they thought she had broken in to steal a patient's slippers.
  • In an early episode of Family Guy the FBI burst into Peter's living room and shoot the VCR when he attempts to tape Monday Night Football with the expressly-written consent of ABC, but not the NFL.
  • Xiaolin Showdown plays this for comedic effect in a few episodes, but one incident with normally calm, soft-spoken, steady Clay stands out:

Kimiko: It's Spicer! He took the seed!
Clay: And the hot dogs! (runs after Jack Spicer, losing his hat in the process and not even caring) Come back here with them doggies, you no-good low-down snake, you yellow-bellied dirty little sidewinder I'M GON' GET YOU!

  • One Dudley Do-Right episode involves having the titular character be discharged from the Mounted Police for doing the unthinkable...eating his peas...with a KNIFE!
  • Inverted for comedic effect in a Robot Chicken sketch: After Paris Hilton is arrested, Nicole Richie decides to break her "best friend/meal ticket" out of jail, in a parody of Prison Break. To get herself arrested, she robs a bank ("They might just fine you for that."), and kills a teller. The guard throwing her in jail proclaims:

Stupid celebrity! Armed robbery AND murder? You'll be locked up for forty-five days.

Guard: "Your Majesty, these juveniles were arrested for vandalism, traveling under false pretenses, and malicious destruction of cabbages."
Cabbage Merchant: "Off with their heads! One for each head of cabbage!"

    • Somewhat justified, since this is this poor guy's business. But he seems to be able to replenish his supply for the next time his cabbage stand gets destroyed.
  • In an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the android policeman REX-1 nabs two crooks:

REX-1: You are charged with disturbing the peace.
First Crook: Put us down you hunk of tin!
REX-1: Resisting arrest.
Second Crook: You ain't never getting away with this.
REX-1: And using a double negative.

Real Life

  • Grammar Nazi: HEIL SPELLCHECK!
    • Using incorrect grammar for non-computer languages gets to some people.
  • In his autobiography, The Confessions, Saint Augustine wangsts at length over a monstrous sin he committed while he was a young man in Africa. What was the heinous crime, you ask? He stole some pears! Low quality ones! Which he threw away without eating! Okay, it was that he did it just For the Evulz, but the degree still falls under this.
  • In MK Gandhi's memoirs The Story of my Experiments With Truth, he feels wretched with guilt over simply tasting meat when he was young.
  • There are many people who consider it some kind of crime against nature to use the Comic Sans or Papyrus fonts.
  • Coding "grammar" is a hot topic of debate amongst even professional programmers. A group of people will lynch you if you fail to put the curly brace on the same line as the start of a new scope. Or if you CamelCase. Or you use Hungarian Notation. Or, if you do none of those things, a different group of people will lynch you.
  • Apparently cupcakes are a clear and present danger to airplanes and must be confiscated.
  • Anti-drug propaganda, particularly that intended for minors, tends to drag this flailing into the deepest pits of Narm.
  • Kids have gotten in trouble for having plastic silverware in their lunchbox. Note that most school cafeterias actually provide silverware for students and that a person would have to work very hard or get very lucky to actually hurt someone with plastic silverware. Also, students have gotten in trouble for having over-the-counter medication in their possession at school, which is a bit more justifiable since they could use it to poison someone, overdose at school, or sell the pills, but really, most students simply carry a small bottle so that they'll have it should they get a bad headache or, in the case of girls, menstrual cramps.
  • One elementary schooler in New York was once arrested by the police. The reason for this act? She drew on her desk. With an eraseable marker.
  • In many schools, students face suspension for something as simple as wearing the "wrong" color. Inverted as well because more serious trouble (like fighting) may be ignored due to dealing with all the minor infraction cases.
  • In the US in some states, people are sent to jail for truancy.
  • In many, many companies the world over, productive employees can be fired for being even a few minutes late on three different days within a year.
  • The concept of Draconian Law, named after Draco (650 BCE - 600 BCE), who was an Athenian law scribe… making this Older Than Feudalism.
  1. Though a well-designed prison can bypass those issues and make jail time a passing inconvenience rather than something more severe
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