Created By: 69BookWorM69 on July 12, 2013 Last Edited By: 69BookWorM69 on August 31, 2013
Troped

Just for the Heli of It

Bob thinks he has to use a chopper to get somewhere. Alice thinks he's being ridiculous.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Former Title: Gratuitous Helicopter

Sure, helicopters are their own special brand of Cool Plane, but sometimes taking one to get somewhere seems a bit much. Using helicopters when there are perfectly good roads available? Expending emergency resources on a non-emergency, or something less than urgent? Demonstrating you have more wealth and importance than someone in a mere limousine? Sheer publicity value? For some people, the use of the helicopter is preferable or even quite reasonable, for others, not so much.

When this trope is operating, expect someone in-universe to question, criticize or ridicule the use of the chopper. This person may be unaware of all the reasoning behind the choice to use the chopper, or they may simply find it unconvincing, if not outright ridiculous. In either case, they will draw attention to what they consider the absurdity of the thing.

Simply having a particularly spiffy chopper with weaponry/gadgetry (which would fall under Cool Plane) is not this trope. Contrast this with instances where helicopters are expected (media about modern wars) or even practical (say, T.C.'s helicopter charter service in the multi-island state of Hawaii).

Examples

Advertising
  • A commercial trading service has a customer bragging the service has their own helicopter. Why do they need a helicopter? He doesn't know, but it's a helicopter!
  • In an ad within an ad, we see Michael Bay is spoofing his Signature Style, including having seven helicopters. The people to whom he's pitching the ad have no idea why the copters are there.

Anime and Manga
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler Isumi keeps trying to convince her friends to ride with her in her helicopter as a means of travel, despite the lack of need to use it. Considering this is her fifth helicopter in as many days it's no surprise her friends prepare more normal methods of travel.

Film
  • In the 1934 film It Happened One Night, the groom arrives at the society wedding in a helicopter (called an "autogyro" in the terminology of the time, making this Older Than They Think), apparently for the PR value. The bride and her father are not favorably impressed:
    Mr. Andrews: Everything's set. Creating quite a furore, too. (Pause) Great stunt King is going to pull.
    Ellie: Stunt?
    Mr. Andrews: Yeah, he's landing on the lawn in an autogyro.
    Ellie: (Flatly) Yes, I heard.
    Mr. Andrews: Personally, I think it's silly, too.
    Ellie and her father aren't the only ones to find it a bit silly
    Peter: I'd like to get a load of that three ring circus you're pulling. I wanna see what love looks like when it's triumphant. I haven't had a good laugh in a week.
The bride ends up leaving before the ceremony to run away with Peter, a newspaper reporter.
  • In the Richard Pryor version of Brewster's Millions, Brewster flies his minor-league baseball team in on helicoptors for a press event before an exhibition game he has paid for between the team and the New York Yankees. The coach calls him on it, saying that the team will be tired after the trip which was compeltely unneccesary because they're just over in New Jersey and could've gotten there faster on the bus. Brewster counters that he did it to make an impression - he doesn't mention that he did it so he could spend more money (to fulfill the challenge to spend a large sum of money and have nothing tangible to show for it).

Literature
  • Animorphs had a bizarre case: Tobias and Rachel (in bird morph) are following a woman by latching on to a taxi. Then Tobias, for some reason, gets it into his head that they'll lose her if they stay on the taxi, so he flies up to a nearby helicopter and grabs on to the skids, a dangerous act and, as it turns ot, pointless, since the helicopter ends up landing at the airport where the woman (Visser Three in morph) was going.
  • In Aunt Dimity and the Duke, the Duke of Penford (in Cornwall) provided the local physician with a helicopter for his use. Emma Porter learns of it from the estate mechanic. When she expresses surprise at the idea, he tells her, "Yes, well, Dr. Singh had to have one, and since the village needed him, His Grace got him his chopper." The chopper later comes in handy when the duke's cousin, fashion model Susannah Ashley-Woods is found unconscious from a head injury and airlifted to hospital in Portsmouth.
  • In Aunt Dimity's Christmas, when a vagrant collapses unconscious in Lori and Bill's driveway, the couple bring him inside. Willis Sr. calls in an RAF rescue helicopter to transport the man to hospital in Oxford (in part because the roads were blocked after a blizzard). Various neighbours express astonishment when they repeatedly ask Lori, "Did you really call out the RAF to rescue a tramp?" Peggy Kitchen ("shopkeeper, postmistress, and undisputed mistress of Finch") roared, "In a helicopter! Seems the lap of luxury to me."

Live-Action TV
  • In the Columbo episode "A Friend In Deed," Richard Kiley plays a deputy police commissioner who covers for his friend's accidental killing of his wife and then demands the friend's help to cover up his own wife's murder. Kiley's character tries to make it seem as if an unknown burglar-cum-killer is besetting his posh neighbourhood, and at one point he rides along in a helicopter in hopes of catching this person. It turns out the chopper ride was part of the construction of his alibi, plus it made it seem the LAPD was putting a high priority on catching this non-existent crook, and the guy used it in part because he had the power to do so. Before the flight, Columbo actually asks the deputy commissioner if the helicopter was really necessary.
  • Discussed a few times in WKRP in Cincinnati, where newsman Les Nessman wants a traffic 'copter for the station in order to keep up with the better funded competition. In the first episode new program director Andy promises him one just to shut him up. Cut to the third season premiere:
    Les: You promised me a helicopter.
    Andy: Yes, but that was three years ago and I was lying.
Clearly Andy doesn't think a helicopter is a high priority.
  • Subverted in the Sao Paulo, Brazil episode of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain and his friend hop in a helicopter to fly across town rather than drive. It's set up as gratuitous until Bourdain mentions in a voiceover that people who stick to the street need armored cars and defensive driving courses because street crime horrific traffic are such serious problems there.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • Played for laughs in The Powerpuff Girls episode "Jewel of the Aisle". A jewel thief loses a precious gem in a box of Lucky Captain Rabbit King cereal, which he then has to recover from the Powerpuff Girls. Among his attempts to get the jewel back are taking a helicopter up to the roof of their house, getting knocked off the roof by a squirrel attack, and then taking a second helicopter back up to the roof.
  • One episode of Metal Ocalypse had Nathan say; "Guys, I think we need to build a space helicopter!" He's immediately shot down with "That's impossible!" The band also frequently uses a helicopter the size of a good-sized house to travel with, when they're not using their longship car.
Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • July 12, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Yeah, this is a bit of a salvage job from a discarded YKTTW. I thought I'd try to refine it a bit and see if it goes anywhere. I think it's a bit like the gratuitous language tropes: it conveys the wealth of resources available, and it might even have a subtle significance that is lost without it.
  • July 12, 2013
    Larkmarn
  • July 12, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Edited the formatting of the It Happened One Night example.
  • July 12, 2013
    DAN004
    If we wanna get punny, I'd suggest Get To The Chopper - but otherwise this title works well.
  • July 12, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ That would get misused for a goal of getting to the escape vehicle.
  • July 13, 2013
    dvorak
    Western Animation
    • One episode of Metal Ocalypse had Nathan say; "Guys, I think we need to build a space helicopter!" He's immediately shot down with "That's impossible!" The band also frequently uses a helicopter the size of a good-sized house to travel with, when they're not using their longship car.
  • July 13, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    This is either a subtrope of or redundant to Garnishing The Story.
  • July 13, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Web Comics
  • July 13, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    ^^ sounds like a subtrope
  • July 15, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    @ randomsurfer Thanks for the editing assistance. My geriatric computer is apt to crash on occasion, and it's tough to type with a cat on my lap. : )

    @ paycheckgurl I also consider it a subtrope to Garnishing The Story. All the "gratuitous" language tropes are listed there, and the description for the supertrope of GTS says: "Now even if these elements have some importance to the story, it's similar to a Mac Guffin in that the form needn't be any of the elements, but it's still better to have them." In other words, that deputy police commissioner could have constructed his alibi in some other way, but he used the helicopter as a demonstration of power and to grant some seriousness to the false burglary spree theory. Brewster could've hired limousines (one per player) to ferry those players to that game, but the helicopters were cooler. as well as expensive. The daredevil would-be bridegroom could've driven a sports car to his wedding ceremony, but he landed a helicopter on the lawn to make a bigger splash with the reporters (and besides, the bride's father had all that space on his expansive lawn for a landing). In all these cases, I really think the helicopter "makes the story better in some way simply for having it, similar to adding spices and seasonings to food."

    That said, I included the in-universe reaction and used the title "Gratuitous Helicopter" to avoid the problems with potential Trope Decay and PSOC noted in the prior discussion of this idea. I also tried to leave out the many military examples of helicopter use (like M*A*S*H* and the military films) and as well Magnum PI and some of the advertising, since there's a hint that in those cases helicopters simply come with the territory.

  • July 15, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Part of my example was cut off when it was added to the draft. Fixed it. Also, fixed a Red Link while I was at it.
  • July 15, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^TYVM :)
  • July 15, 2013
    aurora369
    Also, an autogyro is not the same thing as a helicopter. It's a more primitive form of chopper with an unpowered big prop.
  • July 15, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ True, but I included it anyway because the situation makes it the functional equivalent of a helicopter for the purposes of this trope.
  • July 15, 2013
    DracMonster
  • July 15, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ The pun is strong in the first one.
  • July 15, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ Hmmm... maybe.
  • July 15, 2013
    DAN004
    ^^^ Do want! :D
  • July 16, 2013
    Arivne
  • July 16, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Shall I just change it, or should there be a crowner?
  • July 17, 2013
    DAN004
    No one's against it (yet) so go ahead and change it.
  • July 17, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Done and done.
  • July 17, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    Subverted in the Sao Paulo, Brazil episode of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain and his friend hop in a helicopter to fly across town rather than drive. It's set up as gratuitous until Bourdain mentions that people who stick to the street need armored cars and defensive driving courses because street crime is such a serious problem there.
  • July 17, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Hmmm. Does someone question the use of the chopper, with Bourdain answering? Or does he give a nod to this idea by prefacing his explanation? I don't have cable, so I've never seen the show.
  • July 17, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^ The episode is on Hulu for free atm. But basically it's set up with him asking how traffic is today and his friend replies that its terrible as usual. He asks if his friend can give him a lift from the market to her house across town and she agrees saying they'll take "an easy way". Then it cuts to a shot of them walking across a rooftop and sitting down in a helicopter and her taking the controls and taking off. For a moment, it's like "Seriously? A helicopter!" and then he narrates in a voiceover to explain that its actually more common than you'd think for people to fly helicopters to cross the city because of dangerous crime and horrific traffic in the streets.
  • July 21, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Thank you for that. My geriatric computer sometimes crashes when trying to play streaming video (and on some sites it doesn't work at all).
  • July 22, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Hats, anyone? I'd like to launch this soon.
  • July 23, 2013
    Sackett
    Anime and Manga:
    • In Hayate The Combat Butler Isumi keeps trying to convince her friends to ride with her in her helicopter as a means of travel, despite the lack of need to use it. Considering this is her fifth helicopter in as many days it's no surprise her friends prepare more normal methods of travel.
  • August 5, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Thanks.
  • August 11, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    I thought this was discarded, so I made this. Feel free to merge the examples, and even some of the definition, if you like.

    That is unless you feel they can be separate tropes.
  • August 11, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Dave Barry had a column where readers sent in their most-hated commercial. Amid the torrent of responses, one mentioned a radio station that ran commercials specifically to state that they had a helicopter. In one of his books, he states that the badness of a movie is directly proportional to the number of helicopters it contains.
    • Animorphs had a bizarre case: Tobias and Rachel (in bird morph) are following a woman by latching on to a taxi. Then Tobias, for some reason, gets it into his head that they'll lose her if they stay on the taxi, so he flies up to a nearby helicopter and grabs on to the skids, a dangerous act and, as it turns ot, pointless, since the helicopter ends up landing at the airport where the woman (Visser Three in morph) was going.
  • August 11, 2013
    MaxWest
    Played for laughs in The Powerpuff Girls episode "Jewel of the Aisle". A jewel thief loses a precious gem in a box of Lucky Captain Rabbit King cereal, which he then has to recover from the Powerpuff Girls. Among his attempts to get the jewel back are taking a helicopter up to the roof of their house, getting knocked off the roof by a squirrel attack, and then taking a second helicopter back up to the roof.
  • August 12, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ What category would the Dave Barry example go? Comedy (as in stand-up)? Literature?

    @ DragonQuestZ I salvaged this trope and a half-dozen examples from the one that was discarded. I think yours is a rather different trope, and perhaps a conflation of the two is why the other one was discarded. I think you should have a compare/contrast sentence to distinguish it from this one (which features a bigger element of criticism of the chopper's use, often explicit in the work).
  • August 12, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    ^Literature or Newspapers (since it was from one of his newspaper-syndicated humor columns).

    • Discussed a few times in WKRP In Cincinnati, where newsman Les Nessman wants a traffic 'copter for the station in order to keep up with the better funded competition. In the first episode new program director Andy promises him one just to shut him up. Cut to the third season premiere:
      Les: You promised me a helicopter.
      Andy: Yes, but that was three years ago and I was lying.
  • August 12, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Examples added. Hats, anyone?
  • August 12, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    ^^^ Okay, that's something I'll work on.
  • August 22, 2013
    DragonQuestZ

    Also this would be a Sister Trope.
  • August 23, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Thanks for the example.

    I'll edit the text to reflect that when yours launches.

    Meanwhile, still wanting two more hats to launch this one, and I have other things to do...
  • August 25, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    One more hat...
  • August 26, 2013
    Arivne
    We previously had a YKTTW on this subject called Everything's Better With Helicopters.

    It has examples you could borrow.
  • August 26, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Actually, I salvaged material from that to make this one. Someone else used the other examples to try making a YKTTW for cool helicopters, but has since discarded it. Thanks, though.

  • August 26, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ I discarded that one, and made another ykttw with the same name, but that one is more distinct from this ykttw.
  • August 31, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Launching...
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=l2j5tupbap0malz9vneh7guj&trope=JustForTheHeliOfIt