Created By: unclerupeeSeptember 20, 2011 Last Edited By: unclerupeeNovember 13, 2013
Troped

Tied Up On The Phone

A character gets tangled up in a phone cord

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
An old telephone with a cord for the receiver is a dangerous object! Especially in fiction, when a) that cord can be absurdly long for no practical reason, and b) characters are easily distracted and ignorant of the world around them when they become engrossed in the phone conversation.

This results in the phone user, or more often the people around them, finding themselves caught in a messy web of tangled phone cord quite easily. Can occur if the character likes to Walk And Talk, slowly encasing themselves and any innocent bystanders as the conversation goes on. Of course, they could just as easily fall into the phone, and if a villain is short on rope a phone cord is the surprisingly popular alternative to tie up or strangle a victim.

Sadly, Technology Marches On, and the advent of cordless phones and cellphones are the Trope Breaker for this trope. This can also add to the trope though; if a character is used to using cellphones and has to rely on an old phone in an old building etc, they would invariably struggle with an unexpected cord.

Examples

Film
  • At the end of Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, the eponymous duo attempt to get revenge on everyone who said bad things about them on the internet. One man is on the phone, so Silent Bob grabs the phone cord and tangles him up in it, starting to strangle him.

Live Action TV
  • In the Doctor Who story "Terror of the Autons", the Doctor's phone cord deliberately ties him up — it's an undercover agent for a race of sentient plastic creatures.
  • A sketch on The Benny Hill Show has appliances come to life and attack humans; at one point a phone cord wraps itself around Hill.
  • In an early episode of Soap Danny tries to kill Burt by wrapping a phone cord around his neck. Burt, being oblivious to the murder attempt, takes the handset and says, "Hello?"

Newspaper Comics
  • In Foxtrot, at one point Paige is on the phone, wandering about the house. In the final panel, the perspective widens and we see that she's ensnared every member of the house in the phone cord.

Poetry
  • The poem "Eletelephony" by Laura Richards is about an elephant who tries to use a telephone and gets his trunk tangled up in the phone cord.

Professional Wrestling

Theatre
  • An insanely long phone cord used for Slapstick purposes is one of the few bits in Noises Off which actually goes as planned.

Webcomics
  • One Bug comic says that one of the nice things about growing up in a home with a very long phone cord was the ability to clothesline his sister and Make It Look Like An Accident.
  • Zits has had Jeremy do this by moving from phone to phone in the house, stretching out the cord on one phone till he can pick up the reciever on the next.
  • Happens in Better Days, where a young Fisk is talking to his mom and...

Western Animation
  • The animated film Freddie As FR 07 has a character who is constantly doing this to himself with long phone conversations.
  • The butler in Oliver And Company is watching a wrestling match and getting caught up in the action when the phone rings, and he swings around so hard when answering it that he gets tangled up in the cord.
  • In the Phineas And Ferb episode "De Plane! De Plane!", Doofenshmirtz manages to trap Perry the Platypus in a phone cord for a while.
Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • September 20, 2011
    TonyG
    The butler in Oliver And Company is watching a wrestling match and getting caught up in the action when the phone rings, and he swings around so hard when answering it that he gets tangled up in the cord.
  • September 20, 2011
    unclerupee
    Damn you google! Hey anyone, that bit in Inception in the hotel room with no gravity, did he tie them all up with a phone cord? Or just generic rope or something?
  • September 20, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    ^ Here's the scene. I honestly can't tell what it is that he's pulling out of the wall.
  • September 20, 2011
    dalek955
  • September 20, 2011
    PaulA
    • The poem "Eletelephony" by Laura Richards is about an elephant who tries to use a telephone and gets his trunk tangled up in the phone cord.
    • In the Doctor Who story "Terror of the Autons", the Doctor's phone cord deliberately ties him up -- it's an undercover agent for a race of sentient plastic creatures.
  • September 20, 2011
    randomsurfer
    A sketch on The Benny Hill Show has appliances come to life and attack humans; at one point a phone cord wraps itself around Hill.
  • September 20, 2011
    foxley
    Zits has had Jeremy do this by moving from phone to in the house, stretching out one cord on one phone till he can pik up the reciever on the next.
  • September 21, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    I don't know if this counts because it's deliberate, but...

    • At the end of Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, the eponymous duo attempt to get revenge on everyone who said bad things about them on the internet. One man is on the phone, so Silent Bob grabs the phone cord and tangles him up in it, starting to strangle him.
  • September 21, 2011
    Darthcaliber
    in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World the air traffic controller gets hopelessly tangled in the radio microphone's cord while trying to talk the plane down.
    • Controller: What the hell's with this wire?!?
  • September 21, 2011
    Generality
    Probably a Dead Horse Trope since corded phones are almost unknown now.
  • September 21, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    ^Rather, cell phones are the Trope Breaker.
  • September 22, 2011
    MrInitialMan
    Corded phones still exist.

    Happens in Better Days, where a young Fisk is talking to his mom and...

    Also, in a match in Professional Wrestling, The Rock used a phone cord to strangle Mick Foley
  • September 22, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    A trope with a Trope Breaker is still possible, it's just that the circumstances that created the trope have become so rare that in most cases its use seems contrived. Examples from that page include nonlethal weapons changing things for cop shows and changing fashion killing the Beehive Hairdo. Both Beehives and guns still exist, but spotting a woman with a Beehive Hairdo or never ever seeing a Taser in a show that isn't a Period Piece would seem absurd. Same deal here.
  • September 27, 2011
    surgoshan
    That the trope is broken no more precludes it from being tropeable than the fact that there no more knights on horseback precludes the trope of a knight on horseback. The army no longer has cavalry, but The Cavalry is still a trope.
  • September 28, 2011
    unclerupee
    OK, gonna launch this pretty soon.
  • November 12, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Definitely needs a new name. Possibly Tied Up On The Phone? Or just simply Tangled On The Phone Cord?

    • In Foxtrot, at one point Paige is on the phone, wandering about the house. In the final panel, the perspective widens and we see that she's ensnared every member of the house in the phone cord.
  • November 12, 2013
    unclerupee
    OK, this old thing was started a while ago so (stretches fingers in that way you know) time to fiddle with name-spaces.
  • November 12, 2013
    unclerupee
    Also I think it sounds better just by removing the "A" - Cord Up In Conversation. But Tied Up On The Phone does sound good, clean and simple.
  • November 12, 2013
    kjnoren
    Merge with Unravel and Entangle YKTTW? (That one has a crowner open for name)
  • November 12, 2013
    Larkmarn
    I don't think it's quite the same. Unravel And Entangle is more of an Epic Fail of someone winding themselves up while trying to work with an object. This trope is rarely the tied person's fault; usually they're wrapped up by a negligent person (or someone is actively tying them up).

    They're related, but I think distinct.
  • November 12, 2013
    unclerupee
    I'd say this has enough entries to be a subtrope to Unravel and Entangle? But I'm open to other opinions...
  • November 12, 2013
    kjnoren
    ^^ Going by the definition in the original write-up:

    "Especially in fiction, when that cord can be absurdly long for no practical reason, characters tend to find themselves caught in a messy web of tangled phone cord quite easily. Can occur if the character likes to Walk and Talk, slowly encasing themselves whilst the conversation goes on. Of course, they could just as easily fall into the phone, or get tied up by a villain short on rope."

    A second party is only mentioned in a secondary clause, the rest of the definition is about self-inflicted entanglements.
  • November 12, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ^ I'm going by most of the examples. Most of them on this page are a second party who's getting entangled.
  • November 12, 2013
    troacctid
    Cord Up In Conversation doesn't really parse unless you speak a non-rhotic dialect.
  • November 12, 2013
    kjnoren
    ^^ I'd say involving a second party would be a case of People Sit On Chairs, and focusing on the items involved instead of the situation.

    (BTW, this is why I think YKTTW sponsors should keep a close look at the examples given. Curating the examples here is a great way to catch problems with the trope name or the description.)
  • November 13, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    • An insanely long phone cord used for Slapstick purposes is one of the few bits in Noises Off which actually goes as planned.
    • In an early episode of Soap Danny tries to kill Burt by wrapping a phone cord around his neck. Burt, being oblivious to the murder attempt, takes the handset and says, "Hello?"
  • November 13, 2013
    unclerupee
    There we go, I've tweaked/improved the description!
  • November 13, 2013
    unclerupee
    Well I think this is ready to launch! I see I don't have enough hats though, is anything missing?
  • November 13, 2013
    unclerupee
    OK 3 hats I'm gonna launch.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable