Passive-Aggressive Kombat

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Looks like the verbal claws are out.
Senior wizards never rowed in public. The damages were apt to be appalling. No, politeness ruled, but with sharpened edges.

Fighting doesn't have to involve shouting or anything physical. For some characters, sharp well placed words are all they need to duel. They can sound very reasonable, even gentle. It's still a knock-out, winner-take-all confrontation, just that the people involved are trying to remain composed and amicable.

Once in a while these can break into something more severe if a character's Berserk Button is hit or someone has hit a Rage Breaking Point. A Cat Fight might even ensue.

This is also Truth in Television, as it's practically a necessity in politics and diplomacy, and just a common trait of a Jewish Mother. Someone with Silk Hiding Steel is likely to engage in this when needed.

Common weapons in this include Politeness Judo, Chewbacca Defense, and Damned By Faint Praise.

Compare Jews Love to Argue, Sugary Malice.

Contrast Hair-Trigger Temper (who couldn't do this trope if he/she tried).

Examples of Passive-Aggressive Kombat include:

Anime and Manga

  • Adale from The Good Witch of the West was noted, by her enemy whom she'd just beaten in this, to never be at a loss for words.
  • Played more literally than usual in the Territory Arc in Yu Yu Hakusho, wherein one of the characters with Territory abilities can create a Territory in which violence is not possible, and the only way to beat the other person is to make them say whatever the Taboo might be at the moment. Kurama talked him into making the whole Japanese alphabet taboo one letter (kana) at a time, then made him laugh—setting off several of the Taboo sounds and beating him at his own game.
    • Also one earlier in the Four Saint Beasts Arc, where at the end Hiei notes that Kurama has to have the last word.
  • In Corsair, Aura, princess of a pirate clan, is kidnapped by the governor-general of a nearby territory, Jean-Hughes D'Aubigne. Their first conversation with her as a hostage consists of them sharing a meal and speaking in polite monotone while exchanging sentiments such as "It's hard to believe a beauty like you is also a dirty sea pirate."
  • In Black Butler II, those meetings between Sebastian and Claude that don't degenerate into an outright brawl inevitably turn into this, as they exchange backhanded compliments and critique each other's buttling-skills.
  • Light and L's battle of wits in Death Note in all it's EPIC passive-aggressive glory. Later Light and Near's.
  • Anthy Himemiya of Revolutionary Girl Utena is a master at this, though it's also deconstructed in that it's the only way she can fight back, having been emotionally anesthetized by years of emotional and sexual manipulation by her Manipulative Bastard brother Akio.

Comic Books


  • The first Iron Man movie has a wonderful little example between Pepper Potts and Christine Everhart.

Pepper: (after Stark's one night stand with Christine) I have your clothes here; they've been dry cleaned and pressed. And there's a car waiting for you outside that will take you anywhere you'd like to go.
Christine: (patronizing tone) You must be the famous Pepper Potts.
Pepper: (smiles and nods) Indeed I am.
Christine: After all these years, Tony still has you picking up the dry cleaning.
Pepper: I do anything and everything Mr. Stark requires. Including, occasionally, taking out the trash. Will that be all?


Vulcan Council President: Why did you come before this council today? Was it to satisfy your emotional need to rebel?
Spock: The only emotion I wish to convey is gratitude. Thank you, Ministers, for your consideration.
In a tone reserved for telling someone to "Go to Hell"
Spock: Live long and prosper.



  • Pride and Prejudice is like the WWII of snarkery and Politeness Judo, but almost everyone is so passive-aggressive, blink and you miss it.
    • Pretty much everything by Jane Austen is made of this trope because they're about snarking on a society that reveres manners (so most conflict is dealt with in the most cutting—but polite! -- manner possible), but Pride and Prejudice is probably the best example because of all the people who disapprove of the couples and make it known in the most polite way possible.
    • Someone once re-wrote Dirty Harry in the style of Pride and Prejudice. "Dirty" Harriet Bennett ends up telling Lady Catherine de Burgh "I have no objection, Madam, to your proceeding, since by doing so you shall render my day perfectly agreeable."
  • A refrigerator is also the site of Passive Aggressive Kombat in The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul... Dirk Gently does not want to open it before his housekeeper cleans it, and sets up elaborate, tiny traps in order to be able to tell if she has, one including a strand of hair. The refrigerator turns out to be so epic in its filth that it spawns a horrible god-eating abomination when it's finally opened.

Live-Action TV

Tabletop Games


Video Games

Web Comics

  • Rose and her mother fight this way (when they're not more aggressively fighting) in Homestuck. Their refrigerator is a good example of the nature of the feud (goes on for several pages).
  • In one arc of Bruno the Bandit, Bruno encounters a gang of pirates who wield weaponized passive-aggressiveness. They do it with the help of magic rings that make other people unreasonably concerned about what the pirates think of them.
  • Something*Positive: If they could make money at it, this would be the family business of the McIntyres. The champion in the family is, generally, agreed to be Faye.
  • Characters in Rumors of War use conversation as their primary mode of aggression.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • One of the many Cutaway Gags in Family Guy is Peter helping Chris to get his insect badge by observing a family of "wasps." Cut away to Chris and Peter sitting behind a potted plant in a lavish dining hall watching a family of upper-class white Anglo Saxon Protestants doing exactly this.
    • Subverted at the end when the father calls his wife a whore in front of their child.