Apr 22 2020

To shame someone into doing something

To shame someone into doing something-To shame someone into doing something
The Shame If Something Happened trope as used in popular culture. Oh, hello, tropers. Why, isn’t this a very well-written article we have here? It would be …

Shame If Something Happened

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The Good Guy and the Bad Guy have a meeting. The Bad Guy makes an offer. The Good Guy rejects it outright because he’s the Good Guy.

Then the Bad Guy rattles off a few offhand remarks about how beautiful the Good Guy’s wife, child, house, dog, mother, whole family, etc. are. He shows recent photos of the lovely person or thing in question, and perhaps a copy of personal information the Good Guy thought was secret. And then comments offhandedly that “It’d be a shame if something bad were to happen to it/them.”

The clear implication is if the Good Guy doesn’t give the Bad Guy what he wants, something bad will happen to it/them.

This generally gets the Good Guy back to the bargaining table, and shows just how bad the Bad Guy is. It also calls attention to the resource level of the Bad Guy and his criminal conspiracy.


There may be some overlap with The Villain Knows Where You Live (when the Bad Guy backs up this threat by proving he knows where to find the Good Guy and/or the Good Guy’s family). This may lead to an And Your Little Dog, Too! situation, making the Good Guy much more likely to take the Bad Guy down than if they hadn’t threatened the Good Guy’s friends and family. And the Bad Guy needs to make sure that the Good Guy they’re trying this on with isn’t someone who could instantly and unexpectedly turn them into a smear on the wall if they were in any way displeased, since threatening innocent loved ones is a good way to trigger an Unstoppable Rage from the seemingly meek and mild.

This is also a common stock phrase used by thugs (usually The Mafia) in extortion rackets. “You’ve got a nice (noun) here. It’d be a shame if anything were to. happen to it.”


Often parodied: the Big Bad will threaten the hero with some minor inconvenience, and it will be treated with the same seriousness as a death threat, if not more seriously.

In linguistics, this sort of threat is known as a Gricean Implicature. Note that another even subtler way to make this kind of threat is to assert hope that some situation will proceed normally as though there were some reason for it not to: “Cute kid you got there. I hope she’ll grow up to have kids of her own and live to see a ripe old age.”

See also Implied Death Threat, Terms of Endangerment, Interrogation by Vandalism and Trouble Entendre. If the Bad Guy’s threat actually gets carried out, it often leads to I Have Your Wife. If one doesn’t want to look bad, he can use a Monster Protection Racket instead.

  • A Swedish PSA about not buying alcohol for your k >Shatner: What? It’s only a few extra dollars, right?
  • After Kaname is k >Then, when Kaname is released, Sousuke reveals that he’d bribed the little brother to play along. We’re not sure how much he was joking about the rest, though.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, a great scene shows Ed trying to quit his job, but then the Fuhrer casually remarks about Ed’s “nice childhood friend Winry”, who of course Ed has strong feelings for. Averted when Kimblee makes a similar comment to Ed, but is honestly saying that he just thinks Winry is nice.
  • In Death Note, The Mafia kidnap Sayu, Light’s little sister, and tell it to her father with a speech to this effect.
  • In an early episode of Medabots (or at least, the English dub), one of the gang of Medabot thieves threatens Ikki thusly: “Nice Medabot you’ve got there. Shame if something were to happen to it.”
  • Subverted awesomely in Zettai Karen Children. The Normal People, who have The Children in an ECM field try to get Minamoto’s computer password by threatening Kaoru, just as Minamoto planned. The password Minamoto told them was actually a trigger for an emergency ECCM unit, freeing Kaoru to use her powers. Since “ECM” and “ECCM” are pretty obscure acronyms and sound pretty similar: The ECM is an Anti-Magic field, the ECCM is an Anti Anti Magic field.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, King Yomi managed to do this on Kurama and get away with it, revealing that not only had he already done extensive research on Kurama and his human family, but that he’d taken measures to ensure that Kurama will be forced to work for him . Notable in being the only time in 112 episodes that Kurama actually cusses at someone.
  • Norman Osborn:
    • Ever since the Green Goblin was revived in the late 1990s, he’s done this to Sp >he came within an inch of killing the Goblin and Osborn tearfully told him to go ahead. Peter, realizing that Osborn is so miserable he’s stooped to doing stuff like this just for the attention, just walked away. And when Osborn yelled that by this time tomorrow all his loved ones will be dead, Peter said “Go right ahead”, and left.
  • Played completely straight in the Astro City story “Knock Wood”: a lawyer uses a genius defense to acquit the son of a mafia boss, who then wants to recruit him permanently. When the lawyer refuses, the boss says the trope name nearly verbatim to threaten his family if he turns down the offer.
  • Played straight in Watchmen. Rorschach is in prison, in solitary. Crime boss Big Figure (who Rorschach sent to jail) wants to have a little chat. The guard isn’t supposed to let him through. so Big Figure starts making friendly conversation about the guard’s wife and kids.
    • Rorschach pulls an anti-heroic version of this on the customers of the Bad-Guy Bar Happy Harry’s. When looking for the guy who hired the assassin for an attempted hit on Adrien Veidt, Rorschach casually states that, of course, he won’t insult their legendary underworld solidarity by expecting them to give up the culprit without being tortured. Everybody in the bar immediately backs away from the culprit in question, leaving him to Rorschach’s interrogation.
  • Ivana Baiul of DV8 calls a troublesome US Senator to console him on the recent death of a good friend of his (which, needless to say, she orchestrated), saying that it would be terrible for anything like that to happen to his wife or daughter.
  • The origin of Dick Grayson involves this. Mob boss Tony Zucco uses this on the Ringmaster, and after being thrown out partially cuts the ropes for the Graysons’ trapeze. The rope breaks when Dick’s parents are using it, and they fall to their deaths.
  • In Wonder Woman Volume 1 #1 Steve Trevor uncovers a protection racket threatening the circus, but the villains they’re looking for turn out to be the Burmese men who help look after the elephants instead.
  • In the September 1, 1987, strip of Garfield, Garfield tells John Arbuckle that “it would be a shame if someone slashed [his drapes] into party streamers” with the (successful) intention of getting food.
  • In What’s New? with Phil and Dixie, gnomesdo this to comic book artists.
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Mori asks enemy esper Kyouko how her grandfather is in Osaka. She immediately gains a look of barely concealed terror.
  • Night’s Favored Child: The Inquisitor is attending a Peace Conference with the griffin kings which is falling apart (mostly due to the Inquisitor hating griffins and intentionally infuriating them), when the head king eventually threatens war. The Inquisitor then points out that the king’s daughter (implied and later confirmed to be Gilda) is currently in Equestria on an exchange program, and while he’s monitoring her, it might be. “difficult” to insure her safety if there’s a war. The king backs down.
  • Used in You Obey as the interrogator is eyeing his victim’s limbs.
  • Dirty SympathyKristoph tells Apollo after he’s nine minutes late to work that if he should adhere to schedule so people will know where he is and where he’s supposed to be. Because he doesn’t, people wouldn’t know where he’s supposed to be and won’t notice if Apollo went missing.
  • In On The Wings of Dragons, Harry shows a photograph where a dragon appears smiling right behind a small girl playing in a park. The girl is the grand-daughter of a man that Harry knows is planning to have him attacked in some way because he humiliated the man before, and Harry is doing this to show him he is not to be trifled with. Subverted in that it is just a bluff, since Harry is completely unwilling of harming an innocent.
  • In the Attack on Titan fanfic My Child, during the birth of his and Mikasa’s baby, Levi once again refuses to sell his soul to the demon Xaphan, telling Xaphan that he doesn’t need him and to get out of his life. Xaphan stays put, and replies, “You might regret it if I left and something were to happen.” Cue shoulder dystocia nearly suffocating the baby.
  • Unfortunately Unbreakable:
  • In The Great Mouse Detective, Professor Ratigan uses this to threaten Flaversham’s daughter Olivia if Flaversham doesn’t help him with his evil scheme.
  • Frank Nitti threatens Eliot Ness’s family in this manner in The Untouchables. (“Nice house. nice to have a family.”)
  • This is how Kobayashi keeps the protagonists working for Soze in The Usual Suspects.
  • From The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Angel Eyes does a simple one. “That your family? Nice family.” He proceeds to shoot the man he’s talking to, along with his son. After he gets what he wants.
  • In the crime/horror movie Se7en, villain John Doe taunts Detective Dav >John Doe has already killed Tracy in order to enrage Mills and get Doe exactly what he wants — his own murder, at Mills’ hands.
  • The Castle:
    • The firm that is trying to buy the main characters’ house send a man around after he refuses their offer. He makes vaguely threatening comments that leave the main character riled up, and later trashes his car. When they try it on his neighbour, a Kuwaiti man, he replies: “You send someone ’round to see me, make threats, I send someone ’round to see you, blow up your car.” They dec >Sam: Cause that tie looks really expensive and I’d hate to mess it up. *cue a laser sight from a sniper rifle appearing on said tie.*
    • Discworld:
      • In the backstory, the basically-good Bad Guy (the Patrician) uses it on really Bad Guys (the heads of various criminal gangs) after persuading them to form a Thieves’ Guild that regulates crime (more or less turning it into an official, legal profession), for the purpose of reminding them what can happen if they don’t honor the deal:
      • Saturday Night Live:
        • There was a sketch mocking former Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, which has had a reputation of being one of the most corrupt states in the US and is w > note He was later convicted on multiple charges of corruption and is currently imprisoned.
        • In a later example, SNL also parodied Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey (another state that is infamous for its political corruption) in the wake of his “Br > note Allegedly, some of his staffers ordered the blockade of several lanes of traffic on a highway bridge in retribution to a perceived snub by the local politicians in that area. by having him implicitly threaten Piers Morgan during an interview and invoking this trope word for word.
      • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, when in 2013, Democrats threatened to hold up the Obama’s nominee for the CIA, John Brennan, in order to get drone memos, Jon Stewart likened their threats to a mobster: “Hey. Nice nominee you got there, [sniffs, straightens tie] It’d be a shame if something happened to ’em, Mr. Pres > Despite this, even after John foils his plans, Scorpius gets a rather sympathetic scene where he points out that petty revenge against John is pointless if the revenge he really wanted was out of his grasp.
      • The protection version is sent up in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, when Dino and Luigi Vercotti do this with an Army base.
        • Persona 4: Naoto notes that it would be a terrible shame if Namatame escaped through the large television set in his hospital room. Then again, there’s the not entirely unwelcome possibility that he wouldn’t be able to get out of it and be left at the mercy of the Shadows. Rise gets the gist of what Naoto is implying, and is horrified that Naoto is seriously suggesting it.
        • In Heroes of the Storm, clicking onDiablo will eventually cause him to make this threat — against the player’s soul!

        “Nice pawnshop you got here. Shame if anything should happen to it.”

        Okay, so ya want originality. Well, let me tell you dis is 1922 and right now dis line is very original.


        To shame someone into doing something


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