"Everything you know is wrong. Black is white, up is down and short is long."
The Mind Screw is basically something that relies so heavily on symbolism or surrealism/absurdism, or maybe just failed in an attempt at coherency, that the immediate response afterwards is "What the heck was that?!?!"
While some fans can make arguments over what the symbolism means, and what everything represents, many mind screws will pad themselves with meaningless sequences to make the audience work even harder. Arguments over which sequences are significant are common. Don't expect the writer to be very helpful. And if the show has supplemental materials, don't expect them to be much help either. (If, by some miracle, they are helpful, you've got yourself a Mind Screwdriver.) The more decipherable symbolism tends to focus on the perceptions people have of one another. And puberty. And sex. Japanese and South Korean creators live, eat, and breathe this trope, particularly in the horror and psychological drama genres; and Asian audiences seem to thrive on this type of oblique, enigmatic ambiguity. David Lynch is hugely popular in Japan for this reason.
Note that the screwing is not the kind that involves romantic candlelight, long walks on the beach and the throes of passion. Unless you're into that.
Distinct from an In-Joke, which is designed to make sense to a portion of the audience.
Your Mileage May Vary, due to the subjective nature of this trope. Examples listed are works that are either intended to provoke this reaction or have provoked this reaction in a large spectrum of the audience, but one troper's Mind Screw is another troper's Fridge Brilliance.
Sub Tropes include Gainax Ending, Dada Ad, Alien Geometries. The Ending Changes Everything is an ending that does not rely on overt symbolism for its confusing nature, but has much the same effect on viewers. When this is funny, it's Surreal Humor. When frightening, it's Surreal Horror.
Contrast with Mind Screwdriver, where the Mind Screw elements get rationalized/explained.
For tips on how to do this in your own writing, see So You Want To/Mind Screw the Audience.
- Anime and Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Other Media
- Video Games
- Web Comics
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- La Durée poignardée (Time Transfixed), by René Magritte