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The punishment equivalent of Attack Backfire: A character is legitimately guilty of some offense, tried and convicted, and sentenced to punishment, except that (whether intentionally or otherwise) the punishment in question is something that the character actually desires -- they actually consider it some kind of reward instead.

This can be the result of a successful Briar Patching; alternately it may be the result of Deliberate Values Dissonance or being Too Kinky to Torture. It may even be deliberate on the part of the punishers themselves, as poetic way to combine reward and punishment for those who technically messed up but are Saved by the Awesome. Can overlap with Springtime for Hitler if a character intentionally tries for this and it fails. Not to be confused with Cool and Unusual Punishment (which is still a legitimate punishment, and it's the audience who desires to see it executed).

See also Cursed with Awesome and some cases of Infernal Paradise. Compare also Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving, when his "crimes" were actually helpful.

Examples of Unishment include:


Fanfic

  • The end of When Duty Calls sees Scarlet Glade being punished for helping her half-siblings. The punishment is suspension and a transfer but since she did a good deed, in practice, it's more like a vacation and a promotion
  • In Fever Dreams After Light "confesses" to being The Mole for Kira when cornered the taskforce decide it would be best if Light remains under house arrest under L's supervision which of course is exactly what Light wanted.
  • Towards the end of Past Sins the punishment faced by Nyx is being released to the care of Twilight Sparkle, who is charged with seeing that she has a proper foalhood and never again becomes Nightmare Moon, to their absolute delight. Interestingly, there is some opposition to this from those who recognise it as not being any punishment at all.

Film

  • At the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Admiral Kirk is court-martialed for stealing the USS Enterprise, resulting in its destruction. His punishment was demotion to captain and command of the USS Enterprise-A... which is really what he wanted all along. Kirk really, really hated being an admiral, and everyone knew it, even the Klingons.
    • However, the only reason he was let off so lightly and allowed to sit in the captain's chair again is because he saved the human race and probably the Federation by extension from a giant whale-seeking space probe which just happened to be stopping by Earth, sending out a signal for humpback whales to respond to which had the side effect of obliterating the Earth's biosphere and shutting down all human technology. If this had never happened, it's pretty safe to assume Kirk & Co. would have been thoroughly prosecuted for their crimes, dishonourably discharged and sentenced to spend the rest of their lives mining borite.
  • The main character of North by Northwest causes an uproar in the midst of an auction by placing outlandish bids and getting confrontational with anyone who outbids him. Eventually, security is called to escort him out of the building -- which is exactly what he wanted, since there were two men in the room who were planning to kill him.
  • Trapper from Mash: "If I nail Hot Lips and slug Hawkeye do I get to go home too?" Arguably a subversion, since Burns was punished and went home in a straightjacket.
  • Midway through Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans, the main character has a complaint lodged against him for committing an act of Police Brutality against an elderly woman. Until the complaint gets sorted out, he is put on modified assignment and placed in charge of the precinct's evidence room. Since he's a Functional Addict and the evidence room is where seized drugs are stored, this is the equivalent of punishing a small child by locking him inside a candy store.
  • In My Cousin Vinny, the title character hates his hotel accommodations, which include being unable to sleep due to the screeching owl in the tree, and the train outside his window. After being locked up for contempt of court, even with the rowdy prisoners making noise all night, hard-nosed New Jerseyite Vinny sleeps like a baby.
  • Given a passing mention in X Men First Class. A prison guard where Alex Summers (Havoc) was staying at the beginning of the film remarks that he's "the only prisoner I've ever seen who actually prefers solitary." Sure enough, when we first see him, Alex is in solitary.
  • In Coming to America, King Jaffe Joffer is outraged with how Prince Akeem and his servant Semmi have been living in a squalid New York City apartment, and working for a local fast food restaurant. He tells Semmi "You have disgraced yourself, and you must be punished. You will confine yourself to our royal suite at the Waldorf-Astoria, [to Oha] see that he puts on some decent attire, [to female servants] and I want you to bathe him thoroughly.", making Semmi happily say "Oh, thank you, your majesty!", before shamefully lowering his head again.
  • Done in National Security, where a cop is accused of assaulting a black man (he was really swatting a bumblebee, which wasn't visible on a tourist's camcorder) and put in prison. As soon as he arrives in prison to serve his 6-month sentence, he sees every large black prisoner give him the "throat-cut" gesture. A guard holds him and warns him against trying anything, threatening the guy with solitary confinement. Seeing all the angry black prisoners, the guy elbows the guard in the face. Three months later, he is released from solitary. He immediately punches another guard, and goes right back inside.


Folklore

  • There's this old joke about a man asking for a leave from his boss to accompany his wife to the opera:

 Boss: I'm sorry, John, but this is a busy month. We can't spare anyone.

John: Thanks, boss, I knew I could count on you!

  • Another joke told of an avid FPS (Doom in this version of the joke) gamer who discovers he won't be let into Heaven, but St. Peter grants him a consolation prize of three wishes. His wishes? IDDQD, IDKFA, you can drop me down now. The joke may, however, be interpreted as a subversion -- the man was let into Heaven, figuratively speaking; it just hadn't the expected form.


Literature

  • In the short story Zeepsday by Gordon R. Dickson, a human is placed on trial in a galactic court for insulting an alien. He is found guilty and sentenced to be "confined" by his fiancée for a year, with all expenses paid by the insulted alien. The judge recommends they spend the year at a very expensive vacation spot.
  • The Conquerors Trilogy: The Zhirrzh Thrr-gilag was punished by the Overclan Prime by being expelled from his clan. It seemed a punishment until Overclan Prime explained that he was to start his own clan whose purpose would be to deal with other species.
  • In Love From Your Friend Hannah, the title character is punished for cursing at a bully on the school bus by being forbidden to ride the bus--which she hated doing in the first place.


Live Action TV

  • This trope is called "Alexment" by Justin Russo on The Wizards of Waverly Place. This is the way his sister, Alex Russo, generally gets away with things.
  • During the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Trouble With Tribbles", Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott wasn't interested in taking shore leave, because he had a bunch of technical journals to catch up on. Kirk specifically "ordered" Scotty to go along in order to keep the lower-ranked men from starting trouble with visiting Klingons. Instead, it was Scott himself who started a brawl with those self-same Klingons. This sparked the following exchange:

 Kirk: Scotty, you're restricted to quarters until further notice.

Scotty: (smiling) Thank you, sir. That'll give me a chance to catch up on my technical journals!

  • In the third season of Lexx at one point Kai is malfunctioning due to falling from the top of one of the cities of Fire. He's later captured by the authorities of another city who put him through what will apparently become an extremely long and bureaucratic trial. He then learns that the maximum penalty of the city is to be thrown off the top...which is exactly what Kai needs to repair himself. After unsuccessfully asking them nicely to receive that punishment, they oblige when he uses his grappling hook to put the judge's neck in a choke hold.
  • In the Blackadder Goes Forth episode "Private Plane", Blackadder and Baldrick are captured by the Germans and the Red Baron shows up to tell them they will suffer "a fate worse than A Fate Worse Than Death"... being sent to Germany to teach young girls Home Economics. Naturally, Blackadder is thrilled with the thought of being sent away from the trenches and the war. Unfortunately, Lord Flasheart arrives to "rescue" him...
  • In That 70s Show, when Eric is preparing to go to Africa for missionary work, Kitty and Red find out what the gang has been doing in the basement for the past 8 years. Despite their rage, Red is unable to punish Eric because he can't think of anything worse than sending him off to Africa, which Eric was doing on his own volition.
  • An episode of George Lopez involved Max hitting on an attractive house guest. George tells him to go to his room, then decides against it, considering that it wouldn't be a punishment at this point.


Stand-Up Comedy

  • Bill Cosby's famous "Chocolate Cake for Breakfast" joke, from his stand-up special Himself. Bill's wife wakes him out of a sound and much desired sleep, at six o'clock in the morning, in order to serve his children breakfast. When his daughter comes down for breakfast, she asks for chocolate cake, which Bill deduces must be healthy, because it has eggs, milk and wheat in it. When his wife finds out, she flips out and sends Bill back to his room... "which is where I wanted to go in the first place. So you see, we are dumb, but we are not so dumb."


Theatre

  • In Hamlet, the title character has a perfect opportunity to kill Claudius, but does not take it because of this trope. To elaborate, Hamlet catches Claudius praying for forgiveness for his sins, and fears that him dying shortly after being absolved would send him to heaven. As a result, Hamlet decides to wait for a time when Claudius is in the middle of some sinful behavior


Video Games

  • Eddie in Silent Hill 2 may be an example, if you believe the idea that the town calls out to the guilty and punishes them. Two of the other characters are clearly suffering punishment for the things they've done. Eddie is punished by being faced with the visages of all the people who have tormented him throughout his life. Eddie sees this as an opportunity to dish out Disproportionate Retribution against his tormentors and takes full advantage of it.
  • Ignus from Planescape: Torment. He was an insane pyromaniac mage who burnt down half of the Hive. His punishment? Being turned into a living conduit for the Elemental Plane of Fire, giving him even better ability to burn stuff. In fact, the only part of the punishment that worked was that it made him so happy that he was content to remain floating in one place in reverie, not causing problems for anyone... Until The Nameless One comes along.
  • Slave Maker: When Minako try to save a mistreated slave and fails, you really get in trouble. The owner of the other slave is outraged, demanding that you get a huge fine for letting your slave try to rescue another slave. And your slave Minako confesses her crime, describing how the other slave has been mistreated. The Lord thus find you guilty, and sentence you to pay a fine of one single gold coin. As comparison, the cheapest weapon or armor in the game costs 200 gold, and a simple swim suit costs 70 gold. ("Minako"? Yes, that Minako - but in this game she's your personal sex-kitten, although with some unlawful vigilante tendencies.)
  • In League of Legends Soraka tried to punish the mercenary alchemist Warwick through a Karmic Transformation, which turned him into a bloodthirsty werewolf. While this seemingly did strip him of his scientific knowledge, at least insofar as can be determined by none of his skills being related to them, he's having way too much fun using his new form to rip people apart to care. He was already a sadistic monster, she just gave him the ability to indulge his appetites directly.
  • In the ending of the first Disgaea game, Flonne is guilty of helping an army of demons invade heaven, admittedly to bring down a Knight Templar. As punishment, she's turned into a flower. However, if you unlock the Golden Ending (by completely avoiding any friendly fire), then she's instead sentenced to be restored, but as a "fallen angel" [1]. Meaning she can now survive in the Netherworld and stay with Laharl.


Western Animation

  • In the House of Mouse cartoon Topsy Turvy Town, Mickey and Minnie Mouse are "punished" by the court for breaking the town rules by having to go on a tropical vacation.
  • At the end of Lilo and Stitch, Stitch's sentence for the havoc he caused is exile to Earth. The character passing the sentence does this intentionally, though, to avoid separating him from his newfound family while still satisfying her comrades' desire to see Stitch punished for his actions.
    • On the other hand Stitch can't swim and he is stuck on Hawaii so the punishment is something close to house arrest when you come from a space faring civilization.
  • Happens twice in The Simpsons: Once where Bart is punished for vandalism by being forced to work in a burlesque house, and another when Homer is sentenced to Hell for his greed and force fed donuts. The latter particularly is meant to be an Ironic Hell, but Homer's gluttony trumps it.

 Demon: I don't understand it. James Coco went mad in 15 minutes!

    • Averted, then Subverted in another episode. Bart expects to be told to go to his room, but Homer realizes that's not a punishment and sends him to the garage instead. But then Bart uses this opportunity to steal a riding mower.
  • On Dexters Laboratory, Dad decides to punish Dexter and Dee-Dee by sending them to each other's rooms. While it's sheer torture for Dexter, it's the best day ever for Dee-Dee, because she gets free rein of the secret lab in Dex's room...or so Dexter thinks. While he's driven insane by paranoia and tears her room apart, she spends most of the time napping. Dexter ends up having to switch living quarters with the dog as punishment (while the dog, you guessed it, completely trashes the lab).
  • In an episode of Hey Arnold, Harold is caught stealing from the butcher, Mr. Green, and is forced to work there to learn his lesson. After a while, he loves it and dreams of being a butcher when he gets older. Once his sentence is up, he tries stealing another piece of meat, just so he can get sentenced to work at the butchery again, but Mr. Green doesn't fall for it as he found Harold more trouble than he was worth (Harold had pretty quickly cost more than the ham he stole or the work he would give in accidentally destroyed merchandise). However, when he needed help with his annual meat sale he's forced to accept Harold's, and afterward is so impressed he takes him on as an apprentice.
  • About halfway though Disney's Goliath II, the titular elephant actually attempts to run away from his strict mother, but unfortunately, after almost becoming the prey of a tiger and subsequently rescued, Goliath II is actually kicked out of his herd by his own parents because according to elephant law, deserting the herd is a major offense, and the deserter is often branded a criminal. Moments later, after leaving Goliath II for dead in the jungle, all of the other elephants end up being scared by a mouse...
  • Subverted in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. To get out of a horrifying dinner, Bloo keeps making trouble, expecting to be sent to his room without dinner. Unfortunately, Mr. Harriman is fighting a carrot addiction, and he sends anyone who sees the carrots to their rooms without dinner; Bloo's pranks, including smashing a wrecking ball into the house, actually help Harriman.
  • In The Fairly Odd Parents, Timmy Turner has to brave the "horrifying trials" of the "sadistic" Yugopotamians; these trials include walking through a flowery meadow, hugging a teddy bear, and eating chocolate - things that would be unbearably painful to their Bizarre Alien Biology, but are really no problem to a human.
  • At the end of Transformers: Robots in disguise (2001) The Predacons get captured and carted off to Cybertron save for Sky-byte, who gets left behind on Earth. The other Predacons lament that he got the worst punishment being stranded on that mud ball. The last scene in the series is of Sky-byte happily swimming out to sea while singing his own theme song, indicating he thought otherwise.


Web Original

  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Mustang Sally (a member of the Texas Rangers superhero team) was convicted of aggravated assault on a very litigious (and technically innocent) supervillain. Her sentence was commuted to time served, probation, and a thousand hours of community service as a "civilian adjunct" to the Austin Police Department. In short, she was sentenced to serve as a superhero for the city... which was her job in the first place.
  • There is at least one caption story where a guy is turned into a woman by a witch as punishment... But that guy was Transsexual.


Real Life

  • Several recent parenting books mention that sending kids to their room isn't so much of a punishment as the parents think, since that's where the kids keep all their toys. In fact, some parents have gone as far as to evict their kids from their rooms instead for punishment.
    • Taking it a bit further, grounding can be an unishment for some. If you only see your friends in school already and your weekends are generally less than busy/exciting, you may as well have already grounded yourself. If you're the couch potato-type, then even more so because you can probably sleep all weekend. Sleeping all weekend after a hard week at school? Sounds lovely. And if you're given chores to do? Well, hey, there's some easy exercise for you. No one can say you're lazy.
  • And then there's the "punishment" for kids who hate school - misbehaving can lead to suspension, which means time away from school. This is why a number of schools have in-school suspensions -- effectively, detention by another name but all-day long. However, this can still be Unishment for some because it means they're out of class all day and while they may be given work, they may not exactly be forced to do it. In fact, most ISS teachers really don't care what the students do as long as they're quiet and don't use electronics. Out of school suspensions are now usually reserved for students who have engaged in physical violence or threats thereof, with removal from school's safety issue trumping punishment.
    • Saturday school could count on a lesser scale. On one hand, you do have to wake up early and you sit there and do nothing (books may allowed, but it depends on the school). However, it's only a few hours out of your life. It's not a crisis. Most schools let out by noon, so you've still got time on your hands.
  • Played desperately straight with the prison system. Some people simply cannot succeed outside of prison, so they keep doing illegal things. This is a major theme in The Shawshank Redemption.
  • In olden days a common punishment for serious crimes in Great Britain was transportation to Australia. Yes, many people experienced this as a punishment, but a lot of the convicted ended up doing very well in Australia. Often when a sentence would expire and a convicted criminal had the right to return to Britain, they would decide instead to stay in Australia. Many modern day Australians are descended from these convicts, and they seem perfectly happy to live in the land their ancestors were sent to as punishment.
    • Although it should be considered that they were still essentially being sent halfway around the world away from everything and everyone they'd ever known and loved, the voyage there alone was pretty grueling and dangerous (and when people complain about it being a horrible journey when experiencing it over two-three days in the relative comfort of a plane, imagine it in the comparatively less-than-comfortable confines of a months-long ocean journey in an 18th / 19th century ship -- and when you were finished your sentence you were left with the choice of either staying where you were and making a go of it or risking the equally grueling voyage back) and the situation for the convicts on arrival was less 'days spent sunning in the beautiful heat by the gorgeous beach' and more 'days of back-breaking labor in the sweltering heat trying to bring some kind of westernized civilization to a near-inhospitable land'. While many people did do well once they were no longer convicts and had earned their freedom and their descendants certainly have little to complain about, it was used as a punishment for a very good reason.
  • One American school required violators of dress code to wear prison jumpsuits. As you might have expected, many students deliberately violated the dress code just so they could wear these prison jumpsuits.

 "I don't think that jumpsuits are going to work, because my friends actually, instead of it being a punishment, they'll see it as an opportunity to be like, rebels," said Meredith, who also isn't sure whether his hair, dyed bright fire-engine red, will pass muster. "I don't think there's going to be enough jumpsuits for everyone in the school."

    • This is actually pretty common in schools with uniform. Students will purposefully violate the dress code just to be sent home early. As one could imagine, this is especially unishment for high school students, mainly juniors and seniors, as they likely can just go home themselves and don't need their parents to pick them up.

Notes

  1. i.e., the frills on her outfit go from blue to red, minimal demonic features on her head and face and a tail. With no change in personality or morality
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