TV Tropes Monday: Wounded Gazelle Gambit

Twee of the Day: Addendum: Alberto Manguel and Immigrant Identity


Since February is swiftly (and mercifully) coming to an end, it is time to transition from romance tropes to something else.

Enter the Wounded Gazelle Gambit.

In essence this trope occurs when one party pretends to be the victim in order to solicit sympathy from others. The key here is the pretend part. The injury may be faked, self-inflicted or real but exaggerated depending on the setting but never crippling or fatal (at least to themselves or their interest), that is a different type of trope. What makes this ploy even more insidious is that it is also used to discredit someone else.

Example 1: A prisoner comes to court with a limp and accuses the arresting officer of beating him up. Thus he garners sympathy for his defense while damaging the reputation of the police officer who will testify against him.

Example 2: False Flag Operations can be seen as extreme versions of this. A government orchestrates an attack upon itself/citizens (whether real or imagined) and blames a third party for it.

Example 3: A common romantic situation. Annette and Janice are arguing over John. Janice tussles with Annette but Annette gets the better of her and she falls to the ground at the moment John walks in. Instead of fighting back, she lays on the ground (like a wounded gazelle) and pleads with John to protect her.

For anyone with brothers and sisters, you will recognize this ploy as a favorite gambit of younger siblings everywhere.

Most of the time it used to show that the rival (be it romance, war or business) is both evil and cunning because either the managed to orchestrate the gambit or exploited the situation to their advantage. Often once the truth comes out it is the user of the gambit that comes out the worse, usually, but particularly clever opponents can milk the benefits from the gambit for a very long time or even use it again against the same target with similar results.

Rarer still that the “hero” will use the gambit for their own benefits unless they are a “guile hero” known for using brains over brawn or in the more common variation turning the gambit against the initiator.  Click on the page link for a lot more examples including real life examples.


2 comments on “TV Tropes Monday: Wounded Gazelle Gambit

  1. Do you have any favorite guile heroes/heroines?

    Wounded gazelle gambit? Oh, I’m so out of the loop. Never heard of that term before…but love it. 🙂


    • Sherlock Holmes is one as is Dumbledore. I can’t say I have many heroes that rely exclusively on guile but I do like heroes that use more than the muscles to get by, or at least use force in creative ways. 😉


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