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"How would your son like to come with me to the Museum of Natural History after everyone else has left, just the two of us, and he can touch anything he wants... I just heard it as you must have heard it and that's not good. Let me start again. I'm a palaeontologist, you'll be there with us and the touching refers only to bones... fossils!"—Ross, Friends, "The One Where Estelle Dies"
It seems that, when Dead Baby Comedy is concerned, sexual attraction to children is as good a source of laughs as anything else, especially when the person being persecuted is innocent (of that particular crime).
It usually goes like this: A small child grabs the MacGuffin the main characters are trying to fetch, or is otherwise important to the plot in some way - they might be children of the boss to whom they have to suck up, or even a MacGuffin themselves. As the main characters approach the child, unaware of how to behave and how to act, it seems to onlookers (and to the viewer, wasn't he in on the plot) that the interest in the kid is of a sexual nature.
The kid might scream, or parents/nannies might overlook the conversation and come to the wrong conclusion, but it usually ends with several parents chasing the would-be-creep with peppersprays, purses filled with bricks and TASERs. If he's a villain, we laugh. If he's an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, we also laugh. If he's an actual paedophile, the trope doesn't really apply.
Surprisingly, what never happens is any serious involvement of the police (it seems that overzealous parents are more than sure of their own creep-chasing abilities) or some sort of clarification that the character in question is not attracted to children. Guess they'll have to live with being mistaken for paedophiles all their lives.
This is rarely done as a criticism of overzealous mass-hysteria regarding child abuse. Also, no-one ever seems to realise how absurd it would be for a paedophile to accost children so publicly.
The victim is almost Always Male as because of the Double Standard woman doing the same thing would just be dismissed as playing around or being nice. To show you the disparity the sole female on this list was actually feeling up little girls backstage at a child beauty pageant (she was looking for a nine year old murderess with scoliosis) and was actually allowed to stay and watch the kids perform; any man doing that would have been run out of the building even if he had an FBI badge.
- The second commercial in this video.
- In one episode of Ichigo Mashimaro, a door-to-door cosmetics salesmen is our mistaken-for-LKL victim for the day, due to a combination of Miu's false accusations, an innocent attempt to comfort Matsuri, Matsuri's failure to explain said attempt as such, and his eerie tendency to hit every house in a group of girls who hang out together. He gets a shiner (and incentive to quit) for his troubles.
- In Ice Revolution, tomboy Masaki wants to become more ladylike in order to become a better figure skater and to gain the attention of her Love Interest. She completely uses the wrong word choice when asking her much older coach for help in this regard with predictable results.
- In Kodomo no Jikan, Rin nearly gets Aoki-sensei arrested at one point, complete with "It's not what it looks like! I'm her teacher!" "That's WORSE!" exchange.
- In Recorder and Randsell, eleven year old Atsushi(who looks seventeen) is showing off to his classmate and in the process rips open his trenchcoat and starts speaking in Innocent Innuendo. This actually results in an arrest.
- Used in Fables in a manner similar to the Family Guy examples below. The Fables invade the apartment building of a reporter who was close to uncovering the secret of Fabletown and, after making the entire building unconscious thanks to Sleeping Beauty, take pictures of him with Pinocchio in compromising positions as insurance in order to prevent him from going forward with what he knows about them.
- The Professional - Professional Badass Jean Reno is kicked out of his hotel after a thirteen-year-old Natalie Portman tells the clerk that the two of them are lovers.
- Little Man - Thief with dwarfism is mistaken for a baby, and his partner in crime, for a kid-loving creep.
- Jingle All the Way - Arnold's trying to get This Year's Toy for his son, and tries to win one in a raffle which used little balls with numbers as tickets. But after some struggle to get one with the other customers, the raffle-ball gets out of their hands and gets lost in a ball-pool. When he jumps in to get it back, parents attack him, thinking he's after the kids...
- School of Rock: After it is discovered that Dewey is not the class's actual supply teacher, he attempts to redeem himself by talking about how much the class means to him, culminating in him saying "I have been touched by your children, and I'm sure I've touched them". Needless to say, it goes downhill from there.
- Blades of Glory - The evil skaters tie up one of the heroes in a restroom stall. His attempt to get the next person to enter, a young child, to free him, only end in the kid running away screaming, "Stranger Danger! STRANGER DANGER!"
- Rat Race: Rowan Atkinson's character is showing a baby the key to a 2 million dollar prize when he accidentally drops it into the baby's diapers... which leads to him getting thrown off a moving train.
- In The Wizard, Haley got herself and her friends away from Putnam by accusing him of being a pedophile. Loudly. In a crowded public area.
- In Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Eric and Henry The Mutant (don't ask) end up making friends. Henry learns to quit being so much of a boring adult, and let his inner child out through playing with Eric. Eric's mother comes home and assumes the worst, even though she told Eric to make friends -- she clearly only meant ones his own age.
- Overzealous mass-hysteria regarding child abuse was criticized in the film The Man Without A Face, complete with a Tear Jerker example of Entendre Failure. Although there is some ambiguity as to whether something actually did happen. The book the film was based on was a good deal less ambiguous about it.
- In Daddy Day Care the protagonists are assumed to be child molesters just because they're men running a day care.
- Combined with homophobia in Say Uncle. It starts with one mother assuming he's a child molester just because he's gay and later the trope is played the usual way with other parents.
- M: Played for drama in this case; a man is lynched by a mob because there's a molester/serial killer who targets kids on the loose and he was known to play with the kids in the neighborhood.
- In Little Giants when the kids spot the bad guys spying on them they call the cops, telling them the two men are watching them for a different reason.
- Mystery Team makes two such jokes; first when a character implies that his father molests him; and second when another character states that his neighbor was arrested, "something about pictures of kids on his computer..."
- This is apparently the reason that Alan from The Hangover is not allowed within 200 feet of elementary schools, parks, and Chuck E. Cheese's, though it's implied that this punishment was because he likes to pick fights with children, not molest them. It's also implied that he was mistakenly labeled a molester after some worried parents saw him play with their kids in the park.
- In God Bless America, Roxy mistakes Frank for a pedophile when she first sees him spying on Chloe.
Roxy: Hey creepy. Isn't the whole schoolgirl thing a little played out?
- Sherwood Anderson's short story Hands plays this trope for drama.
- The novel A Map of the World centers around a school nurse and the dramatic downward spiral her life takes after she's accused of child molestation by a parent with a personal vendetta.
- Psych: Sean and Gus scour a playground looking for a babysitter for the captain's newborn child and are mistaken for creeps.
- Friends loved this one, which makes one wonder whether some of the writers had to deal with confusions like that in real life...
- Joey's acting during a toy's comercial looks like that of a sexual predator as he's holding his crotch to control the pain from his hernia. The line "Hey Timmy, I've got a surprise for you..." really didn't help.
- Ross' attempt to take Rachel's boss' son Ross in a tour of the museum, alone, to get her back her job, is mistaken as a creepy proposal due to the misuse of the word "bones." See above quote.
- Ross attempts to flirt with the pizza delivery girl who said that her new haircut makes her look like an 8-year-old boy with the line "I happen to like 8-year-old boys."
- Ross tries to buy a sofa which says, "Kids welcome," but at the same (seductively), "Come here to me," - prompting Rachel to ask in horror, "You say that to kids!?"
- Ross's girlfriend's father distrusts Ross after learning that Ross had taken Rachel to her prom even though he was an adult and she was technically underage (only one year younger than him). Later, when the group claim Ross volunteers at a children's hospital, Phoebe has to clarify "But not looking for dates!" Oh, and the girlfriend in question is one of his former students, which doesn't exactly help (even though she's not underage).
- Desperate Housewives - Lynette hires a guy from her office to "kidnap" her kids in order to show her husband that they don't understand stranger danger. The poor guy ends up getting tased by Mrs. McCluskey.
- Desperate Housewives has another example of this played for drama: Lynette goes to a new neighbor's house to thank him for saving her life, but he is not at home so she snoops around. In the basement she finds several pictures of young boys in bathing suits and comes to the conclusion that he is a child molester. She first tries to tell the police but because there is nothing illegal they cannot do anything about it. She then tells all the neighbors and they have the typical mob reaction attacking him. His terminally ill sister who he lives with and is taking care of then informs her that he teaches swimming and they are boys that have done the best and he has the pictures because he was proud of them.
- The Office - Michael Scott's online dating username in the US version is this trope's name. (Explanation: He wanted to convey that he is good with children. Oops.)
- A Jason Alexander irrelevant sitcom had him following his daughter to find out why she was mad at him... during her soccer game...
- In an episode of House, House is investigating the case of a young brother and sister who are developing early puberty (along with other, deadlier symptoms). After much guessing, House decides to go to the girl's kindergarten to find the source of the illness, since she was the first to be "infected". Cut to a girl in said kindergarten class picking up a ball and looking up to see House asking in the creepiest way possible, "Do you have hair in your special place?" (of course, knowing House, he was probably trying to terrify the girl on purpose).
- Happens in another episode where Michelle Trachtenberg's character has a tick on her special place.
- Tratchenberg developed a crush on Hugh Laurie during filming of that episode. At one point she wrote "I love you" on her inner thigh before a scene where he'd see it.
- Happens in another episode where Michelle Trachtenberg's character has a tick on her special place.
- Bones - Booth and Bones are investigating a children's beauty pageant, looking for a killer with uneven hips. Bones, being Bones, gets right to it and grabs the nearest person to check before Booth can stop her. Of course it's a little girl, who screams, "Molester!" Booth smooths things over with the security guard who sympathizes against the over-reaction in light of the murder investigation (he advises that they just WATCH the pageant in order to observe all the kids).
- In Burn Notice, Michael pays a bunch of Street Urchins to pretend that a Mook tailing them was a molester to the policeman standing nearby in order to get said mooks off his back.
- For extra hilarity, the mooks were FBI agents, and when one of them reaches for his wallet & identification, both cops pin them to car and immediately cuff them, thinking they were reaching for a gun.
- The Daily Show, as seen on the picture above. They later tried other variations like "Jon Stewart Looks at Children's Things" and "Uncle Jon Wants to Show You Something".
- In the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode "The Table Read" Larry meets a nine-year-old girl and her mother tells him that she has to take her to the doctor, because she has a vaginal rash. The girl takes a liking to Larry, and constantly sends her text messages; Larry once loses his patience and sends her an angry response, and has to make up for it with inviting her for lunch. Later, he develops a rash too, and when his doctor asks how he might got it, Larry says: "I've been seeing this nine-year-old girl and she kinda has a rash on her pussy...Um, you know, I took her to lunch the other day, and we had a fight, and we made up, and we hugged. It's gotta be her." The doctor calls the police on him.
- In the episode "The Doll", he hugs a little girl, forgetting that he tucked his water bottle in his pants.
- The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon sharpens his social skills by making friends with a little girl at a bookstore. Leonard ends up dragging him out of the store because there are security cameras.
- This is a truly amazing example of this trope, as due to his Incredibly Poor Social Skills, he winds up looking and sounding even creepier than the situation would imply. It culminates in Sheldon offering to take the girl to the zoo in the most HIDEOUSLY UNNECESSARY AND HORRIFYING way possible.
- My Name Is Earl: The Right Choice Ranch, a summer camp for troubled boys, tried a number of slogans which sounded really wrong, like "Touching Bad Boys Since 1963", "Bringing Boys To Their Knees Since 1963", and "Forcing Boys To Turn Around Since 1963". By the time an adult Earl came back for a list item, they'd apparently given up: "We Don't Do Anything Inappropriate To The Boys".
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: In "Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender", Dennis tries making neighborhood relations to distinguish himself from the ex-con (who was put in jail for molesting children) who moved in nearby. Dee suggests he show the children fitness exercises, and take off his shirt to demonstrate how they worked on himself. Ego stroked, Dennis is convinced to do just that, and Dee goes directly to the fathers to point out the half-naked sex offender hanging around their children.
- How I Met Your Mother had "I don't want a girl, I just want a little boy!" and "Of all the women in New York you had to go out with an eight-year-old girl!"
Ted: Not what it sounds like, folks!
- In one episode of First Wave, a teenage boy who reads Crazy Eddie's website thinks his neighbor is an alien and gets Cade to come to his house. The kid's parents are quite worried when they find an adult man in their son's bedroom, become more worried when they find out they met on the internet, but luckily when Cade claims to be a reporter they buy it.
- On Parks and Recreation, April sends Andy to pick up her little sister at school. Andy shows up two hours late, so when he arrives in his van, April's sister calls the school security guard and says she doesn't know him. The guard asks him if he is trying to lure this girl into his unmarked white van, and Andy replies, "Yes, that's exactly what I'm trying to do! But she won't get in!" Andy then clarifies that it's not actually his van; he stole it from a friend, and he really shouldn't be driving because his license is waaaay expired. Cut to Andy on his knees being read his rights.
- Law and Order SVU has had several episodes in which someone accused of abuse was actually innocent.
- (An inversion): Saturday Night Live had a sketch on the season 37 episode hosted by Steve Buscemi in which a college phys. ed supervisor holds a press conference to announce that one of the coaches (Steve Buscemi) is not a pedophile (at the time of the episode, news of sex scandals involving college coaches molesting their players was all over the news, with Penn State and Syracuse being the popular ones), despite that he has a creepy mustache, lives with his mom, has never had a girlfriend (even implying that he could be asexual, since investigators found no evidence that he was sexually attracted to men or women), and has poor social skills with people his own age. Even the head of NAMBLA's local chapter (played by Bill Hader) stated that the allegedly creepy coach wouldn't be a good fit for NAMBLA if it turned out that he was, in fact, a pedophile.
- The Talking Candy Bar Blues by Paul Stookey is a story told from the point of view of the poor Butt Monkey who falls prey to this trope set to some light musical accompaniment.
- Love Never Dies has this in a meta sense: If someone wanders in for "The Beauty Underneath", then good luck explaining that it's not actually the seduction of a ten year old. The earnest reply of "Yes!" from Gustave (the kid) throughout doesn't help matters any.
- In the remakes of Phantom Brave, you can play an alternative storyline called "Another Marona". In it, Ash is mistaken for a pedophile by Carona because of how protective he is of Marona, a position that the other phantoms believe, to his dismay.
- Penny Arcade did their take on this in this strip.
- The Perry Bible Fellowship wrings a fairly cruel joke from this trope here and subverts it here.
- This strip of Wondermark.
- This quote (sad/paranoid version) and this one (comedy version) at Overheard.
- On a Writing Excuses podcast on character voices, Howard Taylor described how, in order to get the speech patterns right on one of his younger characters, he paid attention to how his daughter and her friends talked to each other...
- This Cake Wreck. Consensus seems to be that the Korean decorator wanted a word that conveyed the recipient's love of children and... yeah.
- In Unsounded, Sette calls Duane a pedophile in hilarious terms when he tells her she deserves spanking.
- In Homestuck, Doc Scratch (who, being a cueball-headed demigod and a puppet, is asexual in every way) tells Rose (a 13-year-old girl) he likes her; naturally she construes it this way. Then he just keeps Digging Himself Deeper.
- In Goblins, Minmax humiliated his adventuring partner Forgath by yelling at a passing young (adult) woman "Hey! Thirteen and hot!" on a crowded street. The passersby didn't realise he was talking about her Charisma score, not her age.
- South Park sort of subverts this in the Cartman Joins NAMBLA episode. First, Mr. Garrison upon being arrested for meeting with Cartman blurts out that he doesn't want love from young boys (he slips and states he likes men his own age, before mentioning that he loves women). Also, Mephisto admits to being a member of NAMBLA, and tells Cartman he would fit right in. Mephisto, however, meant the North American Marlon Brando Look Alikes (featuring men who all look like the fat, bald version of Marlon Brando as seen in the first Godfather movie and Apocalypse Now), who had an ongoing rivalry with the real NAMBLA over copyright issues over their name.
- Family Guy contains an incident that is bizarre but still plays the mistaken impression of pedophilic acts for laughs: The baby Stewie is capable of adult thought and speech, and is able to disguise himself as a highschool student for a whole episode. He embarks on a relationship with Connie d'Amico, which goes bad when she makes fun of his penis. Stewie gets his revenge on his ex by removing his disguise so that everyone in school, and the police, will see Connie kissing a naked baby.
- At one point, Stewie also attempts to blackmail Brian by putting nude pictures of himself on Brian's laptop and threatening to pass it to the FBI.
- An earlier episode has Peter in a job interview when this happens:
Boss: So where do you see yourself in five years?
Peter: (thinks) Don't say "doing your wife," don't say "doing your wife"... (aloud) Doing your... (looks at family photo on desk) son?
- American Dad did it too (surprise surprise). Steve decided to take some self-shot pictures in his underwear to give to a classmate he had a crush on. Then the police found them and assumed Stan took them.
- In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy episode "Duck!" Grim is seen trying to scare children by showing them his skeleton body while shouting "Look at my body!". He's shortly arrested afterward.