Torture fake-out
The hero is set to torture a villain for information - but the audience is assured that it's all a bluff.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-10-28 14:10:26 sponsor: Nemmington (last reply: 2013-01-03 17:00:30)

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This trope starts off as a standard Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, but the hero only gets as far as threatening torture before the victim gives in and confesses. Then, in a thought balloon or an aside to another character, the hero clarifies that it was all just a bluff: he'd never really torture someone.

From a storytelling point of view, the appeal of this trope is clear: it moves the story forward by allowing the hero to extract vital information, but - in theory - avoids the moral issues that surround the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique by skipping the actual torture.

There are two problems with this, however. One is that threatening someone with torture could be seen as a form of psychological torture in itself. The other is that it falls headlong into the also-dubious Torture Always Works trope: not only does torture always work, the merest hint of torture always works.


Examples:

  • In one of Dan Slott's issues of Spider-Man, Spidey and Silver Sable conspire to pour acid on their captive, the Sandman, until he gives information. The Sandman can't feel pain - but if the acid touches a specific grain, he will die. We later find that Spidey was bluffing, but some critics argue that putting the Sandman in a deathtrap in the first place constituted torture.
  • In an issue of New Avengers Wolverine - on the suggestion of Daredevil - apparently throws a woman out a window, down several stories and onto a car as part of an interrogation. We later find that it was all just an illusion caused by Dr. Strange.
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