Trolling is the act of triggering the most violent, negative emotional reactions possible, with the least effort. The humour, such as it is, comes from the contrast between the seemingly effortless posture of the troll, and the seething, frothing rage or panic they cause in their victim, who is thus made to look like a child having a tantrum, or, if the troll is especially unresponsive, like a madman flailing at windmills; the troll, by comparison, appears controlled and in control.
Of course, it is possible to do this without being mean and sociopathic about it; many good-natured pranks and teases rely on the same principle, save for the fact that the offenses and threats presented to the victim are usually revealed to be genuinely harmless.
Some martial arts also perform a version of this; by properly using angles and leverage, an experienced fighter can make their opponent look ridiculous; they don't manage to land their hits because by the time they land the fighter isn't there, feints and goading movements can be used to make the attacker lose their pace, and, with Aikido for example, they can be made to fall down in such a way that it seems like they stumbled on their own feet.
Additionally, Trolling can be one of the specific forms Trash Talk
takes; rather than demoralizing the enemy
or distracting them
, the talker attempts to cause them to fall into a blind fury that will make them lose all sense of calculation and strategy. This can backfire if The Gloves Come Off
and the opponent unleashes a level of violence and/or ruthelessness that his provoker had underestimated
Again, whether it is a verbal joust or a physical fight, making yourself look like you aren't taking the conflict seriously at all is one easy way to make your opponent feel insulted, and enraged,
Anime and Manga
- On One Piece, Monkey D Luffy is a very silly person, and, even in the most serious moments, can pull ridiculous stunts that make their enemy believe he's mocking them. He also has a habit of doing silly things that annoy some of the serious crewmen specifically to rile them up. He doesn't have the monopoly on trolling, though; many other characters take pleasure in infuriating their opponents or otherwise acting very silly in very serious situations.
- Lupin III is the kind of person that turns anything they're involved in into a farce just by being there. He has a knack for making his opponents look ridiculous even when, from their end, the situation is dead serious and way past the Despair Event Horizon.
- From Naruto. Hakate Kakashi, while testing his students, makes them go through a Secret Test of Character that is especially misleading and ridiculing on their end. He also offhandedly defeats the three of them with one hand, while casually reading a novel with the other. A porn novel, that makes him blush.
- Patlabor: Richard Wong seems to live for this, as seen during the Griffon arc, where he seems to make a game of deliberately antognizing the SVU2, his boss at Schaft, and his partner, Kurosaki!
- Even his ex, Kumagami, wasn't spared. In The New Files series, he pretends to give himself up because of his feelings for her. When she falls for it, he scoops her up and literally dumps her... in a laundry basket, before making his escape!
- His partner, Kurosaki, doesn't get spared either. After learning Kurosaki planted a remote bomb aboard the Griffon, Wong tricks him into handing over the detonator to save Bado, by telling him he had already discovered it, during a maintainance check, and disarmed it. Once Bado is clear of the Griffon's wreckage, he presses the switch, leading to this:
Kurosaki: (surprised) "But... but you said you disarmed it!"
- Captain Gotoh also has a habit of trolling, though not as much as Wong. Kanuka often calls him out on this, as does SVU1's, Captain Nagumo. At one point, he makes a show of confronting a labor, to impress his squad. When Shinobu asks about it, later, he nonchalantly reveals he only did 'cuz Sakaki had assured him that the labor was harmless.
Shinobu: (disillusioned) "You mean THAT's why you went out?"
Gotoh: (deadpan) "Pretty much. Yeah."
Gotoh: (smirks toward the door) "I wonder?"
Asuma, Nao, Kanuka, Otah, and Hirumi: (eavesdropping outside door) "THAT CHEAT!!"
- Lu-Tze from Discworld trolls as easily as he breathes. Rule Number One: Never trust tiny wrinkly smiling old men.