Fear Is the Appropriate Response

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9: "And you're nothing but a blind man, guided by fear."

1: "Sometimes, fear is the appropriate response."
9

Usually Played for Laughs. A character is facing a conflict. The Big Bad or a similar foe has been revealed at last. This may be the moment of triumph for the protagonist... however, instead of standing and fighting it like a Hero would do, this character does the (usually) sensible thing: freeze, scream, run away as fast as their legs can manage, or a combination.

Also used with a party of two or more, when they are cornered. One asks "What do we do now?" and one says something along the lines of "we... RUN!", often having about a three-second head start before the others realize what is happening. Sometimes this may be used to save another character, who is completely oblivious to the danger. This, of course, is only one type of example of this trope.

The fear responses ordinarily come in four different types:

  1. Stun Gun - Freezing in fear, often just narrowly escaping the foe's notice.
  2. Roadrunner - Running as fast as their legs can carry them.
  3. Scream of Terror - Screaming (which may or may not work against them)
  4. A combination of the three above.

Related to You Can Panic Now, and Run or Die. The distinction between this and Run or Die is that with this, you're choosing to break off the engagement mostly on your own terms, but with Run Or Die, you're narrowly avoiding (or escaping) what you know is a Curb Stomp Battle.

A Mentor may explain a young character that only a Fearless Fool would face this when he had options.

See also Screw This, I'm Outta Here!

Examples of Fear Is the Appropriate Response include:

Anime and Manga

  • Unusually for a shonen series, in Slayers it's a common gag for Lina to throw a Burst Rondo in the face of powerful foes that don't go down in the first few volleys and skedaddle.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple , the titular protagonist usually screams in terror and literally runs for his life whenever his masters announce that they intend to increase the severity of Kenichi's training regime. Since this is a series that takes Training from Hell Serial Escalation , Kenichi's reaction is completely and totally justified.
  • There's a bit in Ah! My Goddess! where Mara and Hild have put together a magical trap that zaps all of the main cast except Belldandy ... and then Bell accidentally releases them. Mara realizes that this overloaded the trap's system, and takes off running until Hild snaps, "Mara! Halt! Explain yourself!" Mara explains that overloading means the thing's about to explode. "Mara... Thank you for explaining!" as Hild runs away.
  • It's played in One Piece by Kamakiri after he discovers that Enel can become intangible (by turning into electricity) thanks to his Devil Fruit power.

Comic Books

"[I]n any event, I never said 'The superman exists and he's American.' What I said was 'God exists and he's American.' If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you are still sane."
Prof. Milton Glass, "Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers," Watchmen

Film

  • In Nine, the Trope Namer, 1 says this right before the Winged Beast attacks. However, considering that 8 tries to fight the Winged Beast before they run, this trope applies more to the awakening of the Fabrication Machine, in which 7, 9 and 5 immediately run away as soon as it's awakened.
  • A good villainous example for that one would be from The Princess Bride, when Inigo finally catches up with Count Rugen, and Rugen... runs away.
  • There are several instances in The Road to El Dorado, one of which involves Miguel and Tulio being cornered by a raging bull.

Miguel: What do we do now?
Tulio: You... pet him. And I'll... RUN!

  • In the Jimmy Neutron movie, Nick runs out into the arena, holding a spear, to face Poultra and the Yolkians. Suddenly, Poultra starts hatching and her three eyes glare down at Nick... who then screams like a girl and runs away.
  • This is done in Lord of the Rings, when the hobbits first meet the Ringwraiths, pretty much their only strategies are running or hiding (both things Hobbits can do very well in a pinch).
    • Gandalf is listed in Run or Die already, but it's worth pointing out that, in the film version, he doesn't just inform them that the Balrog is unstoppable. He calmly explains what a Balrog actually is while it's coming at them (not as Egregious as it sounds though, as it wasn't even in visual range), pauses to take a deep breath, looks shaken, and then shouts... "RUN!" and takes off ahead of the others, while they are still standing there looking at it. Making an about-face in the process.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The Rabbit of Caerbannog has just killed several of Arthur's knights.

Arthur: Run away! Run away!

  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Salah has just met Marcus Brody in Iskenderun. A German comes up to them and invites them to a museum. Sallah realizes that there is no museum in Iskenderun and that they're in danger.

Salah: Run.
Marcus: Yes. [snip]
Salah: Run!
Marcus: Did you say...?
Salah: Run!

  • In Lady and the Tramp 2, Scamp and Angel are talking on a railroad about what they could do living in the wild. There is a train coming toward them, unnoticed by Scamp.

Angel: Run.
Scamp: Yeah, and run!
Angel: No, I MEAN RUN!

Librarian: Did you see it? What was it?
Ray: (still fleeing) We'll get back to you!

  • From the (now infamous) 1998 version of Godzilla:

Animal: What do we do now?
Philippe: Running would be a good idea.

  • Played for Laughs in Star Wars: Han Solo and Chewbacca foolishly charge a squad of stormtroopers, who run away. A moment later, Han and Chewie reappear, running the other way with a larger group of stormtroopers in pursuit...
  • When the "Blood-Red Van" comes after the dogs in Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco, they immediately react by running and hiding.
  • One of the more notable examples of the screaming response is directly advised in The Lion King:

Uncle Max: (to Timon) What do you do if you see a hyena?
'Timon: Scream "Mommy!"

  • In District 9, the main character, Wikus, initially turns and runs away when finally confronted by his bounty hunter, Koobus.
  • Walt Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks: After it becomes clear that their weapons are useless against the animated armor/costumes, the Nazi soldiers run like bunnies.
  • In Short Circuit:

Ben Jabituya: I don't know about you, but I am planning to scream and run.

Literature

George: I've got an idea.
Harold: What?
George: RUN!

  • Ciaphas Cain's reaction to Necrons tends to be like this. Then again, he's one of the few people to have survived an encounter with them, so he's well aware of how deadly they are.
  • Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files reminds us that running away from things you cannot hurt is the best strategy at least twice in every novel. And he really knows best. In fact, he spends quite a bit of his downtime running so that the next time something tries to kill him he'll be able to run away even better.
    • Later in the series, this gets turned around. In Changes, for example, Harry comes upon a Red Court Vampire in his office building. The vampire's entirely justified response is to scream its head off and run the hell away like his ass was on fire. Which, to be fair, was very nearly the case.
  • Rincewind from the Discworld series adapted this as his default strategy in any remotely dangerous situation (particularly the running type).
    • Being Genre Savvy and having a strong belief in his own pre-emptive Karma, Rincewind has a very broad definition of "any remotely dangerous situation".
    • He also knows more than anyone else how to run away: It's all about keeping in mind the fact that you are running away from one thing, not towards something else. He's practically turned it into his religion.
  • Tal of the Seventh Tower understands the dangers of Aenir and the tower much better than Milla does and lacks her Proud Warrior Race Guy characteristics, resulting in him having far more sense when it comes to knowing when to run and when to fight. It causes serious tensions between them at times. Its played completely seriously.
  • Flashman runs away in almost every conceivable situation. He'll cheerfully abandon friends to save his skin. For example, in Flashman at the Charge, while being pursued by Cossacks, he threw a naked woman out of his sledge to lighten the load. (It worked, but the guy driving the sledge was so pissed that he in turn abandoned Flashy when the sledge overturned.)
  • Fisk is always trying to teach Michael this in the first two books of the Knight and Rogue Series. By the third he's finally getting it.

Live-Action TV

Rimmer (having just beamed onto a planet from a ship): "Now what?"
Kryten: "Now we run, sir. I'd suggest we ambulate as fast as the local gravity will allow!"
Rimmer: "Why?"
Kryten: "Well, because of that, sir." (points to gigantic Kaiju-esque moving wax work monsters, then when Rimmer makes no response he turns around and sees that he is now half a field away and still running).

  • This seems to happen quite a bit on Doctor Who; the default modus operandi seems to be: Go somewhere, walk around until you find something horrid that wants to kill you, then run away from it until you find something whose Polarity you can Reverse, fixing the problem.
  • An episode of Sliders had the group go to a witch-doctor, and upon not being able to pay for the service, they form a huddle so that Arturo can outline his plan: "Run! Run like hell!"
  • The Dekaranger episode of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger feature this exchange, when it suddenly occurred to the wanted space pirates that walking into S.P.D. HQ was likely to get them arrested:

Jasmine: "I suggest you all turn yourselves in."
Luka: "Well, if that's how it's going to be, then we'll just have to..." (cracks knuckles) "...RUN!"

Theater

In enterprise of martial kind, when there was any fighting
He led his regiment from behind (he found it less exciting),
But when away his regiment ran, his place was at the fore, o!
That celebrated, cultivated, underated nobleman, the Duke of Plaza-Toro!

Video Games

  • Not sure if this counts, but... In Left 4 Dead's opening cutscene, when a Tank appears, Louis asks Bill, "Run or shoot?" Louis has to repeat his question several times before Bill comes up with, "Both!"

Web Comics

Sam: Two votes to one. The motion to panic has been carried. Screaming and flailing may start immediately.

  • In Order of the Stick, this is pretty much the standard response every time they face overwhelming odds (which they seem to do with great regularity).

Web Original

  • In one of the first episodes in Red vs. Blue, Grif and Simmons both turn around and are looking right down the cannon belonging to Sheila [the tank]. Simmons says, "All right, on three, we make a break for it." As he starts counting, Grif quietly runs away. (Ironically, this made Grif a better target and he was the one who got fired at immediately.)

Western Animation

  • In Codename: Kids Next Door "Operation L.I.C.E.", the doorway is surrounded by scores of giant lice. Numbuh 2 asks Numbuh 1 what to do.

Numbuh 1: Follow my lead.
(scene change later)
Numbuh 1: RUN!

Skipper: Kowalski, options.
Kowalski: I suggest a strategic retreat.
Skipper: Elaborate.
Kowalski: It's like running away but manlier.
Skipper: Execute!

  • Even though Shaggy and Scooby Doo run away from everything as a Running Gag, around a third of the time it works in their favor.

Real Life