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"I hope you're pleased with yourselves. We could all have been killed - or worse, expelled."
—Hermione Granger, Harry Potter
Despite what logic dictates, people can on occasion have priorities that are a little...off. Usually, this is to underscore how obsessed they are with a particular object or subject, though its also often Played for Laughs. The most common formula is exemplified by the quote at the top.
Can result in Disproportionate Retribution or I'm Thinking It Over. Compare with Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking. See also Honor Before Reason and Always Save the Girl. Compare Somebody Else's Problem, where everyone has Skewed Priorities.
Anime and Manga
- Digimon Adventure had some fun with this one.
Izzy: Hello, mom and dad, the fate of the world, remember? My grades can wait!
- The Wolkenritter in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha As sure got their priorities straight. When told that the Arc En Ciel, a weapon that distorts time and space for hundreds of kilometers to disintegrate everything in its range, is going to be used near Uminari City to get rid of the Eldritch Abomination, their only worry is, of course, how it would affect their master Hayate's house.
Shamal: I don't really want Hayate-chan's house to get obliterated either...
- In the Thriller Bark arc of One Piece, Luffy puts recovering the Straw Hats' stolen food on the same level as rescuing Nami and getting his, Zoro and Sanji's shadows back (without which, they will be vaporized by the sunlight). This is in keeping with his personality, as he is at one point unsure whether he wants the legendary One Piece or a Hercules beetle more.
- In earlier episodes, he said a bard was more important to the crew than a medic.
- There's a chapter of the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei manga all about this. For instance, one character who is a hardcore Otaku, runs into his burning home to rescue various Moe merchandise he owns, but neglects his sister, who is still trapped inside.
- A common trait of Ibuki in Street Fighter especially the comics is she is so boy crazy even in danger with someone attacking her if a male has his face covered she will wonder and obsess on how potentially handsome said male is.
- The computer society president in the Haruhi Suzumiya anime shows this briefly when challenging Haruhi to a game to get his computer back:
"I'm even willing to overlook the mental trauma you inflicted upon me when you stole my computer!"
- Completely overlooked is the fact she blackmailed it out of him by threatening to frame him and his clubmates for gang-rape.
- In A Certain Magical Index, when Touma gets pissed off at the villain of the current arc, Oriana Thompson, who is involved in a plot to brainwash the city, it's not the possibility of mass mind control that really upsets him, it's that her actions are interfering with the festival that's going on. This is because Touma tends to care more about the individuals than the long term consequences, but it still comes across as rather bizarre.
- In Bleach, Hachi and Soi Fon are facing Baraggan, a Nigh Invulnerable Walking Wasteland. Hachi tells Soi Fon that they have to work together and combine their powers, or Baraggan will kill them. Soi Fon coldly declares that she will never work with a comrade of Urahara, whom she hates. She says this while Baraggan is advancing on them. Keep in mind that Baraggan has already disintegrated her arm. In the nick of time, Hachi promises to trap Urahara in a force field for a month, and Soi Fon finally agrees.
- In the new arc, a new villain by the name of Ivan invades Ichigo's bedroom. Ichigo promptly kicks him out and then prepares to go after him. Ishida, Orihime and Chad decide it's more important for them to stay behind and eat up the bread that Orihime brought than go out to help him.
- Whenever Rukia is trying to explain something to Ichigo, his focus is always how bad her drawings are.
- Rowan Atkinson's "Fatal Beatings" sketch, wherein he (as headmaster of a school) is describing the way he beat a parent's son to death.
I find this morbid fascination with your son's death quite disturbing. What I am talking about is his attitude.
- In the Haruhi Suzumiya fanfic Kyon: Big Damn Hero, the Computer Society President finds strange that Haruhi's biggest priority on Kyon's first "encounter" with Yamane (which ended with an attempt to kill Tsuruya followed by Kyon dangling Yamane outside a window in the third floor) is Kyon's record, and preventing it getting back to Kyon's mother.
- In X-Men fanfic Mutatis Mutandis by Artemis's Liege,teenagers Rogue, Anole, and Northstar are trapped on the edge of a battlefield during the Marvel Civil War, facing an armed Punisher. Rather than help explain the misunderstanding, Jean-Paul begins texting on his cell phone, not for help, but for entertainment, as a gun is held to his face.
Violet: Mom and Dad's lives could be in danger! Or worse, their marriage
Lucius (Frozone): Honey?
Witchita: You're risking our lives for a twinkie?
- In The Producers, Max cries "Oh no!" after stepping out of the way instead of catching a little old lady, who hurtles away; however, it turns out he is upset because she forgot to sign the check.
- Early on in Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan chews Anakin out for losing his lightsaber. Later on, when Anakin is trapped inside a wild droid factory with No OSHA Compliance, his lightsaber is destroyed and his response is "Not again. Obi-Wan's gonna kill me."
- Played with in Lord of War: Andre Baptiste Sr., a dictator, shoots one of his own men with a gun that Yuri, an Arms Dealer, is showing to him. Yuri shouts "Why'd you do that!?", then follows up by explaining that Baptiste will now have to buy the gun since he can't sell it used. It's not a straight example because Yuri doesn't actually feel that way - he genuinely reacted to the man's death, then realized doing so was a mistake and made it into a joke to keep on Baptiste's good side.
- Hermione Granger in the first Harry Potter book and film, who was typically more concerned with expulsion over death.
- Lampshaded and explained in the film version:
Hermione: I'm going to bed before either of you come [sic] up with another clever idea to get us killed. Or worse ...expelled!
- This is also manifested in Hermione's boggart, which is not Voldemort, death, giant monsters, or anything like that, but failing all her classes.
- A frequent stock gag in Discworld novels.
- Debated among a few characters in The Pale King as the IRS deals with drastic changes brought on by the Spackman Initiative. Focus on ideal output and civil service is shifted toward a free-market approach that attempts to maximize profits.
- In Death: Some characters have demonstrated these. For instance, in New York To Dallas, when Isaac McQueen escaped and murdered a nurse in the process, the prison staff reacted by trying to cover it up. They showed no real concern about the escape of a murderous pedophile, and about the murder of one of their own employees.
- The Ferengi in the Star Trek Deep Space Nine relaunch, all the time. In The Left Hand of Destiny, Pharh is horrified to have stood up to Klingon warriors - he reflects that he could have been seriously injured, or even robbed. Then there's Zek:
Gaila: It's why he’s destroying your legacy at the same time as he’s ruining your retirement.
- Played with in one of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers stories; a character trying to violate his world's laws and contact the Federation for help is chased down, and the police plead with him to surrender so they don't have to shoot - which might damage the building he's in. The character actually feels pride and hope that they consider the building's health more important than his, reflecting that "perhaps there's hope for my people after all".
Live Action TV
- From the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Prom":
Buffy: You guys are going to have a prom. The kind of prom that everyone should have. I'm going to give you all a nice, fun, normal evening if I have to kill every single person on the face of the earth to do it.
- In the first two seasons, this was Cordelia's main character note: no matter what danger anyone was in, she would always bring up some completely irrelevant detail (usually of the self-centered variety) that she deemed far more important. She got better.
- Firefly: Simon lampshades his parents' skewed priorities.
- One Top Gear challenge involved driving trucks at their top (limited) speeds through some obstacles and then braking. The prize for the shortest braking distance would win a year's supply of pies.
Hammond: What do they mean by "obstacle"?
- Then, in the same challenge:
Clarkson: Exactly! You'll win! You'll be killed, but you'll win!
- Clarkson, of course, feels that having an argument is more urgent than seeing the paramedics after he crashes through his obstacle.
- On How I Met Your Mother Marshall lists what he thinks the five worst things that could ever possibly happen would be.
Marshall: Number one, supervolcano. Number two, an asteroid hits the earth. Number three, all footage of Evel Knievel is lost. Number four, Ted calls Karen. Number five, Lily gets eaten by a shark.
- In another episode Lily says that, if Ted ever killed her and dumped her body in New Jersey, she'd come back as a ghost and haunt him. Not because he killed her ("I'm sure you had your reasons") but because, as a born-and-raised New Yorker, she just hates New Jersey that much.
- Barney once promised Marshall ten-thousand dollars if he'd let Barney welch on a bet; Marshall refused. Barney then offered to let Marshall slap him in the face instead; this Marshall found difficult to pass up.
- That Mitchell and Webb Look has a sketch about Scott's Antarctic expedition in which Scott insists on only eating holiday foods on their appropriate holidays — thus, even though they're out of other food, they can't eat the Christmas pudding, because it's only August.
Bowers: Sir, we are starving to death!
- Fairly common on The Young Ones, as when a late-night visitor triggers an explosive device Vyvyan had connected to the doorbell, and Rick complains about the visitor's bad manners in coming around so late.
- In Red Dwarf, it's a running gag that the Cat cares more about clothing than about his safety. For example, when he and Lister are captured by Nazis, Lister suggests stealing a guard's uniform to escape execution, and his reaction is: "Are you insane? Wear grey out of season? I'd rather hang!"
- In another episode he was more worried that a simulant holding him at gunpoint would notice he was wearing the same outfit from the last time they met than being killed.
- Used three times in Community episode "Epidemiology". First, right before zombies swarm the study room, Jeff asks if anyone managed to turn off the Dean's ABBA playlist. The second time is with the Cat Scare, where they abandon their plans of escape to resolve the cat issue. Then, when Jeff is about to be zombified, all he's scared of is Rich stretching his suit jacket.
- On Parks and Recreation, Leslie's priorities are a bit out of whack.
Leslie: We need to remember what's important in life. Friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn't matter. But work is third.
- A sketch on Not the Nine O'Clock News about Question Time being recorded as the Soviets are launching nuclear missiles at the UK--besides one Only Sane Man panellist, they spend the programme bickering about which party's period in government to blame for the crisis.
- Deliberately invoked by Mr Moseby in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody when he finds out the twins have been climbing through the air vents. "They could have damaged the vents!"
- In Sabrina the Teenage Witch Sabrina's Evil Twin causes a bit of drama that Sabrina gets blamed for. Morgan says she'll forgive her for kissing her boyfriend but it'll take a long time to forgive what was said about her outfit.
- In Lady Gaga and Beyonce's video for "Telephone", Gaga is killing her boyfriend while Beyonce watches him die. After that, Beyonce's acting all upset about using the word "motherfucker", which was beeped out while she's putting her finger on her lips.
- Jim Steinman's monologue "Love and Death and an American Guitar", released on the Meat Loaf album Back Into Hell as "Wasted Youth": the narrator beats people to death with his guitar, and is about to do the same to his parents "when my father woke up screaming 'Stop! Wait a minute! Stop it, boy! That's no way to treat an expensive musical instrument!'"
- In a classic Jack Benny bit, in response to a robber saying "Your money or your life," Benny replies "I'm Thinking It Over"
- In the 1st Degree: James Tobin admits to shooting his business partner Zachary Barnes. He also admits to shooting himself in the leg to convince people that it was self-defense. If you make the right moves in the game, you will get to see the prosecutor Sterling Granger beautifully call out Tobin on this, pointing out that "As your partner lay bleeding to death at your feet, your first thought was to protect yourself?"
- Mass Effect series:
- Mass Effect 2: One example that's definitely not Played for Laughs is the Virmire Survivor's fixation on Cerberus when you meet them on Horizon. They remain absurdly one-track minded during the conversation, always coming back to Cerberus no matter what else Shepard brings up, and even suggests they might be the ones working with the Collectors i.e. a pro-human splinter group is working with aliens to capture human colonists. Regardless of the dialogue chosen or who you have with you at the time, both Shepard and one of their squadmates calls them out for this:
Garrus: Damn it, Williams/Kaidan! You're so focused on Cerberus that you're ignoring the real threat.
- Mass Effect 3: Shepard has led an Alliance assault on Cerberus' long-hidden headquarters, dealing heavy damage to the station, killing scores of Cerberus troops, and infiltrating The Illusive Man's office. So when TIM shows up via hologram in the office, what does he consider most heinous?
The Illusive Man: Shepard... You're in my chair.
- Mad Scientists in Girl Genius understand exactly how important Christmas is and isn't.
- They all seem to work this way:
- Most halflings in Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic know exactly what they need from the world.
- Luke Surl Comics has this one.
- Minions At Work got Doctor Wallstreet. The lawn care is important.
- In El Goonish Shive, the Principal of Tedd and Elliot's school thinks murals are more important than, say...working fire sprinklers.
- Packrat lives and breathes this trope. He sells his $2000 high-end Korg Triton workstation and then buys a vintage ARP 2600 with only one voice and no memory for $3000. He'd rather twist the knobs on a synth than those on his wife. He buys an anniversary edition Nord Lead just for the reverse keys and not for the sound. Only three of many examples.
- The Simpsons:
- In one episode, Dr. Nick was called in to advise when an old man froze himself alive inside the Kwik-E-Mart's freezer.
Dr. Nick: Well, we better leave him in there. Moving him now could kill him. And tire us out.
- In "Lisa's Date with Density" Homer runs a telemarketing scam that promises to give people eternal happiness if they send him one dollar. When the exceedingly wealthy Mr. Burns gets this message, he responds:
"One dollar for eternal happiness? ...I'd be happier with the dollar."
- This is common for Homer. In "Dial Z For Zombies" of "Treehouse of Horror III":
Lisa: Dad, we did something very bad!
- In "Deep Space Homer" after Homer broke the handle off the hatch, he grabs a support rod to hit one of the other astronauts. The rod catches in the door and when it is pointed out that could allow them to return safely, he tries to remove the rod so he can continue the attack.
- In "Burn's Heir" he noted that Bart being abusive to the family is one thing, but he would not stand idly by and watch him feed a hungry dog.
- "Joy of Sect"
Jane: Would you rather have beer, or complete and utter contentment?
- In "Treehouse of Horror XVI" he is possessed by the devil but is unconcerned about that because that means he doesn't have to go to work.
- On Futurama:
- When a member of Zoidberg's species has sex they die immediately afterward. When Fry learns that Zoidberg has to choose between a life without sex or a gruesome death, he says, "Tough call."
- From "Crimes of the Hot", when they discover that Halley's comet is out of ice:
Bender: This could mean the end of the banana daiquiri as we know it. (Everybody looks at him.) Also, life.
- Similarly, in "Benderama":
Professor: In a matter of hours, there won't be no more fresh water on Earth! (Dramatic musical sting)
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Until they scored their cutie marks in the fifth season ("Crusaders of the Lost Mark"), this was a running theme for the Cutie Mark Crusaders. No matter the excursion, the outcome, or the repercussions (especially in "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" or "Ponyville Confidential"), their number one priority was to check their flanks to see if any mark appeared. Averted in "Hearts and Hooves Day," where they were working on a potion as a means of having a pair of ponies hook up.
- Many, many Darwin Awards are subject to this trope.
- Tends to happen to teenaged drivers borrowing their parent's car. The usual tendency when getting involved in an accident which is not immediately incapacitating is to first make sure the car is fine, and only then check the occupants for physical injuries.
- This Cracked list links to a number of real-life cases of this. Of particularly terrifying note, is the mother who locked her infant son in her car on a hot day. When rescue workers arrived, she refused to let them break a window to get him out, even as he started to show signs of heat stroke. Thankfully they just waited until she left to get her spare key and broke him out anyway.
- Politicians frequently and heavily come under fire for having these, especially when they'll try to find some smaller project to increase their approval rating. One that was fairly common in recent years said to the effect of, "There's a war going on, and you're focusing on trying to ban gay marriage?"