Created By: HitmanPhysicistDecember 29, 2009 Last Edited By: MegapteraFebruary 3, 2013
Troped

Widely Spaced Jail Bars

Just walk out between the bars already!

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Page Type:
Trope
Occasionally when a character is shown to be imprisoned, the spacing between the jail bars is actually wider than the character's body. He could easily walk through the bars and escape, but doesn't, for whatever reason.

This is primarily a cartoon trope. Live-action prison bars are rarely made this way, unless the gag is specifically sending up the cartoon trope. Drawn or rendered bars are spaced that way so that they don't interfere with the view of the character's face and body language. They're visual shorthand for imprisonment, and are not drawn functionally even if we're supposed to believe they work.

Look out for examples using other types of imprisonment devices, such as manacles or stocks.

Serious Type: the characters and the audience are meant to take the bars seriously even though they're clearly spaced far enough apart to allow escape. In this type the bars are purely visual shorthand. Very, very rarely, a character might be put in such a prison by a jailor who is too dumb to realize that the prisoner is small enough to escape the prison.

Comical Type: the character in the cell lampshades the spacing of the bars by sticking her head or torso through. Someone might even accidentally escape through the bars, having been too stupid to figure it out on purpose. A particularly Genre Savvy character might even wait for the jailor to leave before slipping between the bars and making her escape.

Anime and Manga
  • In an episode of One Piece, some characters are caught in a net. In closeup shots the net has a very fine mesh, but in distance shots the mesh is drawn wide enough that the characters could potentially fall right through. This demonstrates that it's done for the visual necessity of drawing the trap in a way that doesn't obscure the characters.
  • In Slayers: Revolution, Zelgadis caught Pokota in a cage with bars so far apart, the little guy had to spread his arms in order to hold onto two bars at once. But he still couldn't get out.

Film
  • In A Muppet Christmas Carol, Rizzo and Gonzo climb over a barred gate, and then Rizzo runs back between the bars to get something he dropped.
  • In The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas, Fred and Barney are in a jail. While the bars are close enough together to give Fred trouble, Barney can walk through the gaps without even shrugging. He doesn't until an item falls just out of reach and he has to step through to get them. No, it wasn't the keys; Fred actually has to tell him to go back out and get the keys and let Fred out of the cell.
  • In Hot Shots Part Deux, Colonel Walters is imprisoned inside a cage. He slips through the bars, grabs a set of keys, and slips back inside the cage. He then unlocks the door and leaves normally.

Literature

Video Games

Western Animation
  • In the Garfield TV special Here Comes Garfield, Garfield and Odie are taken to the pound. Odie is thrown into the back of an animal control truck where the bars are more than wide enough for him to slip through. Later, when Garfield and Odie are in the pound, all the cage bars are wide enough for even Garfield to walk out, but nobody seems to notice.
  • The Simpsons episode "The Frying Game" has Marge and Homer in jail together, in a cell whose bars are clearly too close together for Homer but that Marge could walk right through. She doesn't, making this a Serious Type.
  • Tweety's cage usually has bars wide enough apart for him to fly right through, and he does it if he has a good enough reason.
  • On one Oh Yeah Cartoons short, a boy secret agent and his cat sidekick are in a cage about to be hit by a Death Ray. When the cat asks how they can possibly escape, the kid simply slips through the bars. The cat, amused at how simple it is, hops back and forth between the bars ("I'm in, I'm out, I'm in, I'm out...") and ends up being hit by the ray. (Being a cartoon, he got better.)
  • Averted in the Avatar The Last Airbender episode "Avatar Day". Aang is clearly too small for the adult-sized stocks, so he easily slips in and out of them while talking to his fellow inmates.

Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • December 29, 2009
    Amazingly Enough
    I noticed this in Batman Arkham Asylum at a certain part where Batman imprisons Harley Quinn in a cell with bars that clearly look big enough for her to slip through.

    There was a YKTTW a while ago about when a character is tied up and it clearly looks like they could easily escape, don't know if it was ever launched, but the two are definately related.
  • December 29, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Out-of-universe justification: if the bars were placed at a realistic distance apart, it'd be irritating for the viewer because they'd get in the way.
  • December 29, 2009
    TBTabby
    Played for laughs in Hot Shots Part Deux.
  • December 29, 2009
    Generality
    Played with in The Muppet Christmas Carol, where Rizzo and Gonzo Mr. Dickens climb over a barred gate, with some trepidation and injury, only for Rizzo to walk back through the bars to retrieve a dropped bag of jellybeans.
  • December 30, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    One Sonic cartoon had this, as pointed out by The Nostalgia Critic.
  • December 30, 2009
    arromdee
    I saw a variation of this in a recent One Piece (430) where some characters were caught in a net. Closeup shots of the net showed the holes small enough to keep the captives in, but distant shots of the net had them about a yard wide.
  • December 30, 2009
    jason taylor
    They did a satire of this in Support Your Local Sheriff where there actually were no bars but the evildoer was intimidated by James Garner.
  • December 31, 2009
    animeg3282
    In one of the illustrations of The Bad Beginning in A Seriesof Unforunate Events Sunny is shown in one of these- well- it's a birdcage.
  • December 31, 2009
    Grue
    In the NSFW webcomic Curvy, the jail bars are actually candy bars and the protagonist eats them.
  • April 9, 2011
    AaronHong
    Halle Berry in Catwoman. YMMV though as not everyone would notice how wide the bars are until after she starts slipping through them.
  • April 9, 2011
    batgirl1
    Batty's cage in Fern Gully 2, also pointed out by The Nostalgia Critic. XD
  • April 12, 2011
    0dd1
    I know I've seen cartoons that lampshade this…
  • April 12, 2011
    ElaineRose
    Perhaps Conveniently Wide Jail Bars as an alternate title?
  • January 28, 2012
    StevenT
    In an inversion, one episode of Galaxy High has the gang in a jail cell with normal bars, but one of the characters is flat like a pancake and easily slips out.
  • January 28, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    It's not the bars that are wide, but the space between them.
  • January 28, 2012
    Stratadrake
  • January 28, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    Cucumber Quest gives us a Lampshaded version in the prison that "holds" Cucumber's father, Cabbage; taken to absurd extreme in this case in that the prison isn't even locked.
  • January 28, 2012
    Rognik
    The Flintstones Viva Rocks Vegas: Fred and Barney are in a jail. While the bars are wide enough to, at the very least, give Fred trouble, Barney can walk through the gaps without even shrugging. He doesn't, though, until an item falls just out of reach. And no, it wasn't the keys; Fred actually has to tell him to go back out and get the keys to free Fred.
  • January 28, 2012
    AlexSora89
    The Simpsons episode "The Frying Game". While the bars are realistic enough to keep Homer from escaping his cell, Marge is unrealistically thin enough to be clearly able to pass between the bars.
  • February 18, 2012
    wesnprogamat
    Subverted in the Magic Tree House Series: In Carnival by Candlelight They Make the Bars Wide enough to keep them.

    In 3-2-1 Penguins, the bars are wide enough for Jason and Michell
  • February 18, 2012
    Terrane
    • Used cleverly in Paper Mario. Mario isn't slim enough to fit through the jail bars when he walks normally, but he can turn sideways to slip out because he's made of paper.
  • June 6, 2012
    CrazyTosser
    • Averted in the "Avatar The Last Airbender" episode "Avatar Day". Aang is clearly too small for the adult sized gallows, so he easily slips in and out of them while talking to his fellow inmates.
  • June 6, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Can it still count if they do escape by just walking thorough?
  • June 7, 2012
    Tiiba
    In The Slayers Revolution, Zelgadis caught Pokota in a cage with bars so far apart, the little guy had to spread his arms to hold them. But he still couldn't get out.
  • June 7, 2012
    CaveCat
    Would it also count if a character gets caged but winds up lifting the cage in order to retrieve the file needed for him to escape or is that a different trope entirely?
  • June 7, 2012
    TonyG
    • Looney Tunes: Tweety's cage usually have bars wide enough apart for him to fly right through.
    • On one Oh Yeah Cartoons short, a boy secret agent and his cat sidekick are in a cage about to be hit by a Death Ray. When the cat asks how they can possibly escape, the kid simply slips through the bars. The cat, amused at how simple it is, hops back and forth between the bars ("I'm in, I'm out, I'm in, I'm out...") and ends up being hit by the ray. (Being a cartoon, he got better.)
  • February 2, 2013
    Megaptera
    I've brought this YKTTW back from the dead because we really don't have it anywhere else.

    I haven't put all the commented examples in because in some cases the explanation wasn't really clear enough. If anyone can clarify these I'll include them. In particular, I want to know what's happening in the example from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Gallows? Is that meant to be stocks, or a cell, or some other form of prison rather than an execution device?
  • February 2, 2013
    Veralos
    ^ Portable stocks, basically. Aang can freely walk around the cell him and his fellow inmates are in, but his head and hands are stuck (they're supposed to be, at least) in a stocks-like wooden thing. I'm not sure if that example would count; there are no bars involved.

  • February 2, 2013
    Megaptera
    No, I like the stocks example -- it may not be bars but it's the same trope spiritually speaking.
  • February 3, 2013
    Arivne
    Expanding on the Hot Shots Part Deux example above:

    Film
    • Hot Shots Part Deux. Colonel Walters is imprisoned inside a cage. He slips through the bars, grabs a set of keys, and slips back inside the cage. He then unlocks the door and leaves normally.
  • February 3, 2013
    Megaptera
    LOL. Thanks, I'll put that in there. And I think we're just waiting on a fifth hat.
  • February 3, 2013
    Rognik
    @Cave Cat (if you're still here), I think this trope counts so long as the imprisoned can easily escape from a cage, prison or other imprisonment, it works.

    @Tony G, Tweety is kept in a cage, but he's not really imprisoned. If he was flapping all about his cage like a real bird, it might be more of an issue, but it's just to show him clearly in the cage.

    • In The Lion King, Zazu is imprisoned in a beast's ribcage lodged in the ground. While he may not be able to get out, Timon ran full-tilt into the cage for protection.
  • February 3, 2013
    Veralos
    ^^ Here you go.

    Make sure to move the Lord Of The Rings Online example to the Video Game section. I'm pretty sure a LOTR MMORPG doesn't count as Western Animation.
  • February 3, 2013
    Megaptera
    Derp, thanks. I think I was sleepy when I wrote that. :P Thanks for the hat!

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable