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A new character enters the setting. But someone gets suspicious of them, and thinks they're up to no good. All the other people say not to be suspicious about new people, and/or that they're just jealous (which may or may not be true). If you're Trope Telegraphing, you may expect the guy to, in fact, be a good guy, after the main characters start stalking the character all day, possibly throwing in some moments that are Not What It Looks Like, and for the new character to be Put on a Bus in exasperation.

However, that is not how the trope is played most of the time. We didn't sit in front of the TV and stay there for 11 minutes just to see how much of a Jerkass the main character can be. So, TV writers often write a twist to the Aesop, where the new guy that the majority of the characters were defending was Evil All Along. When it's subverted like this, it may be revealed that they're evil midway, but it can easily be covered up as Not What It Looks Like.

Despite being a Broken Aesop, it's a stock plot in Western Animation.

A reason why the trope is so often subverted would be that the writers don't want it to be a new main character, and even if the character is good, they're usually Put on a Bus. But, the trope may be played straight if the show is just beginning, and the writers are using it to introduce the character. Outside of that, the trope is more often Doubly Subverted than played straight. However, it's not unheard of for it to be played straight.

This is often used with aliens; see We Come in Peace, Shoot to Kill, type 2. When it isn't used for the sake of Speculative Fiction, it's used because, after all, it could be Paranoia Fuel, and the writers don't want to use this trope without Unfortunate Implications on any real people, like the problem Too Smart for Strangers creates for your new babysitter. (In Speculative Fiction, this can cause problems for Innocent Aliens; see We Come in Peace, Shoot to Kill, type 1.) However, the normal version of this trope can also be used alongside the subtrope; see the details at the top.

Compare with the Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold, which also tries to get a Suspicion Aesop across, but Inverted since everyone is suspicious about a guy who turns out to be good.

It's often an Evil-Detecting Dog, a child, or the main character that is suspicious; and if the main character or child isn't taken seriously in general, then there's more of a chance that they will be the suspicious ones.

The way this trope is played with is a useful means of determining the target age of a children's book. For the youngest set, Nice All Along reigns: the sinister-looking women hovering around a cauldron in the derelict house on the hill turn out to be kind-hearted folks running a private soup kitchen. For an older set, the object of suspicion is just as bad as advertised, but Adults Are Useless. And when you get to the level of J.K. Rowling or Zilpha Keatley Snyder, there's certainly some nasty stuff going down, and the object of suspicion may or may not be responsible, but either way, something is not as it seems. From there, it's just a quick hop to Young Adult.

See also Cassandra Truth and Properly Paranoid.

WARNING: Unmarked Spoilers

Examples of Subverted Suspicion Aesop include:

Anime and Manga

  • This happens every time Mayo Mitama appears in Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei. While one character will be initially suspicious of her, it's always completely dismissed based on her (evil) looks.
  • The third season of Sailor Moon toys with this trope a little, but ends up averting it. For a while, many of the senshi tell Usagi that she should regard Uranus and Neptune as enemies. Of course, she doesn't do so. But in the end, Usagi seems to have been the one with the right idea, since the girls eventually become part of the normal senshi group.
  • Averted in Cardcaptor Sakura. Throughout the first arc, both Cerberus and Syaoran are distrustful of Kaho Mizuki, the magical newcomer to the neighborhood. Sakura, of course, doesn't understand their suspicion and proceeds to befriend her. Both boys then engage in a certain amount of investigating on Mizuki--Cerberus most noticeably--and for a while, it looks like this trope is going to be played straight, and Mizuki is going to end up being the Big Bad. But in the end, it turns out she's on Sakura's side and it's really Yukito Tsukishiro they should really have been watching out for.


  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. During group counseling:

 Scott Evil: I think he hates me. I really think he wants to kill me.

Counselor: Scott, we don't want to kill each other in here. We might say that we do sometimes, but we really don't.

Doctor Evil: Actually, the boy's quite astute. I really am trying to kill him, but, so far, unsuccessfully.

  • Cops And Robbersons: A running gag is cop-wannabe Chase getting bad service at a diner. Eventually he snaps and violently arrests the somewhat slovenly fellow (who never got his order right) and calls in the police(!); As veteran cop Palance apologizes profusely to the man, Chase stews in the back of Palance's car. On a whim, he put's the man name into the computer on the dashboard. The result: countless warrants for Grand Theft Auto. Smug, Chase shows a printout to Palance, who arrests the career car thief. In Palance's words: "You got lucky."
  • This is the ending of the plot of the early Tom Hanks comedy The Burbs, in which a few nosy suburbanites become suspicious of their new foreign neighbors. It almost feels like an Ass Pull after Tom Hanks' character gives a speech ending with: "We're the lunatics! Us! IT'S NOT THEM! It's us!" ...Cue the neighbor trying to kill Hanks and then they discover human remains in his car trunk.


  • The sixth Harry Potter book; Harry was right, Draco had replaced his father as a Death Eater and was responsible for the attempts on Dumbledore's life.
    • Of course, it works a little better in that case, because Harry had previously suspected Malfoy in every single previous book, and it was never him.
  • Inverted and then double subverted in Jingo: When a crime is committed, all sorts of excessively obvious clues point to the Klatchians, which Vimes interprets as his own countrymen attempting to frame them. It then turns out that a Klatchian did do it, covering his real tracks and leaving obvious fake ones just to fool Vimes, who turns out not to have needed any such convincing since he had already decided it was a frame by his own countrymen (and refused to suspect the Klatchians) before having seen any clues at all.
  • Kahlan of the Sword of Truth definitely suspects Drefan Rahl, but after rationalizing it, manages to even convince herself that said person was a good guy. Oops.

Live Action TV

  • 3rd Rock from the Sun did a version of this Played for Laughs. Harry and Tommy thought that a group of "badasses" hanging out at the bar were up to no good even though were doing absolutely nothing suspicious. At the end, after it turned out the "badasses" wanted to rob the bar, Harry and Tommy summarized the Spoof Aesop ("From now on, I look at people and make snap judgments.")
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in the episode 'Living Conditions': Buffy insists that her annoying roommate is an evil demon, and suddenly declares she needs to kill her, which her friends naturally take as a bit of an overreaction to said roommate playing Cher too many times. It turns out the roommate actually was a demon, the spurious evidence Buffy had was accurate, and Buffy's own erratic behavior was a result of the roommate trying to steal her soul.
    • When her mother found a new boyfriend and the guy blew up on Buffy for not following his rules, several of her friends blamed Buffy's distrust on daddy issues (as in, the guy was technically taking over her father's position, which Buffy couldn't accept). No, him being a sociopathic robot was more to blame.
  • Less trust-based than compassion based, but in Legend of the Seeker at one point, a young man asks Mord-Sith Cara to lend him a horse so he could go bury his dead brother with his family. She denies his request at first, but a look from Kahlan reminds her of the latter's urging her to be compassionate, so she lets him take the horse...only to find out two scenes later that he just wanted it so he could steal the treasure the recently-killed enemy soldiers had hoarded.
  • An episode of CSI had two missing boys from a neighborhood where a paroled child molester lived. Pretty much everybody is suspicious of him for obvious reasons, but they let him help in the investigation (his house was burned down so he had nothing better to do anyway). After spending most of the episode dodging whether or not he did or didn't have anything to do with the missing boys, and seemingly leading toward An Aesop that people can be redeemed or the like, but the actual truth turns out to be that he did take the boys into his house after finding them hurt and scared and really didn't have any intentions of harming them, but he did give them a "sample" of liquor and as one of the boys died, he was held responsible because he didn't do anything about their injuries and didn't call anybody.
  • In the same vein as the above, Desperate Housewives had a new neighbor move onto the lane with his sickly sister. After he helps her out with an issue her son was having, she goes to his house with a cake in thanks. While there, she discovers a wall of photos of shirtless young boys. He explains that he's a swim coach, but she still has her suspicions. Since this followed her being held hostage, it's suggested that she's merely suffering PTSD or something similar, but she's already told the local gossips. Eventually, things escalate to Wisteria Lane's residents protesting outside his house. The stress causes his sister to go into cardiac arrest and she dies. Lynette goes to him to apologize and finds that he's moving. Before leaving, he implies that his sister was what was keeping him from actually doing anything with the boys. However, there is some ambiguity in his statements, hinting that he may only be saying this to get back at Lynette for how her actions led to his sister's death.
  • The House team had a patient once that Thirteen was suspicious of, for no other reason than that the patient gave her the heebie jeebies. Everyone else thought she was just being unreasonably jealous and antagonistic. Turns out the patient was a psychopath; Thirteen's female intuition was able to pick up on the fact that there was something seriously wrong with the patient.
  • At the beginning of 24 Day 6, amid a series of terrorist bombings in American soil, a Middle Eastern youth named Ahmed (played by Kal Penn) witnesses his father being detained as a suspected terrorist with apparently unclear evidence. The rest of the mostly white neighborhood then tries to pressure Ahmed to leave and are about to get violent until his neighbor defuses the situation, takes him into his home and even defends him against another neighbor who tries to kill him. An unfortunate victim of xenophobia used as an Aesop about bigotry? Nope! Turns out Ahmed himself is the real terrorist and "repays" his neighbor by holding his family hostage and forcing him to deliver a package to his terrorist cell which results in him getting fatally shot and a nuclear bomb being detonated in the middle of LA.
  • Castle subverts this (meaning, they play the Suspicion Aesop straight) with Tom Demming. When it's revealed that a suspect might be from Demming's precinct (and Esposito's old precinct), Castle and Those Two Guys do everything to try and confirm Demming as the bad guy...but it turns out he's not only not the bad guy, he's a sickeningly sweet, almost Stu-ish, clean-cut good guy.

Western Animation

  • The Penguins of Madagascar, where the penguins are suspicious of Rhonda, a walrus, who was put in Marlene's pen, (although what zookeeper in their right mind would put a GIANT walrus in the same pen as an otter?) because they think she's a spy bent on stealing their invention, but Marlene thinks she will be nice once she gets to know her. Once Marlene is upset about Rhonda's messiness, they have her Put on a Bus. But, they realize that the bus is taking her to a polar bear reserve, and take the bus back and put her on a different one. It is then that they realize she has stolen the penguins' invention.
    • In the episode "Red Squirrel", the penguins meet Rockgut, an old penguin who has spent his life hunting the Red Squirrel, a notorious enemy from forty years ago. Eventually, they realize that Rockgut has become deluded and paranoid after he imprisons all of their friends, accusing them of being agents of the Red Squirrel. So they send him on a Snipe Hunt to get rid of him, and Private feels sorry for him for chasing someone who may not even exist. In fact, the Red Squirrel does exist, and had been waiting for Rockgut to exit so that he could put his plans in motion.
  • South Park had a variation. A middle-eastern looking kid and his family move in, and Cartman is suspicious of him immediately. The kid's family itself was innocent, but Cartman's suspicion directly results in him saving the town by finding out about someone else's terrorist plot. Lampshaded at the end.
  • Adventure Time: The one with Ricardio. Finn thinks he's evil, Jake thinks he's good. He's evil.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot
    • There are two examples in this show; one subverts the Suspicion Aesop normally (the one about Wakeman's boyfriend) and one DOUBLY subverts it (the one about Melody; because Melody IS wrecking everything, or so it seems, but she's not evil).
  • Teen Titans' adaptation of The Judas Contract: Raven has to learn to trust Terra; by the end of the season, it turns out she's a spy.

 Raven: I Knew It!. I knew it. We never should have trusted her!

  • Used in Jimmy Neutron in The Egg-Pire Strikes Back, when the Yolkians come back and make peace with the people of Retroville. It's a bit different because the Yolkians were the main antagonists of the movie that started the whole series, and both viewers and Jimmy know that they are definitely up to no good- but everyone else tells Jimmy not to be so suspicious. When Jimmy is proven right at the very end, Jimmy makes them say "You were right and we were wrong" several times. Including in French and Chinese. (Although they fail at one of these)
  • In Winx Club, Techna suspects the new teacher of being connected to the Big Bad, and attempts to use a Detect Evil spell on him (actually a translation glitch, she was attempting to detect a specific kind of being which he wasn't.) A few episodes later, yup, he's evil.
  • Every other episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog has a sinister, ill meaning stranger come and plan to harm Muriel and Eustace who ignore Courage being distrustful... and having been right about such instincts every previous time.
    • There have notably been a few occasions where Courage was wrong... notably, the pig chef (not a cannibal) and Kitty (not out to hurt anybody despite being an anthropomorphic cat in a creepy mask who hates Courage).
  • Not surprising, seen in The Simpsons. Marge becomes suspicious of Otto's ex-fiance Becky, thinking she is trying to kill Marge and steal Homer. There turns out to be a perfectly logical explanation for all of the evidence, of course, and Marge apologizes.

 Becky: Hey, no biggie. I *was* trying to steal your family. I even thought of a good place to bury you. Then I didn't have a shovel, so I went to the hardware store and they have six different kinds,and I was like, "later".

  • In an episode of American Dragon: Jake Long, Jake's school holds a fund-raising auction in which the girls auction on which boy they want to date. Jake rigs the auction so he would go with the hottie instead of the nerd girl. Jake's friend warns him about being shallow. When there was a sighting of a Siren causing trouble, it took some convincing that the girl he was with was the culprit. Turns out the nerd girl was the one who was the Siren.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: In a parody of Rear Window, Jimmy suspects that his neighbor is actually an evil pickle lady. At the end, he turns out to be correct, and she becomes a recurring villain. Despite the fact that said episode ended with Cerby eating her.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: After having a bad experience with the griffon Gilda, Pinkie Pie comes to believe she's one of the most mean people in the universe. She's in the ballpark, at any rate. Made un-Broken by the fact that the person advising Pinkie never actually met Gilda, and the only pony she's ever remotely nice to is Rainbow Dash.
    • Later inverted with the case of Zecora, since everyone except Apple Bloom is suspicious of her. She's innocent.
      • And just recently played completely straight with Cadence/Queen Chrysalis. It turns out she's worse than Twilight thought, and has kidnapped and replaced the real Cadence for her own nefarious plot.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men had a double-subverted suspicion aesop. Yes, really. It all starts with Emma Frost, who joined the team, but Logan was suspicious of her. For 19 episodes, she seemed reasonable, so it just seemed like the standard, unsubverted version. Then it became this trope when it was revealed that Emma was only there to gain their trust so that she could find Jean Grey for the Inner Circle. Indeed, she was responsible in part for the explosion that almost killed Jean and Charles Xavier, the one that launched the series and initially broke up the X-Men. But that was quickly subverted again, when we discover that she was doing this to try to save the world from the emergence of the Phoenix.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender provides a very good example that is played almost to the letter...except that it ends up actually being averted. When Zuko finally has their Heel Face Turn, most of the group is open to hear their side of the story and give them a chance. Katara, however is skeptical, and doesn't trust their new teammate. The 'investigation' part of the trope comes in in the much lampshaded individual adventures they each have with their new member. Of course, in the end, it does end up being an aesop when Katara is proven wrong.
    • Katara points out that she has good reason not to believe him. She was there when he first expressed an interest in a Heel Face Turn, but didn't turn, resulting in Aang ending up (mostly) dead.
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