Don't Look Down

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"Everybody looks down when you tell them not to look down, do you know that?!"
Bill Rago (Danny DeVito), Renaissance Man

A Stock Phrase you have certainly heard a million times. Insert in nearly any situation where the characters have to traverse some area where the penalty for a misstep or equipment failure is a one way trip courtesy of gravity. Or, they're hanging over such an area by their fingernails or a very unsteady rope, branch or other dubious support. "Just stay calm, and don't look down" or some variant is uttered.

Why? Because you really don't want to know what's down there.

However, sometimes the person won't listen and they will look down anyway. Cue Freak-Out. A massive source of Schmuck Bait.

When invoked in a comedy or an animated work, may lead to the realization that Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress... two seconds before you start falling.

Plummet Perspective describes one of the things that might happen if the character does look down.


Examples of Don't Look Down include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Inverted in The Castleof Cagliostro: Lupin tells Clarisse to look down in order to calm her so she realizes they're hanging several hundred feet in the air from a thin line and screaming and flailing at the strange man holding her is a really bad idea.
  • Inverted in a different manner in an episode of Slayers. The gang is clinging to a rope across a chasm, and Filia tells Gourry to not look up. This is because he's holding on to her legs and she's wearing a dress.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Back to The Future Part III: Doc to Clara.
  • Dumbo: Timothy Mouse to the title character.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Frodo to Sam.
    • Also done humorously in the third film when Aragorn tells Gimli not to look down because they were walking on skulls.
  • The Poseidon Adventure (1972) - Reverend Scott to Linda Rogo.
  • War of the Worlds (2005): Ray Ferrier
  • Shrek says this to Donkey as they're crossing the rope bridge to Dragon's castle. When Donkey looks down and freaks out, Shrek teases him and has a good laugh about it.

Donkey: Shrek, I'm looking down! Aaaaah!!!!!

  • Used hilariously in The Incredibles: Helen and Jack-Jack are falling, with the huge explosion above them, and Helen reassures Jack-Jack in this way.
  • The quote from Renaissance Man above, when Bill Rago is about to rappel down the large victory tower.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In So You Want To Be A Wizard, precognitive macaw Macchu Picchu offers Nita and Kit three pieces of advice: don't be afraid to make corrections, don't be afraid to lend a hand, and don't look down.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Neverwhere: The Marquis de Carabas says this to Richard, who, predictably, doesn't listen.

Music[edit | hide]

  • The 80s music group Go West has the trope as the title as well as the lyrics:

Don't look down, girl! (Don't look down!)
You know you're holding aces

Don't look down, girl! (Don't look down!)
Don't give the game away!

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Shadow the Hedgehog: Eggman says it to Shadow when he passes through a Chao room.
  • During the sequence on the outside of the Shadow Broker's ship in Mass Effect 2, Liara mistakenly looks down and then tells herself not to.
  • Portal 2: It seems that the older parts of the Aperture Science facility are full of fathomless drops, and when Wheatley is carried over one of them by Chell, he says this to her. She doesn't react, naturally, but he immediately takes his own Schmuck Bait and regrets it - twice.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Elan: Woooooo! Wind Walk is the best cleric spell ever!!!
Durkon: Dinnae look down, dinnae look down, dinnae look down...

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Yakko: Now don't look down.
Wakko: Do you get vertigo?
Yakko: No.
Wakko: Me neither.
Yakko: Yeah, I watched that movie six times and I still don't get it.

Lenny (on the ladder; panicking): Whatever you do, don't look down! I mean up! I can't do this anymore! It's too confusing! (falls to his death)
Carl: It's not that confusing.