Out-of-Character is Serious Business

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
(Redirected from OOC Is Serious Business)

Chuck: Does this seem like a particularly awkward silence?
James: Dude, Miriam's not saying anything. It's the end times, man.

Some characters have strong traits that they are known by. This is for when a character momentarily breaks away from their normal habits to make a point or because the plot demands it. Often causes the other characters to do a Double Take and mention why this event is Serious Business. When most or all of these Out-of-Character Moments happen at once, you can be sure that the world is ending, or at least the Eleventh Hour, leading characters to behave in ways they normally wouldn't, because they know they might not have another chance to do so.

Some classic Archetypal Characters who might be the cause of this:

A Super-Trope of:

This is a trope for when a somewhat-Out of Character action is used to draw extra attention to the scene (similar to a Title Drop). It isn't Hidden Depths because it isn't telling us something about the character we didn't already know; it's similar to an Out-of-Character Moment in that this is specifically the usage of such a moment to draw attention to a scene.

See also Who Are You and What Did You Do to X?, a common response to out-of-character behavior.

Not to be confused with the way some people react to badly-written Fan Fiction.

Examples of Out-of-Character is Serious Business include:

Anime and Manga

  • Tetsuya Tsurugi from Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger is serious, grim-looking and moody, and he seldom smiles. So when he grins, everyone freaks out and dons Oh Crap stares. Mainly Warrior Monsters, since it usually means they are about of dying horribly and painfully.
  • Inverted in Soul Eater- if Death starts acting in character, you know you're in some serious shit. He does occasionally put on his old scary voice just to scare his staff into paying attention, and is even more likely to treat the most dire of circumstances (Asura's resurrection, Kid's abduction) casually, even jokingly.
    • Also played straight: if Black*Star is not yelling and Death The Kid is not OCD'ing over symmetry prepare for an asskicking.
      • Kid's an interesting example because the occasions he faces disorder and doesn't have a fit over it tend to be when he instead fixes on another inherent characteristic, that of him being a Shinigami (e.g Mosquito, minor point in his second fight with Black Star).
  • Angel Beats!: The Ninja (who is The Quiet One) says something in the 10th episode. Everyone is shocked by this.
  • Bleach
    • Gin Ichimaru never opens his eyes. When he does, expect the fandom to react. It goes double for when he stops smiling.
    • Then there's seeing Isshin Kurosaki as anything other than an Overprotective, Bumbling, Pervert Dad.
    • Shunsui (or Syunsui) Kyoraku never loses his temper, and his general demeanor never really elevates beyond "mildly concerned"—even when fighting his mentor who is implied to be thousands of years older than he is. However, when his Heterosexual Life Partner appeared to have been killed, he lost it. For extra emphasis, even in the context of that story arc, his reaction was pretty extreme.
    • Chizuru Honshou is the local Genki Girl and Plucky Comic Relief. She has only cried twice in canon... when It Got Worse: the first happened when she and others were subjected to Body Horror and forced to attack Tatsuki and Orihime thanks to Numb Chandelier, and the other was during her Heroic BSOD when Aizen was chasing her, Tatsuki, Keigo, Mizuiro and Mahana through Karakura Town.
    • When Ichigo decides to murder Tsukishima on the off chance it will reverse his Fullbring's effect on his friends and family, you know he's pissed.
  • At the ending of Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou: The student council member who always says "guga", said something else than guga.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima
    • Similar to the Bleach example is Kaede; when she opens her eyes, something big is going down.
    • Similarly to that, when Zazie shows up and starts talking in multi-syllabic sentences, you know there's something weird going on. Actually, turns out that it wasn't her.
  • Again like Gin, when Xelloss from Slayers opens his eyes, stops smiling, or volunteers unambiguous information, things have already gone completely downhill.
  • There are exactly two moments in Monster where Johan isn't smiling softly, and you will crap your pants both times.
    • The show has a habit of doing this with drink orders - for instance, the workaholic decides against ordering a coffee, because he's chosen to vacation in earnest.
  • The phenomenon is examined with a "scientific experiment" in Cromartie High School.
  • In an episode of Samurai Pizza Cats, space-cadet Emperor Fred (who normally communicates by saying "Fuh-red!" and scat-singing) catches a nasty cold, and apparently upgrades from The Unintelligible to Talkative Loon ("This is to certify that kung pao chicken containing MSG may cause your BMW to have a headache...") This leads Al Dente to conclude that the emperor is very sick.
  • Pippin, the Gentle Giant of the Band of the Hawks in Berserk, never speaks and is never seen with eyes open. He only opens his eyes and speaks for the first (and last) time when the world goes to hell around him during the Eclipse.
  • One episode of the Ranma ½ anime has Happôsai, the resident Dirty Old Man, acting extremely despondantly and unlike himself. It culminates when Female!Ranma is forced by the fathers to put on a swimsuit and give the Old Master a show in order to raise his spirits... and he just tells her to Please Put Some Clothes On. At this point, everybody know there's something very wrong with Happôsai.
  • In the Sinnoh seasons of Pokémon, how can you tell that Team Galactic is coming? Croagunk does nothing but stare at the door, and doesn't even move when Brock hits on Nurse Joy.
  • Kenshin of Rurouni Kenshin has a couple versions of this. The most obvious is that his entire demeanor changes, but more subtly he'll drop the use of the extremely humble "sessha" and use the aggressive masculine "ore", which is when you know what the Hitokiri Battousai is present. Also, any time Kenshin the Thou Shalt Not Kill Martial Pacifist seems to be seriously out for blood is cause to be very, very worried.
  • Trigun. Vash's reaction to Monev the Gale's wholesale slaughter of a small town in the anime is a definite example of this. Vash is usually a goofball and kind to the point of preferring to be injured himself rather than hurt anyone else, even when people are actively trying to kill him, but after seeing what happened to the town he puts a gun to Monev's head gets this close to just blowing his head off.
  • In One Piece, as a result of massive Despair Event Horizon, Luffy becomes so depressed that he admits his own weakness and renounces his worthiness for the title of the Pirate King.
    • A more lighthearted example, in this clip, Luffy is so bored during a long trip that he actually takes interest in one of Robin's books, making the rest of the crew gasp. Sadly, land is sighted before he can improve his mind with it.
  • In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, it's clear that Fay's mental state has taken a turn for the worse not becuase he grows his hair out after losing his eye and takes on a generally more gloomy disposition, but it's because he drops the cutesy nicknames and actually calls Kurogane by his name. Later on when he starts using them again it's a huge relief to everyone since it indicates that he's getting better.
  • In Bakuman。, Hiramaru, infuriated over the reasoning behind putting Detective Trap on hiatus until Mashiro graduates, storms off to work on his manga.
  • In Mai-Otome, Arika's friends take note of how she isn't eating sweets when she's thinking about love, and become worried about her.
  • Squid Girl: Similar to the Bleach and Negima examples - when Chizuru opens her eyes, you're screwed.
  • Dragon Ball
    • There is just one time in which Goku refused a meal: When he sensed that his best friend Krillin was in danger and rushed to help him. It was too late; Krillin was already dead.
    • King Piccolo was the first opponent who completely sapped Goku's unwavering determination. You know things are turning for the worst when Goku starts fearing for his life and felling desperate.
    • Any time in Dragonball Z (and onward) where Vegeta refers to the protagonist as "Goku" means something is very wrong, Vegeta usually addresses him as "Kakarot", his Saiyan name. Even Goku himself notices such an OOC from him quickly.
  • In Mawaru Penguindrum, Shouma is a sweet and kind male Yamato Nadeshiko and kind of The Klutz. But the few times he does not attempt to solve problems via words, It Gets Worse. Specially the as-of-now last one.
    • Similarly, his penguin #2, a Big Eater Extreme Omnivore, only once decided to share his meal with his "sister" #3. She refused it and left him all dejected - a Foreshadowing of her and Himari leaving the Takakura family home.
  • This is a general (but important) plot point in Darker than Black. Contractors are completely emotionless and self-serving, so when some of them aren't, people always make note of it. Likewise, Dolls are so completely empty that they won't even eat without proper programming. At one point, one uses her specter to call for help, which is about the same as your cell phone calling to tell your friend you're getting mugged.
  • In the season 1 finale of Code Geass, the typically whimsical Lloyd freaks out when he notices Nina ready to detonate a sakuradite bomb. Rakshata, knowing full well he's serious by his sudden change in demeanor, calls for a ceasefire.
  • In the second Rebuild of Evangelion Rei enters the classroom and says a simple "Good Morning". The entire class flies into a panic in one of the most grin inducing moments in the entire movie.
  • In Aquarion Evol, there's one way to make even the seemingly unflappable Zen Fudo go stiff in horror: the sight of Mykage killing off Jin, supposedly his ally, for pulling off a Heel Face Turn.
  • In Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Reborn always pushes Tsuna to succeed in any given situation and never gives him a break because he knows that Tsuna has the potential to pull it off. So it's a huge shock to Tsuna when Reborn tells him that he has no chance of defeating the strongest member of the Vindice.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!; during the Doma Arc, this overlaps with Spot the Imposter when Kaiba confronts Pegasus. He quickly realizes that his opponent's playing style is almost identical to their duel in the earlier Duelist Kingdom, and also realizes that, if there is one thing Pegasus is not, it's predictable. He is, of course, correct, as "Pegasus" here is actually Amelda in disguise.
  • In an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, the protagonists discover someone has broken into their workshop and stolen the schematics to the Duel Runner they are working on (along with one of Jack's Cup Ramens, which makes him even angrier). After finding a fingerprint and hacking into Sector Security's database to identify it, they find that the culprit is Lazar, Vice-Director of Sector Security. Why would a high-ranking city government official resort to being a common burglar? Naturally, they realize that is something they have to find out...
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX,
    • In one episode Jaden thinks it's strange that his roomate Chumley is still in bed, and thinks it even stranger when Syrus tells him it's because Chumley was up all night cramming for finals. Of course, the reason makes sense - Chumley has already flunked the course twice, and this is going to be his last chance.
    • In another episode ("The Duel Giant"), Syrus is suspicious right off the bat when Professor Crowler is "acting nice', even more so when he offers Jaden and Syrus no homework for the rest of the year if Jaden finds and idenitifes the Duel Giant, a mysterious duelist who is making fools of the Obelisk students in ante duels. Chumley is suspicious too, when Jaden says he likes the idea, Chumley tells his, "I love grilled cheese, but sometimes I'm suspicious of the who's serving it." Indeed, Crowler is trying to use Jaden as a patsy here, as should Jaden succeed, he can have both him and the Giant expelled for illegal dueling.

Comic Books

  • Almost everyone in the Marvelverse knows that letting Dr. Bruce Banner get angry is a one-way ticket to Serious Business.
  • Skalman from Bamse, a Swedish comic series, almost never showed emotion, and always obeyed a strict schedule. When he stopped obeying that schedule for a bit, or snapped at his friends, you knew it was serious.
  • In the recent comic book adaptation of Darkwing Duck, the Liquidator, who has the Verbal Tic of speaking in ad slogans and bogus claims, suddenly drops it just long enough to warn someone about Quackerjack's Berserk Button. Which turned out to be Serious Business indeed.
  • Swamp Thing: "The Joker has stopped laughing."
  • Speaking of The Joker, he is completely straight faced in The Killing Joke during the moment he's trying to actually reason with Batman.
    • He finds no humor in tossing a baby to Sarah Gordon to get her to drop her sidearm then putting one through her head. It's the closest thing he has to a redeeming moment.
    • Suffice to say, any time the Joker is depressed or in some other mood where he doesn't feel like laughing, it's obvious something is very wrong.
  • And with Batman, the one time to date (not counting his very early comics and alternate universes) that he's actually used a regular gun on someone to kill them was with Darkseid in Final Crisis, because the situation was that serious. Also, whenever he seems to be seriously considering just offing someone it generally means that person has either threatened or hurt one of his adopted kids or just done something that bad if Batman's even considering Jumping Off the Slippery Slope.
  • Here's a tip if you're a villain in the Marvel Universe. If Spider-Man is fighting you and is not making wisecracks, puns, and derisive comments about your intelligence or looks, you're not going to have a good day. Because you did something to make Spidey pissed off at you, and you will notice you are fighting a super strong Big Creepy Crawly in human form.
    • Some writers claim that part of the reason Spidey quips mid-battle is because his enhanced nerve conduction velocity (reflexes and spider-sense) actually allows him to think at superhuman speeds... which means that to him, the world is moving in slow motion during a fight, and he fills in the extra time by making jokes. If he's not making them, not only is it frightening that he's strong and angry, it's frightening that he's dedicating 100% of his genius intellect and enhanced processing power to deciding how he's going to hurt you in the most personally satisfying manner possible.
      • It's fair to say, though, that many of Spidey's rogues gallery actually are pretty lame and have earned his derision. Many of them are idiots who take Spider-Man lightly because he's relatively small for a superhero, instead of treating him like what he is - one of the worst heroes to ever pick a fight with.
      • Another popular interpretation is that Spidey is making jokes to cover up that he actually is terrified, the bigger danger the lamest jokes. So when he stops it usually means that no matter how terrifying and dangerous you are, he is not buying it anymore. Now all he feels is that he really wants to beat you unconscious. This theory was put forward by Stan Lee himself.
    • A specific Spider-Man example, in Amazing Spider-Man #500, a trap sprung by the Dread Dormammu threatens to erase all of existence. Spider-Man has been cast into a void outside of time, and the only chance to undo the cataclysm is to reach Doctor Strange via a spell-created path through history, which requires reliving every battle of his career:

Spider-Man: By the way, where did you end up?
Strange: I am speaking to you from a billion years in the future.
Spider-Man: Yeah? What’s it like?
Strange: Cold, dark, depressing. Much like Newark.
Spider-Man: Hey… You made a joke. You made a joke. You…
(Screams as Doc’s spell reaches him.)
Strange: Yes I did. Unfortunately, that is one of the signs that the end of the world is imminent...

  • In Lucifer, when Duma, the Angel of Silence starts talking. Well. We already know the end of all creations is imminent, but that's still the point where we're forced to consider maybe Status Quo Isn't God, and nothing will ever be the same again.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, as Calvin is lying sick in bed, his mom tells him she's going to call the doctor, and ends with telling him it's Saturday, so he won't miss school. He responds with a weak, "I know." Since Calvin had, earlier, reacted with horror at the prospect of missing some of his time off school due to a lesser illness, his mother is sent racing to the phone. It must be serious.
  • Rorschach of Watchmen is gruff, insulting, and arrogant most of the time, and also doesn't usually use pronouns or proper names. When he says, "Daniel, I apologize. I know it's difficult being my friend," you know he's being dead serious.
  • Any time that the Pre Crisis Lex Luthor, the version who used to be Superboy's friend and a pretty nice guy, would have a Pet the Dog moment, it represented his earlier decent nature showing through, and (rightly or wrongly), it gave Supes hope that someday he might come back to the side of the angels. One of the very last Pre Crisis stories, "The Ghost of Superman Future," indicates that in at least one possible future, Lex did eventually reform and they became friends again in their old age. It was by Elliot S! Maggin, who was very fond of Luthor. He later wrote a short story along similar lines called "Luthor's Gift."
  • In the 3rd book of Bone, while the world slowly crumbles due to the Rat Creatures and Thorn learning she is a princess, Grandma Ben, whose eyes are always closed, opens them for a split-second when she finds out that she has partially doomed the Valley by not telling Thorn that she is a princess.
  • Deadpool, the fourth-wall breaking Wild Card to end all wild cards, has his speech bubbles and thought rectangles shaded yellow, to show that he's the one guy in the entire comicverse who knows he's in the comicverse and is perfectly okay with it. On the rare occasions where his speech bubbles go to the normal white shading, meaning he's taking things seriously, you know it's significant.
  • In one X-Men comic, Doctor Doom captures Storm and uses a diabolical device to turn her to stone. A rather cruel act, as Storm is still awake and aware, and is known to have claustrophobia. (Doom would later blame this on a malfunctioning Doombot, though we can only take his word on it.) When turned back to normal, her rage makes her seem more like Dark Phoenix than the heroine fans are familiar with. As the narration puts it:

Caption: Her breath is fire and ice, her voice is thunder. She is one with the entire planet... It's a progression the X-Men have never seen before.

Fan Works

  • In Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, Sakura breaks from her Out of Character Extreme Doormat Love Martyr personality in this fic by refusing to have sex with Ronan while she's been Brainwashed into becoming a Fundamentalist Christian.
  • In the fan-made Axis Powers Hetalia video game Heta Oni, at one point, Italy starts acting seriously out-of-character, and then he locks everyone up in a cell so they won't 'get in his way'.
  • In Undocumented Features, Azalynn, who's been shown to be extremely forgiving, finds herself holding a grudge against Liza for calling the Psi Corps on Devlin, even when everyone else has forgiven her. She is extremely shocked when she realizes how spiritually off-balance she is.
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, when Dumbledore asks Harry what Quirrell could be plotting that requires him to bring a Dementor into the castle, Harry argues that this is completely in-character for him, and naturally, in-character is business as usual. But he realizes that something is wrong anyway, because even coming out of his own mouth it's a Suspiciously Specific Denial.
  • In the Death Note fic A Cure for Love Matt realizes things are serious when he hears that Mello gave L his chocolate.
  • In Aki-chan's Life, sequel to The Second Try, Touji and Hikari see Emotionless Girl Rei Ayanami smiling, and they decide they must have somehow landed in an alternate universe.
  • In the pre-Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter/Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover fic The Eighth Weasley, everyone from Harry Potter is beautifully compliant with their canon characterizations circa 2002-3 -- except for Hermione Granger. While she retains all her canon attributes, she also is a bit of prankster with a wicked sense of humor who enjoys teasing people. This is a Potterverse in which the Harry Potter books also exist (to the consternation and confusion of the Wizarding World, who don't know how the Muggle Rowling wrote such accurate accounts), and the author hangs a lampshade on the difference when Willow Rosenberg complains that Hermione is "nothing like you are in the books". By the end of the story it's strongly suggested by the cumulative evidence that the reason Hermione is "out of character" is because she is J.K. Rowling (or is the real author behind Rowling), and the Harry Potter books are a monumental prank on her friends and the Wizarding World as a whole.


Silver: You heard the boy! Get this blasted heap turned 'round!

  • When Silent Bob speaks, you listen. Though this tendency begins to annoy Jay after a while. This tradition is itself subverted in Clerks II, when Bob's cue to speak arrives and he can't think of anything to say...
  • Star Wars. What would it take to get quiet, innocent, ancient little Yoda to pull out his lightsaber and suddenly become a living blender? Something really serious, that's what.
  • In East Is East, George is clearly shocked when even The Dutiful Son Maneer sides with the rest of the family against him.
  • In the final scene of Penn and Teller Get Killed, Teller (who has never spoken to this point), distraught over seeing his friend Penn lying dead, says a good-bye out loud, then kills himself.
  • In Galaxy Quest, Classically-Trained Extra Alexander Dane hates being known as a character from a sci-fi series, and hates his Catch Phrase even more, spending most of the movie trying to get out of saying it, or saying it in monotone. However, when an alien who's always looked up to Alex's character is shot and killed, Alexander says, sincerely, "Quellek... by Grabthar's hammer... by the Sons of Warvan... you shall be... avenged" before opening a can of whoop-ass on the bad aliens.
  • A humorous version can be found in Running Scared (1986), when the two main characters call for backup. They come out of the building without their pants (having had to give them to the Big Bad of the film), only to find that a huge number of cops—including the SWAT units—have shown up to help.

Billy Crystal: I said "one backup"! One!
Cop: (trying not to laugh) You never called for backup before! We... (barely keeping from laughing) We thought that it was a riot...

    • There's another: When Crystal's character's soon-to-be-ex gets kidnapped by the Big Bad, Crystal (who up until this point has not slowed down the wisecracks for a second) get's a call from the crook letting him know his girl's in trouble:

Billy Crystal , in a dangerous, low tone: "You hurt her, you'll never be dead enough."

Kermit: You never miss the chance to shoot yourself out a cannon, is something the wrong?

  • In the Marx Brothers film when Harpo is playing the harp. He might make a funny face while he's doing it, but his music is never a joke.
  • In the movie Easy A, Marianne is shown to never swear. She constantly uses euphemisms like "rhymes-with-witch", and other gosh-dang-it-to-heck-isms. But when she hears the rumor that Olive gave Marianne's boyfriend Micah chlamydia, Marianne completely loses it, and yells screams "That... that BITCH!"
    • Also, Marianne is shown to be a bit snide, condescending, and utterly dedicated to attempting to correct other's supposed sins, but she does it without being out-and-out confrontational. But after she snaps, she full on slaps Olive across the face. Which is most decidedly not a typical Christian value.


  • In the Ciaphas Cain series, the titular character will always outwardly act like he's scared of nothing because it's part of the image he doesn't want to lose even though he's actually a big coward, so when decides to show genuine fear with no regard how it might make him look, you know it's warranted.
  • The Dresden Files: Mac The Bartender is also The Quiet One. The seriousness of any particular book is proportional to the number of words that he says. A complete sentence or two is enough to scare Dresden. In Changes he goes on for a good sized paragraph.
    • Also, in Blood Rites, Lieutenant Murphy meets Harry's mentor, Ebenezer McCoy. As they are on a hunt for vampires in Chicago, Murphy tells him (rudely) to get out of the driver's seat. Harry tells him to do it, slipping in the word "sir." Murphy drops everything she's carrying, mainly because hearing the anti-authority Dresden using the word "sir" something that you only hear once.
      • Also justified, as Ebenezer is the only one to whom Harry will apply an honorific. Being Harry's Obi Wan has its perks.
    • In Dead Beat, Harry asks Bob about Kemmler, the author of a book that the visiting group of Necromancers are all hot and bothered about. Bob has a minor freak-out, and tells Harry that Kemmler was straight up, capital-E Evil. This immediately catches Harry's attention, mainly because Bob's view on morality is... sketchy at best.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird is full of these: Scout notes the only time she ever heard Atticus raise his voice (when he's defending his parenting style to Aunt Alexandra) and the only time she ever heard him call something a sin (to kill a mockingbird). Jem decides to follow Atticus the night the mob threatens him outside the jail because Atticus took his car instead of walking as usual. Scout and Jem are shocked at Tom Robinson's trial when Atticus takes off his jacket and loosens his tie, because they've never seen him do that during the day. Scout knows that Aunt Alexandra is seriously shaken when the children have been attacked at the end, because she brings Scout her overalls to put on, after spending the entire book trying to get her to stop wearing them. And, of course, there's BooRadley leaving his house for the only time in living memory in order to protect them from Bob Ewell.
  • In the earlier Harry Potter books, moments when Hermione was in favor of breaking the rules were this.
    • In Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore loses his temper for the first time in the series when a pack of Dementors nearly kill Harry. Hermione mentions that it was absolutely terrifying.
  • In the Chronicles of Narnia series, this happens in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. When the ship is attacked by a giant sea serpent, Reepicheep yells at everyone to push the serpent off the boat rather than fight it. Since Reepicheep usually fights first and asks questions later, this is unusual enough to startle the rest of the ship's crew into helping him.
  • In Roadkill, the last book of the Cal Leandros series, Robin Godfellow, aka lust incarnate, becomes monogamous. All of his friends instantly assume he must be seriously ill.
  • Discworld
    • Rincewind is an inept coward who would much rather run away from most problems rather than face them head-on. In Sourcery, Rincewind challenges the most powerful source of magic on the disc with a half brick in a sock, and then holds off a swarm of eldritch abominations long enough to escape, armed with only a sock full of sand. Holy shit.
    • Death almost never ends his sentences with an exclamation mark, so you know he's pissed off when he shouts at the New Death for setting himself up as a ruler over mortals, in Reaper Man.
    • This is also invoked for Death when he speaks emphatically of the Auditors' hatred for humanity in Hogfather (represented as italics), shocking Susan.
    • Lets not forget Death's first major role in Mort, where he is throughout the book made to be The Stoic, and is even explained to lack the physical capability for feelings, but in the climax of the book he expresses extremely human rage, unlike ever before or after, and when Mort is at his mercy, he does a mocking, cruel Evil Laugh, which also is a completely unique expression of negative emotion – right before revealing that he decided to spare Mort and his friends after all.
    • Vetinari takes pride in his ability to play Sam Vimes like a fiddle and get him to do the best job imaginable...all by keeping him suitably pissed off. Vimes even tends to punch the wall outside Vetinari's office as he leaves, sometimes hard enough to require repair. Until one day Vimes departs, and Vetinari doesn't hear the telltale thump, and realizes that he might have gone too far.
    • The Librarian hates to be called a monkey (orangutans are apes), and will apply a great deal of physical violence to remind people when they forget this. That's why, when the Senior Wrangler calls him one in The Last Continent and gets away with his head still screwed on, the other wizards become quite concerned.
      • There's one occasion when someone calls him a monkey, and he pats their hand comfortingly.
    • In Carpe Jugulum, Agnes knows that Nanny Ogg is really worried when she ignores an opportunity to point out an Accidental Innuendo Agnes made.
  • In the Gaunt's Ghosts books, Daur is considered the most straitlaced and disciplined of the lot. In Only In Death, he nearly hits Rawne, which is taken as a sign of the insidious effects of Hinzerhaus. In Blood Pact, when he is caught helping out in one of Rawne's scams, Hark thinks that the regiment's discipline and morale has hit a new low.
    • Only In Death has some more of these. Normally unflappable Mkoll gets spooked, chatty Maggs is unusually silent...
  • E.E. Smith's Skylark Series: The reason Dick Seaton knows the scientific knowledge he needs to save the Earth exists is because of independently-evolved legends from two worlds of a large and complex star cluster, which describe their gods stunning mortals who attack them. This is despite ten thousand years of strike-to-kill conditioning in both races. Ergo the legends must contain a grain of truth to have lasted for that long without "stunned" being changed to "killed", and the "gods" must be the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens he's looking for. He turns out to be right.
  • In Larry Niven's short story "Flatlander", our hero Beowulf Shaeffer has just finished doing some scans outside the spaceship. He turns to his companion:

Beowulf: Elephant, have you noticed a tendency in me to use profanity for emphasis?
Elephant: No, not really.
Beowulf: Well, it's goddamned radioactive out there.

  • In second Black Company book when Goblin doesn't way to play tricks with One-Eye as he usually does and instead of smiling and humilating his rival he actually gets provoked by him, worse, attacks him with his bare hands, everybody knows there is something wrong.
  • In the first chapter of World War Z, Dr. Kwang Jing-shu says he knew that something very bad was happening through a combination of this trope, Meaningful Echo, and Something They Would Never Say. An old army comrade, the The Stoic Dr. Gu Wen Kuei, once had a not-so-stoic moment when they were performing a difficult surgery in the middle of a dangerous border clash in Russia, and said "Don't worry, everything's going to be all right." Years later, when Jing-shu calls him about a small outbreak of unusual symptoms, Kuei, who knows what's going on, says it again, and that's when Jing-shu realizes that the outbreak is not isolated and the situation is much worse than he thought.
  • Marco from Animorphs is known for being such a fountain of snark that whenever he's serious, it's safe to assume that something pretty upsetting is going on. At one point, during a mission that involved his mother, when he was understandably preoccupied, Jake had to take him aside and tell him to start cracking stupid jokes because he was scaring the others.
    • Jake did the same thing to Rachel in another book when she was acting too cautious.
  • In the Dark Nest Trilogy, Luke Skywalker (whose job it is to exemplify tranquility and serenity) drops the GFFA equivalent of the F-bomb.
  • In Warrior Cats, Jayfeather invokes this by saying he's glad that the cranky elder Mousefur isn't acting all sweet and kind because that would mean she was getting heat stroke from the recent hot weather. Later when she starts acting mopey because of Longtail's death, Jayfeather gets really worried about her well-being.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Sky Masters, normally composed Jon Masters lets the pressure get to him, up to the point of Rant-Inducing Slight, something his chief assistant notices immediately.
  • In the final novel of the Codex Alera, Tavi is rather shocked when his lover Kitai becomes furious with him for carrying on a relationship with her without marrying or courting her. Note that Kitai has never given a damn about Aleran laws or customs (or really ever noticed them, except to snark about them) and her own people's view on this sort of thing is rather more... relaxed. So why is she so bent out of shape? She's actually pregnant with her and Tavi's child, and while perfectly happy to flout Aleran rules herself, Kitai does not want her child to have to deal with the major social stigma Alerans place on illegitimacy.
  • Vivenna from Warbreaker believes that women should dress modestly with high-necked dresses, with skirts that come down to the calf at least. However, when she decides to become more of an Action Girl, she dons a man's trousers and shirt.
  • Ham from Mistborn spends the better part of three books mired in interminable ponderings, dilemmas, and hypotheticals. Finally he answers a question with "No", and is believed out of the shock value.
  • Honor Harrington is generally portrayed as a military professional: killing is an unfortunate consequence of her career, she takes no pleasure in it, and she can be courteous to former military opponents who tried to kill her because that was their job. Those who have known her long enough instantly recognize (and are scared shitless by) her change in bearing when she really, truly wants someone to die.
  • Albert Campion has several of these.
    • Any time the self-professed anti-gun Campion picks a gun over a less lethal weapon.
    • When the very anti-killing Campion informs a mook who helped kidnap one of his friends that if she was hurt, he'd "break his rule" and kill him.
  • In Artemis Fowl, Julius Root apologizing after referring to another fairy as 'human-blooded' is used to convey just how serious an insult 'human-blooded' is amongst fairies. In the second book, the LEP realise just how screwed they are when the usually gung-ho Captain Kelp orders a retreat.

Live-Action TV

  • Burn Notice: There's an episode where Michael sends Sam to escort Madeleine to safety. Madeleine isn't hearing of it, offers Sam a beer. Sam refuses the beer, at which point Madeleine starts taking him seriously.
    • In another episode, one of Sam's old "buddies" comes to him for help. Madeleine can tell something's wrong because Sam stops drinking for the duration of the episode. And in a DVD special feature, Bruce Campbell states that you can tell something is serious when Sam isn't drinking. Though he can be seen drinking during the planning stages of a mission, he almost never does it during an actual operation. So, since it's another (and not infrequently invoked) character trait for him, it might not exactly qualify as out of character.
  • Doctor Who: the Ninth Doctor is cheerful, silly, happy, and above all, calm. Nothing fazes him. Then in a secret lab, he sees a heavily damaged, barely-alive Dalek (in the episode by the same name) -- and immediately loses his shit in a big way. In the old show, and in public consciousness even more so, Daleks were often played for laughs. This signals very effectively that on the new Doctor Who, Daleks ain't funny—as everyone else learns quickly enough.
    • By a similar token, the Tenth Doctor is very decidedly anti-gun, turning one down repeatedly when Wilfred tells him to take one and kill whatever it is that has been predicted to kill him in "The End of Time". The mere mention of the possibility of the Time Lords returning causes him to pick up the gun without a second thought. It's how we know shit just got serious.
    • Ten is also known to allow terrible things to happen because they represent a "fixed point in time", i.e. something with far reaching consequences that needs to happen lest history be royally screwed. He even destroyed the city of Pompeii himself, and let (nearly) everyone die because it had to happen. But in The Waters of Mars he's finally had his fill, declares himself the "Time Lord Victorious", and proceeds to screw up a major historical event. It's rather frightening, and the consequences for him are indeed dire.
    • "Forest of the Dead": As she's about to make her Heroic Sacrifice, River Song remembers her last meeting with the Doctor—how he turned up on her door with a haircut and a new suit, and left her his sonic screwdriver—meaning that the Doctor had known River was going to die.
  • When Project Runway's Tim Gunn calls season eight contestant Gretchen a manipulative bully, it's certainly one of these moments.
  • iCarly: If it's Carly or Freddie that starts to suggest breaking and entering, vandalism or general mayhem, and not Sam, then the situation has definitely got out of hand.
    • Sam acting considerate and helpful worries Carly and Freddie, and they start to believe Sam is in love with their new intern.
  • The Vampire Diaries: When Damon stops Deadpan Snarking and starts actually being helpful, you know things are pretty bad.
  • Yes Minister: Jim Hacker is dead set on a course of action that won't do anyone any favours, and won't be swayed. It's serious enough that Sir Humphrey even drops his incredibly elaborate Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and tells him "If you must do this damn silly thing, don't do it in this damn silly way." This stops Hacker in his tracks.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide has Buzz Rodriguez (guy that never speaks) in Loomer's gang makes a point/ delivers some kind of lesson on the good things volunteering. Everyone currently on scene Lampshades it.

Mose: Did he just talk? He never talks!
Jerry: So THAT'S what he sounds like!
Loomer: Dude, you haven't said anything since we've known you.
Buzz: Everything's been fine up until now.

Mayor Wilkins (to Angel): Yeah, well I'd get set for a world of weeping! I'd get set for a world of pain! Misery loves company, young man, and I'm more than willing to share that with you and your whore!

    • Similarly, any time that meek, submissive (in early seasons) Willow loses her temper and begins to basically force her bickering team mates to cooperate by chewing them out, typically opening up with a shout of HEYYYYY!
    • And in the second season premiere, Buffy's attitude problem causes her to get baited easily by the vamps, leaving her friends unprotected so that Willow, Cordelia, Giles, and Miss Calendar get kidnapped by the vampires working for the Anointed One. Xander, normally Buffy's biggest fan, lays it out for her:

Xander: If they hurt Willow, I'll kill you.

    • In the season 5 finale, Giles is trying, as gently as possible, to explain to Buffy that it may be necessary to kill Dawn to save not only the world but all of reality. Buffy point-blank says she won't discuss the matter until Giles jumps to his feet and shouts, "YES WE BLOODY WELL ARE!"
  • In an episode of Psych, Shawn and Gus find a missing camp counselor's bloodstained pajamas. Later, when Shawn explains how he knew her disappearance had been staged, he mentions how Gus didn't freak out like he usually does when he saw the "blood," meaning he must have been in on the secret.
  • The Thick of It. When Malcolm Tucker stops swearing and speaks in a measured, reasonable tone, tremble. When Malcolm Tucker admits that things aren't going so well for him... run.
  • White Collar. Mozzie is an extremely paranoid Conspiracy Theorist who hyperventilated simply from walking into FBI headquarters. His friend Neal grabbing a gun, however, is serious enough for him to call up Peter, an FBI agent, to try and stop him.
  • The framing device of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is that mad scientists Prof. Forrester and Frank are showing the Satellite of Love crew bad movies as part of a twisted experiment. One movie, Manos: The Hands of Fate, was SO bad that the villains broke character, apologised to the crew, and tried to cheer them up to get them through the movie. It doesn't really work, as the bots are reduced to blubbering pools of tears and Joel has to take on the persona of Carol Channing to buffer himself against the pain.
  • Leverage: One of Eliot's catchphrases is "I don't like guns," usually said while reflexively unloading one after taking it off someone else. When he shoots someone (instead of killing him hand-to-hand) in The Big Bang Job it's a fairly good indicator of how seriously he takes this particular mark.
  • The writers of Mad Men do this on a meta level in Season 4 (which begins a few months after Don Draper's divorce). Don had previously established himself as a moderate drinker who never got more than just a bit lubricated; when Season 4 starts, he's seen stumbling home from bars, being drunk on duty, and being called an alcoholic by at least two other characters. Furthermore, he had previously been a Chivalrous Pervert who would never hit on or be creepy toward any of the women in the office, let alone have an affair or even a one-night stand with one; Season 4 brings on the occasional pass and finally an ill-advised affair with his secretary Allison. Things only start getting better for him when he finds a relationship (first with statistician Faye, and then with his secretary Megan[1]). However, by this point, everyone—and particularly the audience—has gotten the message: Don's marriage was really important to him despite his seemingly cavalier attitude, and despite his womanizing, he needs a girlfriend/wife to keep him on level.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Prototype," the team stumbles upon Khalek, a genetically-engineered clone of Anubis, and Technical Pacifist scientist Daniel Jackson flat-out says that they should kill him. His reaction is understandable given the circumstances: Khalek is physiologically closer to an Ancient than an ordinary Human, with all the superpowers that entails. After an initial interview and analysis, Daniel realizes he's already too powerful to imprison and too evil to reason with, and furthermore he will soon be able to Ascend - and it took nothing short of Divine Intervention to stop Anubis the first time. Daniel even lampshades this in dialogue: if he, of all people, says this is the only option, then it must be.
  • In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Do I Know You?", Barney, who has recently fallen in love with Robin, takes her out to dinner on Lily's advice to make a good impression so that Robin will take him seriously and not dismiss him as the sleazy, womanizing idiot he usually is. His attempt at being chivalrous and tasteful is so impressive (he doesn't even bat an eye when the buxom waitress practically dangles her breasts under his nose) it completely weirds Robin out and she tries to make Barney act like himself again:

Robin: Hey, so I went to the chiropractor yesterday... That guy bent me over the table and pounded me for a good hour...
Barney: Insurance gonna cover that? Sometimes they don't.
Robin: That's it?
Barney: (polite smile)
Robin: Okay... Well, um, today, I was at the dentist, that guy drilled me. All day long.
Barney: (polite nod)
Robin: He drilled me hard.
Barney: (polite nod)
Robin: He filled all of my cavities... Come on, man!
Barney: Well your teeth look fantastic.
Robin: Who ARE you?!

  • Adrian Monk has severe OCD and a host of other phobias, such that he frequently needs sanitary wipes. During a garbage strike in San Fancisco, he was so disturbed by the trash bags piled around that he was unable to function as a detective. By the climax of the story, he's driving a garbage truck around, picking up the garbage himself, and fingering Alice Cooper for the crime in a summation that's more implausible than usual. His friends get him to a clean room, and he gets back to normal. Relatively speaking.
    • There's one episode where a radio host is a suspect in a crime, and Monk appears on his show to interview him. The story of Trudy's death comes up, and one of the hosts offers his condolences. The suspect, who's a bit of a jerkass, starts making tasteless jokes. You know Monk is pissed when the normally mild-mannered detective who abstains from physical contact jumps across the table to tackle the man.
  • Subverted in "The Concert", during The Middle's third season. After an early exit from a spelling bee, an event he had gone all the way to the regionals in the previous season, Brick, usually cool and unflappably optimistic, is angry and then depressed, remaining in his room the next day and vowing never to return to school. His parents are actually happy because it's an emotionally appropriate response from a child not known for them.
  • In one of the DVD Commentaries for Firefly, Joss Whedon points out that Alan Tudyk has a great ability to sell the gravity of situations just by looking upset.
  • In an episode of Red Dwarf: When Rimmer seems against filming women in the showers, Holly remarks "Alright, who are you, and what have you done with our Rimmer?"
  • In The A-Team, when Howlin' Mad Murdock drops his psychosis of the week and takes a turn for the serious, you know something big is going down.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Blondie, Dagwood has the reputation of a slacker who tends to goof off at work, but in one Sunday strip, he starts doing his work efficiently, getting his workload done early and getting a head start on the next day's workload. Dithers notices and asks if he's feeling okay; Dagwood says that actually, he thinks he does have some sort of bug. So Dithers brings him out into the common room - where everyone else is goofing off - and tells him to spread it around.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • In the New Testament Jesus has a very serious out-of-character moment known as "the cleansing of the temple". While some people may argue that Jesus could never have acted out-of-character, there is no doubt that even (and especially) his friends and followers were shocked by what they saw. He was literally the poster boy for patience and forgiveness. But everybody has at least one thing that really burns them up and makes them want to break something/someone; for Jesus, it seems, it was taking advantage of poor and ignorant people in the name of God (the corruption in the Jewish church was along the same lines as the selling of indulgences in Martin Luther's time). When he saw what was going on, he just stood there, looking around and emanating so much anger that he didn't even have to raise his voice for everybody in the temple to know that some serious shit was about to go down if they didn't get out of there. He flipped over a money-changer's table, and the priests and merchants ran like hell.

Jesus: It is written: "My house shall be a place of prayer." But you are turning it into a den of thieves.

  • Shinto has a meta example. The faith differs from most others in being usually reluctant to morally judge something as outright "evil" as opposed to merely "impure" or "unclean". It therefore says something troubling about star-god Amatsu-Mikaboshi (literally "August Star of Heaven") also called Ame-no-Kagaseo ("Brilliant Male") when the two rather... curious passages in the Nihon Shoki that mention it constantly refer to it as "the evil kami".

Professional Wrestling

  • Since wrestling announcers are supposed to be loud and talking all the time, it was always a pretty safe bet that when they went completely silent, it was a sign that someone was legitimately hurt (instead of when they kept talking, which showed it was part of the show). However, that's not quite as accurate now, since the people behind the scenes have caught on to this, and have started to use dead air when trying to sell a Kayfabe injury.
    • When an announcer drops the kayfabe and explain about an incident being "not part of the show", you need to pay attention as they explain the matter. since shoot accidents, known as a botch, have been known to happen with grave consequences. If one needs another clue, EMTs being brought in should be a red flag. This is often known by fans as "Owen Voice" after Owen Hart was killed while he was being lowered via harness and grapple line to the ring from the rafters. The harness broke and Owen fell to his death, leaving everyone including Jerry Lawler in shock. This episode happen on an Over the Edge pay-per-view event in Kansas City, Missouri, and Lawler was silenced considered he made jokes about Hart earlier that night.

Tabletop Games

  • A number of character-driven RPGs give characters compulsions to act in certain ways and require expending resources to ignore them, effectively making Out-Of-Character a form of Limit Break.
  • The Monstrous Compendium for the Ravenloft setting says this is a surefire way to identify someone who is under the control of a Doppleganger Plant; the victim tends to have drastic changes in personality, preferences, diet, and so on.

Video Games

  • In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Etna's final episode preview does not focus on her and is actually an accurate portrayal of the final chapter. The other characters promptly freak out.
  • Baldur's Gate II character Jan Jansen's reaction to virtually any situation is to regale the party with long, rambling and highly implausible stories about his supposed past adventures which have a (highly tenuous) connection to their current predicament. Except when everyone gets dragged down to The Abyss, where after much searching he admits to being stumped. Haer'Dalis immediately predicts the arrival of the apocalyse.
  • In Final Fantasy X-2, whenever Rikku and Brother agree on something, the general reaction is "take cover."
  • When Snake from Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors opens his eyes, you know not to fuck with him.
  • In Ace Attorney, Phoenix is always flustered or worried about his cases in some way. But sometimes, he stands perfectly still and and speaks calmly and with absolute confidence. When this happens, not only will he find the killer, but they'll probably be convicted of half a dozen other crimes too.
    • The first time is in game one case four. After Phoenix clears his client of one murder, they admit to another. Naturally, he doesn't believe they did it. In the ensuing recess, Maya freaks out and then asks Phoenix why he's looking at a photograph. Phoenix's response? "I'm preparing our case."
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, Fujin's sole line of dialogue that isn't Hulk Speak is pleading with Seifer to reconsider his loyalty to Ultimecia.
  • It's generally a bad sign whenever a member or former member of the Omega Team in Last Scenario changes expressions. Helios really takes the cake, though—no matter what you do to him, he never stops smirking, right up until the sequence in which he sacrifices his life to let Castor escape.
  • In Final Fantasy X, Auron is the perpetually stoic Cool Old Guy par excellence. He loses his cool three times: when Seymour kills Kinoc, when he sees the sphere image of himself failing to save Jecht and Braska, and when the group confronts Yunalesca and it's never a good sign.
  • In the Shivering Isles add-on for The Elder Scrolls IV, your biggest clue that things are about to go bad is when Sheogorath tells you you're out of time with an explaination of the concept of time, which is a bit too orderly and lucid for the usually chaotic and wacky Sheogorath, indicating that he's about to become Jyggalag and begin the destruction of the titular isles.
  • In the Mass Effect games, the Motor Mouth salarian doctor Mordin Solus never uses personal pronouns. Except once, in the third game, if, when trying to talk him out of curing the genophage, you point out he was the one who previously helped strengthen it.


    • This is a double out-of-character moment, as Mordin normally never shouts. Makes the moment all the more poignant...
    • On a lesser scale, he says "My mistake" on his loyalty mission when he finds out that Maelon was not kidnapped and instead was voluntarily helping to cure the genophage.
      • The key word in both of these examples is "mistake." Mordin is never insensitive to the consequences of his actions, but his tremendous intelligence and pride make it difficult for him to acknowledge when he's made a bad decision, which means he'll defend the genophage modification as distasteful but necessary every time you confront him about it up until you reach the Shroud. His explanation for why he's participating in Mass Effect 3 isn't even that he feels guilty; it's the condescending, at best neutral, "Someone else might have gotten it wrong."
  • In Tales of the Abyss, Jade says, after weighing the possible benefits of Luke sacrificing himself, tells Luke that "as (his) friend" he feels compelled to stop him, prompting Luke to point out that he never called him his friend before. Jade then apologizes, something that's equally uncharacteristic of him. Earlier, Jade gets visibly angry when he realizes that the villains are using fomicry.
  • Lollipop Chainsaw; Cordelia's biggest defining trait is that she is a terrible driver; in one part of chapter 3, she gives Juliet and Nick a ride and, after managing to go three full minutes with getting in or causing an accident, Juliet realizes something is wrong.

Visual Novels

  • In Katawa Shoujo, Lilly letting out something that sounds like a swear word? She's PISSED.
    • Similarly, the single time when Kenji calms down enough to speak reasonably and offer Hisao emotional support, you know it's gonna bring up a Tear Jerker.
    • In Emi's route, when Emi and Hisao meet after throws Hisao out of her house, Rin becomes surprisingly direct and to-the-point.

Rin: Hisao is kind of worried about you, Emi. I don't think he can decide, or maybe I don't believe him, but I think I'm going to go somewhere less awkward now.
Hisao Narrates: I'm so surprised by Rin's being so suddenly forward about well, anything at all, that I merely watch her head through the door.

    • Hanako exploding at Hisao in her bad ending. She also tells him to "...Go away" when he tries to check on her in Lilly's route, surprising him.
    • In Lilly's route, Shizune, a typically blunt girl who has a rivalry with Lilly, responds to Hisao telling her that he's going out with Lilly by saying that it's his business who he dates, and she hopes they go well together, which Misha implies is her not saying what's on her mind. She then is about to say something more, but has Misha not translate her signing, which makes Hisao wonder why Shizune would pull a punch or speak without forethought

Web Comics

Criminy: Enough.


"Oh my God! She's letting him drive her car!"

  • Sluggy Freelance: When Torg starts to actually think (or simply stops acting silly), you know business has just got serious.

Bun-Bun: Uh-oh...
Kiki: Bun-Bun doesn't say 'uh-oh!'
Aylee: Uh-oh...

Dan McNinja: (Returning with a method to cure his wife) How is she?
Sean: Well... She gave me the "I'm sorry I was a horrible mother" speech.

Kaff Tagon: And Ennesby did not bother to tell a fart joke on that before charging into battle?
Bristlecone: I can only assume that he was distracted.
Kaff Tagon: We are in trouble.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Happens a few times in Teen Titans, such as when Perpetual Frowner Raven acts cheerful for whatever reason, like in “The End Part I” (when this was just an act) and “The End Part III” (when it was genuine). Also when the Hot-Blooded Robin doesn’t yell at his team to insist he’s fine after he breaks his arm and instead decides to give up and watch television in the episode “Fractured”, much to the shock of his friends.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Longshot speaks just once as Jet is dying... and it stuns everyone who hears him because it's so rare. It stunned the fandom just as much; up until that point, nearly everyone thought he was a mute!
    • Subverted when Sokka decides to give up meat and sarcasm if the universe will only get him out of the hole he's stuck in. When Aang shows up, Sokka is back to his old self and asks for meat.
  • In the last storyarc of the first season of Transformers Prime, Megatron almost kills Rafael when he attacks Bumblebee with a blast of Dark Energon. Optimus Prime declares, in no uncertain terms, that he intends to KILL Megatron for what he's done. Few characters in fiction adhere as strictly as Optimus does to Technical Pacifism, and seeing him actually show a vengeful streak shocked even his fellow Autobots.
    • He actually sticks to this policy later- while he and Megatron are forced to ally against Unicron, Optimus shows he is still going to terminate Megatron if he gets the chance now- fortunately Dreadwing intervened.
  • In Scooby Doo and the Alien Invaders , Scooby and Shaggy each fall in love. When asked what they want to eat, the normally bottomless pits say they aren't hungry. Cue Ironic Echo and the rest of the gang looking at each other in shock.
  • Wade Duck of the U.S. Acres portion of Garfield and Friends, while not literally afraid of everything, is afraid of so many things that most people wouldn't even consider (e.g., he is canonically afraid of caraway seeds) that the other farm inhabitants seem to think it the case. So when Wade, having his cowardice suppressed via hypnosis, passes by performing a stunt on a bicycle...

Booker: It looked like Wade, but it didn't tremble like Wade...

    • In the final week of dailies of the actual U.S. Acres strip, Wade achieves peace with the world... sending Orson, Roy, and Booker away screaming in terror.
  • In the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy episode "Little Ed Blue", Ed, who is normally the resident Perpetual Smiler, spends the episode angry, bitter, and has a huge need for isolation from everyone else, including his own friends Edd and Eddy. Edd is concerned, and Eddy is too impatient to deal with it, and because of Eddy's impatience, Ed goes on a rampage, until Jonny and Plank show up and everyone finds out that Ed has a pebble in his shoe.
    • It's very telling that Sarah, who will willingly jump on and beat the crap out of anybody up to and including Rolf (physically the strongest among the kids except for Ed), looked at Ed much as the Eds look at her when she's mad and told everyone to back off the instant she realized Ed wasn't backing down.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "Swarm of the Century", Cloudcuckoolander Pinkie Pie takes one look at the cute little insectoid held by her friend Fluttershy, calls it a "parasprite," and goes off in search of musical instruments. She does everything she can to get her friends to help her, except for telling them explicitly that the parasprites multiply like crazy and will eat everything in sight unless led out of town by Magic Music. Averted in that Pinkie Pie taking her quest for musical instruments seriously is not seen by her friends as being any different than her usual manner of interacting with them.
    • Cutie Mark Failure Insanity Syndrome actually shows up for each character in the mane cast, with that character's personality changing dramatically in response to outside stress, especially stress related to that character's talent. Some ponies have a break with reality that just shows how severe the problem has gotten, like the usually level-headed Twilight Sparkle's ridiculous goal of building an exact replica of Ponyville in less than a minute in "Swarm Of The Century" after a spell goes wrong. Seeing the showoff Rainbow Dash suffering from stage fright in "Sonic Rainboom" is mindboggling, and the issue goes to outright terrifying with Pinkie Pie in "Party Of One", Fluttershy at the climax of "Best Night Ever" and Twilight Sparkle in "Lesson Zero".
    • On a much more serious note, Princess Celestia acting nervous and grave when Discord escapes his prison—in contrast to her normal calm and collected, even playful personality—is a big warning sign that Discord is much more dangerous than he looks.
    • In "Lesson Zero", Princess Celestia actually flies over to Ponyville right after she fulfills her sun-related duties, fixes Twilight's mess, and sternly reprimands her. This is the first time in the series that Princess Celestia has shown disappointment in Twilight.
      • And come the season 2 finale, we see the normally calm Princess get truly pissed. We're talking try and scorch the Changeling Queen with a Frickin Laser Beam pissed.
    • Fluttershy does this all the time. She is normally extremely fearful, but when her friends are in trouble, she'll stand up to a Manticore, a Cockatrice or a giant firebreathing dragon. And if there isn't a threat around, it means trouble for her friends (see "Putting Your Hoof Down" and "Dragon Quest" for examples).
    • Big Macintosh, who is normally calm, collected, and quiet, chewed out the Cutie Mark Crusaders for printing embarrassing details about him and Applejack in "Ponyville Confidential". You know you really screwed up when you got him mad enough to say more than a few words.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man episode "The Uncertainty Principle," Jameson spends the first half of the episode being very quiet and subdued as his son, an astronaut, encounters problems that could get him and his crew killed. Once he's safely back on the ground, though, Jameson only takes a moment of serene thankfulness before instantly reverting to his usual No Indoor Voice / Motor Mouth bossiness as he orders everybody to throw a together an issue praising his son's success.
    • He also does this when he heard the victim of the heart attack was Peter's aunt, going from wanting it on the first page, to wanting to tell Peter himself.
  • The Simpsons: When pre-Flanderization Ned Flanders snaps in "Hurricane Ned" it very much has this effect, since the usually mind-mannered and nice-to-a-fault Ned absolutely rips into everyone in Springfield, and all he says to Homer is that he's the worst person he's ever met. It's not especially surprising when Ned checks himself into a mental hospital immediately after.
  • In the Dragon Tales episode "Hide And Can't Seek", Ord has so much fun playing hide and seek he asks if he could eat later, much to his friends' shock.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In your average episode, Phineas is almost spookily optimistic and cheerful. It makes sense that a few of the specials ("Summer Belongs To You" and "Christmas Vacation") and the movie have moments in which he's sad or angry just to let the audience know that these aren't normal episodes. One line in particular became Memetic Mutation, even though it would have been no big deal if someone else had said it:

"Get on the trike!"

    • "The Lizard Whisperer": Ferb must really love Steve the chameleon, because when Steve goes missing and Phineas and Isabella are on the verge of giving up the search, he delivers a long and epic speech to urge them on.
    • In the Beach Episode, Linda becomes very concerned when she doesn't recieve a call from Candace about the boys' activities.
  • In Justice League Unlimited a season finale sees Lex Luthor divide the league, make the public hate and fear them, and he tops it off by merging with Brainiac to be a limitless technological god-being who defeats the primary league members singlehandedly, leaving only the Flash left to kill. The normally happy-go-lucky Flash runs away.... and returns having circumnavigated the globe in seconds to build up the speed to hit Luthor/Brainiac hard enough to hurt him. Appearing deadly serious, Flash does this nearly a dozen times becoming a literal bolt of lightning pummelling Luthor into dust. Until this episode, nobody realised that the most powerful member of the team was not Superman.
  • So anyone who's seen Gargoyles knows that, in battle, Goliath is a force to be reckoned with. OFF the battlefield, he's thoughtful, considerate, even downright philosophical at times. He's not afraid to pull out all the stops in the heat of combat, but repeatedly chastises others for going overboard when it's unnecessary. In the (largely derided) Goliath Chronicles, the last season of the animated series, he finally starts coming to terms with Angela being his daughter and treating her as such, when she's nearly killed by the Quarrymen... At which point the noble, level-headed clan leader growls, his eyes begin to glow, and in a scene that's drawn like he's looking out from the very gates of Hell, on a DISNEY AFTERNOON show to boot, intones the following.

Goliath: I will find the ones who did this to my daughter. And I will kill them.

  • In The Batman episode "Call of the Cobblepot", Alfred drops his usual deadpan attitude and is genuinely angry when Cobblepot (aka the Penguin) crashes Bruce's party, remembering how his grandfather used to work for the Cobblepots, who treated him like dirt. Later, after Oswald steals his serving tray, Alfred is encouraged (against his better judgment) to go find him and give him a piece of his mind.

Real Life

  • Stephen Colbert testified to Congress, in character, about the terrible and paradoxical treatment of migrant workers in the US. When asked why he felt that this issue, as opposed to others, was so important, he displays this trope in such a subtle yet beautiful way.
  • A soldier from the Second World War managed to invoke this trope unintentionally; he was well known for having a very poor grasp of punctuation, and once joked with his wife that if he ever sent her a perfectly punctuated letter, she should underline the first word of every sentence and it would reveal a coded message. When he was captured by the Nazis and put into a labour camp, he remembered the joke, and sent his wife a coded message hidden inside a well punctuated one. It worked, and his wife, with the help of the British government, managed to smuggle various items to him which he used to escape the camp.
  • In 1985: the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) had gotten the United States Congress to pay attention to their concerns over music and wanted to produce a parental warning system on all music albums. Dee Snider of Twisted Sister was among the musicians who testified against censorship and the proposed warning system. What made Snider unusual was he didn’t have has usual make-up on - and it meant business. He had his sleeve-less shirt along with denim vest and jeans, but no makeup. He also gave a straightforward speech, which including his Christian upbringing, having a family of his own, and his straight-edge lifestyle.
  • A rather heartwarming story: An 82-year-old woman who lived alone in Memphis, Tennessee, ordered the same thing every day from Domino's Pizza - a large thin crust pepperoni pizza with two 12-ounce Diet Cokes - for three years, and it was the first order they got every day. One Saturday, she did not call, nor did she call the next day. Monday, the delivery girl knew something was wrong, and checked on her. Turned out, she had fallen over, and might have died had she not been so consistent in her orders.
  1. A relationship that had started platonically when he needed a babysitter to supervise his kids when he took them to California.