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File:NotHelpingYourCase 157.png

Ellen is just digging herself deeper.

It's worth noting that [Chris Johnson]'s first response to the news site that labeled him a pimp was to threaten to "come down there and slap the shit out everyone I see," which we admit doesn't at all sound like something a pimp would say.

A character is widely distrusted, or maybe even actively disliked, by everyone else in the plot. Even though he's always innocent, this person is blamed for things that he didn't do, and is often the first suspect when something bad does happen.

Unfortunately, rather than go to extreme lengths to prove his own innocence, the character rebels and acts out, sometimes feeling he has nothing to lose by doing so; maybe even committing an actual crime in the process. When people discover the crime, that confirms their suspicions and "proves" to them that, yes, this person was really that bad all along.

For added ironic flavour, the newly-criminal character may be busted just as the others come around and start to believe his original claim - giving the cynic of the group something to snark about - "Well I guess you're right chumps, he really isn't a thief ... he's just a graverobber."

Compare I Resemble That Remark. Somewhat related are You Have to Believe Me, where a character tries to prove their sanity by screaming incoherent gibberish, Digging Yourself Deeper, where they try to sound less creepy by justifying the original creepy remark, and Sticky Fingers. Contrast with Wrongful Accusation Insurance, wherein the character is not implicated for crimes committed while trying to clear his name. The tropes may overlap, though, if the character is called out for his crimes as they happen, yet unceremoniously pardoned after his name is cleared.

Examples of Not Helping Your Case include:

Anime and Manga

  • Dr. Kenzou Tenma. Dear Lord. Not as extreme as most of these examples as of Episode Ten of Monster, but it's easier to count the moments when he isn't acting incredibly suspicious.
  • This trope sort of crosses over with the "I resemble that remark" trope in Lucky Star where Konata's father insists that it's wrong to call him a lolicon because he likes both young girls and normal girls, so it's more correct to say that he's "also a lolicon"... Really didn't help his case.

 Konata: You fail at life either way.

  • The Butt Monkey of Genshiken, Kuchiki, is a shameless, perverted Otaku who acts up at every occasion. At the culture festival, he spots someone nicking a cosplay costume of Ohno's; he gives chase and catches the thief, who throws the dress at him and walks off in disgust. Then the girls find him clutching the costume and accuse him of stealing it. Kuchiki pulls his trousers down, clambers into the dress and run-waddles off, jeans round ankles and hairy legs a-showin'.

Comic Books

  • In The Flash: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues, people are disqualified from the 25th-century time-traveling police by any criminal ancestry (going back at least to "present day"). One member, unbeknownst to the others, is descended from a murderer. Feeling it's unfair to hold someone else's crimes against him, he decides the solution is to make sure no one ever realizes it was his ancestor who committed the crime, by going back in time and perpetuating the frame job that keeps an innocent person in prison. He does this with more murder.

Fan Works

  • Occurs in Turnabout Storm. Rainbow Dash is accused of murdering one of her rivals in an upcoming race, a rare crime that could cost her a one way ticket to the Sun if she's found guilty. As Phoenix is interrogating her, she comments that the prize for the winner of the race is flight lessons with her idols The Wonderbolts, and she'd do anything to get that chance.

  • In Volkonir Meets the Power Rangers; Zack, Trini, and Jason wind up trapped in Volkonir's world and Volkonir in theirs. The find themselves on HanomCorp grounds, after the Percolation Wave abducts them and transports them there. Zack and Trini are attacked Gwirdon Treaders, while Jason nearly gets himself killed lending aid to Masato against Slaisionnach. After getting separated from everyone else for too long, Zack and Trini find themselves confronted by Bozeman police for trespassing. However, their arguments for why they were on HanomCorp property sound completely insane to the Bozeman police - who don't know about the Percolation Wave. Their next step is to show their IDs to police. Which backfires, because police notice that the two are from California. So not only are they trespassing on HanomCorp grounds, but are from out of state doing so! And then police notice that the IDs don't look modern, and wonder why they have a 1990s design in 2016. And also note that Angel Grove doesn't exist in EccentriaVerse's California. There is nothing the two can say without sounding like con artists - or like they're just plain crazy.
    • Hanom's solution to "fixing" things, and getting police to hear him out, is to recruit MODM from the world of Camelorum Adventures to "reason" with police. Goes about as well as one can expect. It gets worse when MODM decides to save Volkonir and the '93 Rangers from Slaisionnach by recruiting the 2017 film Power Rangers and the Emo Rangers to help out further. Kim's attitude doesn't sit well with Bozeman police, who also find MODM's outfit to be a tad creepy.


  • Double Jeopardy, which completely misunderstands how "double jeopardy" works. Yes, if you've been found guilty of killing someone who isn't dead, you can be tried again if you really do kill them.
    • Especially irritating in that she could have easily gotten her revenge on her husband by simply leading the police to him. Not only would she have gotten her name cleared and custody of her son back, but she could have also taken him to the cleaners in a civil suit (not to mention what the justice system would have done to him).
      • The movie was basically a Lifetime Original Movie. The woman has to kill the guy, no matter how irrational it would be in real life.
    • In this movie's defense she starts this whole thing based on bad advice she got from some moron in prison
      • How is that defense? You would think she would have checked it out, unless she's a moron too.
  • In Lawn Dogs, Trent is widely distrusted by the town in which he works and treated with suspicion for being a lower-class outsider. He is accused several times of crimes he didn't commit. As such, he feels he has no love to lose from the town, and rebels with various acting-out behaviors that don't help people's perception of him at all. To make matters worse, in the end he accidentally runs over the pet dog of one of the people who bully him.
    • Did you see the look on his face? That was not an accident.
  • The protagonist of Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy is framed by a serial killer, who turns out to be his best friend. As he's hauled off to his cell he repeatedly screams "I've got nothing to lose now! I might as well do what I'm being put away for!" This almost comes back to bite him when he escapes, as his attempt to catch the killer results in the cop who's been trying to prove his innocence for the whole film finds him standing over a dead prostitute.
  • In Street Kings, Keanu Reeves's character is suspected of having his former partner killed. The things he does afterwards (stealing the security footage, removing a bullet from his gun from the autopsy room, pressuring the detective investigating the death) make him look far guiltier than if he just told the truth about what happened.
    • Arguable. He DID (accidentally) put a bullet in the guy and had a history of being a cowboy cop. So he was almost definitely screwed if he told the truth. Whereas, if he managed to remove the evidence, he at least had the chance of not going to prison.
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, Susan argues to Gen. Monger that, despite now being almost 50-feet tall, she's "not a danger to anyone or anything." As she says this, she accidentally hits a helicopter with the back of her hand, causing it to crash.
  • Lord of the Rings. "Smeagol wouldn't hurt a fly!" (realises he's accidentally swatted a fly) "Argggh!"
  • The main source of hilarity in the political satire In the Loop.
  • The protagonist of Minority Report works for an organisation that predicts crimes and preemptively catches would-be criminals. Then he learns that he is predicted to murder a specific person at a specific location. Where does he flee from the pursuing cops? Why, to that very location of course! Apparently so he could... not kill that guy and thus prove his innocence. Makes perfect sense! It doesn't work, of course, but for other reasons.
    • It being a premeditated murder of a guy he had never met, the protagonist was trying to figure out who was framing him. Still not helping, but it was at least rational. Ironically, it is these very acts which make it premeditated even though he never met the guy, thus making the whole thing a Stable Time Loop (until he subverts the ending).
    • Still would have been easier to spend a week holed up in a hotel with reruns of your favorite TV show.
      • Well, there was a massive manhunt after him (he was always just a few steps ahead of the super-cops), and the mentality of the cops was that he was already guilty. So, using movie logic, if he did nothing it was just attempted murder (which is just as bad as real murder, of course), but if he managed to prove he wasn't going to kill the guy in the first place... Yeah, it doesn't really make much sense either way, but I guess he would rather investigate than watch Firefly.


  • Almost happens in Harry Potter: In the Shrieking Shack, Sirius, reasoning that he's already been framed and imprisoned for murdering Wormtail, tries desperately to kill him. ("I want to commit the murder I was imprisoned for!") However Harry manages to stop Sirius from actually doing it.
    • Again: Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew framed Sirius for his own murder. Adding insult to injury was that Harry's parents had decided to keep themselves safe using the Fidelius Charm, which relies on a person being chosen as Secret-Keeper, who is both the keystone of the charm and the only one who can divulge the secret: Sirius convinced James and Lily to choose Peter over him, since Sirius would have been the obvious choice, not expecting Peter to betray them to Voldemort. So Sirius Black can probably be forgiven for wanting to kill Wormtail, who had thus far been responsible both for ruining his life and Voldemort killing Harry's parents.
      • But he can hardly be forgiven for laughing like a frigging maniac when the wizarding police arrived to the CS and slipping phrases like "I just as well as killed them" to his murderous godson.
        • It was probably hysterical/panicky laughter.
        • Maybe Pettigrew gave him a tickling charm before he escaped.
        • Sirius was also most likely in shock then - after all, his best friend - practically a brother, if his stories are any indication - and his wife were just killed, orphaning his godson, he found out their other best friend had done it, and he felt responsible. He carried the guilt for their deaths for the rest of his life - he felt that if he hadn't suggested they switch Secret Keepers, they wouldn't have died, and he's probably right about that.
    • It's surprising that Snape wasn't the first thought for this trope, especially in the early books. Harry and Ron are always quick to blame Snape for the horrible things that are happening, mostly thanks to his sour countenance and his past as a Death Eater.
  • Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire does this a lot, and is strange case in that he works it to his advantage. As an example, when he assumed a position of authority in a city where everyone hated him and assumed he was a monster because of his unfortunate appearance, he used this as an excuse to bring along an entourage composed of vicious mountain barbarians who carry human body parts as trophies. This assisted immensely with his political goals.
    • In the third book, he's accused of murdering his nephew, unfairly imprisoned, and given a sham trial; and all this is happening shortly after he fought in an incredibly vicious battle during which he received a horrible injury from which he is still recovering. He pretty much snaps, and not one could blame him. And he still manages to work this to a minor advantage; convinced he's getting a sham trial, he demands trial by combat. He selects a member of the Martells as his representative; the Martells are longtime rivals of the Tyrells, the Lannisters' recent political allies. If he wins the trial, the Tyrells will be pissed that the alleged murderer of their daughter's fiance got away; if he loses the trial, the Martells will be pissed that their son died for him. It's one final "screw you" to his family.
  • The Frankenstein Monster. Seriously, there's a bit in the book where a kid insists that the monster is an ogre who wants to kill him. The monster denies this, and then kills the kid for not listening.
    • The monster is trying to abduct him at the time, so that would be an extra dose of really not helping your case.
  • Bryony theorises that this is why Veil turned to thievery and delinquency in Outcast of Redwall, because she's one of the only three Abbeydwellers who don't immediately accuse him whenever something goes missing.
  • The Wheel of Time has quite a variety of these, on a sliding scale from "didn't do something mildly embarrassing" to "not a mass-murdering monster". Perhaps the most explicit is when Galina Casban is mouthing off to her captors about all the horrible retribution they'll face when she's freed, unaware that she's making herself look extra guilty of the murder she's been framed for. Bonus: she is a conniving evil murderer, but didn't commit that particular crime.
    • And then there are all the instances where someone's not helping their case about true accusations. Everything from yelling "I'M NOT ANGRY" to shouting about how you're not mad... to the voice in your head.
  • In The Seventh Sword trilogy, by Dave Duncan, our hero, Shonsu, is a great swordsman who doesn't know the customs of the land he lives in. He often talks too much, which turns out to not help his case. In the end of the first book, Shonsu is asked about how he managed to survive an attack. He goes into detail about how he used a dagger and attacked two men at one time, then attacked a fleeing swordsman, chopping him down as he ran away. All of these actions were against the well-established rules of the land.

Live Action Television

  • Harmony on Angel, as part of her attempt to prove she hadn't murdered anyone, ended up knocking unconscious three of her coworkers and locking them in a supply closet. She also killed the person who framed her, thus silencing the only other person who knew she wasn't guilty. Nevertheless she did manage to convince them of her innocence.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Stargate SG-1 where because of some contact with an alien substance, Daniel Jackson starts hallucinating, and ranting and raving. Midway through the episode, he asks, "Why does everyone think I'm crazy?!" pauses for a moment, then adds, "It's because I'm sorta acting that way, aren't I?"
  • In the Top Gear episode in the US South, when the stars paint inflammatory slogans on each others' cars to rile up the locals, a gas station owner angrily (and rightly) accuses them of making small town folks look bad by deliberately baiting them. She doesn't help her case at all when she calls in a truckload of rock-throwing goons.
  • Misfits has Nathan demand that Simon use his power of invisibility to save him when they're both in danger. Simon asks him why he should, after Nathan's forgotten his name and made fun of him ever since they met. Nathan then yells at Simon and calls him a freak. Unsurprisingly, Simon turns invisible and scarpers.
  • Deconstructed in a remade Battlestar Galactica episode: After the Cylons are removed from a planet on which they'd rule the humans, a secret commission of almost Kangaroo Court trials ensues, and a man is taken as collaborating with the Cylons. He's asked to defend himself, but apparently sickened by the whole charade, he does not and almost gets himself Thrown Out the Airlock. It's only a snarly remark of one who wants to see him dead that reveals the guy to have been a Reverse Mole, prompting the others to realise their mistake.
  • This exchange from Modern Family, "Mother Tucker".

 Cameron: Missouri is a lot more cosmopolitan than you give it credit for. It's got a very vibrant cowboy poetry scene.

Mitchell: You're not making the point you think you're making.

  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Justice", Rimmer's tried and convicted of the murder of the crew of the Red Dwarf, but Kryten decides to act as his defense...which involves proving that Rimmer is not competent enough to have properly replaced the faulty plate himself (Lister would have helped, but he was in stasis at the time, and only Holly was able to...somehow...keep the ship running for three million years). Rimmer, being somewhat of an egotist, ends up falling straight into this one by objecting to his own defense (which Kryten uses to his advantage).


  • Komm wieder her by Knorkator is a song about a man begging his wife to return to him. By telling her how much he needs her, he's really not helping his case.

 "My fridge is empty, I have no clean socks. Nobody goes shopping for groceries or sweeps the floor. Who pays attention to me, and endures me."

"Who would make me coffee in the morning? Who would lock the door when I leave the house? Who would clean the windows and the shoes? Who would take the garbage out? Who, if not you?"



  • Peter Grimes. The title character could be the patron saint of this trope. People think he's a sadist who kills his boy apprentices on purpose, and possibly abuses them. He's more of a Doom Magnet actually, and haunted by the memory of the dead apprentices, but being an antisocial jerk whose attitude towards the town is "fuck you all and leave me alone" doesn't help much. He eventually goes mad and kills himself.

Stand Up Comedy

  • Brian Regan mentioned how reading is good for the human mind and how nobody could say otherwise without proving that statement true. He sets up a scene of a point/counterpoint show about reading, with a well-dressed scholar on the pro-side, and on the opposite side we see the village idiot.

 Village Idiot: Hey, let me tell you somethin'. Readin', readin' don't never do'd nothin', 'cause if you had, if you have, have has, have hazzeded, if you did haveded, hazzedivizzed a book, and you looks, had looks, have looks, has looks, have looks at it, lookin' in is it, lookin' it, have lookin' is in it at it, then you might not even know why you had do dat.

Professor: I have nothing to add. I would like to yield the remainder of my time to my opponent, in the interest of fairness.



  • This is probably the entire story of Ethan Mars from Heavy Rain.
  • This trope could easily be renamed The Max Payne Legal Defence. In order to prove that he's innocent of murdering his best friend, who was one of the two guys who knew he was undercover, he goes out and slaughters maybe two hundred gangsters, security personnel, a DEA agent and a CEO of a major corporation, by dropping an antenna mast on her helicopter, plunging it to the street far below...
    • He could probably argue self-defence for most of these, and by the end of the game he's more interested in pure and simple revenge.
  • Happens a lot in Ace Attorney, but the crowning king of the trope is probably Larry Butz. In Ace Attorney Investigations, he elevates this into an art-form by actively trying to counter Edgeworth's arguments...while Edgeworth is in the middle of trying to prove him innocent of committing murder
  • Nessiah in Yggdra Unison. In the game's backstory, he stole from Roswell and Rosary, and a thousand years ago, he made the Gran Centurio to absorb energy from war. During the game, he's actually just trying to collect said sword and make everyone stop fighting before he leaves Ancardia for good to go Rage Against the Heavens. He is constantly accused of planning world destruction, and you can bet that if anything disastrous happens or any new faction gets embroiled in the conflict, he will get blamed for it because of his track record. Ordinarily, someone in this situation might try to defend himself. Nessiah laughs his ass off at his accusers and mocks them before going on to take over their territory.
    • From the same 'verse, we have Mizer, who at the time sustained himself by sneak thieving. Upon being accused of stealing a pendant from Velleman, the party's noble sponsor, he first attempts to flee, then denies having done anything once caught, then rallies his mooks and sneak-attacks you... while attempting to run away a lot. Once you've finally wrestled him into submission, of course, it turns out that Mizer was innocent--Velleman's pendant fell in the mud, and one of Mizer's flunkies picked it up, calling finders keepers.
  • In Dragon Age: Awakening, your introduction with Nathaniel Howe (son of Rendon Howe from Origins) has you encountering him in a jail cell after he infiltrated your new base to try and assassinate you. It took four Wardens to subdue him. He is openly disdainful of you, the Grey Wardens, the reigning monarch and the other noble families for the crime of...opposing his psychotic backstabbing rat bastard of a father. If asked what he will do if released, he openly admits he will probably come back and try to kill you again. If you tell him this trope, he'll tell you that he could lie if you wanted. It's then up to the player to either execute him, let him go or conscript him into the Wardens where he ultimately proves to be a better man than his dad, after being hit a few times with the cluebat.
  • James Tobin in the game In the 1st Degree really gets stuck in this trope. He is charged with murdering his business partner Zack and for stealing his own paintings. He ends up changing his story of what happened between him and Zack two or three times throughout the game. He ends up coming off as suspicious as a result of telling a different story more than once and shifting the blame to someone else more than once.
  • Golden Sun... will the Mars Clan of Prox please stand up? Start with stealing the artifacts to unleash the horrible power of Alchemy on the world, continue with repeated kidnappings and thefts in the pursuit of unleashing said horrible power, add in attempted murder of a Baleful Polymorphed girl, murder of innocent scholars (and less-innocent guards) between Tolbi and Lalivero, murder of enslaved workers at Babi's Lighthouse, and is it any wonder Isaac & Co. decided lethal force was necessary to stop them?

Web Comics

  • The current page image is from El Goonish Shive. Ellen's reaction to a party could've meant 'any number of things!'. Mr Verres figured that all of those reasons would justify having a more responsible chaperone.
  • In this strip of Loserz, Ben doesn't exactly help convincing his mom that Video Games don't cause violent crimes.
  • In Sandra and Woo, Larisa does this when accused of being a slut.
    • Sandra: "Some people just shouldn't try to defend themselves…"

Western Animation

  • Leela in Futurama, "The Sting": "I'll find Fry's coffin, get his corpse, and keep it under my mattress to remind me that he's really dead. That'll prove I'm not insane!"
  • The Simpsons.
    • Homer, pointing a gun at Mr. Burns' head, in front of everyone: "Say I never shot you!... Before."
    • In the BLAM Episode, "Behind the Laughter", he gives us these two gems:
      • "Then we figured out we could park [Bart, Lisa and Maggie] in front of the TV. That's how I was raised, and I turned out TV."
      • Then, when discussing a Noodle Incident, "I want to set the record straight: I thought the cop was a prostitute."
    • Sideshow Bob's brother Cecil tricks him into doing this in one of the few episodes where Bob actually is innocent.
  • Zee in The Zeta Project. He's accused of being re-programmed by a terrorist, and no matter what he does the FBI always make it out to be a crime. During most of the series, he was pursuing his creator so he can convince them that he's good, but his actions are taken as an assassination attempt when he accidentally set off the cryogenic chamber, almost killing him. The poor guy just can't win.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender. You know, Zuko, telling the Gaang about that assassin you sent after them and accidentally attacking Toph really isn't going to help your case. (At least he's smart enough to realise this).
  • In Sequel Series The Legend of Korra: sheltered Country Mouse Avatar Korra tends to stumble into this.
    • In "Welcome to Republic City" When she discovers and tries to argue against an Equalist protestor decrying benders as an oppressive establishment, he easily manipulates her confrontational attitude to make her look like the bad guy in front of a large audience of listeners.
    • Later in the same episode, she's incredulous when police insist she be arrested for causing property damage during her well-meant Curb Stomp Battle of a trio of protection racket enforcers. Instead of coming along quietly to explain her presumption of Hero Insurance, she flees the police, fighting them as she bolts, forcing them to use an Airship to bring her in, which earns the enmity of their chief.
    • Matters worsen in "The Revelation" when, desperate to find a friend kidnapped by Equalists, she shakes down the same protestor for information in public, smashing his megaphone, flipping his table and hoisting him by the shirt, and must again flee the police when the protestor wails (quite rightly) that he's being oppressed.
  • My Little Pony:
    • The Crabnasties in the My Little Pony and Friends episode "Fugitive Flowers" turned out to be the good guys, but the fact that they were introduced literally tearing the forest apart looking for the deceptively cute Flores, and they then proceeded to recklessly trample Posey's garden trying to arrest their quarry, didn't really help their case.
    • This is a big part of the plot in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Luna Eclipsed". Princess Luna returns after a thousand-year banishment as the evil Nightmare Moon in an attempt to reform her public image. Unfortunately, between her spooky Big Entrance, her booming voice, and her hair-trigger temper, it's hard for her to convince anyone that she really isn't an evil villainess.
    • Not to mention an earlier episode "Bridle Gossip". Despite how negatively people treat the cast's suspicions, Zecora did literally nothing to dissuade their suspicion until Apple Bloom cleared things up. If anything, she made herself even more suspicious.
      • On the other hand, Apple Bloom says that Zecora told her that whenever she came to town, all the stores "mysteriously closed", implying she didn't know why the ponies hid whenever she came to town and may not have had any idea they thought she was a witch.
  • Invader Zim is literally built of examples. When at one point offered to refute some rather convincing evidence Dib had collected on national television, Zim replied to a question of "are you an alien?" with "LIES! THE FILTHY EARTH BOY LIES!", before catching himself and adding "...I mean, 'no'."


  • Any character who has ever pleaded to be believed that his story about monsters, demons, zombies, etc is true and that he is NOT insane while screaming and flailing in an hysterical fashion.
    • It would only take a modicum of common sense and Genre Savvy to simply call the police and tell them where the monster is located, but hold that specific detail to yourself and instead make up a story about two large gangs waving knives at each other while cussing and insulting each other, oh and I think I saw some guns in there too. Hang up and wait for the police sirens.
  • This article mentions how gamers who are angry about anti-piracy measures pirate more, and points out that this is not helping their case:
    • The Humble Indie Bundle was made to show a way to cut down on the percentage of pirates. Normal PC games: 10% pirated. HIB: 25%.
  • Check any Michael Jackson hate group on the Internet (especially those that claim that anybody who loves him must be completely insane). You will find posts by serious fans who joined the group just to gush about Michael Jackson and spew hate on all other members.