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A scene in which someone is in mortal danger, but the one person nearby who could help that individual doesn't care, or doesn't realize the extent of the danger. That person isn't necessarily the villain, that person could simply be a complete jerk, but either way, the individual's brush with death is brushed off as unimportant by someone who has the potential to help out.

This can make the jerk be even more of a jerk, to the point of possibly being seen as evil, and can at times be far more disturbing than a genuine villain threatening others' lives. At least the villain both has a motive and is known to be evil. But the bully who lets someone die because he doesn't care, is a whole new level in itself.

Tropes used in Callousness Towards Emergency include:

  • In Casper Meets Wendy, a live-action movie, a bully locks a boy in the closet of a house which is about to be demolished. The bully is unaware that the house is going to be demolished, but his victim is in mortal danger.
    • And even when he's told, his only response is "Cool!"
  • In a book titled Bone Breath and the Vandals, a group of teenage vandals tie and gag a middle school girl and leave her in a dumpster. The dumpster is loaded onto a dump truck, and she is about to be crushed to death, but is saved through luck. Naturally, the vandals had no idea they were leaving her to her death.
  • In the live action Grinch movie, Cindy Lou Who falls onto a conveyor belt leading to a crusher and can't get up. The Grinch is about to leave her there, but changes his mind and saves her.
  • In Silent Hill 2, Laura, a little girl, locks protagonist James in a room with a boss monster. She has no idea that such a threat is even there, and is simply being a brat.
  • The prologue of Max Payne has Max telling someone who just called his number to call 911 because someone has just broken into his house and his family is in danger. The lady caller's response? "Good. I'm afraid I cannot help you," followed by her hanging up. Though Max does try to save his family, it's of no use, as both his wife and his baby girl get killed by the junkies. It turns out later that the lady caller was Nicole Horne, the Big Bad of the game, who sent the junkies to Max's home for the express purpose of killing his wife to keep a major secret from getting out and was calling to ensure that the job was being carried out.
  • At the end of an early miniseries of The Punisher, Frank had forced the Big Bad to confess his deeds to Ben Urich. On his way out of the villain's estate, he's confronted by the son of a mafioso he shot, and Castle did not want to kill him (said son was not involved in the family business at all). He tells the man that sometimes, the best course of action is to do nothing; the son allows him to leave without incident. Shortly afterwards, the big bad's girlfriend (who did a Face Heel Turn and tried to kill the Punisher), sees him leaving the estate, and tries to run him down. She ends up with her car halfway off the side of a bridge, and Frank thinks about how sometimes, the best course of action is to do nothing, leaving her to her fate. Unfortunately for Castle, both she and the Big Bad return to plague him again.
  • In the first Halloween movie, one of the children Laurie Strode is babysitting does come to help her when she's banging on the door, begging him to let her in before Michael Meyers catches up with her. However, he only walks to the door, and is visibly bored and annoyed with her demands, completely oblivious to the terror in her voice, albeit unaware that Michael is on the prowl.
  • In the Humphrey Bogart World War II movie Sahara, the tank crew abandons an Italian soldier taken prisoner in the war in the middle of the desert, citing a lack of resources. They go back for him, but not before heartlessly driving off and condemning him to what would be a painful, slow death.
  • In The Incredibles, Bob (Mr. Incredible) notices during a meeting with his boss Mr. Huph that a man is being mugged and beaten up in the alley outside his window. Mr. Huph replies glibly, "Well, let's hope we don't cover him!" He then threatens to fire Bob if he leaves the meeting to stop the mugger. Bob doesn't take it very well.
  • Drives the entire plot of the 2010 Doctor Who Christmas special "A Christmas Carol": a spaceship liner is about to crash and the only device that can save them can only be operated by a rich curmudgeon who refuses to use it apparently just because he doesn't care. Cue Yet Another Christmas Carol.
  • In Real Life this is a common phenomenon in cities, wherein no individual in a crowd wants to step forward and get involved with someone else's problem. People have been mugged, raped, and even given birth in broad daylight on crowded city streets while being completely ignored. Some experts advise that instead of yelling "RAPE" or "HELP," which receive disappointingly low responses, the distressed should yell "FIRE!" Apparently crowds are less callous towards a conflagration than a confrontation; it's almost certain to draw immediate attention.
    • Another way to counter this is instead of yelling "CALL THE POLICE!" at a crowd, you should point to a specific person and say "YOU! Call the police!" since in the former circumstance's people are more likely to think it's Someone Elses Problem.
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