Created By: CanzetTheCoyote on August 6, 2011 Last Edited By: ZuTheSkunk on March 25, 2017

Trivial Tragedy

Something mundane or silly happens and is treated like a tear jerker.

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Trope
Something very silly happens and is treated like something extraordinarily sad. Maybe someone drops their favorite food, or maybe someone feels so bad about using someone else's toilet paper they cross the Despair Event Horizon. Whatever the case, it is pretty minor stuff. May overlap with Felony Misdemeanor, especially if the character has a My God, What Have I Done? moment.

Compare Serious Business, where a normally frivolous activity is treated as a matter of life and death. Contrast Black Comedy, in which a serious situation is portrayed humorously, and Dude, Not Funny!, where something is Played for Laughs and fails to get them.


Examples

Films - Animated
  • In Foodfight!, Mr. Clipboard takes a bag of chips off a shelf in the supermarket and brutally crushes it on the floor with his foot. The owner of the supermarket is genuinely heartbroken about this.
    Owner: That was a perfectly good bag of chips! Never opened... never enjoyed...
  • In Phineas and Ferb: Beyond the Second Dimension, the alternate dimension's Hanz Doofenshmirtz's tragic Back Story that made him evil is... that he lost his favorite train toy.

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney rips a suit jacket, rushes it to a tailor, cries when he's told it can't be saved, and has it cremated. Another episode features him mourning a tie that got a little ketchup on it.
  • In one episode of Royal Pains, Russell mourns over an antique rug that's been badly damaged by its Nouveau Riche owners.

Western Animation
  • On Adventure Time, Marceline angsts over the time her daddy ate her fries.
  • In one episode of Brandy & Mr. Whiskers, Ed has to use the titular duo's bathroom and he started crying his heart out because he used their toilet paper.
  • In the Futurama episode "The 30% Iron Chef", Zoidberg frames Fry for breaking Prof. Farnsworth's model ship, leading to Fry (who couldn't even be bothered to defend himself) having to... pay $10 towards the cost of materials (and later being unable to buy a turkey baster with it.) Zoidberg is stricken with guilt, culminating with an attempt at committing seppuku on live television to atone.
  • John Kricfalusi stated in his blog he created The Ren & Stimpy Show episode "Son Of Stimpy" as a parody of shock value pathos, making a melodramatic plot that revolved largely around the fact Stimpy couldn't fart a second time.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Iroh weeps for a spilled cup of tea.
    Iroh: I know I shouldn't cry over spilled tea, but... *bawls*
  • The Simpsons. In the sixth season episode "Lisa's Rival", Homer comes across an overturned truck spilling sugar. Like expected, his first thought is to shovel a huge pile of the sugar into his car, stealing it to himself. Homer quickly becomes obsessed by the amount of sugar he has, and when rain eventually melts the pile he's gathered, we get the following reaction:
    Homer: NOOOO! It's melting! My sugar is melting!
    Marge: Homer, I'm sorry.
    Homer: No, it's fine Marge. I learned my lesson. A mountain of sugar is too much for one man. That's why God dispenses it in tiny packets. Also, that's why he lives on a plantation in Hawaii.
  • In an episode of South Park, the boys are caught attempting to illegally download a single song and as punishment, are shown the consequences of illegal downloading, walking past the sight of several celebrities looking horribly depressed as they're forced to downgrade to a slightly less impressive private jet or wait a few extra weeks to buy their own private island.
Community Feedback Replies: 81
  • August 6, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Mel Brooks' definition of comedy and tragedy:
    Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.
  • August 6, 2011
    cityofmist
    In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney rips a suit jacket, rushes it to a tailor, cries when he's told it can't be saved, and has it cremated.
  • August 6, 2011
    KamenZero
    In the recent Phineas And Ferb movie, the alternate dimension's Hanz Doofenshmirtz's tragic backstory that made him evil is... that he lost his favorite train toy.

    If anyone rememebers the name of the movie, feel free to add it.
  • August 7, 2011
    TeramortQueen
  • August 7, 2011
    Bisected8
    In the Futurama episode "The 30% Iron Chef", Zoidberg frames Fry for breaking Prof. Farnsworth's model ship, leading to Fry (who couldn't even be bothered to defend himself) having to...pay $10 towards the cost of materials (and later being unable to buy a turkey baster with it). Zoidberg's stricken with guilt, culminating with an attempt at committing seppuku on live television to atone.
  • August 7, 2011
    TeramortQueen
    SpongeBob's reaction to his spatula being broken. Full. Stop.
  • August 8, 2011
    hevendor717
    Phineas and Ferb: Across The Second Dimension

  • August 8, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
    Shouldn't use this name format. Trust me. Had some problem with Faux Horrific when I first called it "What do you mean it's not horrific?". Try calling this something like... Crying Over Split Milk?
  • August 8, 2011
    Twentydragon
    This probably has a lot of overlap with Heroic BSOD.

    @KamenZero: It's called Phineas and Ferb: The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension.

    @DragonQuestZ: Split milk?
  • August 9, 2011
    Tetraploid
    In one Doctor Who special, "Voyage of the Damned", it does not appear to be Played for Laughs when Kylie Minogue's character says "Cyborgs are getting equal rights, they can even get married now."
  • April 22, 2013
    Noah1
  • April 22, 2013
    StarSword
    If someone takes it over, this will have to be renamed to get rid of the "What Do You Mean, It's Not X" snowclone.
  • April 22, 2013
    MagBas
    Question: Differences between it and Wangst?
  • April 22, 2013
    littlemissmuffet
    I think the difference between this and wangst is humor. This trope is self aware and plays the "tragedy" for laughs.
  • April 22, 2013
    WackyMeetsPractical
    Wangst is also YMMV. It's about badly written sad characters. This trope is about intentionally writing characters over reacting to minor events. It's not subjective. It also doesn't imply anything negative about its use.

    Also, compare Minor Injury Overreaction and Comical Overreacting.
  • April 23, 2013
    Psi001
    • John Kricfalusi stated in his blog he created The Ren And Stimpy Show episode "Son Of Stimpy" as a parody of shock value pathos, making a melodramatic plot revolving largely around the fact Stimpy couldn't fart a second time.
  • April 23, 2013
    Larkmarn
    The description and laconic needs to clarify what this is. The description makes it out to be about something minor being legitimately presented as a tragedy, but it seems to pretty much just be about someone in-universe overreacting.
  • April 23, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Western Animation
    • The Simpsons: In the sixth season episode, "Lisa's Rival", Homer comes across an overturned truck spilling sugar. Like expected, his first thought is to shovel a huge pile of the sugar into his car, stealing it to himself. Homer quickly becomes obsessed by the amount of sugar he has, and when rain eventually melts the pile he's gathered, we get the following reaction:
      Homer: NOOOO! It is melting! My sugar is melting!
      Marge: Homer, I'm sorry.
      Homer: No, it is fine Marge. I learned my lesson. A mountain of sugar is too much for one man. That is why God dispenses it in tiny packets. Also, that is why he lives on a plantation in Hawaii.
  • July 22, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • July 22, 2014
    ZuTheSkunk
    • In Foodfight, while being inside the supermarket around which the story is centered, Mr. Clipboard takes a bag of chips off a shelf and brutally crushes it on the floor with his foot. The owner of the supermarket is genuinely heartbroken about this.
      Owner: That was a perfectly good bag of chips! Never opened... never enjoyed...
  • July 22, 2014
    DAN004
    Who wanna grab this?
  • July 22, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    I'll take it.
  • July 23, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Changed media section title(s) to our standard style.
    • Blue Linked (backstory, angst).
  • July 23, 2014
    ZuTheSkunk
    Fixed the placement of the Foodfight example, since it's supposed to be in the Films - Animated.
  • July 23, 2014
    f1shst1x
  • July 23, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Okay, I've changed the name? Do we like it better?
  • July 23, 2014
    DAN004
    @ Strick Obscuro: Nooooooope. Not clear.
  • July 24, 2014
    tryrar
    yeah, this is a Stock Phrase title, which is a no-no
  • July 25, 2014
    MJNSEIFER
    There's another How I Met Your Mother episode where Barney mourns the "death" of one of his ties, because it got a tiny amount of ketchup on it.
  • July 25, 2014
    DAN004
    I's like to suggest What Do You Mean Its Not Tragic but it's kind of a bad snowclone.

    Non Tragic Tragedy?
  • July 25, 2014
    ZuTheSkunk
    @DAN 004: Well, the previous title was Faux Tragedy.
  • July 28, 2014
    Snicka
    How about Trivial Tragedy?
  • July 28, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ that works too.
  • July 28, 2014
    DAN004
  • July 28, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    ^ Okay, I've added that.
  • July 28, 2014
    StellarBlitz
    bumping. You're welcome.
  • July 28, 2014
    Larkmarn
    I don't like the name. It sounds like the opposite (a tragedy is treated as trivial).
  • July 28, 2014
    DAN004
    White Tragedy? (To contrast Black Comedy)
  • July 28, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    May be caused by or related to Skewed Priorities?
  • July 28, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    ... Am I going to have to rename this damned thing again?
  • July 28, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Perhaps.
  • July 29, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    *sigh* Decide what you're going to call it, and then I'll change it...
  • July 29, 2014
    DAN004
    Faux Tragedy was okay, tbh.
  • July 29, 2014
    Snicka
    Or just decide the name in a Crowner.
  • May 18, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    Bump?
  • September 17, 2016
    DAN004
    Either White Tragedy, or Comic Made Tragic (in the vein of Mundane Made Awesome

    Subtrope of Ba Thos. Compare Wan Gst.

    • One Piece: in Zou arc, the "death" of Kanjuro's ridiculous cat drawing brought-to-life is treated as a sad thing for the Straw Hats that climbs up there to the land of Zou, except for Zoro.
  • September 17, 2016
    DustSnitch
    ^ White Tragedy makes sense.

    • Homestuck sees a refrigerator broken in a fight, so when a Text Parser command pops up for it to gain a Character Level, the narration instead sends it off in a viking funeral pyre to Vallhalla.
  • September 17, 2016
    DustSnitch
    • Batman The Movie features two examples.
      • Batman and Robin both genuinely mourn a porpoise which saved them from the Penguin's torpedo, an extremely jarring Deus Ex Machina the audience only learns of after the fact.
      • In the climax, Batman is utterly devastated when he learns his beloved Miss Kitka is really Catwoman. His Heroic BSOD is Played For Laughs thanks to just how thin Catwoman's disguise was.
  • September 18, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    A common thing for Melodrama and Drama Queen|s.
  • September 18, 2016
    DAN004
    I thought there was another draft similar to this before.
  • September 18, 2016
    BKelly95
    Live Action Television
    • One episode of Cheers opens with the bar's beer keg running dry and having to be replaced. As this happens, the gang holds a funeral for the spent keg and a coronation for the new one. Norm even starts crying.

    Western Animation
    • In another episode of The Simpsons (the one where Homer becomes a tow truck operator), they accidentally spill a carton of milk which brings Homer to tears. Yes, Homer is literally crying over spilled milk.
  • January 28, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    "What's in a trope? That which we call a bump. By any other name would express as a push."
  • January 28, 2017
    Skylite
    • Buffy The Vampire Slayer: an inversion in "Once More With Feeling". Buffy and the gang walk outside just in time to see the end of a huge spectacle Crowd Song, in which a man and all onlookers rejoice that "they got the mustard out!"
  • January 29, 2017
    Tallens
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987: One episode has Raphael thinking he's coming down with some kind of incurable sickness, seemingly confirmed when he overhears Michelangelo and Donatello talking about saying their last good-byes, and Mikey sobbing hysterically and lamenting all the pizzas they'll never get to make together, and Don trying to comfort him (they're talking about the irreparable pizza oven).
  • January 29, 2017
    eroock
    Isn't this YMMV material?
  • January 29, 2017
    TonyG
    No, because the writers are not trying to convince you that it's a real tragedy. They are fully aware of how ridiculous it is and invite you to laugh at the character for taking it so seriously.
  • January 29, 2017
    lakingsif
    • On Glee, Sue punishes the cheerleaders by revoking their tanning privileges. Out of them all, Santana is heartbroken, runs screaming and crying from the room. She's hispanic.
  • January 29, 2017
    WhirlRX
    The Marceline one in Adventure Time might not be an example or a playing with trope. Marc is living in a post apocalypse world in which food would be scarce. So having hher demon dad eating her fries would be ubsetting.
  • January 30, 2017
    longWriter
    I'm not sure whether this is an example or whether it really is something worthy of his tears, but:

    Home Improvement: Tim was using a hammer and chisel to dig into the ice in an ice fishing hit, but the chisel fell into the water. He said he hoped Al wasn't too attached to that chisel, and Al tearfully replied that the chisel had been in his family for generations.

    Maybe the fact that the gag was as throwaway as the chisel should factor into the question of whether it was an example or not...
  • January 30, 2017
    Omeganian
  • February 3, 2017
    Snicka
    ^ That's a subtrope to Minor Injury Overreaction, which is a sister trope (?) to this.
  • February 3, 2017
    Drope
    Compare Arson Murder And Jaywalking, where the "tragedy" is put on an equal or even higher level of terribleness than actual tragedies.
  • February 3, 2017
    TrueShadow1
    • The Vocaloid song ''Pudding Annihilation is a hard rock song expressing the despair of...dropping a pudding to the floor.
    • In Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa, during the sports festival Akane tried to prevent Youko from winning by giving her a Heroic BSOD. That there is no Run for the Bun event she's been looking forward to.
  • February 4, 2017
    Kartoonkid95
    • Another South Park example. In the 20th season, Heidi Turner deletes her Twitter account and throws her smartphone away because she's been harassed by a troll, and it's treated as though she committed suicide.
  • February 5, 2017
    NateTheGreat
  • March 10, 2017
    Getta
    The name sounds like the tragedy is made trivial...
  • March 10, 2017
    MetaFour
    Perhaps Faux Tragic would be a good title, to parallel the existing Faux Horrific.
  • March 11, 2017
    eroock
    Supertrope to Minor Flaw Major Breakup.
  • March 12, 2017
    Snicka
    The Description should mention Minor Injury Overreaction as a related trope (sister trope, I guess?)
  • March 12, 2017
    DustSnitch
    I'm sticking by White Tragedy as the new name for this, since it does seem to be the inverse of Black Comedy.

    Compare The Comically Serious, a character who maintains a sense of seriousness in light of something ridiculous, which can fit the criteria for this trope.
  • March 12, 2017
    Tuckerscreator
    • Jackie Chan Adventures: In the episode "The Tiger and the Pussycat", Jackie accidentally activates the Tiger Talisman and is split into two clones of his Yin and Yang side. While Yang Jackie is extremely aggressive and selfish, Yin Jackie is fearful and bleeding-hearted, to the point of insisting he must be the evil side of Jackie because he stepped on a bug.
  • March 12, 2017
    Getta
    I like Faux Tragic.
  • March 13, 2017
    Snicka
    White Tragedy is a nice name, as it shows this is the inverse of Black Comedy, even though it is not a pre-established term.
  • March 13, 2017
    Chabal2
    That Mitchell And Webb Look has a sketch where a couple are arguing. The twist being that what really causes the shouting is that the husband left a slice of quiche out of the fridge, while his philandering is brushed away as inconsequential.

  • March 14, 2017
    Snicka
    In contrast to my previous comment, White Tragedy might be misleading, thinking that it's about a tragedy somehow connected to white people along the lines of White Mans Burden. So Faux Tragedy or Faux Tragic get my vote.
  • March 17, 2017
    LordGro
    The description needs to make clear that his is about characters overreacting to a minor mishap as a source of comedy, not an YMMV item about a work trying to be tragic and failing. "Something very silly happens and is treated like something extraordinarily sad" could be understood as either of these two things.

    Literature
    • Gautreks Saga: The hillbillies discovered by King Gauti in the forests of Gotaland, who are both extremely stingy and extremely stupid, have a family tradition of committing suicide by jumping from a nearby precipitous rock called Family Cliff whenever something so terrible happens they feel they cannot deal with it. The hillbilly patriarch, Skinflint, sees his family threatened by starvation after King Gauti has eaten his supper, so he divides his property among his sons Fjolmod, Imsigull and Gilling, and then jumps from Family Cliff. Soon after, Imsigull sees a sparrow snatch a single grain of wheat from his wheatfield; not wanting to live in poverty, he choses suicide by Family Cliff. Fjolmod owns a bar of gold; one day he sees two snails crawling over it and gets it into his head that the bar is now smaller than it used to be. Unwilling to live on with the terrible knowledge that snails have gobbled up practically all his gold, he hops from Family Cliff. Gilling eventually follows the example of his brothers when his fine ox dies.
  • March 17, 2017
    Getta
    ^ The one who does "overreacting to a minor mishap as a source of comedy" can be the narrator, not necessarily the characters.
  • March 17, 2017
    Wunderbolt
    In Cougar Town, whenever one of Jules's huge (named) wine glasses breaks, it's treated as if a loved one passed away, complete with funeral. It's also immediately replaced by an even larger wine glass.
  • March 18, 2017
    DustSnitch
    I think any racial confusion about the title by having "The opposite of Black Comedy," put right before the title. Since Black Comedy is a well-known term, this will immediately deny any racial connotation.

    You could also put a line at the bottom saying "This has no relation to a bad thing happening to white people."
  • March 22, 2017
    CyberController
    Also compare Faux Horrific, in which something trivial or silly is considered pure Nightmare Fuel.
  • March 25, 2017
    DustSnitch
    It may be good to have a Naming Crowner at this point.
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