"Apathy is death."Remember that old saying, "Curiosity killed the cat"? It seems that many fictional characters have taken it so close to heart that it may as well be a pacemaker. Whenever "normals" from the real world end up discovering they're in a Speculative Fiction and/or Supernatural world, they inevitably run afoul of some Applied Phlebotinum, Negative Space Wedgie or magical phenomenon... and show no curiosity as to how it works, why it's there, or any other thing that people would immediately wonder about. Of course, in some cases, the characters are afraid of messing with something they don't understand. Most of the time though, they don't even ask the simplest questions that anyone would be dying to know; or, you know, might lead to them not screwing up things further. The plot cannot have that, however. Specific instances of this outside technology also include alien societies in general, ignoring their discoveries in science, philosophy, art, culture in general, even local flora and fauna unless it's the deadly carnivorous plant variety. This often leads to (or results from) a Planet of Hats treatment. Other possibilities include the discovery of an afterlife (Judeo-Christian or not), the existence of souls and ghosts, the discovery of superpowers, and in general discovering a partial or full answer to one of the deep questions humanity currently wrestles with. Then again, Curiosity Killed the Cast. Compare Misapplied Phlebotinum and Forgotten Phlebotinum. See also It's Probably Nothing, and Bystander Syndrome. Contrast Achievements in Ignorance, for when this is necessary.
— Your entire party, Knights of the Old Republic II
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Anime and Manga
- Ichigo never seems to question aspects of his origin, powers, and the other worlds and races, which causes a few people, mostly the villains, to mock him for his constantly being Locked Out of the Loop.
- After their first clash with Yhwach and his elite fail, Ichigo's group prepares to confront them again. Chad tries to gather information on the enemy powers so they can prepare in advance for a better outcome than their previous clash. However, Riruka interrupts him, telling everyone to shut up because wallowing in the past is boring. The conversation comes to a complete halt with no-one, including the reader, any the wiser about the still-mysterious powers of the Quincy Elite.
- Haibane Renmei: Rakka is born (from an egg) into a strange isolated
prisontown ruled by creepy, aloof clerics, sprouts wings, is given a halo that mysteriously hovers on her head, has to obey arbitrary rules (e.g. she can only buy used items) and doesn't question any of it.
- She does have Laser-Guided Amnesia about her previous existence, so it's quite possible that she has no way of knowing if any of this is weird or not. This isn't so strange considering that the entire setting of Haibane Renmei is a rip-off / homage to the dream world in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, which the protagonist doesn't question much either. (The bird skeleton in the well is another homage / rip-off of a scene from another of his books, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by the way.)
- In addition to all of the Haibane having amnesia about their previous existences, the series spends the first five episodes largely just to introduce the setting and characters. And then it turns out that the older Haibane have their own predicament to worry about (and they certainly aren't apathetic about it) and have varying degrees of acceptance of their environment.
- She's got no one to ask. The only people who might know something are the Toga and the Communicator, but neither of them really responds to questioning.
- Probably the best justification is that all of the Haibane ended up there because they were all too naive, rudderless, timid, resigned or depressed before their deaths to enter the true afterlife. Fatalism might very well be their
- Potemayo: Nobody seems to be too interested in the bigger questions about Potemayo and Guchuko- what they are, where they come from, and why they're appearing in people's refrigerators.
- In To Love-Ru, approximately no one (other than Rito, on occasion) seems to care that aliens exist and show up on Earth on a regular basis, or that Lala's father apparently rules the entire galaxy, including Earth, and that he's threatened to destroy it.
- Zig-Zagged in Gantz:
- Many fighters are so self-absorbed (or so sure that they already have the answers) that they never ask critical survival questions, even internally, never note anything potentially threatening until it's on top of them, even if they've already seen how lethal it can be.
- Others, most notably Nishi and Kurono, are very curious about the powers and limitations of the weapons and tools they're given and test them systematically. Unfortunately, when it comes to big questions like "Where does all this futuristic tech come from?", "Why are there aliens and monsters around all of a sudden?", and "Why are we being forced to fight them, and by who?", answers are not very forthcoming.
- Much later in the manga, intrepid reporter Seiichi Kikuchi tracks down the story with a dogged curiosity, but is only toyed with by those who might be able to answer his questions.
- Magic! Flying whales! Demons! See also: vampires, robot girls, immortality, Petting Zoo People, telepathy, time dilation, the entire magical world itself and more. However, don't ask what the hell is going on. You might get turned into an ermine or something. Chisame is the only character to show the slightest interest... by running away from the answer. Welcome to Mahou Sensei Negima! everyone!
- And of course, everybody ends up finding out about it anyway.
- The other major exception is Haruna; when she finds out about magic, she threatens to torture her three best friends for not telling her sooner.
- She sort of did.
- Haruhi Suzumiya: Kyon. Just....holy crap, Kyon. In less than a week he discovers the existence of aliens, espers, time travellers, and (according to one theory) God and it annoys him and he avoids any and all exploration of the ramifications unless forced otherwise by The End of the World as We Know It. And even then, he only does the minimum that he has to.
- Kyon is almost unbelievably lazy. Also an Unreliable Narrator. It's still ridiculous though.
- To be fair, he does ask questions. It's just that he either gets no answer (Mikuru), an answer that doesn't make sense (Koizumi and Yuki), or an answer that makes sense that has 'unreliable!' written all over it (Koizumi and Mikuru, Yuki claims it). Oh, and the anti SOS Brigade puts all three together.
- Also, he is extraordinarily smart, to the point that when he passes the first couple of reveals, his reaction goes from mild surprise/annoyance to "checked, checked, checked". In fact, his ability to cope with the increasingly weird situations is (in Itsuke's opinion) what makes him special.
- Completely averted in Death Note. The reason Light is able to get away with so much crap (and drive the whole plot) is because he does ask all the questions. He figures out things that even the Shinigami didn't know, despite having centuries to learn. And, unfortunately, uses this knowledge to kill tens to hundreds of thousands of people.
- He even asked the afterlife question we all thought he was ignoring all along, they just don't show us until he's dying. Unfortunately, he's a lot less pleased with the thought of The Nothing After Death while bleeding out than he was while plotting world domination in his bedroom.
- And the fact that he elected to ignore Ryuk's promise to kill him eventually is more denial than apathy.
- He even asked the afterlife question we all thought he was ignoring all along, they just don't show us until he's dying. Unfortunately, he's a lot less pleased with the thought of The Nothing After Death while bleeding out than he was while plotting world domination in his bedroom.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena is all about people not asking basic questions about what's actually going on. No matter how fanciful or surreal, after the initial shock, people just accept the nonsense as all a part of the "power to revolutionize the world." Granted, the answers really are near impossible to attract without being told directly (the audience has the benefit of flashback) and most of it was just theatrical shenanigans but even the lead asks a variety of questions in the very beginning and then just gives up trying, establishing the status quo of the episodes. To her credit, Utena realizes this near the very end of the series and tearfully regrets it because that kind of indifferent behavior (towards Anthy, especially) was exactly what she had been criticizing about the other duelists.
- In the Japanese version of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Seto Kaiba acknowledges that magic exists and that Duel Monsters originated in ancient times, but he's just completely uninterested in it, finding running his company and winning at Duel Monsters to be a higher priority. The 4Kids Entertainment dub changed this to make Kaiba a Flat-Earth Atheist.
- In Heaven's Lost Property, Tomoki does this a lot, because of his desire for peace and quiet. Some of it borders on Too Dumb to Live. When Ikaros tries to explain how her powers work (which is important to him because she grants his wishes), Tomoki cuts her off and says her exposition is boring.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Gunha Sogiita is completely uninterested in learning how his powers work and how to properly fight, as he thinks barreling his way through is the way a man should fight.
- Justified in My Lovely Ghost Kana, where Daikichi doesn't ask all that many questions about the afterlife, but it's pretty clear that Kana herself doesn't really have the answers either.
- A rule in most comic book universes where the Fantasy Kitchen Sink is prevalent and anyone can be Pals with Jesus. This is particularly bad in DC where much of Vertigo Comics deals with the supernatural. You'd think that there'd be at least some intersection between characters who know about the afterlife and characters willing to say "I have positive proof that Christianity is false, because the afterlife you get is based on what you believe".
- Problem is, as soon as you bring up the issue of whether any or all religions (especially the Judeo-Christian ones) are false, you run a real risk of losing sales.
- It's canon in DC comics that the afterlife is pretty much whatever the heck you think it is. That is, until hell comes to Earth and starts eating people, which happens about twice a year.
- The Sandman's Death (who has become DC's official Anthropomorphic Personification of Death, give or take a few badly attempted retcons) has mentioned in some sources that she has no idea where people go after she takes them.
- During Brightest Day, Lex Luthor asked Death why she did not interfere during Blackest Night. She answers that the Zombie Apocalypse did not really interest her.
- One DC comic character was questioned as to how he could be an atheist in a world where divinity is manifestedly real. His reply indicated that in a world with Superman, wizards, and multidimensional alien invasions, the mere presence of something supernatural did not prove it came from an all-powerful divinity.
- Roger Ebert got into an amusing rant about the film Over Her Dead Body and the fact that no one seemed to consider the staggering theological implications a real live ghost (or should that be a real dead ghost) would mean. He had similar issues with Jack Frost, wherein Michael Keaton dies and is reincarnated as a snowman to help his son fight bullies. People can be reincarnated? As inanimate objects??? Oh, don't bother elaborating on that. Back to the snowball fight.
- Indiana Jones: Indiana has been presented with absolute incontrovertible proof of the truth of the Old Testament and the New Testament (and arguably the Bhagavad Gita). This seems to have had absolutely no effect on his lifestyle, career or (dis)belief in the supernatural.
- Christopher Lloyd's character in Suburban Commando seems to have no questions or comments when it is revealed that his tenant is an alien bounty hunter. The most he registers is mild annoyance at the fact that he WAS FROZEN TODAY!
- Both Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty run into this trope where the protagonist meets God and, even once they are convinced it is really God, do not ask any of the questions one might expect (in fact they ask very few questions of God at all).
- Teen Wolf: Nobody seems to be too interested in the existence of werewolves other than how well they can play high school basketball.
- Invoked in Looper. Joe asks his future self about time travel and memories, but Old Joe shuts him down, pointing out how confusing time travel can be. "I don't want to talk about time travel shit. Because if we talk about it, then we're gonna be here all day, drawing diagrams with straws." Abe, who's also from the future, concurs: "This time travel shit just fries your brain like an egg."
- In Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Gretel starts to question why their parents abandoned them in the woods and why witches' magic doesn't affect them directly. Hansel says he doesn't care.
- In Bernard Werber's Thanathonauts series, the world promptly forgets about the initially worldshaking discovery that there is indeed an afterlife (and that it is quite bureaucratic at that). In another series, little is expounded upon the ramification of a porcine direct relationships to humans.
- Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tried to save herself from having to create a coherent magic system by having her viewpoint character tune out whenever theory is mentioned. It worked in the sense that she was able to avoid talking much about how magic actually works, but it does give the reader the impression that Harry is an incredibly apathetic child about this magical world that he suddenly finds himself living in.
- In Orson Scott Card's novel Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus society possesses a time viewer that is cheap enough for graduate students working on research projects to use. However, it is mentioned numerous times that Christianity, Islam, and other religions still exist, even though proving or disproving those religion's veracity would be the first thing most people would use a time viewer for. And there isn't a rule against investigating religion or anything, because one character made a name for himself by investigating the historical events inspiring the legend of Noah.
- All religious revelations are conveniently ambiguous. (Except Columbus's, which is definitely mundane.) That still leaves the question of miracles, though.
- To quote from Fred Clark's series on Left Behind:
Here you have God appearing center stage. A direct, incontrovertible divine miracle witnessed by millions. Absolute, doubt-destroying, skeptic-shattering proof of the existence of God. There's freaking divine flame in the sky. Yet it produces nary a ripple of wonder, awe or spiritual searching. Alone among the millions who witnessed this event, Buck Williams is slightly prompted to be more "spiritually attuned." The people in this novel are not human.
- The whole premise for several of the works of José Saramago — Death with Interruptions and The Stone Raft come to mind — is to avert this trope: an extremely simple but fantastic setup is provided (death stops operating in a country; the Iberian Peninsula splits off at the French-Spanish border and begins to sail aimlessly around the North Atlantic) and the whole rest of the story analyzes the sociological upheaval it causes.
- Twilight has Bella's father's motto; "need to know basis". He probably figures out about vampires, but doesn't want details. Seeing how the Volturi would kill him if he knew it makes a lot of sense. It wouldn't take much to figure out that vampires probably would be lethal to humans in the know.
- Averted and played straight several times in an early Star Trek: Voyager novel. When Neelix leads Voyager to a planet full of wrecked ships (needed for critical spare parts), Torres and Kim promptly began an exhaustive examination of the one powered vessel. Neelix, not caring and deciding that he is useless, decides to take a nap. This sends the ship (a passenger time machine) back in time. Later, we meet an operative whose job is to scare away any "Planet-Hoppers" (the term this people use to refer to the "crazy" races that use dangerous space travel instead of safe time travel) from the abandoned eras of the planet. His main weapon is strange events that the intruders don't care to investigate properly.
- In The Otherworld humans occasionally witness surreal incidents and do nothing. In one such instance the witnesses were, in all fairness, stoned, but in Bitten Elena's fiancé watches her turn into a wolf and when she questions him on it later he claims he'd passed out long before she arrived and transformed.
- Wolfram Von Eschenbach's Parzival fails to achieve the Holy Grail even though it's meant for him because he follows advice to not be too curious and doesn't ask about the Fisher King's injury. The poem is based on Chretien de Troyes' unfinished poem, in which Perceval's failure to ask about an entire procession of miraculous oddities because he's trying to be proper also results in the continued languishing of the Fisher King and his kingdom.
- Arguably the main reason H.P. Lovecraft's The Thing on the Doorstep ends in tragedy — the villain's plot to take over the body of Edward Derby plays out over months if not years with obvious warning signs of what's going on, yet despite the narrator and the victim being ostensibly best friends neither actually does anything until it's finally way too late.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who:
- Various companions fail to question changing history, whereas some address the problems from the start (Barbara Wright). "Why do we need to save history? I come from the present, so I know history went right," or "If you can't change history, why could you save me? I'm history to you!"
- This was lampshaded in the 1975 story "Pyramids of Mars". When they're in 1911, Sarah Jane asks the Doctor why they need to save the future when they've already been in 1980 and it didn't need saving. The Doctor answers the question by taking the TARDIS to 1980 and showing her that the Earth has been destroyed. Only if they set things right back in 1911 can the "real" 1980 be restored.
- At least there's one odd thing they never fail to remark on: "It's bigger on the inside!"
- In The Lost Room, a character gets a key that takes him into a hotel room that exists outside time and space. Walking out of the room takes you to any place in the world with a door. Why, why, why didn't he start experimenting with things like climbing out the window to see what happens? This is especially glaring considering that other characters do things like put things in the room, then close and open the door (making them disappear) and check if the room has electricity and running water (it does).
- Star Trek is famous for not asking the alien cultures they visit about local laws and rules. Especially when they send crew members on shore leave; you would think it might be smart to ask about local laws and taboos just to make sure no one accidentally violates them. The notorious Prime Directive would give them an incentive to avoid asking those questions. The less they know about the culture, the less intentional their interference in it becomes, and the better excuse they can make to a court-martial.
- In one episode, the planet they visit has is described as being like Garden of Eden and they arrive to see it as nice, relaxed and so are naturally put off guard about the possibility that there may be randomly applied death penalty for even a tiny infractions (though they do find out about it through casual conversation, albeit a little too late). In retrospect, it does make the initial comparison double-sided.
- Most of the time, the blunders the crews make would not have happened in the first place if the aliens had said "by the way, we punish doing this by death — tell your people not to do this, okay?" And the fact that they NEVER make exceptions for ignorance of the local laws because these are offworlds... One example involves B'Elanna Torres of Star Trek: Voyager nearly suffering neurological damage because they were removing violent THOUGHTS, which are illegal on this planet (their hat being telepathy). B'Elanna is part KLINGON — violence is the brim on their hat.
- There are multiple explanations for this, and they vary depending on the specific show you are watching. Kirk's Enterprise was an exploratory vessel, most of the places they were going were not explored or had very little know about them. The red shirts sacrificed are the people the (future) history books will cite when they say "Planet 56793-d: Breathable atmosphere, rocky terrain, salt vampires". Picard's Enterprise had this as less of an excuse, though they did encounter new territories and cultures. The ones they were even mildly familiar with were probably cataloged in the ship's computer, and served as intercom messages before departing. Even so, laws change, and the files may be dated. And regardless of which ship you are on, the fact remains that if you go to a foreign country/planet, and break a law, "I didn't know" doesn't tend to work. Still doesn't explain why they don't ask for a copy of all local laws and have a computer program flag any capital punishment or where the punishment is two or more orders of magnitude harsher than Federation average.
- There's also cases where something unexpected happens with their own technology as the impetus for the episode, and no one worries about the implications. Such as the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where it's discovered that a partially reflected transporter beam caused there to have been two William Rikers for several years. When they do find the other Riker, they do ask a couple perfunctory questions, like which one is the real Will Riker. The answer to that is a half-assed "They're both real." No one seems at all concerned with the metaphysical ramifications of their discovery, or even question whether the accident could be duplicated to effectively create clones of every living being in the Galaxy. They just spend the episode helping "Tom" Riker adjust to being back among civilization.
- Just about everyone in The Prisoner apart from the main character. "Questions are a burden to others, answers a prison for ourselves". Brrr. They do have some incentive to avoid questions, what with the giant suffocating bubble lying in the wings.
- In Warehouse 13, Pete hasn't read the Warehouse's manual, and even the characters who have are still finding out new things about the Warehouse - they were surprised to find an entire Bed and Breakfast inside, for example. Justified in that the Warehouse is impossibly large (stretching on farther than the eye can see) and Artie doesn't like to share information.
- Almost a policy in Warhammer 40,000, where you most likely don't want to know. "Only the awkward question; only the foolish ask twice."
- The players, in any RPG, especially when they're looking for a hack and slash and the DM keeps trying to layer on mysteries.
- This is a common survival tactic in Paranoia, where even the most innocent question could be beyond your security clearance and suddenly draw the attention of Friend Computer, IntSec, and/or your overeager teammates who are looking for an excuse to terminate you for being a suspected Commie mutant traitor.
- One of the arguments that Marche is a Villain Protagonist in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is that he automatically assumes Ivalice is a fake world without asking a single question to test that idea. Babus Swain also calls him out on deciding that the only way to restore the real world is to outright destroy the fake one without even looking for alternatives.
- It's used to an extent in Persona 4 to pull out a surprise twist, should the player start questioning why the protagonist managed to obtain his persona-summoning abilities WITHOUT having to face his inner demons.
- In Half-Life 2, Gordon Freeman seems perfectly happy to join up with the first faction he meets without asking simple questions like "Who are you fighting?", "Why?" or "Do you have any kind of plan?". Or saying anything at all, actually. There is a bit of a Hand Wave in that said faction does consist largely of his former coworkers and friends.
- The other faction also tries to kill Gordon before he's made any decisions at all. Which would tend to streamline the decision-making process tremendously.
- The G-Man's comments at the end hint Gordon might be without free will, contracted to the faction he fought for by the G-Man.
- In Silent Hill 2, when James sees his first monster, he promptly whacks it with a board and wonders briefly what it is. After that, he never questions anything else about the decidedly messed up town he's in. Justified because he's completely nuts.
- Henry of Silent Hill 4 suffers from the same lack of reflection on the circumstances he's facing. Could be justified in that he's been through extended isolation, sleep deprivation and malnourishment to the point that he could be prone to and apathetic to hallucination, but this is simply a projection of conditions only alluded to in the beginning, and never touched on through the story. Heck, the first person he runs into, a woman named Velasquez, assumes it's all a weird dream and comes on to Henry. Most of the other people who end up in the Other Side have similar confused and muted reactions, if at all, as the crack head doesn't seem to even see the monsters.
- Subverted in Silent Hill 3. Like those before her, Heather assumes the monsters to be either demons or illusions, only to be rebuffed with the famous line: "Monsters? They look like monsters to you?" Of course, Vincent is a Manipulative Bastard of a psychiatrist/cult leader, so he may just be trying to mess with her.
- In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, No character on Mother Base cared what happened to Paz after she fell out of the Metal Gear you built. Except an army of players, of course...
- Notably averted in Final Fantasy X ... Tidus' questions about things that everyone knows or takes for granted is what begins to truly convince Lulu that he's not from Spira. It also ends up driving the whole plot since otherwise no one would end up questioning the system they are in. This is probably what the Fayth intended when they tossed Tidus out of Zanarkand into Spira; to ask the questions and start demanding better answers than "this is so" so as to kick apathy out of Spira.
- Justified in Rule of Rose. After being given a storybook by a strange boy, Jennifer inexplicably finds herself aboard a ghostly airship filled with nasty children. You'd think that she'd ask someone where she is and what's going, but between the Unreliable Narrator and the Thirty Mind Screw Pileup, the player only gets a secondhand view of Jennifer's character. Hell, since the game is likely a hallucination, a dream or the afterlife, it's also possible Jennifer knows the answers already.
- "Apathy is death" is a phrase that gets repeated at you if you fail at a Vision Quest in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. To fail you have to turn your back on the fights and rivalries in your party, of which there are many. The lesson here is that you're the leader and you have to make everyone work together, despite their differences.
- In Misfile, Ash and Emily meet with angels and learn of a Celestial Bureaucracy that can rewrite reality depending on how the files are arranged. They show no interest in this at all beyond their current predicament.
- In a similar vein, the cast of Spinnerette have encountered a villainess who turned herself into a drider by performing a ritual to Lolth, and a Cerberus-girl charged with keeping damned souls in Hell. No one has any questions about the theological ramifications of this.
- In ThunderCats (2011), the Catfolk-populated kingdom of Thundera is largely confident in its Medieval Stasis, Kung-Fu Wizard Magic Knights and its magic-sword-wielding king. Technology, however, is nothing but a fairy tale for cubs, and anything for sale in the Black Market is obviously a fake crafted to take in the gullible. Naturally, the trope becomes exceptionally literal once a newly Higher-Tech Species pulls a Super Weapon Surprise on the Cats.
- Blythe from Littlest Pet Shop (2012) somehow gains the ability to talk to and understand animals following a dumbwaiter accident. After a brief questioning of it in the first episode, the how and why of it beyond "dumbwaiter accident" is never brought up or pursued again.
- In the final episode of Teen Titans, while the other Titans question how Terra is back to normal after being turned into a statue, Beast Boy is more interested in the fact that she's back than how she came back.
- In Steven Universe the plot revolves around the remnants of an alien group of rebels against a galactic empire, and the effects on Earth and the Half-Human Hybrid son of their departed Leader. The Crystal Gem rebels themselves don't know a lot of what their own former leader did or what the Gem Homeworld Empire is like. And what they do know, they don't talk about; either intentionally or not realizing it might be helpful to discuss.
- College students often do this during lectures, including ones where they are outright told that half of the material is lies.
- This also goes back as far as the 1st grade.
- Some self-professed members of political parties, religions, scientific communities, etc. barely know anything about their or the opposing party's beliefs, and are basically the reason the Strawman Political exists.
- We live in a society filled with amazing technology of great power and sophistication. Use of these machines grants capabilities unimagined by our ancestors. Yet many people have no interest in learning how these things work, despite the fact that the answers are often listed in easy to understand guides available to anybody who wants them.
- On the downside, documentation usually sucks. Too often it's rushed out by someone so familiar with the product that they're completely out of touch with how most people would want to use it.
- "Magnets - how do they work?"
- A trope is you! Do you know how your computer works? You might know it involves ones and zeros, maybe some HTML and Java, but that's it.
- Averted! The majority who use computers are curious enough to gather a lay understanding, but believe it or not, just like automotive mechanics and the physics of the combustion engine, knowing the details are not crucial to your survival! Not knowing won't kill any cats..
- However, it may kill your computer. The Windows OS gets such a bad rap because many people who use it refuse to learn anything about it, do not maintain it, introduce easily escapable viruses because they have no idea how easy they are to avoid, or screw Windows up because they do something they seriously should not be doing. The term "computer illiterate" was created by computer geeks to describe this very common problem.