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"...Find a woman named Elizabeth Lemon. Get her advice, and then do the opposite."
—Jack Donaghy's video instructions for his expected child, 30 Rock
Advice from certain classes of teammates—like The Ditz, or the Token Evil Teammate afflicted with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder—can usually be safely ignored. But, if a person (let's call him Bob) is wrong consistently enough, then Bob's teammates will eventually find his advice useful—by reversing it first. If Bob says to turn left at the fork, Alice will turn right. If Bob says, "Gee, Dave sure seems trustworthy to me!", Alice takes this as a sign that Dave is not to be trusted. And if Bob says, "Don't touch that, you fools!", Alice knows that it's critically important that they touch the object in question as soon as possible.
This trope can be played for horror if the villain in question is manipulative.
In Real Life, this logic is fallacious; in fiction, Alice opens herself up to getting burned if Reverse Psychology or Dumbass Has a Point is in effect. Of course, the Rule of Funny governs all, so it's just as likely that this logic works out perfectly for Alice.
For the subtrope of doing exactly the opposite of Bob because Bob is eeeeeeeeevil, see Hitler Ate Sugar. For praise producing a similarly negative reaction, see Your Approval Fills Me with Shame. For characters rejecting information that turns out to be correct, see Cassandra Truth.
- In the Gargoyles spin-off comic "Bad Guys", the Redemption Squad meets Thailog, who says "Fang can vouch for me." Fang says "Yeah, Thailog's my kinda gargoyle." They immediately know that Thailog can't be trusted. (It's hinted that Fang knew they'd go contrary to his advice.)
- In a Donald Duck story, Donald tried it on himself—he figured that since every single of his plans ends with disaster, he should do the exact opposite of whatever seems most reasonable at the moment. For starters, in hopes of getting himself and his nephew to a tropical vacation, he went to Siberia.
- From Pirates of the Caribbean:
Murtogg: But why aren't we doing... what Mr. Sparrow said we should do?
- A story from Analog magazine in the 1970s; an Obstructive Bureaucrat type has been asked to consult on a project. He's pretty clearly suffering from cranial-recto inversion, but the project personnel seem to be taking him dead seriously. It turns out that the bureaucrat has been scientifically identified as someone who is always, always wrongheaded and therefore the project personnel know to do the exact opposite of his suggestions. Now that he and the other "canaries" have been identified and isolated in similar jobs, human progress is taking off like a rocket.
- In His Dark Materials, at the end of Northern Lights, Lyra and her daemon Patalaimon reason that if villains like Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel want to suppress or destroy the Dust, it must actually be good.
- The short story "The Coming of the Goonga": an alien civilization figures that intelligent, well-informed rulers are not the way to go, because the more you know the more options you see and eventually you get bogged down with indecision. Their solution was the zeromaster, a "ruler" kept in a state of perfect, crystal-clear ignorance. The result: decisive orders and even future predictions guaranteed to be utterly and precisely wrong, thus guaranteeing excellent results if you do the opposite of what they say.
- At the end of Harry Harrison's Deathworld 2, Jason tells former barbarian Ijale that her life in civilization will go reasonably well as long as she sticks with Mikah, listens carefully to what he tells her and then does the exact opposite.
- The Screwtape Letters is this on a meta level. The reader is supposed to recognize that Hell's goals are completely at odds with humanity's well-being, therefore anything Screwtape praises is actually something that could damn the reader, and anything he criticizes is something that could save the reader.
- Mostly Harmless: Arthur Dent finds a soothsayer to ask about how he should continue his life. The Soothsayer hands Dent a large stack of photocopied pages, and explains that it's her autobiography, then adds (paraphrased) "If you follow this and do the opposite of what I did, you'll be fine."
- Robert A. Heinlein (probably via the notebooks of Lazarus Long) suggested that, when not certain who to vote for, one should find a well-meaning fool (of which there are many), and vote against whatever he advises.
Live Action TV
- Hogan's Heroes. A bomb lands in Stalag 13. Hogan asks Col. Klink what wire to cut, then cuts the other one.
- In Thirty Rock, Jack prepares some videotapes for his expected child, in case of his demise. One piece of advice: "In the unlikely event that you encounter something that isn't covered here, find a woman named Elizabeth Lemon. Get her advice, and then do the opposite."
- In Seinfeld, George figures out that since following his instincts never got him anywhere, if he did the opposite of what he'd usually do he would be successful. It works... at least for one episode.
- Xavier does this on Home and Away at one point, after Ruby kisses him and he debates with himself over whether to mention it to April. After John advises him to say nothing, Xavier rejects the advice specifically because it came from him. He tells April and the outcome is fine.
Manga & Anime
- In the anime version of Soul Eater's Gecko Ending, while Marie and Chrona are searching for Medusa there's a montage of them searching a swamp. After a while Chrona decides to simply go in the opposite direction to the one Marie picked (both of them having No Sense of Direction was a Running Gag).
- In the Charles Dickens spoof Bleak Expectations the protagonist Pip Bin builds a successful business empire by listening to the advice of his well meaning but wrong-headed lawyer Mr Parsimonious, and then doing the opposite.
Pip: What do you think of the new name Mr Parsimonious?
- Shin Megami Tensei V: While Tao gives Sahori good advice (don’t hurt other people just because you’re feeling upset), Lahmu gives Sahori terrible advice. Rather than to tell her that she shouldn’t allow her and hatred to boil inside of her, he instead tells her she should embrace her urges and seek vengeance on the two girls bullying her instead, which results in her murdering those bullies in cold blood, and then feeding them to Lahmu himself. Considering the remorse she feels afterward and Tao’s horrified reaction, this was a horrible thing for the demon to do, even if the bullies likely weren’t going to change their ways.
- Spacetrawler: Dustin is a colossal dumbass who has also deliberately tried to undermine the other protagonists' mission several times. So when Dustin tries to warn Pierrot that Curn, King of the Mirrhgoots, can't be trusted, that's what convinces a wavering Pierrot to trust Curn.
Dustin: Don't do it! They'll suck your brains out and-
- A Basic Instructions strip has Rick try to fix his life by ignoring logic in favor of trusting his instincts, Unfortunately, all this causes him to do is cringe in panic in response to everything. After four hours of cringing, he decides it isn't working, and he should instead do the opposite of trust his instincts and rely solely on logic. Unfortunately, the logical response to learning how useless his instincts are is to cringe.
- Less Wrong reminds the reader that this as a logical fallacy: "Reversed stupidity is not intelligence."
- In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, Spongebob and Squidward are lost. Spongebob predicts which way to go using his pioneering skills, so Squidward goes the opposite way. The camera then pans over to show that their houses are just over a ridge in the direction Spongebob wanted to go.
- The Simpsons: Homer Simpson has a card in his wallet that tells him "Always do the opposite of what Bart says."
- In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield is wondering how to attract a girl cat. He decides to watch Jon in action. "Then I'll know what not to do."
- On Rocky and Bullwinkle there was a tribe of island natives who got their weather predictions from the egg of the Oogle bird. When the bird was no longer available, they substitute it with Captain Wrongway Peachfuzz and simply expect the opposite from his predictions.
- An episode of DuckTales had Scrooge team up with Gladstone Gander, whose trademark luck had been supernaturally cursed. Scrooge exploits this fact at one point, by asking Gladstone to pick the direction and then going the opposite way.
- Allegedly the Monty Python crew, when writing sketches for Monty Python's Flying Circus, would present them to a certain secretary working at the BBC. If she laughed loud and long at one and just kind of shrugged at the other, they went with the one she shrugged at.
- Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones claims that this was the inspiration for the short Bully for Bugs. Supervisor Eddie Selzer, the studio-appointed successor to Leon Schlessenger, was well-known among the Termite Terrace animators for being wrong about everything. So when Selzer walked into Chuck Jones' office one day and declared, out of the blue, "Bullfights aren't funny!", Jones knew they needed to make a cartoon about a bullfight.