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Oblivious Guilt Slinging works like this: Alice is planning something that will hurt Bob in some way. Even though she feels bad about it, she's decided to keep this a secret from Bob. It is therefore almost guaranteed that even though Bob doesn't know what Alice is up to, he will say things that make Alice feel even worse, talking about how much he trusts her, or the importance of not keeping secrets from each other, or just what a wonderful person Alice is.

How Alice reacts to this added guilt varies. Sometimes she'll simply put up with it and go through with her plan anyway. Often, the added pressure leads to a breakdown and a confession. Depending on the nature of the story and the deception, it can also be part of Becoming the Mask or a Heel Face Turn, as the guilt changes the character's plans or actions.

Most of the time, the audience is aware of the deception or secret, making this a subtrope of Dramatic Irony, as the audience cringes on behalf of the character, who is most likely already in an unpleasant situation, and now has to feel worse about it. However, there are occasional exceptions where the audience is unaware of exactly what the secret is, and the irony only becomes clear later on.

Another common type of this is the opposite: one Alice is about to tell Bob something that would hurt him in some way - usually by confessing a lie or an action - only for Bob to, right before Alice is about to say so, gush about how Alice would never hurt him and how truthful she is or how proud the thing she lied about doing makes him feel, thus making Alice unable to face the disappointment of Bob finding out the truth and keep lying as opposed to revealing it. Usually an aspect of a "snowball lie."

This trope is also used to build suspense, as the guilt-ridden character wonders whether or not to go through with the deception. Compare Insult Friendly Fire, when Alice accidentally insults Bob without realizing she's done so (at least at first), and Oblivious Mockery.

Examples of Oblivious Guilt Slinging include:

Comic Books

  • Classic Star Wars has a story in which Vader hires an actor to impersonate Obi-Wan and lure Luke into a trap. Luke is overjoyed at the prospect of his teacher surviving, and openly so. This guilts the actor severely, and Luke pulls him into situations where to deflect suspicion he has to do what Obi-Wan would... and in the end he has a literal Obi-Wan Moment and calmly dies to save Luke. Who may, possibly, have been not so oblivious after all - he doesn't seem surprised when the actor confesses while dying in his arms.

Films -- Animated

  • In Aladdin, the Sultan does this to Aladdin:

 Sultan: And then you, my boy, will become sultan!

Aladdin: Sultan?

Sultan: Yes, a fine upstanding youth such as yourself, a person of your unimpeachable moral character is exactly what this kingdom needs.

    • Iago in The Return Of Jafar. Jasmine tells Iago she was wrong about him, and he almost tells her he's a traitor, but balks when Jafar silently threatens him. When Jafar comes in to praise him for his treachery, he visibly shudders, and when Aladdin thanks him for the lovely day out, he looks like he wants to be sick.
    • Aladdin is also the victim of oblivious guilt slinging in the sequel thanks to Genie. After he's brought Iago to stay in the palace but before he's shown the parrot to anyone else, the Sultan offers to make him royal vizier, and Genie comments on how much better of a vizier Aladdin will be than Jafar, finishing with this:

 Genie: You don't see this guy hanging out with any evil parrots!

Films -- Live-Action

  • In the movie Blow, the protagonist, happy after a successful drug run, drunkenly showers affection on his partners, promises them an extra $200,000, and says he's getting out of the business. All while the federal agents they're siccing on him are poised to break down the door.
  • Lampshaded a bit in The Truman Show. Marlon tells Truman, "The one thing I would never do is lie to you" while Cristof is secretly telling him to say exactly that. There are hints throughout the movie that Marlon is an alcoholic basket case due to his constant deception of his best friend.
  • Reservoir Dogs - Orange feels very, very guilty when White takes a bullet while trying to convince Joe that Orange is not the rat. The problem being that, of course, he is the rat.


  • In the Discworld novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, the cat Maurice gained the ability to talk after eating one of the eponymous educated rodents. He keeps this a secret from the other rats, but feels bad and is eventually forced to confess after several remarks on how nice he is, especially in being careful not to eat intelligent creatures. In this case, the reader didn't know exactly what Maurice's secret was until he said it, although they knew the praise was getting to him.
    • Bit invoked; one of the rats had a strong suspicion about this, and was making pointed comments on purpose.
  • In Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Huck decides to do the "right" thing and turn in his companion Jim, an escaped slave, to the authorities. However, when Jim calls him a great friend - the only friend he has, in fact - Huck finds that he can't go through with it.
  • Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome has the eponymous character torn between staying with his ill, shrewish wife Zeena and running away with her sweet cousin Mattie who he's fallen for. When Ethan decides to ask his neighbors for an advance payment on the logs he chops up for them to have enough money to run away with Mattie to the West, he's deterred from doing so when one of them praises him for taking care of Zeena, saying sympathetically, "You've had an awful mean old time, Ethan Frome."
  • In Captain's Fury by Jim Butcher, the hero Tavi tells his beloved Aunt Isana how much he trusts her, and how family, unlike the untrustworthy nobles he has lived among for the last few years, won't betray you by keeping terrible secrets... not realising that Isana was just about to confess that she was really his mother, and was responsible for his lack of superpowers. Guiltstricken, she keeps silent, which of course just makes thing worse.
  • In Jasper Fforde's book The Big Over Easy, DS Mary Mary is secretly reporting on Jack Spratt's case to the decidedly unpleasant DCI Friedland Chymes. Jack continually bolstering her with what a good job she's doing just makes her feel worse that she's betraying him, and eventually she gives it up.
  • The Alan Ahlberg poem "I Did a Bad Thing Once" has a child describe how he stole money from his mother to buy bubblegum, only for his mum to then give him bubblegum as a reward for being good.
  • In Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, Ginny is distraught after the attack on Mrs. Norris and Ron helpfully assures her that "they'll catch the maniac who did it and have him out of here in no time." Way to go, Ron. (To be fair, Ginny probably didn't suspect herself yet at that point.)

Live-Action TV

  • Chuck has a good example of this as Casey is supposed to kill Chuck once he's no longer useful, but especially in one of the more recent episodes, Chuck acts in a friendly way which makes Casey have reservations about doing this.
    • Another good example from Chuck occurs when Sarah is told to bring in Chuck in the episode "Chuck Versus the First Kill", and Chuck notes how she's the only one he believes he can trust. Sarah ends up not going through with the assignment, instead escaping with Chuck to find his father.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer example (because there has to be one): In the third season episode "Lovers Walk", Willow and Xander develop a sudden attraction to each other. At the same time, Oz gives Willow a present to celebrate her new identity as a witch. Willow, who already felt bad, is driven nearly frantic by this, and sets out to find a way to stop things with Xander before they go any further.
    • In Season 6's "Dead Things" Buffy is neglecting her duties to have a kinky Secret Relationship with vampire Spike -- naturally the Scoobies tell her how hard she must be working, "being all tied up" and "pounding the big evil".
  • In "Indiscretions", a sixth season episode of Highlander the Series, Joe Dawson is being blackmailed and has to deliver Adam Pierson (AKA Methos) to an immortal. They're driving to an ambush when Methos starts telling him he feels there's a bond between them and "Who'd have ever thought I'd end up with a watcher as my best friend?"... by the time they arrive, night has fallen and Methos is still going on. Joe then yells at him to shut up and guiltily admits it's a trap. Methos' answer? "Now that wasn't so hard, was it?". Turns out Methos is Genre Savvy and knew everything from the get go.

 Joe: Why did you drag this out?

Methos: *grins* I'm easily amused.

  • In Merlin, one episode had King Uther tell Gaius "You're the only one I can trust in the fight against magic." Gaius then shares an uncomfortable glance with his protege, Merlin.
    • This happened twice to Merlin in the episode "The Sins of the Father". Arthur told Merlin that those who practice magic are evil and dangerous and he was grateful to Merlin, who "helped" him realize it. Later, Uther told Merlin he was a great ally against the fight against magic.
  • Thirty Rock: In "MILF Island," Jack tasks Liz Lemon with finding the person who anonymously insulted him in a gossip column. He knows that she did it, and spends the entire episode piling it on until she confesses.
  • In Firefly, after escaping the authorities, Simon talks enthusiastically about how he and River would be dead if not for Jayne, not knowing that he had betrayed them, and the only reason he helped them escape is that the Feds were going to arrest him too, instead of giving him the reward money.
  • In an episode of Friends, during the period that Chandler and Monica's relationship was secret, Ross confessed to Chandler that he'd been dating Janice. Chandler didn't care, leading to this:

 Chandler: Why would I be mad?

Ross: Because, you know, there are rules about this stuff. You don't fool around with your friends' ex-girlfriends, or possible girlfriends, or girls they're related to.


Chandler: I am mad. But you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna forgive you! Because that's what friends do! They forgive their friends when they do everything you just said, all on the list there. But I want you to remember that I forgave you.

Chandler: "....and twenty....SIX Dollars!"

  • Hannah Montana:
    • There are quite a few episodes where Miley does something mean to someone who tirelessly forgives her by saying how nice she is and how it was really his/her fault right before Miley does something worse.
    • In the series finale, Miley seriously considers accepting a movie role, which would require her to go back on her promise to go to college with Lilly. When she tries to talk to Lilly about it, Lilly starts gushing about how happy she is that Miley is going to college with her instead of going on a world tour or accepting some movie offer.
  • In an episode of Scrubs, JD tries to impress his new girlfriend by paying a hobo to fake a heart attack, so he can "save his life". Kylie is impressed, but mostly by how "genuine" he is.

 Kylie: James [her ex] lied to me all the time. It's good to be with someone I can trust.

J.D.: Cool. [internal monologue] Oh, no.

  • Happened to Tara right off the bat in the second season of Sons of Anarchy: she reluctantly agreed to be Jax's girlfriend, on the condition that there be no more secrets between them. Then Gemma gets raped and confides in Tara, stressing that she can't tell Jax about it, ever. Of course, Jax can't stop talking about how cool it is that he and Tara can tell each other everything.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Marooned", Rimmer has a camphor-wood chest containing all his Napoleonic War models, and Lister has his guitar. When they're desperate for fuel for the fire, Rimmer says his belongings are too valuable, so Lister agrees to burn his guitar, providing he can play one song first. Rimmer gives him some privacy for this, and Lister immediately starts sawing a guitar shape out of the back of the chest. Then Rimmer returns, and is deeply impressed by what Lister has done.

 Rimmer: There's no point in being modest. I know what that guitar meant to you. The same as that trunk means to me. If that trunk got so much as scratched, I'd be devastated. It's not the outward value - for me, that trunk is a link to the past. A link to the father I never managed to square things with...

Lister: Is it?

Rimmer: It's the only thing he ever gave me, apart from ... apart from his disappointment. But you've shown me, by burning your guitar, what true value is. Decency. Self-sacrifice. Those are the things that make up real wealth. And from where I'm standing, I'm a pretty rich man.

Lister: Oh, God...

Rimmer: Burn the soldiers.

Lister: No! Not the soldiers as well!

Rimmer: You burnt your guitar. I wish to make a sacrifice too. Burn the Armee du Nord. Cast them into the flames, let them lay down their lives for the sake of friendship... What's that smell?

Lister: What smell? I can't smell any smell.

Rimmer: Camphor...

Lister: Oh, God.

Rimmer: Your guitar was made of camphor wood? It was probably worth a fortune! Burn the soldiers! Burn them right now!

  • In an episode of Parks and Recreation, Leslie helps capture a rogue possum, nicknamed "Fairway Frank" since he runs loose on a golf course, after he bit the mayor's dog, so that he can be put down. However, Leslie has reason to believe they captured the wrong possum, but is conflicted because of how pleased the mayor's office is with her now. Scenes like this result.
  • In one episode of Necessary Roughness, Ray J tells his mother about his car breaking down. Dani initially scolds him for not having it serviced earlier, but then thanks him for being honest with her. Of course, his car was actually stolen after he snuck into a club with TK the night before.
  • All Creatures Great and Small. Tristan, having failed his finals once again, hid it from his brother and dropped smoking, alcohol and laziness in order to get him in a mellow mood. Siegfried was so impressed that, after proposing a toast to Tristan, he offered him a partnership in the practice -- once he'd got his degree, of course. The audience cringes on Tristan's behalf for a good five minutes (Peter Davison does horrified/guilty/hurt puppy very well); after the explosion Tristan bounces back into his usual form, completely unruffled. The same cannot be said for the audience, who now want to strangle him.
  • Frequently occurs on Noah's Arc, usually with Wade (or Noah's boyfriend at the time) slinging the guilt at Noah (for Noah cheating, wanting to break up, etc.)
  • This happens a lot on Dexter, seeing as the entire premise is a cop (blood spatter analyst, to be exact) who's also a Serial Killer Killer. The main "slingers" are Dexter's sister Deb and his girlfriend Rita, but sometimes his coworkers also make a few remarks that by all means hit home. Dexter's internal monologue often comments on how oblivious they are to the fact that the entirely likable guy in their midst is really a killer.


  • In Sam and Max: The Mole, the Mob and the Meatball, Sam and Max are ordered to kill their friend Sybil to gain the Toy Mafia's trust. When you talk to Sybil, she knows the Mafia is planning to kill her, and says that Sam and Max are the only ones she can trust. This doesn't make them feel any better. The title come from Max's remark: "She should consider guilt-slinging for her next career".
  • Final Fantasy X - Yuna begins her journey to defeat Sin knowing that she will die in the process. Tidus, who's rapidly building an attraction to her, doesn't know this, but unwittingly says things that remind her of it - like "We can come back and see this place again later", or "After we beat Sin, we can...". When he's told what will happen, he beats himself up about it, and Hangs a Lampshade on his part in this trope.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins it's entirely possible for the Grey Warden to do this to Morrigan, especially if the Warden is a male character romancing her. It doesn't stop Morrigan from following through with her true objectives, but it's clear that she feels guilty about it. Then again, if this isn't the first playthrough, there's nothing "oblivious" about it.

 Human Noble Warden: I just wanted to wish you well, Arl Howe.

Arl Howe: Thank you...(looks noticably uncomfortable and turns away) that is...quite unnecessary.

    • Something similar can happen in Dragon Age II depending on the actions and dialogue the player chooses near the end of Act II. You can't stop Isabela from betraying you, but you can make her feel really bad about it and pull a Changed My Mind, Kid later.
  • In Frozen Essence, being nice and helpful to Varian causes him to become visibly uncomfortable and tell Mina outright that helping him will not help her. It doesn't stop him from helping Oryon capture and attempt to reseal her, although he's clearly wracked with guilt/doubt about this. On the other hand, pulling this off on him again during his path with the right choices does result in him having a change of heart at the last minute about his plan to reseal Mina.


  • In the webcomic Sam and Fuzzy, where Sidney "the Sicko" tells Crush actually Sam with a beard that he's the only person he can trust. Unbeknownst to Sidney, Crush is currently dating his on-again-off-again girlfriend, of whom he is notoriously fanatically possessive. Crush is extremely upset by this, since Sidney has always been kindness itself to him, and aside from his neuroticism regarding his ex, is a pretty cool guy. This trope happens again later, with Gert, prompting the appearance of her conscience cat.
    • Much later, when the fact that they are dating finally becomes known to Syd, he reacts predictably- only to have her yank him firmly down to earth by sternly reminding him of the "ex-part" and make him apologize. Everyone remains good friends.
  • Natani of Two Kinds confesses that Keith is her best friend when he's been ordered to betray the group (Keith's race is biologically disposed to follow orders). He then finds that he cannot kill her, and tries to kill himself instead.
  • In Homestuck, this happens when Jane (who has a huge crush on Jake), is asked up-front about her feelings for him and freaks out and denies it. He goes on to effusively thank her for her honesty, telling her how much it means to him to have a good friend right now, and confides in her about his confusion regarding Dirk. Her reaction is both hilarious and heart-breaking.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In one episode of Lilo and Stitch: The TV Series, Stitch deliberately lets one of the experiments, "Mr. Stenchy", be captured when he begins taking up Lilo's attention. Afterwards, Lilo laments on how losing Mr. Stenchy means that she'll be unable to bring him to a tea party held by the snobbish girls to be accepted as their friend. Nani points out that these girls probably wouldn't make good friends anyway; Stitch, on the other hand, is someone Lilo can depend on. Every affirmation made of how Stitch would never do anything to hurt Lilo sends the creature sinking further and further into his chair. He tries to atone for it by dressing up as Mr. Stenchy for the girls' tea party, though it doesn't exactly work out.
  • In an episode of ~Avatar: The Last Airbender~, Aang learns of the location of Sokka and Katara's father, and keeps it secret. This plagues him through most of the episode as he is praised for being honest and true.
  • Invoked Trope in The Spectacular Spider-Man, "Final Curtain": Harry pretends to do this to keep Gwen from breaking up with him, but he's not actually oblivious at all.
  • Another one The Simpsons did straight: in "Team Homer", while the rest of Homer's bowling team are pressuring him to get rid of Mr. Burns, Burns buys them all bowling shirts and tells them they're the only friends he's ever had.
    • Subverted when Homer quickly recovers and tries to punt Mr. Burns off the team anyway, only for the others to interrupt him out of guilt. Then Double Subverted when Mr. Burns steals the trophy and the glory at the end.
  • Happened in Teen Titans, in the episode "Betrayal". The same night Terra is given the word to deactivate the Titans' security and let Slade's army of robots in for an all out onslaught against the Titans, the Titans comment on what a great friend Terra is and how valuable she is to the team, and how good friends like her don't come along every day. She obviously feels guilty, even insisting they don't have to be grateful since she's just doing her job (as a Titan). She betrays them anyways.
  • In one episode of Arthur, Arthur's dad scores him a backstage pass to a concert, because he's catering for the band. He tells Arthur he can invite his friends, but Arthur's Imagine Spot about the band taking him luging suffers a Fantasy Twist when he imagines a dozen kids showing up, so he says he doesn't think they'd want to go. The next day Buster tells him that he's going to see if his reporter mom can get them backstage, and Binky offers him a spare ticket closer to the stage. He invites everyone.
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