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"Frail? You? Serra, you have no need of any escort to protect you. Even the most hardened criminal would flee in terror after five minutes in your company."—Erk, Fire Emblem
The single most powerful deterrent to kidnapping in nearly all fiction, and certainly in the mundane category, is to kidnap someone so annoying that it requires an active force of will to keep from being driven insane. What makes them annoying isn't really all that important. In truly bizarre cases, the kidnappers can be annoyed because their victim insists on being kind, upbeat, and forgiving even through torture. The point is, nobody really wants to be around them. And that ransom note looks increasingly unimportant as compared to the promise of not having to deal with the Anthropomorphic Personification of "damned pest" day in and day out.
Can lead to an especially awkward situation when it turns out that the extortee doesn't even want the hostage back. Expect much comedy to abound in this scenario, in part because a sufficiently vicious kidnapper probably would not even get in this situation in the first place. Foiled by niceness once again, it seems.
This trope is a fairly old one. O. Henry's famous example "The Ransom of Red Chief" executes this trope using a pair of kidnappers (and a particularly bratty kid as the "hero") back in 1910, and there are stories, jokes, and folk tales going back to the Middle Ages and beyond of someone who escapes damnation because the Devil Himself doesn't want to deal with her (and it was almost always a her, because the Middle Ages were like that).
Not to be confused with Stockholm Syndrome, in which it is the kidnappee who develops pity/amicability with the kidnapper.
Anime and Manga
- In Axis Powers Hetalia, Germany, America, England, and France have ALL, on separate occasions, tried to hold Italy prisoner. It never works out.
- One time, Germany shipped Italy home in a box. The Allies shipped Italy back to Germany twice, once after America captured him (although they were willing to keep him like a dog until he insulted England's cooking, at which point America immediately decided not to keep him), then again after France captured him. Both times, the box had 'FUCK' written on it, in big, bold letters.
- Let's not forget the earlier scene where Germany has recently taken Italy prisoner. Germany, bored out of his mind and furious that Italy doesn't even want to escape, is pushed to the limit when Italy starts singing Germany a song. The song starts out as complimentary, but it then starts to insult Germany's attitude, food, "scary tourists" and overly abrasive girls. Italy is shipped back home in a box before he is even finished singing.
- In Zoids New Century, Polta and the Backdraft Group have kidnapped Leena. While he calmly attempts to negotiate, Leena can be heard in the background shouting down her kidnappers and harassing them. Polta stops talking twice, once to order them to restrain her and another after asking "excuse me a minute", when she threw something that hit him in the face. He leaves the video call to stop her, and returns visibly beaten and disheveled, but successful at least.
- The Marvel Universe robot character Machine Man (Aaron Stack) was nudged toward sentience by the alien Celestials at his creation. Years later, they abducted him and took him into space. They then returned him to Earth with little explanation for their actions. Suffering from self-esteem issues, Aaron claims they returned him because they thought he was boring and obnoxious.
Celestial: Aaron Stack, you who were called Machine Man. You have travelled with us for three hundred and sixty cycles by your reckoning of time. There is now something we have to tell you. You are total ☠☠☠☠.
Celestial: No. Really. You're ☠☠☠☠. We've taken a year of you. We're taking you back to that orbiting trashcan you call a planet. And dumping you there. You're turning away from us. We are speaking to you and you're turning away from us. This is exactly the kind of ☠☠☠☠ we're taking about here.
- In the DCU, Lobo, Karnevil and The Joker have all been kicked out of hell at one point or another. Lobo for throwing wild parties and causing massive damage to demons and property, Karnevil for annoying/freaking out the demons by constantly pointing out better torture methods, and the Joker for being the Joker.
- Features in a Judge Dredd story, where a criminal kidnaps a woman for ransom after she frees him in the mistaken belief that Society Is to Blame. Of course, she's so saccharinely annoying that he's soon begging to be taken to prison just to get away from her.
- One Nodwick comic strip from Dragon magazine has the crew being greeted at a volcano cave by a dragon, with great relief. He's sick and tired of the nagging princess he's kidnapped, who keeps insisting he do things like "put the seat down"... on the volcano.
- Said princess turns out to be so annoying that in the following month's issue, even Piffany, cleric with Byond The Impossible goodness and purity wants to kill her.
- In Asterix the Gladiator, Cacofonix is captured by a Roman prefect to give to Caesar as a gift. The suffering of the kidnappers only increases on their journey as they spend more and more time with Cacofonix's singing.
- There has been at least one Batman story wherein Alfred is kidnapped by thugs with ambitions towards the Wayne trust fund. Unfortunately for them, Alfred is generally portrayed as a Retired Badass with shades of Battle Butler.
Film -- Live Action
- In Weird Al's movie UHF janitor/uber-popular children's show host Stanley Spadowski drives his Mafia captors crazy with his inane guessing games and loud rendition of the theme from Bonanza
- Even the Dennis the Menace movie did this when Dennis was kidnapped.
- The main character in High Strung spends most of the film complaining about whatever is within his view (it's not exactly great cinema). At the end, he is dragged away by Death (played by Jim Carrey), who eventually lets him go because he complains so much.
- No Deposit, No Return -- again, the kidnapees are child terrors.
- Ruthless People is all about this trope (and You Can Keep Her too).
- Baby's Day Out has three bumbling kidnappers completely unable to keep one baby corraled, with hilariously painful results. The baby isn't trying to hurt anyone, he's just going about his adventure. It's the kidnappers themselves who are getting into trouble.
- French movie Le Grand Chef is an adaptation of The Ransom of Red Chief. You do the math.
- In The Ransom of Red Chief, the titular "Red Chief" (what the kid calls himself during a game of Cowboys and Indians) is so bad, that the kidnappers had to pay a ransom to his father to take him back!
- The short story "A Good Boy" by Desmond Warzel references "The Ransom of Red Chief" by name. The titular boy turns out to be a lot more than just an annoyance, though...
- Saki's The Disappearance of Crispina Umberleigh inverts this trope by having the kidnap victim be odious enough that the kidnappers successfully extract eight years' worth of ransom from her family by threatening to return her. Even though, as it turns out, they don't actually have her.
- Terry Pratchett's Nac Mac Feegle, a race of belligerent, six-inch tall, red-haired, kilt-wearing blue men (also known as pictsies) were rumoured to have been thrown out of Fairyland for being drunk and disorderly. This trope is even more perfectly exemplified in Wintersmith, the third book featuring them, where they accompany the young man Roland to the Underworld to rescue the goddess Summer. Roland gets across the river Styx by paying Death the classical two pennies, but when he retrieves Summer and wants to cross back the other way, Death demands another six pence, which Roland doesn't have. However, when the Feegles say that if Roland stays, they're obligated to stay with him, the ferryman quickly changes his mind and lets them go.
Oates: Aren't you going to stop her? There are monsters in that forest!
Villagers: So why should we care what happens to a bunch of monsters? That's Granny Weatherwax, that is.
- The now-out-of-print children's picture book The Baron's Booty is about a nefarious but soft-hearted Wicked Baron who kidnaps a nobleman's dozen-or-so young daughters while gloating in rhyme about the ransom he plans to demand for them. The children turn out to be cute, but demanding, and the kind-hearted baron is worn down trying to keep them happy. To his shock, the girls' father declares that he is rather enjoying his break from them and sees no reason to take them all back. The baron ends up bankrupting himself bribing the father to let him return the kids.
- In Simon Green's Blue Moon Rising, Prince Rupert arrives at a dragons lair only to find a dragon who desperately wants rid of an aggressive, tomboyish, loud princess who was sent to it to die. When asked later why the dragon is helping them, Rupert answers that he rescued it from a princess.
- In a Polish poem, Pani Twardowska, the Devil comes to claim the soul of a wizard, Sir Twardowski, after he visits Rome (accidentally, an inn Twardoski just happens to visit is called "Rome"). There was, however, a part of the deal that allowed Twardowski to give the Devil three last tasks, and failing one would result in breaking the deal. The first task is to build a cathedral from various absurd materials like Jews' beards and in an impossibly short time, which the Devil manages. The second is to bathe in holy water, which he, very reluctantly, forces himself to. The third task is to live with Mrs. Twardowska. The Devil gives up.
- In the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Herman the dwarf is really tired of helping girls spin straw into gold and then claiming their firstborn children along with a share of the cash. It's not that he doesn't like the children, it's just that they're expensive to feed, forcing him to run the same dodge all over again to get more money.
- Jennifer the Jerk Is Missing has a group of kidnappers who can't stand their 8-year-old charge, even when she's tied to a chair, due to her constant complaining and mocking.
Kidnapper: That kid's driving me nuts! I'm restraining myself all the time! I keep wanting to bust her in the chops every time she opens that big mouth of hers!
- In Animorphs one Yeerk is practically driven insane by his own host. Said host constantly recited Henry V, so when the yeerk finds the Time Matrix the first thing he does with it is kill the inspiration for that play, just to silence him.
- In the Narnia book Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace is such a miserable person to be around that the slave-dealers who kidnap the crew cannot sell him and try, without success, to give him away for free.
- Happend in the novel Jimmy The Kid (a sequel to The Hot Rock) by Donald Westlake, and the movie based on the book.
- In PG Wodehouse's short story "Helping Freddie" (later rewritten for the Jeeves and Wooster series as "Fixing It for Freddie"), a young Upperclass Twit comes up with a Zany Scheme to help his friend Freddie, whose fianceé has broken up with him. He kidnaps a small boy who he thinks is the fianceé's cousin, intending for Freddie to bring the kid home and play the hero. Then the boy turns out to be unrelated to the fianceé, and our hero is stuck with him for the rest of the story.
By Jove, you know, till I started to tramp the place with this infernal kid, I never had a notion it would have been so deuced difficult to restore a child to its anxious parents. It's a mystery to me how kidnappers ever get caught.
Live Action TV
- Angel combines this one with Enfante Terrible: after discovering a young boy is possessed by a demon, Angel Investigations exorcises it and then tracks its physical form down to kill it... a fate the demon welcomes, as the little boy was so evil by himself that the demon found himself trapped in a hellish mindscape for years.
- In MASH, a pair of North Korean infiltrators drop Major Burns off on the road. In the brief conversation that ensues, they explain that they don't need a hostage anymore, he's driving them crazy, they're not in the mood to torture him, and he should go back to the 4077th because it's the best thing he can do "to help our side."
- A few seasons later, Major Winchester hires a North Korean spy as a houseboy. In one of his last communications to his people, the spy replies "And in regard to kidnapping Major Winchester for questioning, forget it. He is one big jerk."
- On True Blood, Bill is forced to turn a terrified Christian woman as punishment for protecting Sookie. It is implied that the vampires think this will be agonizing torture to the girl, but as soon as she realizes that she's no longer under her father's thumb, she becomes insufferable. Bill and Eric pass her back and forth to get rid of her.
- The Nanny:
Maxwell: (paraphrased) Ms. Fine, the bank robber drove off with your mother as a hostage!
Fran: Oh that poor man!
- Fantasy Island had a B-plot that involved two kidnappers trying to ransom Tattoo. He and Mr. Roarke are both quite familiar with the Red Chief story, referred to above, and Tattoo is roughly child-sized...
- Weeds: Celia Hodes is kidnapped by her daughter and her boyfriend the rebel leader. They intend to ransom her, but no one is interested. They then plan to sell off her organs for cash, but find out she's had chemotherapy so no one will want them. Celia then "makes herself useful" e.g. by organizing the rebels' firearms, but manages to provoke a fight between her daughter and the rebel leader, breaking up their relationship. The daughter leaves, and the rebel leader lets Celia go.
- In a promo for Home improvement a UFO flies down to hover over the street. a beam shines down and Tim Allen materializes. He looks up at the UFO as it flies away and angrily shouts. "I didn't wanna go with you anyway!"
- The old Irish song "Killieburne Brae" is about a shrewish woman who is dragged off to hell, terrorizes the demons there in all kinds of colourful ways, and is eventually sent back to her poor husband, with the moral that "women are worse than the men/when they go down to hell they are truant again."
- "Scolding Wife" doesn't go so far, but does include the line:
And if the Devil would take her, I'd thank him for his pain
- Heather Dale covered this song under the title "The Farmer's Curst Wife"
- Heather Alexander performed a similar song, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife."
"Now I've been a devil for most o' me life, but I ne'er was in Hell 'til I met with your wife."
- One Piranha Club story arc had Mother Packer being kidnapped. Much asskicking ensued.
- The Red Rascal's's been captured by terrorists who had just googled a certain Ear Worm.
Red Rascal:...Friday. Gettin' down on Friday! Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend!
Terrorist 1: Aggg...
Terrorist 2 No! No more!
- The play Bones by Peter Straughen is made of this trope - although in a fun variant, instead of being annoying, the 'kidnappee' (Reg Kray) is just a dangerous, badass gangster, and something of a Magnificent Bastard who soon has his kidnappers either terrified or practically in love with him.
- In a comical skit in Tales of Destiny 2, Nanaly Fletch imagines herself being a Distressed Damsel. Then Loni Dunamis offers to be her Knight in Shining Armor... because he pities any villains that kidnaps Nanaly for her tomboy-ness. Cue to the bonecrusher.
- Used in Serious Sam 2, where the literal dragon, after kidnapping the hilariously ugly princess, decided to surrender her to Sam without a fight; he refuses, and they fight over who has to take her. Sam wins and agrees to take her if he can also take the magic artifact he was after.
- Fire Emblem provides the page quote. An example of this trope doesn't actually occur in the game, but, given Serra's personality, it becomes quickly apparent why Erk would come to this conclusion about her.
- In a bit of background conversation in Diablo III, an old soldier and his wife reminisce about the time she was kidnapped by barbarians, and the soldier describes how he was beside himself until they brought her back with an apology. His wife comments that their leader still sends her a bundle of hides every year.
- Done here in Ansem Retort.
- Charlotte is pitiful enough when she kidnaps Cyndi as a reflection of her self-hatred and hatred for her abusive mother in Penny and Aggie. Then Cyndi talks her into slitting her own throat.
- In Animaniacs, Yakko and Dot challenge The Grim Reaper at checkers to bring Wakko back to life, with their lives at stake. They lose -- but then The Grim Reaper realizes he'll have to host the three loons in the underworld for all eternity, and he lets them go. In other episodes, they get Dracula and Satan to let them go for the same reason. They subvert their own pattern in a later episode, as this fails to work on an Army drill sergeant; he just assigns them to worse duties. That is, until he can finally stand it no longer and becomes a camp counsellor.
- At the end of the Looney Tunes short "The Whole Idea", an inventor finally tires of his stereotypically shrewish wife's nagging and drops her down one of the "portable holes" he'd invented. It apparently leads all the way to Fire and Brimstone Hell, as there's a burst of flame and then a mopey-looking demon appears, hauling her out by the collar of her blouse and asking the inventor, "Isn't it bad enough down here without her?"
- The Boondocks had this happen twice in the episode "Let's Nab Oprah". In an attempt to kidnap Oprah from a book signing, the bumbling duo Gin Rummy and Ed Wuncler III accidentally kidnap Maya Angelou. They have to dump her out of the van after she starts repeatedly kicking Gin Rummy. The two try again by breaking into Oprah's studio, but they end up going into Bill Cosby's dressing room instead. They decide to cut their losses and just kidnap him, but he's so annoying they have to let him go fifteen minutes later.
- Subverted in an episode of Extreme Dinosaurs. A scientist allows himself to become the hostage of the evil Raptors, but not before hinting his plan to the heroes by making reference to "The Ransom of Red Chief". Unfortunately, his plan backfires and he instead learns a valuable lesson.
- In the Bugs Bunny cartoon Bugs and Thugs, Bugs is kidnapped by a pair of gangsters. He drives them so crazy that when the police arrive, the criminals beg the cops to arrest them to get them away from him.
- The same gag is used in the earlier "Racketeer Rabbit".
- Locking the baddies in a stove, turning the gas on, and then throwing a match in to explode it is really a whole new level of "driving crazy".
- The same gag is used in the earlier "Racketeer Rabbit".
- In the Tiny Toons episode Take Elmyra Please, Elmyra's father invents an environmentally friendly fuel and a rival fuel company kidnaps Elmyra for ransom so they can get the fuel's formula. Elmyra is oblivious bcause she believes the hideout is a TV studio for her own show and tortures the henchmen by making them do dangerous or humiliating segments. In the end, the henchmen surrender and disclose information about their boss because they want to get away from her.
- In the Tale Spin episode "Molly Coddled", Molly, dressed as her hero Danger Woman, is kidnapped by two gangsters, whom she repeatedly kicks in the shins and raises a ruckus over until help arrives. This defense technique is also used by her against the antagonist, smooth talking Covington, in a getaway earlier in the episode.
- Baloo's pal Louie has an aunt who is the same way, as seen in "The Ransom of Red Chimp". Ask Don Karnage, if he ever recovers his wits enough to speak.
- In an early episode of Dexter's Laboratory Dee Dee was given to a trio of visiting aliens by Dexter, but after Dexter changed his mind and went to rescue her, the aliens were more than happy to give her up, since she caused so much havoc on their ship.
- In the Sam and Max cartoon, Lorne's first episode The Friend For Life features him kidnapping the Mad Thespian, who begs and pleads to be arrested due to Lorne's psychotic obsession with impressing Sam and Max.
- SpongeBob SquarePants was once returned from Davey Jones' locker because the Flying Dutchman couldn't stand to have Spongebob around.
- The Flying Dutchman also enslaved SpongeBob and Patrick, but it turns out they were HORRIBLE minions. Unfortunately, the Flying Dutchman realized that they'd make better dinner than slaves.
- Not to mention "SpongeBob Meets the Strangler", where the Tattletale Strangler would rather be in prison than trying to strangle SpongeBob for ratting him out.
- And in another episode where Krabs lost SpongeBob in a card game to Plankton. By the end of it, Plankton paid Krabs to take him back.
- In an episode of the Josie and the Pussy Cats cartoon series, Melody ends up kidnapped by "the Evil Eye" and is put under Mind Control. Unfortunately for the Evil Eye, Melody is The Ditz and is completely useless as a minion - she even responds to commands with "Yes, Mustard" instead of "Yes, Master".
- An episode of Rugrats featured Tommy being kidnapped by two criminals who mistakenly believe him to be the child of a billionaire. Tommy proceeds to act in his usual manner and promptly destroys their hideout. By the end of the episode, the exasperated crooks apologize frantically and return the baby to Stu, who apparently doesn't give this matter a second thought.
- An episode of The Jetsons had Jane attempting to get her drivers license. Her driving was so awful that when a bank robber hijacked her and forced her to be his getaway car, her instructor pitied him.
- The Filmations Ghostbusters episode "The Ransom Of Eddie Spencer" has Prime Evil kidnapping the titular character, who manages to wreck Prime Evil's lair because he is such a screw-up.
- My Little Pony and Friends, "The Great Rainbow Caper": Danny and Surprise are held for ransom by the Gizmonks, two Mad Scientist monkeys who want to get their paws on the Rainbow of Light so they can study it. Danny manages to flatter the Gizmonks into letting them out of their cage, then he and Surprise proceed to screw with their inventions, free their test animals, and generally make a mess of the Gizmonks' lab. The episode ends with the Gizmonks fleeing their ruined lab and begging Megan to take the hostages back.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has this happen in the episode "A Dog and Pony Show", when Rarity gets kidnapped by a pack of Diamond Dogs who seek to exploit her ability to find gems and put her to work digging them up and hauling them around. She proceeds to drive them up the wall with her whining, crying and complaints. When Rarity's friends come to her rescue, the Dogs are all too willing to let Rarity leave, with all the gems she'd found for them. Turns out Rarity was doing it on purpose, too.
- A Jimmy Two-Shoes short revolved around Dr. Scientist snatching up Cerbee and trying to experiment on him. However, he quickly proved to be so energetic the doc couldn't handle him.
- Family Guy: Burglars break into the Griffin house and take Meg hostage. By the time the family is rescued, Meg has been charged with sex crimes against the burglars.
- In an episode of She Ra Princess of Power, the title character's friend Perfuma is captured by the evil Horde. She then proceeds to annoy everyone (especially the audience) with her sing-songy voice, decorate the evil lair with flowers, and even coerce the Horde-Troopers into dancing. Hordak begs She-Ra to take her back by the end of the episode.
- In another episode He-man’s sidekick Orko accidentally ends up in Etheria and gets captured by the Evil Horde. And he promptly starts annoying the hell out of Hordak. At one point they hook him up to a machine to get probed but Orko’s bizarre alien biology causes the machine to malfunction and call Hordak a meanie.
- A recurring plot in The Dreamstone involved Amberley getting kidnapped by the Urpneys, and spending the entire duration of her capture verbally and physically thrashing them. In the pilot, Zordrak has to turn her into stone just to keep her quiet.
- Dan Backslide from the Chuck Jones-directed Merrie Melodies short The Dover Boys manages to lock Dora in his shack, but every time he attempts to approach her from here, she violently lobs him into the opposite wall... All while she's banging on the door calling to be rescued by Tom, Dick and Larry. Eventually, after she escapes on her own, it's Dan who crying for them to save him.
- Happened in an episode of Kim Possible when Professor Dementor captured Kim's cousin Larry.
- In The Swan Princess sequel, the villain, an Evil Sorcerer, kidnaps Queen Uberta, who manages to redecorate the dungeon, get good food and get the sorcerer's minion confused enough to follow her orders instead of the sorcerer's. She also keeps complaining about how it's her birthday. She doesn't even stop when the sorcerer turns her into a bunch of different animals.
- In an episode of Disney’s Hercules Hades kidnaps Hypocrites, the father of modern medicine and brings him to the underworld. The reason being the good doctor’s innovations in health care made mortals live longer. (which, for the god of the underworld was bad for business) But much to Hades’ chagrin Hypocrites proves to be such a good doctor he even heals the dead back to life. And by the time Herc storms the underworld to rescue him Hades is more than happy to hand him over.
- In the Transformers episode "The girl who loved powerglide" the Decepticons kidnap a bratty young heiress in order to get secrets the tech company she owned possessed. She spends her captivity badmouthing them and demanding a cheeseburger. and Soundwave's attempts at probing her brain only result in him getting injured.
- In a Beast wars episode Megatron, in need of an organic to finish his weapon of the week sends Waspinator to abduct Una, a protohuman child who was a friend of the Maximals. Like always things don't go well for Waspy.
- Waspinator: "Waspinator to Megatron! Waspinator has female fleshy-bot... but there is problem!"
- Megatron: "She'd better not be injured."
- Waspinator: "No! She injuring Waspinator!"
- Megatron: "Ah, situation normal, then. Yes. Well, make sure she arrives safely. Megatron out."
- Waspinator: "Oh, Waspinator want to renegotiate contract..."
- A surprising number of people who were kidnapped by organ harvesters in Brazil have been released voluntarily by their kidnappers unharmed. At least once, it was because the woman kidnapped screamed so loud for so long that the guard forcibly threw her out.
- Story goes a young Julius Caesar once got kidnapped and held for ransom by pirates. He spent his captivity bossing his captors around and at one point promised to one day come back and kill them all. He kept that promise.