When a character asks a question, and the movie cuts, pans, or otherwise shifts to an image of the implied answer. A variant of this will have the character make a significant remark (e.g., "Some people just naturally make fools of themselves"), and the camera cuts to a character doing exactly that sort of thing. A still further variant is to have another character, completely uninvolved with the first conversation, answer the question with a line identifying the answer ("What kind of loser takes a job at Burger Fool?" "Hey, did your brother tell you he got a new job?").
The usual question is Who Would Be Stupid Enough?, but there are many questions that can be answered this way. It is a critical tactic if the viewers need to know the answer, but the character asking for it must be kept in the dark.
In literature, the usual accompanying phrase is "As if in response...".
Sometimes used as Foreshadowing. Occasionally used for a Inadvertent Entrance Cue.
Compare to Gilligan Cut.
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GEICO's Rhetorical questions advertisements. All of them start with Mike McGlone asking "Could switching to GEICO really save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance?":
Is Ed "Too Tall" Jones too tall? [Cuts to Jones in a doctor's office being measured for his height. Since he is too tall for the maximum length of the measure; the nurse breaks it and decides to guesstimate]
Does Charlie Daniels play a mean fiddle? [Cuts to Daniels energetically playing a fiddle in a classy restaurant after taking it from a violinist. Once he finishes, he hands it back and states "That's how you do it, son"]
Does Elmer Fudd have trouble with the letter R? [Cuts to Elmer hunting and telling us to be vewy quiet while he's "hunting wabbits", the director correcting his rhotacism to the former's frustration, and eventually stalking off while muttering about how "this diwector is starting to wub me the wong way".]
Did the Waltons take way too long to say good night? [Cuts to the exterior of a house, while inside, the Walton family says "good night" to each other numerous times]
Does a ten pound bag of flour make a really big biscuit?" [Cuts to a child buttering an enormous biscuit on the kitchen counter humming as his mom walks in with a dismayed look upon her face]
Did the Caveman invent fire? [Cuts to the GEICO caveman sitting in a living room on a couch with a female companion. He looks disdainfully at the camera, then activates the fireplace by remote control before scowling at the camera once more]
Was Abe Lincoln honest? [Cuts to an old-style black and white film of Mary Todd Lincoln asking "Does this dress make my backside look big?" After a lengthy pause and deliberation, Lincoln sheepishly responds, saying "Perhaps a...", interrupted as she gets up and walks out perturbed]
Is having a snowball fight with pitching great Randy Johnson a bad idea? [Cuts to Johnson helping a man to his feet, the latter with a hole in the arm of his jacket, in a snowy street. After lamenting the smashed in garage door behind them, they agree to go sledding instead]
Is a bird in the hand worth two in the bush? [Cuts to an Antiques Roadshow appraiser examining a small statue of a bird cupped in a human hand. He tells the owner that the figure is indeed, worth two in the bush]
Can fútbol announcer Andrés Cantor make any sport exciting? [Cuts to Cantor loudly and very energetically calling a slow-paced chess match, screaming his trademark "¡GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!"]
Patient: And that's why yellow makes me sad, I think.
R. Lee Ermey: That's interesting. You know what makes me sad? YOU DO! MAYBE WE SHOULD CHUG ON OVER TO MAMBY PAMBY LAND, WHERE MAYBE WE CAN FIND SOME SELF-CONFIDENCE FOR YOU, YA JACKWAGON!!!!! Tissue? [chucks a box of Kleenex at the patient] Crybaby.
Do woodchucks chuck wood? [Cuts to a jovial pair of woodchucks throwing chopped logs into a river and being admonished by the farmer who chopped them, after which they run away]
Did the little piggy cry "wee wee wee" all the way home? [Cuts to a pig named Maxwell riding in the back seat of an SUV holding pinwheels, yelling "wee wee wee" out the window, before being dropped off at his house by his friend's exasperated mother]
Does it take two to tango? [Cuts to a man and woman dancing the tango while another man tries to dance with them.]
What, do you live under a rock? [Cuts to a man living underground who moves a rock so he can raise his head above ground to see outside, and then gets excited when he sees a GEICO billboard and invites his friend Rick to move his own rock and take a peek]
Do dogs chase cats? [Cuts to a dog and cat engaged in a Bullitt-style car chase]
Is the pen mightier than the sword? [Cuts to a ninja menacingly demonstrating his swordsmanship to his opponent, who countermaneuvers by using a pen to sign for the delivery of his new taser, with which he promptly zaps the ninja]
Would Foghorn Leghorn make a really bad book narrator? [Cuts to a recording studio where Foghorn is reading A Tale of Two Cities — his ad-libbing and talking over the director cause an exasperated Henery Hawk to get up from the control panel and whack him with a club]
Do people use smartphones to do dumb things? [Cuts to three office workers using very silly smartphone apps to help celebrate the end of the workweek]
Also, GEICO's "Did You Know?" commercials start with someone noticing a GEICO "15 percent" ad and a second person replying "Everybody knows that," to which the first person says, "Well....:
Did You Know Old MacDonald Was a Really Bad Speller?" Cue Old Mac showing up on stage at a spelling bee
Judge: Your word is "cow."
Old MacDonald: Cow. "Cow." C-O-W, E-I-E-I-O.
[Buzzer goes off, indicating he's incorrect]
Old MacDonald: Dangnabit!
Did you know that when a tree falls in the woods and no one's around, it does make a sound?
Animated tree: Ohhh...ohhh...oh boy! I'm falling! Everybody look out! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! [tree uproots itself and topples] Ugh! A little help here? [beat] Anybody?
Anime And Manga
Azumanga Daioh: Who screamed at the cockroach first? Who suggested that everyone's stuffed animals be brought and put on display? The answer to both questions appears to be Sakaki, though we have only the editing as proof.
During Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer's final battle, Patrick Colasour contacts his mothership to tell his commanding officer (and wife) Kati Mannequin that his mobile suit has been disabled. She tells him to get out of there, and the film cuts to show that Patrick's cockpit has almost been completely enveloped by the ELS' assimilation crystals.
As seen from the page image, lampshaded in Archie Sonic issue #124. The context is that Robotnik was complaining about being attacked by some alien invader, though the king didn't believe him because of his past treachery. When Sonic asks, as in the page image, who would be responsible if it were true, said alien invaders send out a telepathic message not only about what they're doing but also about why they're doing it. They say that a while ago, they sent an emissary to offer an alliance with the human species, but, instead, humans dissected it, and thus the Xorda are out to destroy the whole planet in retaliation.
In the first Clerks comic book, Randall is seen leaving Steve-Dave and Walt's comic shop after having pissed them off. Walt asks, "What kind of place would hire a guy like that anyway?" Next page: an establishing shot of Quick Stop and RST Video.
Fused with Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking in one X-Men comic as Iceman and Angel find themselves taking on a massive alien. Iceman demands to know where the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and military are. Cut to the Avengers being held in force bubbles by Kang the Conqueror, the Fantastic Four being trapped by Annihilus, and the military...well...
Namor: For the last time, I can't "surrender"! This isn't an invasion of your surface world! I just wanted abagel!
Kyon Big Damn Hero's prologue includes, among other things, Kyon being attacked by Asakura Ryouko, having possession of a lot of supernatural tools his canon counterpart doesn't have, and Haruhi not batting much of an eye to Kyon's admission Asakura is an humanoid interface like Yuki. At some point after that, Kyon asks himself, "It started off such a nice day, too. How had it come to this, anyway...?". Cue scene change to the first non-prologue scene.
Woman at Calvin's stand: And what do we have here?
At the end of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Yoda wonders if Darth Maul was the Sith master or apprentice. Pan to Palpatine, who is the master.
The movie Airport, where the Customs agent is curious about the flight his niece will be taking and turns to the Airline Passenger Supervisor, Mrs. Livingston. "Oh, with all this snow, do you think it will take off on time?" The film then cuts to a reservation agent who says, "Flight Two, The Golden Argosy, will depart on schedule", and then cuts back to the man on the phone who had called her, who says, "Thank You." Very slickly done.
A variant of this happens in Superman Returns, when Jimmy shows Lois and Perry a photograph of sky with a red dot:
Lois Lane: It's a bird.
Perry White: It's a plane.
Jimmy Olsen: No, look, it's...
Cut to Clark entering the office.
Clark Kent: Were you looking for me?
The trailer for the 2009 Watchmen shows someone beating up Edward Blake, and immediately cuts to Ozymandias. Twice. A unique example in that you would only notice it if you already knew the answer beforehand.
Dr. Chamberlain: They are led by a woman. What does a woman know?
This is, of course, immediately before we cut to Evelyn explaining exactly what she knows about the situation.
The X-Files: Fight the Future had one of the Consortium say, in reference to Mulder, "Then you must take away what he holds most valuable, that with which he can't live without." Immediate cut to Scully. And Chris Carter claims he's not a shipper.
At the beginning of Shrek 2, Prince Charming asks who Princess Fiona is on honeymoon with. The scene immediately cuts to Shrek's face.
The Lord of the Rings: During a conversation at the Hall of Meduseld in The Two Towers, Gandalf asks Théoden, "And what is the King's decision?". An offscreen voice over starts to say "By order of the King, the city must empty! We make for the refuge of Helm's Deep", cutting to a shot of Rohan refuges preparing to leave.
The Mist: early on, Brent's car has been destroyed by a fallen tree. He casually asks, "You wouldn't happen to be going into town today...?" Immediately cut to them in David's landrover.
Fritz Lang does this a lot in his German films. Particularly in The Testament Of Dr Mabuse, almost every scene cut 'responds' in some way to the preceding scene, sometimes subtly and sometimes not.
Fritz Lang also did this in Metropolis. After rescuing the children from the flooded worker's city, she asks, "Why are all the lights out?" Cut to the workers dancing around the destroyed machines that caused it.
This exchange is actually a reference to the original Dracula film.
Johnathan Harker: What could have caused those marks, Professor?
Maid:[Announcing the arrival of their guest] Count Dracula.
And in Dracula: Dead and Loving It, this is picked up once more. One character asks, rhetorically, who in England could possibly be a vampire. Immediately, the maid announces "Count Dracula." The character who asks concedes, "All right, maybe him."
In Sinbad the Sailor, when Sinbad informs the look-out Yusuf that all ships have to fly colors, as it is "the law of the sea", Yusuf contemptuously asks, "What law is stronger than Strength?" Immediately, the evil Emir's Pirate myna-bird swoops into shot, shrieking, "Jamal! Jamal!"
In the 1939 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Dr. Mortimer's wife, conducting a seance, asks the spirit of the victim, "Tell us, Sir Charles! Who was it that killed you?" — to be answered by an eerie "AROOOOOOOOO!" from off the moor.
Played with in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Having successfully trapped the animals underground, a character asks his fellows, "How long can a fox go without food or water?" Cut to Kylie saying to the camera "Well, I can only answer as an opossum, but I don't think I can last more than another couple of hours before I get completely dehydrated and starve to death." After that, we cut further back and he doesn't appear to be talking to anyone in particular.
Used in The Sixth Sense when Cole says to Malcom, "I see dead people", it not only cuts to Malcolm, who is dead, but slowly zooms in on him. At first, the filmmakers didn't even want to include this shot, fearing it might give away the ending.
Shark Tale: "How long must this reef live under siege? Is there no hero among us? Who can stop this shark menace?" Cut to Oscar.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Loki has just brainwashed SHIELD operatives, claimed the Tesseract, and escaped. Agent Coulson asks "What do we do now?" Nick Fury doesn't have an answer, but cue title card: The Avengers. Made even cooler in the UK release as the title there is "Avengers Assemble."
In the third film of The Naked Gun series, Rocko, a notorious mercenary is threatened by his sponsor in the event of his failure. He responds with "Fail? show me one man who can stop me!". Cut to Frank Drebin trying to remove a supermarket trolley from a stack.
In the remake of Ocean's Eleven, Danny and Rusty decide to ask Reuben to finance their heist. As they leave to go see him, they posit aloud, "I wonder what Reuben will say?" Cut to Reuben shouting, "You're out of your goddamned minds!"
Dumb and Dumber When Mary is watching "A Current Affair", where a report about a blind boy who was duped into buying a dead parakeet, Mary ask "Who are these sick people?". Followed by Mary answering the door to Lloyd.
In Zoolander, Mugatu is told he must find a model dim-witted enough to be brainwashed into killing the prime minister of Malaysia. He wonders aloud where on "God's green goodness am I gonna find someone that....BEEF-HEADED?!" Cut to a photoshoot with the title character.
A stealth Answer Cut appears in Terry Pratchett's Pyramids, in which the narrative relates how the greatest mathematician in the world has just looked up in astonishment, having sensed something weird happening with the numbers. Cut to Teppic looking at a camel, who turns out to be that mathematician. Bonus points because, when read the first time, it appears that the camel's mind is wholly engaged in detesting Teppic, because that's what its expression implies.
Princess: You're a wizard. I think there's something you ought to know.
Narrator:That was a cinematic trick adapted for print. Death was actually in his study, talking to Mort. But it was quite effective, wasn't it? It's probably called a fast dissolve, or a crosscut/zoom. Or something. An industry where a senior technician is called a Best Boy might call it anything.
In Interesting Times, Ridcully wonders what sort of sad, hopeless person would need to write 'WIZZARD' on his hat. Cut to Rincewind.
Used at least once a book by David Weber.
The Boscombe Valley Mystery: As Sherlock Holmes is about to reveal the identity of the murderer, a servant announces his entry.
The Friends season 7 finale. Chandler asks Monica, "If you're not pregnant, who is?" Then the camera settles on Rachel.
The Doctor Who episode "The Big Bang" plays with this. After Rory accidentally shoots Amy, he's holding her, wishing for a "ridiculous miracle." Right as he finishes the sentence, in pops the Doctor, wearing a fez and holding a mop.
Jenny: [Admiring The Doctor on a video screen] Clever, isn't he?
Vastra: Rather attractive...
Jenny: You do realize he is a man, don't you, Vastra?
Vastra: Mammals. They all look alike.
Jenny: [looks offended] Thank you...
Vastra: Was I being insensitive again? I don't know why you put up with me.
[Vastra notices one of their prisoners trying to escape and knocks him out from across the room with her prehensile tongue]
LOST, "The Other Woman": Goodwin asks Juliet, "What could Ben do?" about their affair. Cut to the plane crashing, and Ben sending Goodwin off to infiltrate the tail section.
In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, "Earshot", Buffy is bedridden due to being unable to control her temporarytelepathy. The only cure is the heart of a certain demon. Giles wonders who will kill the demon, since Buffy herself is out of commission. Cut to Angel beating the crap out of the demon.
Parodied in a later episode, where Giles asks Buffy how she plans to fight the incorporeal manifestation of evil itself. Buffy responds that she has "the best plan ever". Cut to her googling the word "evil."
Dollhouse: "Omega", the finale of Season 1 as originally aired. Ballard asks where Caroline's original imprint is. Cut to a shot of Wendy waking up in a chair with Caroline in her head.
A few episodes later DeWitt and Topher travel to DC to meet with some of Rossum Corporation's higher-ups, one of which asks Topher, who's in charge of monitoring the Actives, to which Topher replies "the only one I trust". Cut back to the Dollhouse we see that the person Topher is referring to is Victor, imprinted with a copy of Topher's consciousness.
In the Battlestar Galactica episode "No Exit," Boomer and Ellen Tigh are talking about The Power of Love on the Cylon baseship. Boomer says, "Who would I want to love?" Cut to Chief Tyrol.
Used numerous times throughout the seasons of Top Gear.
Used frequently in Coupling. In the episode "Jane and the Truth Snake", the question "What could possibly be more disappointing?" is followed by a cut to Patrick just before he and Jeff each realize that the other one is the "friend" that Lynda invited to their threesome.
Desperate Housewives uses this when Katherine taunts Susan, who is working trash detail, by throwing a cup out of her car window. When the supervisor wishes he had seen her license plate, Susan asks, "What could you do with her home address?" Cut to Katherine also picking up trash.
Bloom County: When Steve Dallas, as lead singer and spokesman of the metal band Deathtöngue, negotiates a deal with CBS Records, he quotes the lyrics of their next song which goes "Let's run over Lionel Ritchie with a tank". Cut to the CBS CEO sitting in front of a huge portrait of Lionel Ritchie.
Torg: Gwynn, Fred was shaping his rice cakes like people and biting off their heads! He was unbalanced! Crazy! The closest thing I've seen in your world to homicidal. After weeks of training, the best he could manage in a life-and-death situation is one barely squashed demon-toe. Do you know what that means for the rest of you?
Zoë: (comes in with a plate, offers the contents) "Toast?"
June: Heh, don't you like it when life answers your questions for you?
Even if this page of El Goonish Shive is not foreshadowing... Susan spends the first four panels contemplating her not being attracted to anybody in part because she is uncomfortable with men being attracted to her, then wonders just what kind of guy would be her "type"... and then is interrupted by Elliot, who is by far the least pervy (straight) guy that she knows and is comfortable around.
I'm A Marvel, I'm A DC - In Happy Hour, Joker tells Harly to "Name one (hero) who could possibly stop me." Cut to Spidey serving drinks at Stan's Place. Considered a crowning moment of funny.
Todd in the Shadows - in his Best Songs of 2011 video, when delivering an extended seizure warning for #2, he asked what kind of asshole would release a video that causes seizures in this day and age. Cut to footage of Kanye West's most notorious moment at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Chef: "I know it can be hard, parents, but if you leave it up to the schools to teach sex to kids, you don't know who they're learning it from. It could be from someone who doesn't know, [pans to Mr. Mackey] someone who has a bad opinion of it, [pans to Ms. Choksondik] or even a complete pervert." [pans to Mr. Garrison]
Teen Titans used a bit of a subversion. Robin is approached by Slade about joining him, and asks "Do we have a deal?" There's a shot of Starfire trying to reach Robin with her communicator, then we see Robin dressing up in his new outfit.
A straight (and very awesome) example occurs in the fifth season finale. The Brain is making his big villain gloat to a captured Robin, and at the end he asks, "Who among you can possibly stop me now?" It promptly cuts to Beast Boy.
The Hair Bear Bunch episode "Whatever Happened To Goldilocks and the Three Bears?" has a movie director asking who would be dumb enough to play a chew toy of an evil prince in his revisionist version of the fairy tale (with the Bunch as the three bears). Right on cue:
Peevly: They're around here somewhere, and I'm gonna find 'em!"