"Beware of fainting-fits... though at the time they may be refreshing and agreeable, yet believe me: they will, in the end, if too often repeated and at improper seasons, prove destructive to your constitution."
—Jane Austen, Love and Friendship
If people in Real Life actually do faint when presented with a shocking development, it is an extremely rare occurrence. So rare that you may not have actually ever seen anywhere but on TV or in the movies.
Fainting in fiction usually takes one or more of the following forms:
- The Corset Faint - One of the oldest forms of the trope hanging around from the late unlamented days of the corset, when women were a deep-inhalation away from being cut in twain.
- While not specifically being a faint per se, the phenomenon where a delicate Southern Belle responds to a dramatic situation by declaring, "Ah do believe ah have the Vapours!" serves much the same purpose as a Corset Faint. It shows the fragility and delicateness of the heroine, done purposely as a theatrical ploy by the heroine or as an excuse to remove herself from a dramatic situation. By the way, "the vapours" are just a fancy, euphemistic name for "intestinal gas."
- Girly Man Faint - Occurs when a male character—usually the most cowardly member of the cast—is confronted with a nameless horror which causes him to faint dead away, sometimes letting out a little girly scream. Almost exclusively played for comedy.
- Anemia Faint - An affliction which seems to strike a very high proportion of Japanese shoujo heroines, causing them to black out at inopportune times and thus, give their love interests a convenient excuse to hold them and act all manly and protective. This is also true for people who have recently been Kissed by a vampire.
- Truth in Television to an extent. This is why you get an iron test when you give blood and the necessary threshold is set above what counts as anemic - you can faint while giving even if your iron is only slightly down. It's also one of the reasons why the nice folks at the donation center tell you not to do any heavy exercise for the next 12 hours.
- Hypotension: - Blood may be healthy and sufficient, but if the rest of circulatory system fails to deliver enough of it to the brain, the result is much the same: hypoxia and fainting (syncope). Often this does not reach full unconsciousness, but stops at temporary dizziness and/or darkened vision, however.
- Pregnancy Faint - A slightly more dramatic way than morning sickness to indicate that a female character is now expecting. In real life, fainting while pregnant, as the baby is taking the blood that the pregnant person's brain needs. It is also very rare, dizziness is more common.
- Orthostatic hypotension - When the body is standing up, it requires higher blood pressure to compensate for greater height (brain to legs), and people who take certain drugs or just aren't quite healthy often find out that heart and blood vessels catch up a little too slowly. Dizziness of this sort is a fairly common side effect of anything that can lower blood pressure, and as long as it goes away in a second or two, rarely becomes a serious problem (compared to risk of stroke or aneurysm from high pressure).
- Fake Faint - A character pretends to lose consciousness in order to create a distraction. Tends to overlap with Corset Faint above, although it can be done by anyone in just about any time period.
- Emotional Faint - When done well, this one can be thoroughly justified - in times of extreme high emotion, people do faint. However, such extreme levels of emotion that would make it realistic are actually fairly rare. This is also the reason that Breaking Bad News Gently involves the phrase "You better sit down".
- The Monster Faint - Refers to a special subset of fainting that is rarely played straight these days, but was a big staple of '50's era monster/alien movies. A young, nubile heroine sees a hideous monster (or alien or gorilla) coming towards her and she faints, usually into the approaching monster/alien/gorilla's arms. Whereas in real life, faints last only a few seconds, the Monster Faint can last several minutes, or even several hours, if the plot dictates it. The "monster carrying an unconscious girl" motif was so popular during the '50's pulp movie era that movie posters would frequently feature a monstrous creature carrying a girl, even if no such scene appeared in the movie.
Examples of Fainting include:
The Corset Faint
- This is both played straight and parodied in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Early on, Elizabeth faints from her overly-tight corset; near the end, she pretends to faint in order to distract the local guards. In the sequel, it's parodied again as she pretends to faint in an attempt to break up a fight between her current and former fiancés, and they both ignore her.
Girly Man Faint
- Sleepy Hollow: In The Movie, the 'cowardly' Ichabod Crane is the hero and can't very well show true cowardice, so he tends to stick out any dangerous situation and then pass out once it's over.
- The Cowardly Lion (naturally) does this (minus scream) when he faces The Wizard of Oz.
- Guy's girly-faint upon seeing the evil reptilian aliens for the first time in Galaxy Quest.
- Happened to love interest Pike (not to be confused with Spike from the tv series) several times over the course of the BtVS movie, to the point where it became a running gag.
- Stirling from the Kit Kittredge movie does this twice after discovering hobos.
- Captain Spaulding does this in Animal Crackers as Mrs. Rittenhouse is hailing him for fearlessly journeying through Darkest Africa.
- Done without the scream on multiple occasions by Mr. Humphries in Are You Being Served?, typically as a silent collapse into the arms of his coworkers.
- Frank from M*A*S*H had been known to do this.
- In the X Files episode "The Unnatural", Dales faints away upon seeing Exley's true alien form, and then faints again (and again, and again) when the alien revives him.
- Gomez in Addams Family Values.
- Gilligan in Gilligan's Island.
- In the Ace Attorney case "Turnabout Sisters," Phoenix faints once he sees Mia, who is dead and is the victim in the case. It's really Maya channeling Mia for the first time. Upon waking up and seeing her once more, he almost faints again. Lampshaded by Mia: "'GACK?!' Is that any way to treat your boss, Nick?"
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sokka faints (without screaming) upon seeing the pregnant woman give birth en route to Ba Sing Se.
- Timmy's dad does this regularly on The Fairly OddParents.
- In The Powerpuff Girls, the museum curator does one of these in "Monkey See, Doggy Do".
- Vernon from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- Shaggy and Scooby, frequently.
Anime and Manga
- Miki seems to suffer from this quite a bit in Marmalade Boy, giving two of her potential love interests a chance to get closer to her.
- Brutally parodied with Hyatt in Excel Saga, who has the tendency to die at random moments, only to get up a moment (or a week) later as if nothing happened.
- Nagisa in Strawberry Panic has fainted a few times in romantic scenes, apparently because Onee-Sama Shizuma's presence is just that powerful. Usually it's only for a few seconds - just long enough to be caught by another character (who, surprisingly, is not always Shizuma), or fall to her knees but recover. However, the first time kept her out long enough to be moved from the field to her room quite some distance away, and for her roommate to have watched her for long enough for it to be creepy.
- Female Ranma, in the Picolet Chardin saga of Ranma ½. Since Madame Saint-Paul does not allow her to eat at all unless she does it "properly," she loses weight at distressingly high rate. Coupled with intense speed and dexterity training, the stress this causes on her body culminates with her fainting from starvation, just as she has finally mastered the Gourmet De Fois Gras technique. The dramatic effect is ruined when, before hitting the floor, her head smacks into a watermelon, cracking it open (the watermelon, not her head.)
- Sailor Jupiter from Sailor Moon gives blood up for her injured friend earlier in the episode, and then faints while fighting. She fights through the pain to rescue Sailor Moon and defeat the youma alone.
- Yuki faints in episode 11 of Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru due to exhausting himself from healing Tsukumo.
- This happens a few times in Mahou Sensei Negima, usually to Nodoka, although once she was let in on The Masquerade, she got much better about this.
- In Magical X Miracle, Merleawe, as the shojo heroine, faints; Vaith, as the Love Interest, catches her; and Yue lampshades it.
- Yoko Tsuno Faints all the time in comic books, usually after being struck on the neck.
- Kimberly of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers has done this a time or two.
- Scully in The X-Files episode "Redux" faints in a meeting with Skinner and other FBI higher-ups after her cancer progresses to a dangerous point. She was about to tell the board who the mole was working in the FBI, and as Skinner catches her before she hits the floor, she whispers "You", implying that she believes he is the mole.
- Star Trek: The Original Series. When the effects of a Negative Space Wedgie causes members of the crew to start passing out, Kirk orders them given booster shots. McCoy is later shown injecting a line of Starfleet personnel -- who are all female. Presumably tough spacemen are not in the habit of swooning. Or maybe they're just in a separate line being injected by Nurse Chapel?
- In Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, Jasmine's briefly fainting and being caught by Umeko (not a love interest... theoretically) replaces the usual Psychic Nosebleed.
- Miho from Megatokyo has this shortly after being introduced.
- Mio Kisaragi from Tokimeki Memorial 1 has this as one of her main traits. Suffering from anemia, she can faint at any moment. When she utters the memetic words "Memai ga..." (= "I'm feeling dizzy..."), it's the signal of an impending black-out.
- In Dave, the eponymous character performs one after confessing to the President's illegal actions and exonerating the Vice President, during the joint session of Congress. It works because the President (whom he had been impersonating) had suffered a stroke earlier in the movie, and everyone present thought he'd suffered another one.
- In Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim, Bill Atkinson faints loudly and dramatically during a public lecture in order to aid the lecturer's escape. It doesn't quite work, as the lecturer (and title character) faints for real seconds after.
- Christine in Maskerade pulls this one whenever a play would call for the heroine to faint, usually Monster or Emotional Faint situations. Agnes notes with considerable scorn that she even falls in such a way as to avoid hurting herself when she lands.
- In the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Spring Dawning, when the elven princess Laurana is threatened with rape by the Dragonarmy officer Bakaris, she pretends to faint, and then when he moves in to catch her, punches him hard in the stomach.
- In Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, Gilderoy Lockhart pulls a fake faint to try to steal a wand. It works too well, though.
- Mr. Scott pulled off a brief Fake Faint to distract and help disarm an intellectually-empowered, yet still-not-all-that-bright female alien in the "Spock's Brain" episode of Star Trek: The Original Series.
- Doctor Cox does this an episode of Scrubs to "demonstrate" how boring J.D.'s story is.
"Hope that hurt."
- Used as a distraction in iCarly.
- In Frasier, Niles pretends to faint into a man's arms in the last of a long string of attempts to stop said man from throwing Frasier out of a party before he can seal an important deal vital to Niles and Frasier's latest Fawlty Towers Plot.
- In the Fawlty Towers episode "Gourmet Night", Basil is forced to introduce a man named "Twitchen" to another man who had a facial tic. He frantically tries to get out of it, and eventually pretends to faint for a moment.
- A Fake Faint also occurs in the Shakespeare play Macbeth, pulled off by Lady Macbeth in an attempt to draw suspicion away from her murdering husband. Macbeth is being asked some very awkward questions about why he killed King Duncan's supposed killers (instead of keeping them alive so they can tell who put them up to it). Her fainting diverts the attention of the questioner, and by the time everything is sorted out the king's sons have fled and Macbeth can put the blame on them.
- A ploy frequently employed in opera:
- In Act I of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Susanna tries one of these, apparently to get her employer to leave her the heck alone. Depending on the production, this may actually backfire if the Count decides to give her some air by loosening her clothes...
- In Act II of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West, the heroine throws a poker game by pretending to faint so she can retrieve a winning hand from somewhere about her person.
- Princess Adora, in the pilot of She Ra Princess of Power, pulls off one of these to convince Skeletor and his cronies that she's a helpless, timid royal. Humiliations ensue for the poor creeps when the ruse is revealed.
- Yoko Tsuno the Japanese action girl frequently faints after being subjected to a neck chop, L'or du Rhin being one example.
- Zira fainting in the movie Escape from the Planet of the Apes.
- Happens several times in The X-Files episode "Requiem", which ends with Scully's pregnancy being revealed.
- Chloe from 24 discovered her pregnancy this way.
- Sissi must be the mother of this trope
- Phoebe in Charmed fainted twice because of demonic pregnancy.
- Roxie Hart from Chicago faked this to attract media attention and help influence the jury in her murder trial.
- Parodied in Of Thee I Sing, where President Wintergreen's impeachment proceedings are interrupted by his wife bringing the news that he's going to have a baby. He faints, and the Senators have no choice but to exonerate him, since they would never impeach an expectant father. (If you wonder how on earth a show from 1931 could parody a musical from 1975, see Adaptation Displacement.)
- Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella.
- Lorraine Hainsberry's A Raisin in the Sun has Ruth fainting at the very end of the first act for this exact reason.
- In Dragon Quest V, your wife faints on the trip to Gotha. Eventually, it's revealed to be this trope when she faints again while meeting King Albert.
- Happened to Shannon in Queen of Wands due to gestational diabetes.
The Monster Faint
- Played painfully straight in Uncanny X-Men issue 148, when Kitty Pryde (thirteen years old if even that at the time) faints when kidnapped by Caliban (whom we were meeting for the first time, and who was much creepier than his later appearances would make him, but still...)
- Even more painful in Uncanny X-Men issue 11, where after The Stranger walks on air and through a wall, someone utters these gentlemanish words:
Someone get a doctor! Women are faintin' like flies over here!!
- Done by Janet Weiss (SLUT!) when she sees Frank N. Furter for the first time in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- Having the narrator faint was a standard way for Lovecraft to finish his stories since it saved him having to explain how his very non-Badass Normals could live to tell the tale.
- In Dracula, we get a nice Gender Flip with Jonathan Harker pulling one of these fairly early on. Just as equally an emotional faint, however, as he had just been overtly harassed by three beautiful vampire-ladies and apparently his own host.
- This phenomenon popped up in several Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies, like Eegah, The Phantom Planet and The Blood Waters of Dr. Z, which contains probably the most egregious example of this trope, with the kidnapped heroine managing to remain unconscious while being roughly carried through a hot, noisy, fetid swamp for several miles.
Crow: Apparently women are devoid of the "fight-or-flight" reflex.
- The X-Files. Although Agent Scully is hardly the frail heroine, even she keels over when a ghost removes his hat to reveal a large shotgun hole through his head. Also played for laughs in "The Unnatural" when the cop protagonist in 1947 Roswell sees a Grey alien (who's been posing as a Negro baseball player) for the first time. The alien keeps trying to wake him up to explain things, but as soon as the cop does so he passes out again.
- A combination of this and Emotional Faint happens in Xenosaga, when Albedo intimidates the young Momo. Justified, as this troper was feeling a bit faint himself after he tore his head off!
- Parodied on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic when a background pony does this when faced with a bunny stampede (normal sized bunnies mind you who were rather harmless)
- In nearly every version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, April O'Neil does this on her first sight of the turtles, whereupon they pick her up and take her home. In a possible Running Gag, Michelangelo asks "Can we keep her?" in both the first movie and the second series just after she faints.
- In the first movie, April did not faint upon seeing the Turtles for the first time—her unconsciousness was due to being attacked by the Foot Clan before they got their ever-loving asses kicked by Raph. When she woke up in the sewer den, she freaked out instead, which ended up freaking the Turtles out as well.
- Splinter elicited a fainting reaction from Keno and Kenshin in the second and third movies, the latter being lampshaded.
Donatello: You sure have a strange effect on people, don't you, Master?
Anime and Manga
- From Eroica with Love: Caesar Gabriel does this twice a chapter. (Yes, he was only around for two chapters, but still.)
- In Please Twins!, Karen fainting at any surprise or stress is a running gag, though like many such things, it tapers off as the series goes on. Becomes a bit less amusing when you consider the parent series, Please Teacher!, which had a condition called Standstill, in which a person can spend years in a coma-like condition (without aging) after too much extreme emotion. One of these days, Karen might not wake up for a long time...
- Emma of Victorian Romance Emma faints at a ball, partly due to the fact that her corset is laced too tightly and from seeing William with Eleanor.
- Albert of Gankutsuou faints from when he accidentally drank water that was laced with poison.
- Hinata of Naruto faints almost any time Naruto (her Love Interest) gets too close. Character Exaggeration.
- In Tsukigasa, Azuma faints when Kuroe kills the robbers and it brings up trauma from when he hurt Kuroe.
- Barnaby in Tiger and Bunny faints in episode 19. With good reason, as because he's been plagued by recurring nightmares about his parents' death (which he thought he'd begun to put behind him after seemingly finding their killer), and as a result has barely eaten or slept recently. When trying to discuss his fears with Kotetsu, Barnaby breaks down in tears and then passes out.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon's mother, who was until this point mentioned several times how she doesn't want Kyon to become a delinquent, faints when she is told about her son's relationship with a Yakuza family. A relationship of which, ironically, she was a strong supporter.
- John faints in With Strings Attached when he sees himself in the mirror for the first time and realizes that he's grown wings. He'd kind of worked himself up to it, given that he'd awakened in a strange bed, starving to death, with a growing panicky awareness that something was terribly, terribly wrong with him....
- In Jumanji, Sarah faints when she realizes Alan is standing on her doorstep. (And like the Sherlock example above, it's because she had thought he was gone forever)
- The Incredible Mr. Limpet. When George Stickel hears the supposedly drowned Henry Limpet's voice coming from the sea, he faints dead away - probably because he thinks he's hearing Henry's ghost.
- Thumbelina. Mocked mercilessly by The Nostalgia Chick: "And like all animated heroines she has a tendency towards fainting. Boom! Unconscious!"
- Doc Brown faints at the end of Back to The Future Part II after Marty (whom he had just sent away in the time machine) reappears behind him --
Doc: (practically shrieking) But I just sent you back to the future!!!
- Subverted in The Silver Chair: Jill collapses to the ground when Eustace falls off a cliff and hopes she'll faint, but the author comments it's not that easy.
- Doctor Watson faints when Sherlock Holmes reappears in his office after a long absence. (He has good reason to faint, though, since he thought Holmes had died in the battle with his nemesis, Prof. Moriarty, three years earlier.)
- In The Quiller Memorandum, Quiller is faced with torture. He attempts to delay it by putting himself into syncope, through breathing heavily then holding his breath to drop his blood pressure. It's an Emotional Faint because he is under massive stress and he uses that to make his enemies believe he is weak.
- In The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, during the island getaway episode, the shy time-travelling Mikuru faints promptly upon seeing the stabbed body of the mansion owner, and stays out of the action for a while under Yuki's supervision, providing Haruhi and Kyon an excuse to go exploring alone together.
- Occurs to such an extent in The Pickwick Papers, that Charles Dickens may well be parodying it.
- In The Inheritance Trilogy, Eragon faints when his mentor, Brom, is fatally stabbed. But then, he faints at the end of almost every chapter, as well.
- This happens to Twilight's Bella a lot.
- Dante does this in Inferno to the point where many modern readers think of it as Girly Man Fainting. His spells are usually a symptom of extreme empathy with someone he meets in Hell, as in, "Oh my God, I identify with your suffering so much I just can't stand it. *thud* "
- Actually he only fainted twice in the Inferno. Once when he first enters Hell, due to a sensory overload, and another time in the circle of Lust, where he meets a couple that is basically the Romeo and Juliet of his time. That one was from empathy, due to his being in love with a woman from afar his whole life. (And a possible fangirl episode... they were pretty famous)
- Tamaris in Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born". Nearly being feed to a monster and finding yourself in the middle of a battle after months of Cold-Blooded Torture and isolation do make a good excuse.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's short --—And He Built a Crooked House—, Mrs. Bailey repeatedly faints throughout the adventure in the tesseract house.
- In the book 'Double Star' the heroine faints quietly and without fuss after an intense scene which probably means the ruin of all they've been working for. Later another character reveals precautions have been taken and they're safe - whereupon she faints again. Still, given what's at stake and the extended strain she's been under it's hard to blame her.
- In the Dragonlance novel, Dragons of Winter Night, the elven princess Laurana faints at a public banquet after her father calls her a whore, and her older brother gives her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- Parodied mercilessly by Jane Austen in Love and Freindship [sic], from which the opening quote is taken.
- Red Dwarf has featured this version in a couple of episodes: Rimmer does it in "Psirens" after viewing a graphic demonstration of how and what the eponymous monsters eat, while in "Nanarchy" The Cat freezes up and keels over after seeing Kokanski apparently chop off her own arm. (Amusingly, in the latter case, he's just left lying on the floor, incredulous index finger still extended.)
- Olive does this in the fifth episode of Pushing Daisies when it seems a dead horse jockey's ghost is out to kill all the other jockey's from that race, which includes her. Justified-ish in that Pushing Daisies never pretended to be realistic medically or otherwise - later the "dead," jockey shows up really tall, because he was paralyzed so the doctors cut off his dead horse's legs and put them on him.
- Fawlty Towers.
- In "Communication Problems", Basil is robbed of his gambling winnings by Mrs Richards, then she's complaining it was "ten pounds short". When a man enters the hotel carrying a vase she bought the previous day and asks Basil if he knows her. He is so immensely frustrated that even the mention of her name makes him faint. (He does get straight back up though).
- At the end of "Basil the Rat", he also faints from the pressure.
- Thoroughly justified in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard - In the course of the first act, Elsie Maynard is A. Forced to marry a condemned criminal to buy medicine to save her mother. In one of the other plots, Fairfax was framed in order that his cousin can inherit his fortune, but, by the terms of the will, he can shift the inheritance to another branch of the family if he's married, so he arranges with his guards to sort out a marriage with anyone whatsoever, for cash. B. She witnesses the highly-charged leadup to his execution by beheading, and, C. She then finds out he's escaped, meaning she, as a poor woman in Tudor times, is now permanently a criminal's wife. And being a moral woman, love is now forbidden her, because loving anyone else would be adultery. It is at this point she faints.
- At the end of Act II, the jester Jack Point, who is in love with Elsie Maynard, faints because Fairfax is pardoned and is married to Elsie.
- In Zone, Ciboulette faints during her interrogation when told that an American border patrol officer was killed, as she is afraid it was Tarzan who killed him.
- In the Ace Attorney series, Miles Edgeworth loses consciousness due to his extreme seismophobia. He developed a fear of earthquakes after a traumatic experience in his past that resulted in the murder of his father.
- Tae Asakura of Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army appears to either have a problem with this or the Anemic Faint, not sure which. Troper thinks it may be this. Or, who knows, she may be wearing a badly-designed corset or something. It's never even discussed in-game, she just has a fainting problem that nobody seems to think about. Whatever it is (if not this, please move to proper section), it certainly must be aggravating for her, since she's trying to represent a feminist (the perfectly-sane kind, thanks, not the Hollywood kind) push (setting: 1931 Japan).
- Jennifer, the protagonist of Rule of Rose keeps fainting at slightest provocation during the early cutscenes; they actually tend to mark the borders between chapters. But when she finds her inner courage in the last chapter, she can watch far more traumatizing sight than all the previous ones put together and keep her consciousness.
- Fiona in Haunting Ground upon learning that her pursuer, Riccardo, and her father, Ugo, are clones of the game's main antagonist and that Riccardo killed her father.
- Happens quite frequently in Ménage à 3 - characters often faint due to sheer embarrassment, sheer pleasure, or for other reasons.
- In a side story in Tales of the Questor, Arlen the biomancer suffers this when he discovers one field of his bauxite-purging plants is literally growing rubies and sapphires.
- Questionable Content has a robot somehow "fainting at the sight of lubricant", to bewilderment of the friendly neighborhood mechanic.
- The highly girly Nostalgia Critic does this in his review of Judge Dredd. He even does the hand to the forehead thing.
- Rarity faints twice during the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Bridle Gossip." First, when she hears that mysterious zebra Zecora's stripes are not a fashion choice, but something she was born with, and then again when the other ponies list the "horrors" of The Everfree Forest. Applejack also ends up fainting in "Applebuck Season" after believing she's finished her apple-picking all by herself, only to be shown an acre that still needed to be picked.
- ↑ and now has an explanation for stuff like seeing five of your teacher or getting attacked by a vampire