Created By: ZarbiNerada on May 2, 2011 Last Edited By: dalexterminate on July 24, 2011

What You Are When The Chips Are Down

When the going gets tough, your true colors show.

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So you know a caring, public-spirited individual. Or so you think. The you're both in trouble, and this person bails on you.

Or, you know someone you just don't like, and consider to be an unpleasant character. They may be a Jerkass, in fact. However, you're both in trouble and a jerk proves to have a heart of gold, someone scary turns out to be not so evil after all, etc.

There are a variety of reasons for why the appearance of good or evil either drops or is reinforced when there is trouble.

  • In The Dark Knight, The Joker sets up a scenario with two ferry boats: one carrying civilians, the other carrying convicts. He tells them that if anyone flees their boat or if both boats still exist at midnight, he will blow both boats to Kingdom Come. But if one of them blows the other up, he will spare that boat. A prisoner takes the detonator on the ship he's on and throws it out a porthole. On the other ferry, a businessman considers blowing up the prisoners but decides against it in the end. That, plus Batman's intervention when the Joker is about to blow the boats up, saves both boats.

Live Action Television
  • Davros pulls one on the Doctor in Journey's End.

Real Life
  • One's final moments are often very telling about one's true character.
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • May 2, 2011
  • May 3, 2011
    Actually this is a bit different. What You Are In The Dark is about how you act when no one will know.

    This trope seems to be "how do you act when things get hard/dangerous".
  • May 3, 2011
    I think we have this one, but I'm not finding it. Anyway...
    • Bones. They have the Gravedigger in custody, but time is running out to save the victim.
      (Taffet is still not speaking and Hodgins is getting frustrated. he approaches Sweets)
      Hodgins: You got to get your hands on some truth telling drugs.
      Sweets: (confused) What?
      Hodgins: (looking at his watch) Would you rather torture her?
      Jared: I know a little bit about that.
      Sweets: No. What? We don't do that.
      Brennan: Booth will die.
      Sweets: Character is who you are under pressure, not who you are when everything's fine. We're the good guys, we don't...we don't torture people.
  • May 3, 2011
    Boo Radley is revealed as a hero in the closing chapters of To Kill A Mocking Bird as the shut-in who everyone is afraid of saves Scout and Jem from a murder attempt by Bob Ewell.
  • May 3, 2011
    ^^^Ah. Fair enough, then.
  • May 4, 2011
    Weird title o_O Crisis Personality Reveal?
  • May 4, 2011
    Need A Better Title. Also, the Major Man episode from Powerpuff Girls
  • May 6, 2011
    Also, the joker quote should be the page quote, with "when the chips are down" part being potholed to Trope Namer, and this context being linked to. Like this:
    "You see, their "morals," their "code," it's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you, when the chips are down, these "civilized" people, they'll EAT each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve."
    - The Joker, from The Dark Knight. (See here for context.)
  • May 6, 2011
  • May 6, 2011
    Similar to Turns Red?
  • May 6, 2011
    It should be pointed out, however, that this trope is an instance of the fundamental attribution error, also known as correspondence bias. Science has proven that "character" and "personality" are very overrated as the source of someone's actions, when wighted against that person's particular circumstances at the time of the action. It's one thing to be willing to help people out when you are in a good situation (and it is admirable insofar as there are many other people who in the same situation would not bother), but abandoning them when you yourself are in danger doesn't "disprove" or "reveal" anything: the circumstances are different, and you behave differently. That you are only willing to help people up to a certain point doesn't mean helping them all the way before that wasn't nice.

    And when a jerkass helps you when both of you are in dire straits, that doesn't make him someone you want to socialize with in normal circumstances, it just means he's useful in dangerous ones, and that you owe him a huge favour.

    Although there is another thing called cognitive dissonace which is basically this error attributed to oneself: people will do stuff, and then retoractively justify that they wanted to do that stuff because that's just the sort of person they are. The jerkass might become nicer after helping you because they will think of themselves as a nicer person, the philantropist will become more selfish and cautious after the crisis because he'll start thinking of himself as selfish and cautious.
  • May 16, 2011
    ^ laconic version: for some reason unfathomable for me yet, it loudly inconveniences apple-lovin' wikiedia-roaming folk. ;]

    ^^ uh, how it's related to Difficulty Ramp / antagonist version of Heroic Second Wind?

  • May 24, 2011
    What You Are Under Fire?
  • May 24, 2011
    That seems to be a good one, T Beholder but might sound too specific to those who take it too literally.

    I would suggest just using something basic like Who You Are Under Pressure or Who You Are When The Going Gets Tough...
  • May 25, 2011
    Bump. The 48 Laws of Power explicitly recommends abandoning the Lawful Good patterns of behavior if the odds just aren't worth it. Also, a friend in need should be abandoned, to stop him from dragging you down.
  • May 25, 2011
  • May 25, 2011
    From Firefly:
    Book: Have you ever read the works of Shan Yu?... He said "live with a man 40 years, share his house, his meals, speak on every subject. Then tie him up and hold him over the volcano's edge. And on that day you will finally meet the man."

    Might be a nice page quote.
  • July 24, 2011