Not So Above It All

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Flash: What do you say to that,[1] big guy?
Martian Manhunter: I was only going to ask if you wanted to play Brawlin' Bots.
Flash: Dibs on the green one! *dashes off*

Martian Manhunter: *mumbles* I wanted the green one...
Justice League Unlimited, "The Ties That Bind"

The Straight Man takes a fall. His usual position is far above the prevailing attitude of his crew, wackiness, pettiness, or just general slacker-itis.

In a story where the wackiness level is really high, the straight man is still goofier and wackier than anyone you know, but he has his standards to maintain. Under no circumstances will he allow himself to be pulled down into the general chaos of those around him.

Until he does. You can only fight the tide for so long.

Compare with Not So Stoic. May be implemented with an Or So I Heard. If he somehow brings it on himself, it might overlap with Break the Haughty, but not necessarily so.

Sometimes related to an Idiot Ball moment. Contrast Smart Ball, when their dimmer co star may have a moment of clarity or tact.

Examples of Not So Above It All include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Suzumiya Haruhi
    • At the end of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya Kyon admits to himself that he does, in fact, enjoy the crazy antics the SOS-Dan finds themselves in.
    • Yuki also has moments where she just gives in to blatant silliness such as choosing a funny nickname for herself when Kyon blackmails Haruhi with one or wearing silly hats for no real reason.
  • Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo: After their initial appearance, the more "serious" characters such as Heppokomaru/Gasser eventually start slipping into bouts of silliness not unlike that of the title character. Beauty being the sole subversion, with maybe one or two slips that she quickly recovers from.
  • The entire life of Zelgadis from the anime The Slayers. Originally a series villain who frequently switched sides to pursue his own agenda, he was derided for his stoicism and attempts to maintain a "cool and mysterious" image by the slapstick-prone cast and writers. By the second season the damage was done and he was seen crossdressing in a frantic attempt to enter a tennis doubles tournament with a mixed-gender teams requirement.
  • In the Naruto manga, Konohamaru shows Naruto his new variant of the Sexy no Jutsu, featuring two girls in a ...compromising position. Sakura was less than pleased at the Jutsu, until Konohamaru tried it on her. using Sai and Sasuke instead. Worked like a charm on her, but then pissed Naruto off.
  • This happens to Yomi in Azumanga Daioh sometimes.
  • Hare, the star of the lesser-known anime Haré+Guu, is so normal and level-headed, compared to any of the other characters, that he eventually snaps at one point and erupts into a violent rampage. Granted, he was drunk at the time.
  • Hen Zemi: Nanako plays the straight man at the start, but as the show progresses, she realises that she isn't as different as she thought.
  • Hiiragi from Hanamaru Kindergarten is a highly intelligent kindergartener who can read and understand adult literature. This does nothing to stop her lighting up at a chance to go down the big slide or being so overwhelmed by a compliment on her costume that she bursts into dance.
  • In Detective Conan, Conan once started screaming and yelling in celebration when his favorite soccer team won a big game, prompting Haibara to snark that "The master sleuth was just a jumpy little boy" when it came to soccer. Though Haibara has the rare moment or two herself.
  • No mention of Irresponsible Captain Tylor's Serious Business staff officers Yuriko Star and Lt. Yamamoto? They remain the most sane characters at the end of the series... but loosen up greatly between the beginning and the end, largely due to Tylor's cheerful disregard for rules.
  • Jimbei in One Piece, who is The Stoic and Badass fishman in likeness to Aquaman, has become skilled in the Wild Take since the Time Skip, first seen during his reunion with the Straw Hats and seen several times afterwards to the end of the Fishman Island arc.
  • This happens to Chisame in Mahou Sensei Negima frequently, but most notably when Poyo's Lotus Eater Machine proves that, despite having been forced into a Fantasy Kitchen Sink, she's the happiest and most satisfied with her life of anyone in the group.
  • Sakamoto the cat from Nichijou tries very hard to be the respectable adult in a household with an eight year old inventor and her one year old wind up robot. This ultimately always fails when presented with anything he can bat around with his paws.
  • Nami Hitou of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei is the dysfunctional cast's token normal girl. Unfortunately, has a complex about being called normal because she equates it with boring, making her Not So Above It All.
  • Soul Eater During the Lust chapter, Tsubaki is discovered to be much more perverted than anyone would have guessed. Especially considering how she reacted to Black Star peeping on her.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

Martian Manhunter: I'm going to engage in an ancient Martian meditation technique.
Captain Atom: What's it called?
Martian Manhunter: Screaming.

    • On the rare occasions Batman has displayed a sense of humor, the rest of the League find it unsettling.
      • The League finds a lot of things about Batman unsettling, like the fact that he apparently mentally catalogues types and degrees of pain. Like a hobby.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • This happens to Michael Bluth on Arrested Development all the time. His family usually drives him to it. And his family will mock him for falling to their level.
    • In fact, a Running Gag on the show is that Michael's family members are always accusing him of being selfish, when he sacrifices himself for them all the time and they are selfish and self-absorbed to the point of absurdity.
  • In the episode of The King of Queens "American Idle", Carrie says that she needs time to find herself after losing her job. But (as the title suggests) it seems to Doug that she just sits around watching TV all day - the very things she often criticizes him for doing.
  • In an episode of Frasier, let's just say the Crane Boys aren't the only ones who make quick, rash decisions. In this particular episode, since Daphne has married Niles earlier and will thus be moving out of the condo, Frasier is looking for a replacement housekeeper but has trouble finding a suitable one. One of the candidates turns out to be a major sports fan, and for this reason Martin hires her on the spot in spite of Frasier's objections (it's usually the other way around). Unfortunately, the lady turns out to be very irresponsible, and some days doesn't even show up for work. Martin takes it upon himself to clean up the place because he doesn't want to admit that Frasier was right.
  • In an episode of 30 Rock, Jack criticizes Lemon for always hanging out with her immature writers, who are in the process of having a "yo mama" joke contest. He asks her to go to a sophisticated royal birthday with him.

Lemon: Okay, I'll do it. But I won't like it.
Jack: That's what your mom said last night. Booyah.
Lemon: That... was surprising.

  • James May, Deadpan Snarker and resident Straight Man on Top Gear, gripes that co-presenters Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond are too loud, too careless, and too obsessed with power and winning. Doesn't stop him from jumping up and down and shouting on the occasions when he wins, though...
  • Frankie Boyle of Mock the Week often tells his (darkly hilarious) jokes with an utterly, completely straight face. Unless it's an absolutely terrible one, in which case he often breaks into a giggle just as he finishes it.
  • When Roseanne and family go to Disneyworld, Darlene maintains her sulky-teenage-girl front of being determined not to enjoy it, but it instantly cracks when she meets Winnie the Pooh.
  • In one episode of Stargate SG-1, Teal'c (usually The Stoic and The Comically Serious) reveals that the mask of a Setesh guard is the butt of many jokes amongst other Jaffa. When O'Neil expresses surprise that Jaffa have a sense of humor, Teal'c helpfully translates one such joke:

Teal'c: A Serpent Guard, a Horus Guard and a Setesh Guard meet on a neutral planet. It is a tense moment. The Serpent Guard's eyes glow! The Horus Guard's beak glistens! The Setesh Guard's nose... drips. [bursts out laughing]
[The others stare blankly]

  • On Boy Meets World, Mr. Feeny puts up with Eric's wacky treatment of him (including the vaunted Feeny Call for years. Finally, at the end of the show, Eric gets him to admits he enjoys the Feeny Call.
  • Margo Leadbetter on BBC sitcom The Good Life (from The Seventies). Famously snobbish and humourless (something which she admits she was cruelly teased about as a schoolgirl), she nonetheless can be counted on when it matters and even (much to her astonishment) actually cracks some genuinely funny remarks at times.
  • Major Winchester from Mash would often berate Hawkeye and B.J. for their penchant for pranks, only to pull off a few of his own.


Theater[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Super Robot Wars: Original Generation, Raidiese F. Branstein, the team straight man, ends up falling prey to his friend's wackiness. At one point, when the protagonist tells him his idea for the name of their new Limit Break, he realizes he can't think of anything better:

Rai: Can't do you something about your taste in names?
Ryusei: Well, what do you have in mind then?
Rai: ... ...... ....... .............
Ryu: Okay, okay, forget I said anything...

    • In Original Generation Gaiden, when Ryusei asks him a name for his new move, he dubs it Galaxy Phantom Explosion (constituting a very easy seiyuu joke)
  • Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis has both Anna and Roxis. The former is something of a child prodigy (she entered the academy at 12 years old), and her personality quirks are her overactive sense of imagination and Neat Freak tendencies. Roxis, on the other hand, is The Stoic, who sometimes puts himself above the other characters. However, their interactions with the other members of the workshop have desensitized them to the weird... Most notably, they fell for the Masquerade of a slug-like alien that transferred to the school...
    • Vayne is a straight man mostly by his background - and he usually ends up engaging in activities like being a "Superheroes" Sidekick, or popping said Alien's spawn. (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • The later stages of the Hermit link in Persona 3 can have this vibe depending on how you played the Magician link.
  • Sniper from Team Fortress 2 claims to be polite, professional and have no emotional ties to his work. However, his domination lines are so very rage-filled. Spy also says some amazingly immature things in his lines.
  • Katawa Shoujo has a mild example. Hisao wonders how lonely you'd have to be to come up with a game that involves stepping on the right tiles on the floor. In the very next line, he finds himself stepping only on the darker tiles.
  • Early on in Blaze Union, when the party commandeers a beat-up cannon from an enemy, they decide it would be a good idea to try using it for themselves—except that nobody knows how. Garlot tries and sets it off accidentally, Siskier yells at him for being careless and sets it off accidentally, Jenon shoos her away because it's not suitable for a girl to do and sets it off accidentally... and then when Medoute comes to yell at them for fooling around, they make her give it a try too. Medoute instantly takes a liking to cannon-firing as a form of stress relief and immediately gets carried away.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Zoe is usually the Straight Man in Sluggy Freelance, but, at least when it comes to sorting through a love triangle, she can get pretty crazy herself.
    • Not to mention that the reason she became the Stormbreaker (and thus targetted by various demons, at least one of whom has used a cult to try to do Zoe in) was because she feared she was "boring", and thus leapt at a chance to participate in one of the guys' more than usually harebrained schemes. She's exceptionally gung-ho about going back in time to save beer... at least until they end up in the wrong time period without a way back.
  • Invoked in PvP: when the gang discovers that Jade is a Former Teen Rebel, Francis considers that this brings her down to their level and everyone immediately starts chanting "One of us! One of us!" (which is exactly what Jade feared would happen).
  • Homestuck has Rose Lalonde. Wear the scarf. Be the Rider.
  • Happens over and over in Shortpacked—anyone who is introduced as a Straight Man will eventually be revealed to be insane in some way. Ethan and Leslie managed to keep up the illusion of being the Only Sane Man for a good long time but their neuroses gradually overwhelmed their personalities and pushed them away from this role. Jacob was introduced to be their replacement in that capacity but was revealed to have an addictive personality in short order. As a rule, Ethan's Love Interests tend to occupy this role, but with Thad and Drew both gone there's currently a vacancy.


Web Original[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • One episode of SpongeBob SquarePants had Squidward Tentacles, the show's Unfunny, move away from his wacky neighbors and into a community of people exactly like him. Initially delighted, he eventually became bored with the lack of hijinks he so detested and, by the end of the episode, was acting exactly like his ex-neighbors usually did. (Of course, this was subject to Snap Back and never referred to again.)
    • In a future episode Squidward is seen cutting loose at two parties along with the rest of the cast, despite (1)his dislike of Spongebob (for whom the parties were) and (2)his general contempt of such activities.
    • In one episode, the character roles of Spongebob and Squidward are breifly reversed when Squidward wins a crane game, and won't stop bragging about it to the point where Spongebob gets annoyed and starts snarking him. Squidward then attempts to operate a construction crane with his eyes closed.
    • Sandy Cheeks also occasionally had moments of stupidity or arrogance. Most of her appearances in the second season seemed to be made solely to prove she wasn't good at everything.
  • The robots from Futurama may qualify. In most, if not all, science fiction stories featuring them (with the arguable exception of those by Isaac Asimov), robots and machines almost always brag about how they're better than humans. Watching Futurama, though, it would seem they don't live up to their reputation. If they were really better than humans, then they wouldn't have things like mafias and prostitution, now would they? To be fair, it is part of the parody.
    • On a more individual level this happens to Leela a few times. For instance rather than pay a nominal parking fee for a Hollywood premiere she flies around for hours before landing on the La Brea Tar Pits... which is exactly the sort of thing she usually scolds Fry and Bender for.
    • Another Leela-related example: Leela usually serves as Fry's voice of reason whenever he lets something go to his head. However, in the episode where Leela went blind (which was indirectly Bender's fault), she practically thought she was Daredevil (with the expected but not unwelcome hilarity ensuing).
    • In another Futurama case, in the episode "War is the H-Word", it turns out Kif can be just as much of a Mean Boss as Zapp is to him.
      • May be more a case of He Who Fights Monsters, in that his constant abuse from Zap has led him to take it out on anyone under his own command.
  • A milder version than most takes place at the end of one episode of Justice League Unlimited. After The Flash, feeling he's not appreciated and seen as immature, goes against orders to help rescue a friend of Scott Free, he meets with the Martian Manhunter following the mission. Flash begins to defend himself, expecting J'onn to admonish him for his immaturity...instead, J'onn just wanted to play Brawlin' Bots.
    • Another good example is J'onn's addiction to Oreo Cookies.
  • Various episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force show that when given the chance, Frylock is just as corrupt as either Shake or Carl if given the chance to embrace his urges.
  • Family Guy
    • Lois normally falls under Women Are Wiser. However, it's only really in comparison to her husband, as she gets a gambling addiction in one episode, becomes a kleptomaniac in another, and when she gets elected mayor, embezzles from the town and accepts bribes. Lois' role in the show in modern episodes consists near solely of this trope. She generally only exhibits Straight Man behavior for a short time before acting as stupid or callous as her husband.
    • Meg, in that she sometimes makes fun out of other Griffin members when the situation calls for it e.g. Chris being made fun for Lois being in a porno by other schoolkids and Meg joins in. She also salvaged upon a brief moment Brian was "the New Meg".
    • Brian has been getting this treatment lately. Where he used to be the Only Sane Man, the past few seasons have seen him developing more and more Jerkass tendencies.
  • The Simpsons
    • Marge Simpson has a gambling addiction.
    • When Marge decided to sell prescription drugs just so that her garage sale would be a success. Marge ended up in jail at the end of that one.
    • Marge secretly likes Homer's wild side.
    • In "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star," in a refreshing twist, it is Marge, not Homer, who learns a lesson about tolerance. (Though less satisfyingly, Marge's dislike of Catholics is never fully explained).
    • When the family has Mr. Burn's teddy bear Bobo.

Marge: I'm sure he'll offer us a fair reward. (Beat) And then we'll make him double it!
Family: Huh?
Marge: Well, why can't I be greedy once in a while?

  • Dr Quinn of Sealab 2021 tries in vain to avoid this, but especially as the series went on, would eventually succumb.
  • Rebecca Cunningham of Tale Spin, though somewhat Women Are Wiser and more educated than Baloo, shared his ego and stubbornness as well as lacking the latter's streetwise aspects and thus fell into this trope a frequent amount of times. Sometimes even he could be surprised how out of her mind Rebecca acted at times.

Rebecca: "Face it Baloo, you're too gullible, I would never fall for something like that, no possible way..."

  • Aunt Amy of Daria was once brought in to settle a dispute between her sisters, with the expectation that, as a the smart, detached outsider of the family she could easily resolve the petty conflict without getting drawn in. It took her all of thirty seconds to join the bickering, leaving Daria and Quinn to solve the problem themselves.
  • Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic likes to regard herself as the Only Sane Mare: her first impression of the citizens of Ponyville is "All the ponies in this town are crazy!" However, Twilight frequently displays lapses in judgement either due to her social awkwardness or her almost-obsessive need to make a good impression on her mentor, Princess Celestia.
    • In "The Ticket Master", Spike calls the Gala "girly frou-frou nonsense," but once everyone is out of sight, is upset at being the only one without a ticket. Celestia sends down one for him, and he immediately Squees, only to be caught by Applejack.
    • Both Spike and Twilight tend to backhand this role onto each other since they so often play The Straight Man to each other's shortcomings. Both characters neared outright Anti-Villain territory after going off the deep end at separate points, and both had to snap the other out of it. Note worthy for the over the top manner both took their respective breakdowns (Twilight became outright Laughing Mad, while Spike turned into a Harmless Villain, complete with Dastardly Whiplash mannerisms and attire).
    • Applejack tends to act as The Straight Mare whenever these two are out of the picture, however having the key traits of a rowdy cowgirl, she naturally plays up at times. She can be rather over assertive and is apparently stubborn enough to make a mule look rashional.
  • Heloise on Jimmy Two-Shoes regularly rolls her eyes at the antics Jimmy and Beezy cause, and their insane childish activities. However, she has fallen victim to Kids Prefer Boxes and is shown to be extremely suseptible to a Cuteness Proximity.
  • Benson from Regular Show. One word: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!!!!
  • Elise in Dan Vs. tries to avoid getting caught up in Dan's vengeance, and early on tried to keep Chris from getting dragged into it too. Then again, in the very first episode, she shares Dan's hatred of New Mexico (her grudge has lasted since childhood) and takes her revenge even further he "settles" for ruining the annual hot air balloon event, she hijacks an alien warship, slaughters road-runners, and blows up cities. In "Dan Vs. George Washington", she taggs along with Dan's latest campaign of revenge and admits to Chris that Dan's revenge schemes are actually pretty entertaining.
  • Kung Fu Panda has at least three of those moments:
    • The Furious Five should be trained to not be envious - whoever gets chosen as the Dragon Warrior. They obviously are when Po is chosen.
    • Master Shifu says that the the scroll is for the Dragon Warrior only and that he (Shifu) should not read it - but curiosity gets the best of him when Po says that the dragon scroll is blank.
    • Master Oogway is so calm and relaxed and zen that there are no bad news to him - there is no good and bad, there are only news. His comment on hearing that Tai-Lung escaped: "That IS bad news."
  • From The Legend of Korra, Tenzin tries to be the stoic Airbending master that he really is. The problem is that the universe simply will not let him stay stoic for long. Whether it's Korra using his mother against him in an argument, or his youngest (baby) son using a potted plant as a restroom, the stoicism is never around for long.
  1. "That" = disobeying J'onn's explicit orders of not getting involved with the power feud between Granny Goodness and Virman Vundabar in Apokolips (due to the power vacuum left by Darkseid's disappearance) to assist Mr. Miracle and Big Barda in rescuing Oberon