Repeated Cue, Tardy Response
You expected an event to happen, but the spoken cue fails and you vainly keep saying it.


(permanent link) added: 2011-07-18 20:58:15 sponsor: NateTheGreat edited by: Westrim (last reply: 2013-05-14 10:23:05)

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This trope is when you repeat a word or phrase, hoping that just by the repetition you'll make something happen. Here's an example:

You and your friend have set up a scheme. When you say the word, your friend will trigger an event with perfect timing. Maybe you're going for dramatic flair. Maybe you're trying to fool an audience into believing you're magic. Or maybe you're just stalling until the villain is in the right spot to trap him. In any case, things have to go just as planned.

You're giving your speech. The big moment arrives, and you utter the code phrase...and nothing happens.

So you say the phrase again, hoping the event will now occur. Still no dice. Maybe your friend didn't hear you? You repeat it again, louder and with more emphasis...and still nothing happens.

Rule of Funny means that, if the event actually does eventually happen, it will always occur either after you've given up, or between recitations. Example: "Behold this event...Now!" (beat) "...Now!" (beat) "...No--" (interrupted by event)

This is an example of a phenomenon in behavioral psychology called an "extinction burst," which is where a behavior that's been consistently rewarded in the past suddenly isn't rewarded, and the behavior will briefly become more frequent before it stops.

Psych textbooks use the example of flipping a light switch, finding that the lights don't come on, and then flipping the switch on and off again a few times before you give up.

Examples:

Live-Action TV
  • Arrested Development: In Exit Strategy Michael is in a meeting with Wayne Jarvis. Wayne dramatically says, "[GOB]'s on the news right now," and turns the television on. He's not on the news. They wait for quite a while before the aforementioned news report finally comes on.
    Wayne Jarvis: And imagine the impact if that had come on right when we turned on the TV.
  • That 70's Show: Donna tells Eric to hide in the woods so he can jump out at the end of a ghost story she is going to tell.
    Donna: You'll know when she's coming because she screams before she kills. Let's see if we can hear her.
    [silence]
    Donna: I said let's see if we can hear her!
    Eric (off screen): Donna, I'm stuck in a thorn bush.

Movies
  • The climax of Mall Rats featured Brody setting up to expose the antagonist's previous crime (indecency with a minor) to be as public as possible, but it backfires in this fashion when the tape gets dropped. Cue protagonist yelling, "NOW!" several times while being hauled away before events turn and the tape plays, resetting Brody's plan.
  • In the Pixar film Cars, Lightning says the phrase "Is it getting dark out?" at which point the old lady car (can't remember her name) was supposed to activate the neon lights, but she didn't hear him. Lightning tries again, she actually forgot what she was supposed to do and Red decides to do her job for her.

Video Games
  • At the end of Team Fortress 2 tie-in video Meet the Spy, the BLU Soldier has killed the BLU Spy because he was "obviously" the RED Spy.
    BLU Soldier: Watch, he'll turn red any second now. ... Annyyy second now...

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