Created By: NetMonster on June 11, 2011 Last Edited By: NetMonster on February 1, 2013

Suspiciously Specific Prohibition

Bob tells Alice not to do something that would otherwise never cross Alice's mind.

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Bob tells Alice not to do something that would otherwise never cross Alice's (or the average person's) mind, much to Alice's surprise and confusion. The strangeness of Bob's request is not lost on the audience.

This can be due to any of the following:

1. Bob has reason to believe Alice will at some point have the intention of doing said thing even if she hasn't yet thought of it. This can happen if Bob is a seer or a time traveller. In a case of Dramatic Irony, this can end up being something of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy if Alice does the forbidden thing because Bob planted the idea.

2. Bob has been in a place where people were expected to do that. Usually the audience has followed Bob along this journey and understand why he would say that to Alice. The scene may function as a way of showing how Bob's experience has alienated him from his home world. Often a Call Back to Bob's adventure, and Played for Laughs.

3. Bob simply doesn't know how Alice thinks. In this case, the scene is usually meant to show how insane or evil or jaded/cynical he is. Less often done in the opposite fashion, to show how naive he is.

May be phrased as "Whatever you do, don't ever..."

The standard response is "Why would I want to do that?"

Note that Suspiciously Specific Prohibition doesn't include the case where Bob is trying to pull off a Batman Gambit to get Alice to do that very thing. That's Reverse Psychology. If Alice does it specifically to hurt Bob, it's Briar Patching.

Compare/contrast Could Say It But and Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee, for when Bob is only pretending to forbid Alice from doing something, but he is actually implying that he wants her to do it.

Examples:

  • Type 1 occurs in Back to the Future when Marty tells his future parents to go easy on their son if he ever happens to accidentally set fire to the carpet.
  • Type 3 occurs in the movie The Green Mile, with Percy begging the other guards not to put him in a cell with a violent criminal. This is done to show how sociopathic Percy is, and is appropriately lampshaded in the answer he gets: "Only you would think of that".
  • Looney Tunes: In Real Life, the producer poked his head in one day and apropos of nothing said, "Bullfights aren't funny," and forbade them from making a bullfight cartoon. Up until then they had no plans to make one, but this inspired "Bully for Bugs," one of the most beloved Bugs Bunny shorts. That was apparently a type 3.
  • Type 1: In The Eyre Affair Thursday's father (a Time Traveller on the run) pops up and tells her to tell her mother not to paint the bedroom mauve(?), because he's just come from the future where she did and he hates it. Thursday dutifully tells her mother not to paint the bedroom mauve. Her mother thinks that's a wonderful idea and goes ahead and paints it mauve. And then asks Thursday why she suggested it, since it looks terrible.
  • Either a type 2 or a type 3: In Bill Bailey's Tinselworm, he talks about an occasion when he was approached by a representative of a Swiss bank and asked to perform a routine for them, with the condition that his material must not mention Nazi Gold.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • June 11, 2011
    elwoz
    What's the name of the trope for "I can't help you. I _especially_ could not help you if you were to bring the cart around the back of the university at midnight and leave it there till next morning," as seen in Thud!? Because it seems closely related.
  • June 11, 2011
    NetMonster
    Do you mean Could Say It But? They are indeed related, maybe I should put a link in the description. They are distinct, though - Could Say It But is for when Bob wants to help Alice, and Alice knows what's going on. Both Bob and Alice know that Bob wants Alice to do something specific, and he's pretending to tell her not to in a "wink wink nudge nudge" way.
  • June 11, 2011
    batgirl1
    Ha, just saw an example of this not long ago:

    Comic Books
  • June 11, 2011
    SalFishFin
    A lot of this is covered in Briar Patching, methinks.
  • June 12, 2011
    hevendor717
    Seems way more like insight into Briar Patching than a brand new trope.
  • June 12, 2011
    NetMonster
    Only the first type overlaps with Briar Patching (making this basically a supertrope). If you think it's better that there be no overlap, I'll change the description to exclude Reverse Psychology.
  • June 12, 2011
    bbofun
    Yeah, you should probably take the Briar Patching examples out.

    The Green Mile example isn't very clearly written- who's sociopathic tendencies are being shown? And, how, exactly? Plus, you really don' need to hide spoilers for a decade-old movie, especially when they aren't important to the plot. (If it was about the mouse, or the big plot secret, maybe...)
  • June 13, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Looney Tunes: In Real Life, the producer poked his head in one day and apropos of nothing said, "Bullfights aren't funny," and forbade them from making a bullfight cartoon. Up until then they had no plans to make one, but this inspired "Bully For Bugs," one of the most beloved Bugs Bunny shorts.
  • June 13, 2011
    NetMonster
    I've made the aforementioned changes. Note that the numbering has changed.
  • June 13, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In The Eyre Affair Thursday's father (a Time Traveller on the run) pops up and tells her to tell her mother not to paint the bedroom mauve(?), because he's just come from the future where she did and he hates it. Thursday dutifully tells her mother not to paint the bedroom mauve. Her mother thinks that's a wonderful idea and goes ahead and paints it mauve. And then asks Thursday why she suggested it, since it looks terrible.
  • June 15, 2011
    nabber
    "Don't look, but the police are right behind us." Classic.
  • June 16, 2011
    Ardiente
    In the Harry Potter And The Methods Of Rationality, Dumbledore tries this on Harry in regards to the Second Floor Forbidden Corridor. Everyone but Harry falls for it.
  • June 16, 2011
    Grandy
    • In Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, a demon, Crowley, puts forth the theory God did it to Adam and Eve, putting the forbidden tree right in the middle of the garden then telling them NOT to eat from it, instead of putting it on some distant field where they couldn't reach it and never telling them about the fact.
  • June 16, 2011
    IronLion
    In Bill Bailey's Tinselworm, he talks about an occasion when he was approached by a representative of a Swiss bank and asked to perform a routine for them, with the condition that his material must not mention Nazi Gold.
  • June 17, 2011
    NetMonster
    Could you give some context for your examples to determine which type it is?

    Keep in mind that it has to be distinct from Reverse Psychology.
  • June 17, 2011
    IronLion
    It's closest to Type 3, but the joke is that there's absolutely no reason for the bank to expect him to do such a routine; he sarcastically notes afterwards that this ruined his plans to appear on stage in a gold jumpsuit on a gold swastika.
  • June 19, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Hmm. Perhaps this is close to a Type 3, given the characters. In The Quest for Saint Camber, during the ceremony in which Dhugal receives his knightly accolade from his father Duncan, Duncan makes his Deryni aura visible, thereby publicly revealing what he is. Afterwards, fellow Deryni bishop Arilan confronts him about it. Here's the key part of their exchange:

    Arilan: "...It could be worse, I suppose. You could have done it at the altar, in full pontificals. Now wouldn't that have been a coup?"
    Duncan: "But I never would have--"
    Arilan: I don't know what you never would have done! Not any more. All I know is that you've made a great deal of trouble for a great many people. I hope you're quite satisfied."

    It's also Foreshadowing, because Duncan does do it at an altar in full vestments with an archbishop at each elbow while consecrating an altar in King Kelson's Bride.
  • June 28, 2011
    TBeholder
    No mentions of Blue Beard?
  • June 28, 2011
    EternalSeptember
    Adverbly Adjective Noun is an index for this title.
  • July 12, 2011
    NetMonster
    Is there any future for this?
  • July 12, 2011
    MetaFour
    The Other Wiki has an essay titled Don't stuff beans up your nose which points out the dangers of this kind of prohibition.
  • January 29, 2013
    Catbert
    Bump. This seems interesting.
  • January 30, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    Shows up in the Ren & Stimpy show here http://nicktoons.nick.com/videos/clip/space-madness-clip-2.html

    In the Brak Show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc-v6DPwG_8 the prohibition (three hams will kill the pet) is the only part of the pet care instructions that the character remembers, so that's what he feeds it.
  • February 1, 2013
    MrRuano
    Intentionally used in Hellsing Abridged when Walter tells Alucard that he can go on a vacation anywhere he would like...except Brazil, where Integra has a mission for him.
    Walter: You can go anywhere you wish...except for Brazil. Sir Integra was quite insistent that you never visit Brazil. (Beat)
    Alucard: Taking the police girl and the Frenchman.
  • February 1, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • In one episode of American Dad, Stan takes pride in knowing that Francine won home coming queen in high school and brags about it. When it is revealed that Francine legitimately lost by two uncounted votes, he starts hanging out with the real winner. Francine decides to stay at her old friend Quacky's apartment to recover from the crisis, but joins with Stan's body double when he appologizes. Just before, Francine asks Quacky over the phone if he has any more tissues. He tells her where to find some, but said not to look in the third drawer by the bed, not that she had any intention of doing so. Curiosity gets the best of her and looks inside anyway just to see what it was. "Oh lord!" indeed.
  • February 1, 2013
    GoldenDarkness
    Maybe related to Forbidden Fruit

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