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Look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed

They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed

Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain

But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game.
Phil Ochs, "Outside Of A Small Circle Of Friends"

Citizens that are either reallllly pessimistic or really apathetic. Or perhaps masochistic. Or, just maybe, very Genre Savvy. Either way...

Giant meteor in the sky? Evil vampire slaughtering people? Clownish madman destroying the world? They don't care. It's Somebody Else's Problem. It doesn't even seem to faze them beyond the occasional "Wow, that's a big rock in the sky." Sure, occasionally the mayor will ask you to save their town, but that's as much concern as they express. The shopkeepers might sell you the supplies you need to rescue them, but they'll charge full price, because there's No Hero Discount. It's Up to You.

While Rome Burns is often one of their main characteristics.

In a film where cities are destroyed, this trope runs as rampant as the disasters themselves. No matter how many warnings the populace has, no matter if there have been fissures opening in the streets for days or giant alien spaceships hovering overhead, there are always a huge number of people who are just there to stare in disbelief right before being obliterated. Unfortunately, this has more than a little Truth in Television. The trope is justified here because seeing an empty city trashed is not as emotional as knowing millions are dying.

Expect these to be one of the everyday inhabitants of a Dystopia or Crapsack World.

This is also used poetically (mostly in fantasy) in making the statement that magical events and miracles takes place all the time and all around us, and people are just too busy, or too distracted to see it. But in extreme fantasy it could be that the citizens ignore the flying horse, disappearing church or whatever the event, because it is a common-place occurrence in that world. If that is the case see City of Weirdos.

See also City of Weirdos, Dying Like Animals, Suicidal Pacifism and Adam Smith Hates Your Guts.

Examples of Apathetic Citizens include:


Anime and Manga Edit

  • Dragonball Z was particularly guilty of this trope, especially during the Buu Saga. When Goku and Vegeta attempted to get the Earth to donate energy to the Spirit Bomb, the people (besides their friends and family) outright refused, even mocking them. Mr. Satan was legitimately angered at this, as the planet was basically giving the middle finger at their one and only chance to destroy Majin Buu once and for all, and ended up calling them out for it. Ironically, its him calling them out that got them to do it.
    • It should be noted that many people said (though possibly only the dub) that it might have just been some trick by Buu, or something to that effect. It was the fact that Mr. Satan is THE MOST FAMOUS HEROIC CHAMPION FIGHTER ON EARTH (since the Z warriors all shun fame and let him take credit for the Cell Games) that they got on board... Though oddly nobody questioned if HIS voice was a trick.
  • In the Anime movie Howls Moving Castle, two of the main characters, Howl and Sophie, walk across the street in mid-air while the street below them is crowded with nearly hundreds of townsfolk dancing.
  • Shows up a lot in Shiki, where most of the villagers are utterly apathetic about the vampires taking over the town (they think it's an epidemic of disease, but still). An epidemic is one thing, but the town having dozens of deaths, and slowly being repopulated by pale people who only work at night, you'd think they'd be at least a little suspicious.

Comic Books Edit

  • The usual citizens of the Marvel and DC universes do not usually react to people using superpowers or flying around in costumes. After all, after some decades of ongoing continuity, it would not be realistic to expect them to keep pointing "it's a bird, it's a plane..." The exception is when there is a severe fight or destruction: people that keeps shopping while Terrax or Despero destroy the buildings some meters away would be too much. Another exception (or not) is when the characters go back in time; the unusual overreactions to superheros make it even more clear that they are not "at home".
  • Many of Jhonen Vasquez's works such as Invader Zim and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac make prolific use of this trope (using it as a running gag most of the time).
    • Whatever malign force makes Johnny insane also prevents him from having his crimes seen. This is lampshaded in the story.
      • Squee takes place in the same universe and the citizens react the same way. Also, there are a few non-Johnny stories in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac where strange things happen and no one seems to care much.
  • Hitman from DC comics, starring Tommy Monaghan (not the bald dude). He is utterly truthful with his initial romantic interest, who simply thinks he's being charming. She does not take it well when she discovers that he really does kill people (only bad ones though) for cash.
  • Sin City citizens generally don't care if someone like Marv turns someone into a bloody mess right in front of them.
  • This is the reason Rorschach became a costume vigilante in Watchmen.

Film Edit

  • In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman regularly confesses to being a Serial Killer, just to see if anyone is listening. They almost never are, and if they are they think he's joking. It is however hinted that he just imagines at least some of the killings.
    • It's also hinted that he really is killing people, but the people around him don't mind, covering it up for their own gain.
  • In the second Men in Black movie, Will Smith is thrown through the window of a New York Subway train and immediately starts shouting at everyone to evacuate. The passengers ignore him until a giant toothed alien monster bites a chunk off the carriage. Later after he mind-wipes them, he starts chewing them out about this, realizes he's screwing up the mind-wipe and starts over.
  • Done to both funny and scary effect in Ghostbusters, when Louis is cornered by the Terror Dog outside a restaurant. Everyone ignores his pleas to be let in, then just watches as the dog drags him off before going back to their meals. Ivan Reitman really gets a laugh out of the scene on the DVD commentary, calling it "a New York moment."
  • In Kick-Ass, Dave Lizewski states that the reason he became a superhero is because he couldn't stand by as a man got attacked while everyone just watched.

 Kick-Ass: Three assholes, laying into one guy while everyone else watches? And you want to know what's wrong with me?

  • In Last Action Hero, the main antagonist is a criminal from a stereotypical movie universe where the good guys always win and the bad guys never kill innocent bystanders while on the rampage. When he finds himself in the real world late one night he asks a random bystander for some help "testing a theory." When the bystander approaches he pulls out a gun and shoots him dead, then loudly announces "I've just killed a man!" To which someone angrily hollers back from the windows overhead for him to shut up so they can sleep. The villain is overjoyed.
  • Pick a disaster movie. Any one. Chances are, whatever country/town/area is going to be hit by a tidal wave or storm or what have you will completely ignore the multiple warnings of the Only Sane Man, to the point of getting annoyed by said warnings. And then, of course, they almost all die.
  • Gloriously averted in the film version of Angels and Demons when a group of tourists saves the fourth of the Preferiti from drowning.
  • At the beginning of The Dark Knight The Joker finishes off his first display of talent by having a school bus drive into the bank and then pull out in the middle of a a group of them, in broad daylight, on a busy street. The only reaction of the people on the street that the audience is able to notice is a bunch of kids cheering.
    • Later on, Batman has to literally plow through an alleyway of parked cars on his Batpod. Two kids in the alleyway pretending to shoot guns at the cars watch as the cars really do start blowing up. One seems amazed but not frightened, while the other smiles.
  • In The Howling, several people watch a woman transform into a werewolf on live TV and pass it off as special effects, not really caring enough to look into the matter further.
  • In The Matrix, most people in the streets have no standard reaction in many unusual situations. Of course, it's because their minds are part of a computer program.

Literature Edit

  • The Harlan Ellison story "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" plays on and ultimately subverts the trope. Witnesses to a Kitty Genovese-like (see the Real Life section) murder aren't simply indifferent or paralyzed. They're members of a Religion of Evil taking part in a sacrifice.
  • The inhabitants of the Castle in Septimus Heap rarely care about even plot-critical and Castle-spanning events like the Supreme Custodian taking over the Castle.

Live Action TV Edit

  • Doctor Who, to excess. The new series, being run by fans of the original series who were likely frustrated by this trope, takes great efforts to avert it, most notably having London completely evacuated for Christmas because the city was attacked by aliens the previous two Christmas.
  • It seems like the background characters on Lost don't give a tiny rat's rear about the monster, the Others, the sky turning purple, or any of the other weird stuff that happens on Craphole Island. They just want to eat Dharma products and lie on the beach. They don't even want to build an SOS sign or play ping-pong.
    • The severe lack of 'island savvy' is commented upon by some of the characters, who then go off later and do exactly what they warned other people not to do. Basically, not wander through the jungle alone because there be monsters. Of course, the characters are aware they should not even be alive in the first place (it was a nasty crash) but still...
  • Lampshaded on Lexx:

 Kai: I have observed that the residents of the various cities on Water suffer from -- or perhaps, benefit from -- a certain complacency in relation to the potential dangers they face. They seem to live for the minute, in a kind of continuum, and will likely show no interest in our problem.

  • In the Burn Notice episode False Flag, Michael saves a woman from being hit by a car, but nobody else in the street even reacts.
  • In an episode of Mash, Hawkeye, in attempting to demonstrate the apathy of the camp, makes a bet with Trapper that he could walk into lunch stark naked and no one would notice. He was only foiled because a soldier did notice and dropped his tray loudly enough to get people's attention.
  • In Star Trek, this is argubably the entire Federation in a nutshell. We never get any indication that the citizens have any problem with Starfleet seeming to go out of its way to seek out new life and new civilisations and piss them off. With how often Trek villains state their end goal is to destroy the Federation (Earth in particular), you'd think there would be some opposition from the people on Federation worlds that will be razed due to Starfleet's actions? Do the people have any say in things?
    • When the Maquis protested their colonies were given to the Cardassians without their consent, they were denounced as terrorists, rounded up and imprisoned as enemies of the state. As shown in "Non Sequitur" even talking to a known member of the Maquis and looking up certain information on a public database, is enough to get someone slapped with an ankle bracelet.
    • As "Paradise Lost" shows, it takes very little for Starfleet to become a full-blown police-state in the name of Federation security, although this time, the people do notice the armed personnel on every street corner.

Music Edit

  • The citizens in The Protomen's albums are this across both acts.

Truth in Television Edit

  • There's actually far more Truth in this Trope than you might think. Contrary to the "we don't want to create a panic" cliche, most people tend to under-react to warnings of danger. Freezing is a far more common response than panic.
  • Editor Maxwell Perkins once showed up at a literary party with the aim of proving that no one ever listened to each other at said parties. This he accomplished by, upon meeting the hostess, saying, "Sorry I'm late, it took longer than expected to strangle my aunt." The hostess' answer? "Oh, of course. So nice of you to come."
    • A similar, probably apocryphal, story is told of Franklin D. Roosevelt, said to have started telling dignitaries in a receiving line "I strangled my grandmother this morning." In some versions of the tale, a particularly astute British diplomat responds, "I'm sure she had it coming, Mr. President."
  • The case of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death near her home in New York in 1964 is often treated as an example of this. The media reported that thirty-eight witnesses saw the crime, but nobody called the police. The truth is much more complicated (here the event is discussed in detail.) Nevertheless, it inspired the investigation of the phenomenon, called bystander effect.
  • Eliot Aronson, an eminent psychologist cites another, lesser-known case of a woman called Eleanor Bradley in his book The Social Animal after mentioning Genovese. Bradley, while shopping on the Fifth Avenue, fell and broke her leg; she lied on the street for forty minutes, and people just passed her by until somebody finally helped. Aronson suggests that an important factor in this case was that people were able to leave the situation. He cites an experiment where someone pretended to faint in a subway car; he received help in 95% of the cases.
  • In one of his routines, Australian comedian Adam Hills described being caught in a delay on the London Underground: Several tubes had to be stopped for at least three quarters of an hour, due to a possible bomb scare. not long after the 2005 bombings. The commuters' reactions? Mild annoyance at the delay.

 Adam Hills: England is the only country that attempts to fight the war on terror using boredom.

    • Irish comedian Dara O'Briain tells a similar joke in regards to both the July London Bombings and the London Olympics:

 Dara O'Briain: The city reacted in a phenomenally London way; The entire place went Oh my God, there's a bomb on the Piccadilly Line [pause] well, I can get the Victoria line... The two things happened one day after the other; the announcement of the Olympics and then the bombs going off; the 6th and the 7th and the reaction, essentially, from Londoners was the same: an incredible piece of news, but how am I supposed to get home!

  • Similarly, Israel is sometimes referred to as the only country in the world, where a group of young men with machine guns can walk into a bank and they're expected to wait in line. Subverted, in that they have to be uniformed soldiers (due to universal conscription there's quite a few of them running about the place).
    • Israel has its occasional inversions of this trope. Upon seeing a situation that can be resolved with application of overwhelming force (such as say, a terrorist attack involving something other than a suicide bomber), off duty soldiers that just so happened to be in the area have been known to intervene with lethal efficiency.
    • Not as true today. Certain high security areas such as the airport are a no gun zone for people other than the security personnel. Movie theaters prohibit entry with rifles. Alcohol serving locations typically prohibit entry with any weapon. Also, handgun licenses are in a steady decline as they are not renewed except for people with valid reasons. This doesn't make Israel a gun free zone, but it is a far cry from even 20 years ago,
  • Colonel David Hackworth mentions in his autobiography About Face that a newspaper in the US deliberately printed the same front page article on the Korean War three days in a row. If anyone noticed, no-one bothered to write in and complain.
    • One newspaper accidentally ran the same horoscopes every day for over a month before anyone noticed.
  • During periods of history before the advent of the fire department, it was often said that if one so happened to be a victim of a crime in need of aid, the best course of action would not be yelling the likes of Help!, Assault!, Rape! or whatnot, but instead shout out Fire!. People could be very apathetic when it comes to the plight of others, but fire has the added chance of spreading and doing damage to someone else, making it more likely that people would come to your aid, and end up intervening because they've already spent the effort to make their way over.
    • this troper learned in some what-to-do-when-you-see-a-crime educational programme that if you are attacked, you should scream 'fire!' and not 'help, I am being attacked/murdered/raped!' because if there is a fire, you maybe can help extinguish it. but if there is something worse going on, you will think twice before coming to help.
  • People used to think of this of the people of Modern Egypt, citing 5,000 years of precedent. And then came 25 January 2011...
    • Said 5000 years were mostly ruled by people considering themselves (and by the people) God's emissaries on Earth (and if you remember, Europeans tend to have the same kind of apathy regarding people like this, until the 18th century waves of revolutions). This was just one man, aided by the Americans, in an Arab country. Completely different situation if you think about it.
  • This trope is one (but not the only) of the causes of the Karma Houdini existence in Real Life, because is far easier to do nothing and just whine about bad people instead of trying to do something about them.

 Albert Einstein: The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

  • Averted in the case of Brandon Wright; the Utah motorcyclist ended up trapped beneath a burning car after a collision. A dozen strangers came over and worked together to lift the car, pull him to safety, and fetch fire extinguishers.
  • This trope is sadly common in child abuse cases. Many times, a neighbor or even a relative, sometimes more than one, will report knowing that the abuse was happening and even say they actually wanted to do something. This is after the child is dead.
  • When someone is gravely injured or are in some dire situation, there have been reported cases of witnesses simply walking by and ignoring the person that needs help. While a small portion of this is from true apathy, other people pretend to be apathetic since some areas are not protected under the Good Samaritan law, which protects the person helping someone else from liability. This can cause people to think "If I am going to get sued because I accidentally injured the person more while trying to help them, then why should I help them in the first place?"
    • Apathetic citizens are also a common sight in crime heavy cities and towns. If someone were to get shot and the victim lies in the gutter bleeding in a pool of blood, people may just walk by and ignore them, fearing whoever attacked the victim may go after them for trying to save the person's life.
  • The latest case in point is the death of Wang Yue, a two-year-old Chinese girl, who wandered away from her home and was hit by a van on a busy street. 18 people passed her by, before somebody stopped to help. The event was recorded on closed-circuit television (warning: shocking and somewhat graphic footage) Previously, there have been incidents in China where "Good Samaritans" who helped people injured in accidents were accused of having injured the victim themselves.

Video Games Edit

  • Many Baldur's Gate citizens are aware that the world's going to hell right now (again), but nobody seems to be arsed to do a thing about it. Also, people who lose things, have their friends kidnapped, or just plain want to investigate strange happenings, are quite content to wait around and wait for you to do the job yourself, or at best, wait for you to talk to them before heading on their quest with you in tow.
    • The second game handles most of the quests a bit better, especially the class-specific/stronghold quests: it's not that the citizens are apathetic, and in fact, there's more than a few people trying to do things about the problems, but they're level 1 nobodies and know it, so they're not about to look into it themselves. They'd much rather hire the roving band of god-like mercenaries.
  • Knights of the Old Republic has plenty of this from the Muggles, but it's Justified to the point of Deconstruction, especially in the second game, by the fact that the Force Users are dragging everyone else into their conflict (not for the first time, and certainly not for the last), and many don't see much of a difference between Jedi and Sith. As one character puts it, both factions are "Men and women with too much power, arguing over religion while the rest of us burn."
  • The Black Omen in Chrono Trigger is a flying obsidian battlestation. Once it starts having been around millennia in the past, in the present it has been floating around for generations without doing anything, so there would be no reason to expect it to do anything now. Characters forecast weather by it.
  • City of Villains often plays this straight. Civilians often completely ignore the antics of supervillains and various groups. Gameplay wise, normal civilians are totally invulnerable, and since random superpowered public battles go on all the time ... by this point, it's little more than street theater for them.
    • In City of Heroes, though, pedestrians who get too close to enemies often cringe and run back the way they came.
    • The apathy is even more apparent if one tries to talk to the civilians. Rogue Islanders are rather dismissive of supervillainy, to the point of being Deadpan Snarkers! ("Let me guess. You're the Dark Something or Other.")
    • Prime Example of this: During a Deadly Apocalypse special event (which is heralded by thick fog, dramatic music, and the sudden appearance of ominous banners throughout the zone), Paragon Citizens will run for cover. Islanders? Don't even react.
  • Dungeon Siege II: Broken World hits the "reallllly pessimistic" part right on the head. A lot of the Elves go on pessimistic monologues that would make a Goth or a Nietzsche Wannabe proud. There is a good reason for it, though; they no longer have visions and the Familiars easily decimated them.
  • Pokémon. And how. A crime syndicate takes over our city? Cults attempt to flood and/or dry out the world? Some god-wannabe tries to restart all of creation? No problem, I'm sure some kid will take care of it for us.
    • Emerald Version takes the cake: the weather's gone to hell, two ancient titans are intent on destroying one another, Hoenn and possibly the entire world are in jeopardy...and that kid in Mossdeep is still rambling on about the rock Steven gave him. Whoop-dee-freaking-doo, now evacuate before your island floods.
      • But at least most of the people in that area seemed worried, and their doors were locked.
      • In Platinum, people seem worried too... if they're in the area. This trait is carried on from Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald.
    • It's not exactly a world destroying disaster type of event, but surely I can't be the only one who's always REALLY pissed of about the fact that when you become Champion hardly anyone acknowledges the fact? It's made even more ridiculous by the fact that the Elite Four and Champion are treated as celebrities and mentioned many times before you challenge them. Even worse, the Champions continue to act as Champions when you are the Champion.
      • Even, even worse in Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen where you get to challenge the Elite Four post-game, but their Pokémon teams have changed slightly and leveled up. Guess what? Your rival is Champion. Again. When does he become Champion? Basically right after you kick his ass the first time. So that leaves a tiny window of possible recognition for you to become the Champion. And after you beat him, he'll always be Champion again when you fight the Elite Four for shits and giggles after the second time. Does he have to fight you for the title? Nope. But you have to fight him.
    • Lampshaded in Pokémon Black and White; at one point N suggests that if everybody else in Unova cared about their Pokemon half as much as you do, he wouldn't have a cause, but they don't, so he does.
    • Somewhat subverted in Pokémon XD, where people do express concern about Cipher rising to power again (they were running the show in Colosseum, for Arceus' sake, and the common folk do have a right to be worried as a result). They also have a good idea what they can do about it, just like before (it starts with Jack...).
  • In a combination of the Giant Meteor in the Sky and the Clownish Madman trying to destroy the world, the premise of The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask has the possessed Skull Kid bringing the Moon down on Termina. Reactions range from "Gee, the moon's getting bigger..." to plans in a Bomb Shop for trying to GET to said moon using bombs. Even the Mask Salesman who starts you on your journey doesn't do anything himself, only shaking you if you go back to him without the titular mask.
    • (To be fair, he knows EXACTLY what to do about it. He also knows he can't do anything to help.)
    • The entire series is filled with civilians who are surprisingly okay with Link walking right into their houses and breaking their jars to take what's inside, although those same people will, on occasion, demand repayment for breaking down their door...
    • And let's be fair: in the last six hours before the crash, everyone's finally gotten off their behinds to start rioting/crying/expecting imminent death. Rather sudden after 66 hours of apathy, but at least they finally showed some emotion.
    • Possibly Justified in that there ARE people screaming at the mayor to get everyone out of the city. Others don't want people panicking and urge him to continue with the festival. The people are planning to go to the ranch to avoid the problem. People are freaked and either have no idea what to do or come up with very inadequate plans. Kafei and most of the other side quest stuff... not so much. Hey, my girlfriend is going to be crushed by a gigantic grinning rock, can you help me get this mask back?
    • Essentially, the people aren't really apathetic, but are in denial. On the third day when it's made abundantly clear that the moon will fall, they break. The sidequest stuff could also be explained by most of the people being aware that evacuating the town isn't going to save them, so they want to put their affairs in order and enjoy what little time they have left.
  • Zelda II the Adventure of Link had something of a mix.
    • Plenty of people were willing to help Link, but sometimes required strange tasks. Getting one key spell for example, required getting water for a woman when the fountain was the next screen over. Another complained about a trophy being stolen and required its return to get the spell. Clearly there are more important things?
    • Also, the random townspeople were a mixed bag. Some of them were clearly worried with phrases like "You must save Hyrule!" and "Please save our town!". Others expressed "I am much too busy to talk to a stranger" or "I know nothing".
  • Elsewhere in the Zelda universe, in The Minish Cap, Princess Zelda gets turned to stone, and nobody in town gives a shit. In fact, all they ever seem to give a toss about is how strange the King is acting - by which time you'll probably have seen the cut-scene that explains it. Oh, and Kinstones. They LOVE Kinstones.
    • And in Twilight Princess, nobody seems to notice that their beloved Queen Zelda has disappeared. They don't even talk about her all that much or even when Hyrule Castle is surrounded by an impenetrable bubble. And when the city is first filled with darkness, they WATCH the castle BURN and don't seem to really care! To paraphrase Midna: "This city is full of idiots!"
  • In the MMORPG Lord of the Rings Online, a number of NPCs were constantly moaning about how terrible things were. This was later changed to make them less unhappy.
  • In Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, the people of North Korea have become so desensitized to the constant shifts in government and the daily assortment of air raids, artillery barrages, mafia killings, and armored offensives that they won't even blink when a heavily armed mercenary rumbles past with a stolen tank.
    • This shows up in Mercenaries 2: World in Flames as well. Most Venezuelan civilians will keep on driving down the road, even when there is a large running gunfight between mercenaries, People's Liberation Army of Venezuela, the Venezuelan Army, the Chinese Army, and the Allied Nations roaring down the road towards them. However, an interesting aversion sometimes occurs when civilian pedestrians in the major cities run screaming in terror from the various bombing runs and gunfights occurring within city limits.
  • Played painfully straight in Sonic Unleashed. The entire world has been torn apart, an Eldritch Abomination is wreaking havoc at night, and Eggman is being uncharacteristically menacing, yet the only townspeople to show appropriate concern or despair are revealed to be possessed by the aforementioned Eldritch Abomination. It's a little bit creepy finding people completely aware of the grim state of the world, yet much more concerned with mundane problems.
    • Perhaps Justified by all the shit that's happened before. Angel island periodically crashes into either the sea or a nearby continent, giant robots (and in one case, an Eldritch Abomination known as Chaos) regularly attack the city of Station Square, a large chunk of the moon is missing from that one time Eggman got his hands on a Wave Motion Gun, there was that alien invasion a few years back... at this point, they've probably stopped caring.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, at one point, an entire planet appears overhead. The two planets are mere miles away from each other, and it turns the sky a bright shade of purple. However, no one seems to be upset that another world is placed so close to theirs, except for one college student, who worries that it might mess up his senior thesis.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, a similar premise takes place when the Adephagos is introduced into the world. Despite it being blatantly obvious in its eventual destruction of the world, the populace, for the most part, doesn't look like they care much. However, this is changed when the guilds, Knights, and everyone else joins together to destroy blastia in the hopes of bringing change to the world.
  • Averted in the Wrath of the Lich King Expansion Pack for World of Warcraft, where you gather weapons and otherwise help a group of farmers rise up to battle an undead invasion. It's even the farmers' idea.
  • While the citizen of Empire City will easily notice Cole and act accordingly to his Karma rating in In Famous, they have the annoying habit of just standing around while you're duking it out with street gangs and giant robots. While not much of an inconvenience if you're playing as a villain, in which case you can just blast everything in sight, be it villain or civilian, it gets particularly annoying when playing as a hero, and you can't use any of your stronger powers because twenty damn old ladies are between you and baddies.
    • Actually they are not as apathetic as most other sandbox games in many cases, sure, they run amok and get in your line of fire most of the time, but as you play the game they become less fitting for this category as you go on, they might aid you by stoning the baddies to death for you, or the other way around where they might try to stone YOU to death if you're evil(some balls they've got). Anyway, outside of the battle fields they do react as you'd expect people would react in the events of a military quarantine after a large explosion and is trapped with a not so deadly plague.
  • Angband, Moria, and some other Roguelikes partially follow this trope. There's a deep dungeon with the world Ultimate Evil at the bottom, but there's a happy town with merchants all too willing to make a buck off the hero. Though to be fair, it's possible the town has sprung up because of the opportunities in selling equipment to would-be adventurers who promptly get themselves killed, thus ensuring a nice buyback policy once it's "found".
  • In the ending of Metal Gear Solid 2, despite having a massive weapon smash through a large portion of New York, much of the citizens in the background simply carry about their business, and the only ones who seem to even notice the damage are the police. Although only a handful are present. Then again, this is easily the least of the ending's realism problems.
  • In Phantasy Star IV, late in the game, the people of Piata are worried about what will happen to their city when they find out that a huge hole has opened up in the earth north of them and all life around it is dying inexplicably, including killing everyone in Mile, a nearby village. They don't do anything about it. I should point out that Piata is called the Town Of Learning because it's the only place in the solar system with a university, and the world's smartest people live there. It does have a notable aversion, though, see below.
  • By late in the game Prototype, most of Manhattan is a warzone between Alex Mercer, the US Marine Corps and Shadowy Government Conspiracy, and the Infected. However, in many areas, traffic is going normally, and people are casually strolling down the streets, right up until Mercer shows up while using any of his visible powers, or the Infected start spreading again. Then they panic. They should know better by now.
    • For a given value of "visible powers", which is to say his aggressive ones. Want to run straight up the side of a building, glide over to the other side of the street, then land so hard you crack the pavement? Nobody will bat an eye. Not even the military personnel who are supposed to be on the lookout for you.
      • Of course, that may be less apathy/cluelessness, and more savvyness: the guards/pedestrians are hoping that if they pretend they don't see you, you won't murder them horribly and eat their corpse.
  • Hitman usually averts this, with civilians screaming and running at any sign of danger. But the last mission of Contracts hands you a blatant example- you can literally mug a paramedic for his clothes with a half-dozen civilians standing five feet away, looking directly at you. It doesn't raise the alarm at all.
  • The Godfather game is weird about this; sure, there's Crowd Panic should you be seen with a gun, or get involved in a gunfight, or crash into something... but if you use your car's horn to try and get them out of the way when you're speeding to somewhere, they don't care. Perhaps a case of Truth in Television?
  • A programming error in a scene from Final Fantasy VIII causes a crowd to clap and cheer as the Big Bad kills their president in front of them and then explains how she's going to kill all of them.
    • Not a programming error. They're intentionally clapping. They're happy because she's mind-controlling them, and because she just killed their much hated president not a minute before.
    • Given the nature of the Galbadian populace, it depends on what you mean by programming.
  • Final Fantasy VII have the people in the slums practically not care what happens around them or above them on the upper plate. When sector 7 gets destroyed because of a piece of the upper plate falls on it, several of the NPCs are either mildly surprised or are disgruntled that the destruction caused them an inconvenience.
  • Ironically, the citizens in Persona 3 act this way toward Apathy Syndrome victims. People with Apathy Syndrome can't talk or move, so if they're stuck outside, they can easily become dehydrated or get heat stroke. Though, it seems that most people you speak to are too creeped out to get near a victim or can't even be bothered to help. One student even admitted to taking pictures of every victim he saw and sending them to his friends.
  • Decidedly averted in Metal Walker. While the majority of the citizens don't have Mons to help, they know a lot of what's going on and freely share information with you, telling you where places are on the world map. in the very beginning of the game, a citizen even saves your character's life!
  • In Dgeneration, while some of the people you rescue may give you advise, most just wait for you to lead them to the exit.
  • In Zettai Hero Project the citizens are very very Genre Savvy. Presumably they are so used to world ending threats that they don't really care that there's a rampaging Final Boss threatening to destroy the entire world, reasoning that the world's most popular hero The Unlosing Ranger will stop him. The event is even televised as a media sensation. When the Ranger dies and the torch is passed to a weak bystander who gets killed in one shot, they still don't care. Reaches legendary proportions when a nuke threatens to destroy Japan in 20 minutes, and nobody can stop it besides the weak bystander. Do they gain faith in him? Hell no, surely someone else besides that loser will save them.
  • Oblivion suffers from this. Especially the rulers of the cities and the empire. To give you an idea, at the climax of the main story there is a demonic invasion about to occur outside one of the most important imperial cities. If the battle and the city are lost, the empire will basically fall as the demons would have a clean march to the heart of the empire. So your character goes around trying to muster support for the coming invasion. If you do everything perfectly (taking over an hour per city), you'll be assisted by...14 standard city guards. Not 14 guards per city. 14 guards total. To top things off, the capital of the empire can't send any troops at all because: "They are too busy protecting the borders". Priorities seem skewed...
    • Not to mention that during the main part of the game there are Oblivion Gates open all over the land, constantly pouring demons out of them, and no one outside of the main quest line line seems overly concerned about that.
  • In the old FPS/RPG Strife, neither the peasants or Order troops pay attention to the heavily armed man wandering around town. Not even when the facilities he enters suffer from gun fights and destruction shortly after. You can also shoot villagers with poison arrows and stab them to death in plain sight of their friends or allies and most of the time they won't even move. However, acolytes will attack you if kill other acolytes.
  • Totally averted in the Europa Universalis series, where if your subjects have reasons to revolt (nationalism, religious differences, etc.) THEY WILL. To many players' annoyance.
  • Played straight in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, where the citizens of Crimea, at least in Port Toha, explicitly state that they don't care that their country is being overrun, though they're aware of it. Oddly, citizens of the antagonist country Daein seem quite passionate when the protagonists overrun their country.
  • The absolute crowning example of this trope is in the execrable Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. Early on in the game you find yourself impeded by a large door which won't be opened without authorization from the captain of the police force, but the officer who tells you this won't just tell you where to find the captain; apparently, the best use of their time was to devise silly little Knights and Knaves games meant to impede people trying to save the princess. The worst part[1] is that, when you finally locate the captain, he basically tells you they gave you the runaround because they just really didn't feel like helping you save their beloved monarch.
  • Played straight and subverted in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Many of the toads in the game show some level of concern over the outbreak of Blorbs and at least notice the disappearance of everyone in Peach's castle, but none of them are actually willing to do anything about it. That said, when things land right in their lap, most of them are plenty willing to scream and panic (i.e. when Bowser grows several stories and has a Godzilla-style throwdown with a Humongous Mecha formed using Peach's castle).
  • The citizens of OsTown and Mean Street in Epic Mickey. The world is nothing but a dangerous, toxic, dark, forsaken wasteland, Death machines and murderous predators made of ink waiting around just for a chance to slit their throats or taking their souls, the world is ruled by Cthulhu's long lost cousin and a Mad Scientist with an amputation fetish, their former king is losing his grip of reality due to bitterness, jealousy, grief and loneliness, and the most famous star in animation history is running around either trying to save the world or playing Grand Theft Auto Disney-style on them and they all walk around with big smiles and happy faces and says they've no problems in the world and just ask you to deliver their mails or bring them flowers or something.
  • In Super Mario Sunshine, the citizens have the shine sprites needed to get the island sunny again! No points to guessing what they do with them. Hint: They have Mario do everything for them instead of pooling them in or just giving them to Mario.
  • Played so straight in a section of Fallout: New Vegas that one wonders if it was deliberate. A meeting with a contact turns bloody in the Ultra-Luxe Hotel spa, eliciting absolutely zero reaction from the nearby people who are dipping in the pool. It actually makes the place creepier than it already is.
  • Dragon Age II takes this trope up to twelve. The citizens of Kirkwall don't seem to notice or care that the city's most famous resident, a rogue wizard, the captain of the guard, and a pirate are getting into massive, bloody battles in residential neighborhoods.

Web Comics Edit

  • Most of the citizenry of Generictown in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob. Then again, considering how smartness-impaired many of them are, getting them actively involved in the town's weirdnesses would probably only make things worse.

Web Original Edit

  • In Kickassia, the civilian populace of Molossia (read: the president's family) react to all news about the state of their homeland with an uninterested hum, without even taking their eyes off their magazines.
    • Until the very end, when one of the president's children looks up from his magazine and says, "What?"

Western Animation Edit

  • Every inhabitant of the Neutral Planet from Futurama seems unable to process enough emotion to be afraid of imminent disaster.
    • Beware the mighty and softly-calling Beige Alert.
    • "If I don't survive, tell my wife... 'Hello.'"
  • Pinky and The Brain: "I'm really a lab mouse trying to take over the world."
    • The only time anyone shows any genuine interest in this statement is when he's trying to get employed at a large corporation, since it technically qualifies him as a minority and thus helps them fill hiring quotas.
  • Strange example from The Mask animated series. It had an episode where Stanley became an astronaut. When his space shuttle is about to crash, the people panicked except for one guy who simply walked away uninterested with his arms crossed.
  • Played for Laughs in episode of Darkwing Duck, "Stressed to Kill" where the people seemed apathetic to the crimes. On the top of that, they eventually allowed themselves to be robbed by Quackerjack and Megavolt. It is because they make them relaxed.

 Darkwing: What is with you people?! The city's been robbed blind and you act like nothing's happening!

Citizen: So, like, what's your point?

  • One episode of one of the Care Bears television series had the eponymous characters and their cousins visit a literally gray town filled with apathetic people who didn't care about the miserable state of their surrounding or the kind actions offered. It's later revealed to be a Fisher Kingdom under the spell of a nearby gem, causing the the Care bears and their cousins to slowly lose their color and become increasingly non-caring. In the end, it is destroyed just before the characters succumb to its effects and everything becomes happy and cheerful again.
  • An episode of Beetlejuice had the eponymous ghoul and Lydia visit a cursed town which disappears for eternity as soon as all its inhabitants fall asleep. Everyone who is not dozing is constantly drowsy and forgetful as a result of the curse's effects.
  • Happens in an episode of Lilo and Stitch: The Series, where the cast from Recess Cross Overed into Lilo and Stitch's universe for a vacation in their Hawaiian island hometown. One of Stitch's "cousins" activated to cause havoc is a parrot-like experiment named Lax who had the ability to fire green rays from his antenna that caused anything it hits to relax or stop working. When Pleakley, Jumba, and Stitch get zapped by the lazy beam, they all go on vacation, forcing Lilo to rely on her new friends to stop the experiment so they can use it to deactivate Hamsterviel's latest destructive weapon. As Lax dwindles down their numbers, all but Lilo and The Smart Guy Gretchen are left to stop the latest threat. When Lax's beams hit Gretchen, she acts unaffected as her Workaholic personality allows her to derive relaxation and satisfaction from her work. Through improvisation, they use their affected friend's vacation play to catch the experiment, deactivating the destructive machine and finding Lax's one true place where he belongs by using his powers to make grouchy business people enjoy their vacations.

Notes

  1. Aside from the fact that the captain is the guy who gives you the "find the captain" mission, or, in other words, the guy standing right next to the door you want open.

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