Created By: KZN02 on February 13, 2013 Last Edited By: KZN02 on March 15, 2013
Troped

Comically Small Demand

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Trope
Someone with authority or power (or think they have) uses it to command or force people to do mundane or simple tasks for him/her.

Usually the person ordered may eagerly oblige, having expected a more serious and/or dangerous task or being threatened if refused, though possibly with initial disbelief.

Alternatively, it could be a mundane reward or offer from performing a service, especially if the people needing it are poor or even extravagantly rich.

The reasons for the mundane needs are:

If there is a series of demands, you can expect the last one to be this.

When the boss sends people to do important things, then sends one to do something mundane, that's You, Get Me Coffee.

Compare Mundane Wish, Mundane Utility, and Comically Small Bribe.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In 33 Eyes, Haan's requested payment from Yakumo for teaching him beast magics is ... to introduce him to a Japanese girl.
  • Early on in Samurai Champloo, Mugen is approached by a Yakuza leader after outclassing every thug in town. The Yakuza boss gives him a job offer, promising Mugen anything he wants if it means he will sign up. Mugen's request? Cooked crabs.

Film
  • In the German movie "Der Raeuber Hotzenplotz" (1962), Petrusilius Zwackelmann is a sorcerer who can theoretically do anything with his powers, but the one thing he can't do is peel potatoes, so he forces a captured boy he bought from Raeuber Hotzenplotz to do it for him.
  • The voted-out politician in Robocop held city council hostage, demanding three things: "I want a recount. And then I want my old job back." Which would make the recount superfluous. And, of course, he also wanted the new 3000 SUX.
  • Ephialtes in 300 makes a few demands of Xerxes when betraying the Spartans, the last of which is a uniform. However, for him it's symbolically the most important: being born deformed, he can't be part of an uniformed army (the Spartans' tactics requiring each man to be of similar heights and builds so their shields overlap. Ephialtes can't lift his above waist level).
    • Xerxes' herald asks the Spartans for a token gift of 'water' and 'earth' to avoid annihilation. Of course despite its trivial size, it is an enormous symbolic gesture.
  • Sneakers: at the end of the movie the protagonists are making demands of a group of NSA agents before giving back the "black box". The demands so far have included a Winnebago RV and a multi-nation vacation trip.
    Carl: The young lady with the Uzi, is she single?
    Martin: Carl. This is the brass ring. You gotta think bigger thoughts.
    Carl: I just want her telephone number.
  • Several Hume Lake films, such as We Like Sheep and Xenoviv, had a bonus Gainax Ending where one of the characters turned evil and killed everyone with an army of robots. After killing them all and piling their bodies into a huge stack, he'd climb to the top and yell "I'm the king of the world! Somebody bring me a pecan pie!"
  • Infamously in Austin Powers, time-traveling villain Dr. Evil plans to hold the world ransom in exchange for "one million dollars!" However, he is then advised to up the amount to 100 billion dollars, because he was unaware that inflation had increased since the 60s.
    • Inverted in the second film, where he returns to the 60s and demands 100 billion dollars, only to be informed that amount of money doesn't exist yet.

Literature
  • Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants: after shrinking Jerome Horwitz Elementary School and the people inside to hold them hostage from his Humongous Mecha, Professor Poopypants makes his first demand for a pencil from the reporter reporting on the incident.
  • In Reamde, the middleman Wallace 'tasks' Peter with getting him a drink as a test: will Peter accept a junior role from him. Dodge happens to be watching and explains what Wallace is doing and why to Zula.
  • In the children's book Big Max by Kin Platt, the King of Pooka Pooka offers Big Max a room full of diamonds, a room full of emeralds, or a room full of gold for finding Jumbo, his prize elephant. But when Big Max does find Jumbo (he was at his birthday party), all he asks for is a slice of the cake. (No wonder the illustration of Big Max's apartment doesn't have any furniture...)

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of NYPD Blue a suspect promises to confess his crime (a rather grisly murder) for two 2-liter bottles of Coke. It has to be Coke though: not Pepsi, not RC, not Diet Coke.

Video Games
  • Fire Emblem Awakening: Gaius' only demand upon being recruited is that he be provided with candy. It probably helped that he didn't really appreciate the goals of the group he was with at the time.

Web Comics
  • In Red Meat, Papa Moai is an omnipotent transdimensional being who resembles an Easter Island statue. He usually speaks portentously of transcending time and space, but has more minor and immediate concerns like finding decent tobacco, or filling in a crossword with the help of the other characters.

Western Animation
  • In an episode of the Sam & Max cartoon the duo bust a terrorist group holding a TV studio hostage. The Terrorist's demands? To make the programming nothing but figure skating.

Rolling Updates

Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • February 13, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
  • February 14, 2013
    Chernoskill
    • In Red Meat, Papa Moai is an omnipotent transdimensional being who resembles an Easter Island statue. He usually speaks portentously of transcending time and space, but has more minor and immediate concerns like finding decent tobacco, or filling in a crossword with the help of the other characters.
  • February 14, 2013
    Chabal2
  • February 17, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Film

    • In the german movie "Der Raeuber Hotzenplotz" (1962) Petrusilius Zwackelmann is a sorcerer who can theoretically do anything with his powers, but the one thing he can't do is peel potatoes, so he forces a captured boy he bought from Raeuber Hotzenplotz to do it for him.
  • February 20, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Film Live Action
    • The voted-out politician in Robocop held city council hostage, demanding three things: "I want a recount. And then I want my old job back." Which would make the recount superfluous. And, of course, he also wanted the new 3000 SUX.
  • February 22, 2013
    Oof
    This needs to be defined better. There are plenty of people that justifiably expect others to do mundane tasks for them. A king expects people to cook his food, clean his castle, wash and clothe him, write for him, etc. A manager expects somebody to make coffee for him, to answer phones, to organize and clean the office, to get lunch, etc.

    In other words, in its current form it's too close to people sitting on chairs.
  • February 24, 2013
    Chabal2
    Ephialtes in Three Hundred makes a few demands of Xerxes when betraying the Spartans, the last of which is a uniform. However, for him it's symbolically the most important: being born deformed, he can't be part of an uniformed army (the Spartans' tactics requiring each man to be of similar heights and builds so their shields overlap. Ephialtes can't lift his above waist level).

  • February 26, 2013
    McKathlin
    When the boss sends people to do important things, then sends one to do something mundane, that's You Get Me Coffee.
  • February 26, 2013
    arromdee
    In 3x3Eyes Haan's requested payment from Yakumo for teaching him beast magics is... introduce him to a Japanese girl.
  • February 28, 2013
    PaulJohnson
    In REAMDE by Neal Stephenson the middleman Wallace 'tasks' Peter with getting him a drink as a test: will Peter accept a junior role from him. Dodge happens to be watching and explains what Wallace is doing and why to Zula.
  • February 28, 2013
    Guyven
    Would Dr. Evil's famously undersized ransom demand of "One MILLION dollars" count?
  • February 28, 2013
    KZN02
    Hmm, I guess you would, given you could apply it to an analogy with a comically small amount.
  • March 2, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    The "shrubbery" example doesn't strike me as "mundane", but rather as unusual, absurd, or very ideosyncratic.

    ^^^^^^^ I agree, and whether something fits the trope should probably be further defined as demanding much less than what would normally be seen or expected in a particular situation--e.g. one fought at great risk, did a great crime (like taking hostages), or did a great and costly service, to gain leverage over another (or the favor of another), but asked for much less than what one could or would normally have demanded after gaining such leverage or favor, from people who could have provided much more.
  • March 2, 2013
    KZN02
    Mundane Reward? I wonder how we can name this then to encompass both?
  • March 4, 2013
    MrBluesky
    "Underwhelming Demand" or "Comically Small Demand," maybe? My vote would definitely be for the second one if Ephialtes from 300 weren't such a perfect dramatic example.

    It's kind of like Arson Murder And Jaywalking if it's the last demand in a list.
  • March 4, 2013
    grenekni3t
  • March 4, 2013
    ACarlssin
    Mundane Demand?
  • March 4, 2013
    KZN02
    That was my first title, but we already had problems with it.
  • March 5, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • Sneakers. At the end of the movie the protagonists are making demands of a group of NSA agents before giving back the "black box". The demands so far have included a Winnebago RV and a multi-nation vacation trip.
    Carl: The young lady with the Uzi, is she single?
    Martin: Carl. This is the brass ring. You gotta think bigger thoughts.
    Carl: I just want her telephone number.
  • March 6, 2013
    GeminiSparkSP
    Barnacle Boy from Sponge Bob Square Pants did this in an episode when he turned evil. His demands are: to be called "Barnacle Man", be treated as a superhero instead of a sidekick, and to have an adult-size krabby patty.
  • March 6, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    • Several Hume Lake films, such as We Like Sheep and Xenoviv, had a bonus Gainax Ending where one of the characters turned evil and killed everyone with an army of robots. After killing them all and piling their bodies into a huge stack, he'd climb to the top and yell "I'm the king of the world! Somebody bring me a pecan pie!"
    • Infamously in Austin Powers, time-traveling villain Dr. Evil plans to hold the world ransom in exchange for "one miilllion dollars!" However, he is then advised to up the amount to 100 billion dollars, because he was unaware that inflation had increased since the 60s.
      • Inverted in the second film, where he returns to the 60s and demands 100 billion dollars, only to be informed that amount of money doesn't exist yet.
  • March 6, 2013
    ACarlssin
    Not a demand, per se, but in the move Time Bandits, the Evil Genius wants all the powers God has. One of his mooks mentions that if he had that kind of power, he would use it to turn beans into peas.
  • March 6, 2013
    Guyven
    Also in 300, Xerxes' herald asks the Spartans for a token gift of 'water' and 'earth' to avoid annihilation. Of course despite its trivial size, it is an enormous symbolic gesture.

    The Ephialtes example above, as discussed, is this as well. A uniform is worthless, but to him it is the most important of his demands for its symbolic meaning.
  • March 11, 2013
    robinjohnson
    • In an episode of the Brit Com The Detectives, the two main characters are being held hostage in a house by an Axe Crazy gunman. One of them complains that they're missing their team's football match, and the gunman realises he wants to see it too. They put the telly on and order beer and crisps from the hostage negotiation team outside.
  • March 12, 2013
    SalmonPunch
    • Early on in Samurai Champloo, Mugen is approached by a Yakuza leader after outclassing every thug in town. The Yakuza boss gives him a job offer, promising Mugen anything he wants if it means he will sign up. Mugen's request? Cooked crabs.
  • March 13, 2013
    0blivionmobile
    • Fire Emblem Awakening: Gaius' only demand upon being recruited is that he be provided with candy. It probably helped that he didn't really appreciate the goals of the group he was with at the time.
  • March 15, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of NYPD Blue a suspect promises to confess his crime (a rather grisley murder) for two 2-liter bottles of Coke. It has to be Coke though: not Pepsi, not RC, not Diet Coke.
  • March 15, 2013
    Euan2000
    • In an episode of the Sam And Max cartoon the duo bust a terrorist group holding a TV studio hostage. The Terrorist's demands? To make the programming nothing but figure skating.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=p1002sexxgtfeqr9cftepxap&trope=ComicallySmallDemand