Armor-Piercing Question
The injury is imaginary,
but the pain is very real.

Detective Del Spooner: Robots don't feel fear. They don't feel anything. They don't eat, they don't sleep—
Sonny: I do. I have even had dreams.
Detective Del Spooner: Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams. But not you. You are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?
Sonny: ...can you?

Ever since Socrates, the power of the question to provoke insight has been well acknowledged. Sometimes a single question, well phrased and well timed, can collapse a person's mental defenses and throw their entire worldview into doubt.

Whether it's The Mentor trying to force their student to learn a vital lesson, or a villain trying to reduce a hero to a wreck, or a hero trying to show a villain how wrong they've been all this time, or somebody desperately trying to force the kid on the sidelines to realize they are meant to do something... more, a good Armor Piercing Question either cuts directly to the heart of a person's worldview, obsession, or psyche, or else forces the listener to confront unpleasant truths that they either didn't want to face or didn't even consider.

This sometimes translates into people using a continued line of questioning to upset or enlighten other characters. Among the most powerful forms of this is finding a single question and formulating it so the answer forces your target to face something difficult to admit, and keep pounding it. In this variant, the key is to find a question with an answer that cuts close to the bone and not let up.

May involve, but is not necessarily related to, Armor-Piercing Slap.

The Constantly Curious often comes up with an Armor-Piercing Question in total innocence, being, like many children, Too Dumb to Fool.

This is a real technique used in psychotherapy, education, religious groups, and debates; the Socratic method taken to its extreme, it's occasionally known as the "Synanon Game". Note that it's usually not as effective as it is in fiction, especially when pointing out doublethink; one common reaction is to verbally attack the person causing the cognitive dissonance. Or the person may simply leave the discussion, or rationalize away the point, etc.

Compare Break Them by Talking, Hannibal Lecture, What Is Evil?, The Only Way They Will Learn, Figure It Out Yourself, Koan, Cryptic Conversation, Wham Line.

Super Trope to And Then What?, which is about a specific subject of armor-piercing question to make the target think about life beyond their plan.

Compare and contrast Armor-Piercing Response, when it's a response (instead of a question) that brings the other guy to a shock. It can be used to answer an Armor-Piercing Question, but it's just as likely to be used against an entirely innocent remark.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A Certain Magical Index
    • The Will of the MISAKA Network asking Touma about his apparently blaze response to Othinus erasing him from the world and people's minds.
  • In Bakuman。, Azuma, an older and out of work mangaka who once worked as the main character's uncle's assistant, ends up collaborating with Nanamine to re-establish himself. Azuma says that he couldn't think of anything better on his own, and Hattori says he understands the feeling, but then asks him "Do you think Taro Kawaguchi would be happy about this?" That question resonates most with Azuma out of everything he and Hattori had discussed, and ultimately, he manages to, with Hattori's help, establish a series that gets serialized in Jump and thwarts Nanamine's plan.
  • Berserk:
    • When Guts tells Collette's father in volume 1 that he's being chased by a legion of evil spirits, he laughs and says that Guts is safe with him because he's a priest and has God on his side. The appearance of a frightening incubus that night shocks him and he asks if Guts was being serious before, but Guts points out his Arbitrary Skepticism by asking, "You're sayin' you believe in God, but not in evil spirits?"
    • In the Golden Age Arc, when Guts explains his decision to leave the Band of the Hawk so he can find his own dream to Judeau and Corkus, the cynical Corkus goes on a rant about how having a dream is nothing but an excuse for weaklings who can't face reality. Guts says, "You don't have something like that?" That renders Corkus speechless for a moment, before he dismiss the whole conversation and storms out angrily.
    • In Lost Children during the pseudo-elf attack on Jill's village, Guts stops them from killing a little boy named Thomas, and then uses the boy as live bait on the end of his sword to lure the elves into a fire trap. Thomas is traumatized, but his life is saved as a result. After the elves are gone the villagers come out of their houses and call Guts despicable for using a child like that, but he throws their hypocrisy back in their faces by saying, "You people make me laugh. When this kid ran out, did even one of you unlock your door?"
  • Lelouch of Code Geass gives one to the Emperor and Marianne during their final confrontation when he talks about his banishment to Japan, which the Emperor then invaded.
    Lelouch: Only one thing is undeniably certain. I understand now that what you did to Nunnally and me may have been done out of good intentions, but... the hard fact remains that you abandoned us in a foreign land!
    Marianne: But we did that to protect you!
    Lelouch: Then why didn't you stop the war between Japan and Britannia? The plan was such a priority for you both that it didn't matter to either of you if Nunnally and I were alive or dead. That's why you abandoned us; all you have left are self-serving excuses!
    • The Japanese dialogue's a bit clearer, since he argues that his parents only thought they had good intentions instead.
  • In Episode 5 of Cowboy Bebop, Vicious and Spike have each other at point blank range, ready to strike. The question can go either way: Spike's statement left a void in Vicious' understanding to ask a question; so, also, by Spike's straight sentence, he asked an Armor-Piercing Question of Vicious, for which Vicious had no answer — rather than admitting this, he asks Spike the question, either implying that he believed there could be no answer, or that he desperately wanted his old friend to give him the answer. Either way, both strike in the next moment.
  • Death Note: After 25 episodes trying to get rid of each other, L knows he's lost and Kira (Light) will kill him at any moment. Up until this point they never openly admitted their mutual antagonism (at least Light didn't) until L asks him "Tell me, Light, from the moment you were born, has there ever been a point where you've actually told the truth?" In the anime the sound of the rain stops and the focus is on Light's shocked face to show how earth-shattering the question is. It should be explained that L and Light both understood that they were opponents in a game that would end in the other's execution in the name of justice, so they never spoke aloud about their competition for fear of the other gaining the upper hand. It's extremely significant that the outrageously over-the-top cautious L puts the game on hold to ask Light directly if he really is just that horrible of a person.
  • In Endride, Demetrio is the master of delivering these although a few others get their chance, most of them directed at Emilio about his plans. The one that has the most visible impact is Demetrio's: "So, you kill the king, what happens next?" to which he has no answer.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Barry the Chopper upon defeat mind rapes Al by asking him how he knows he is even real. This leads Al to question whether he ever existed and if his memories weren't implanted by Ed. Naturally, this turns Al against Ed for a few episodes. Later in the series, the final words of Homunculi also pierce their armor.
    • Ed questions Lust's motives on helping him, pointing out that as a Homunculus, she's got power and immortality, so why would she want to give all that up to become a normal human? Lust counters by pointing out that Ed's brother Al has power and immortality with his armor body, so why take that away from him to make him human? Ed was taken aback as Lust had pointed out her situation is no different from Al's.
    • After the homunculus Envy has been defeated and reduced to a pitiful worm-like creature, he starts a rant about how inferior humans are and ridicules the idea of the Dysfunction Junction Ragtag Bunch of Misfits getting over their mutual hatred and working together. Ed recognises the Inferiority Superiority Complex, and sadly asks him "You're jealous of humans, aren't you?" because of humanity's ability to overcome their weaknesses through their connection to each other. This triggers a Villainous B.S.O.D. that causes Envy to speed his own death rather than continue with his humiliation.
  • In Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Ledo has been raised in a space-faring culture to fight the alien Hideauze his whole life, before getting stranded on Earth. When he explains that sees no purpose in anything but that fight for humanity's survival, Bebel asks what he would do if the Hideauze were defeated for good. Ledo is unable to come up with any answer besides "stand by and wait for new orders." This help underscores how useless he feels on Earth, and prompts him to look for some sort of job among the fleet.
  • The Big Bad of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, Kazundo Ghoda, delivers one to all of Section 9 after he blatantly uses them to transport a case of stolen plutonium out of a dangerous area: he intentionally opens the case to reveal it was empty, and informs that the real case of plutonium was safely recovered by the military. Batou protests how the jerk just used Section 9 as a decoy, leading to this as his response, making them realize even Section 9 could easily be wiped out in a fight if the enemy has numbers on their side.
    Batou: Just who do you think we are, pal?
    Ghoda: The real question is who do you think YOU are? An elite squad of the hand-picked chosen few?
  • Lampshaded in The Girl Who Leapt Through Space when Leopard asks "Do you humans understand what you are?" and gleefully comments how this question always short-circuits a human mind.
  • In Girls und Panzer, Miho tries giving her mother one in the prequel manga, Little Army, regarding whether Maho needed to shoot an enemy flag tank that went to rescue her teammates, but it fails; her mother coldly brushes off the question as "foolish", and essentially says yes, but the fact that she asked it causes Maho to realize how desperate Miho is, and apologize for her aloof behavior. Miho gives a more successful one to Anchovy in the main series manga when Anchovy approaches her after losing to her.
    Anchovy: There's no meaning to doing Panzerkraft if you don't strive for victory!
    Miho: So, is there no meaning to all the efforts you and your comrades gave?
    Anchovy: What?
  • Gundam:
  • In episode 7 of Hell Girl, when budding actress Ayaka is banished to Hell, she says that through acting, she can become anybody. Hone Onna promptly asks her: "So... is there a real you in there?"
  • InuYasha:
    • During the Final Battle, Kagome questions Naraku's motives, observing that he couldn't have manipulated people's hearts so successfully if he didn't understand the human heart. She realises that the reason he still hadn't absorbed the Shikon no Tama was because the transformation into a youkai would destroy his human heart (and thus his power to manipulate the hearts of others). She shatters his composure by asking him if the Shikon no Tama failed to grant his real wish. Naraku's true wish was for Kikyo's heart, which he could never have, so he settled for his second-best wish which just happened to be the same wish the Shikon no Tama itself had.
    • Earlier, Naraku's own subordinate asked him what he was going to wish for now the Shikon no Tama was completed. This makes Naraku understand for the first time that things are coming to an end and that if he cannot have his true wish, he needs to settle for the one wish he wants that can come true, and that is a wish that will not come true immediately. He didn't want the thrill of having a Worthy Opponent to ever end and knows the Shikon no Tama will grant this desire because it overlaps with the jewel's own desire to survive. The jewel's original souls are almost burned out and need to be replaced. Naraku is willing to replace the evil youkai if the jewel uses Kagome to replace the original miko. Naraku gets eternal battle with a Worthy Opponent and has Kikyo's reincarnation with him forever while the renewed jewel has its survival ensured.
  • Junkers Come Here has Hiromi's tutor, Keisuke, asking this to Hiromi's mother who believes her daughter to be very mature and taking her divorce quite well:
    Keisuke: When was the last time you saw Hiromi cry?
  • Kaze no Stigma: "So what are you doing with your powers now? I wouldn't call this protection, would you? And you're not defending anyone by trying to avenge the past. Tell me, who are you protecting now, Kazuma?"
  • Kumo Desu Ga, Nani Ka?: "Ojou-sama, would your parents be proud of you as you are now?"
  • In Magi – Labyrinth of Magic Aladdin is able to reduce Alibaba to silence by innocently asking why freeing a slave is wrong.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!:
    • Played for humor with Yue reducing Kotaro to a shivering heap with a series of these types of questions. ("What is love?" "What is the meaning of your existance?", etc.)
    • There's a later example played by Negi, which should amount to a Crowning Moment of Awesome, on Smug Snake Kurt Goedel as he calls him out on the real nature of the Magic World (with state secret level information, that Negi could not possibly normally know about [thing is, he had his personal information source on this specific issue in the person of Chao...]), and on why he only wants to save the people of his country and not the whole world (meaning he is virtually leaving 17 out of 18 of the Magic World to die). This is particularly satisfying as finally his composed attitude breaks down, when even a Curb-Stomp Battle brought about by Negi's Superpowered Evil Side didn't faze him.
    • Negi himself was eventually hit with an earth-shattering one that he can't bring himself to openly answer: "Which girl do you like the most?"
    • Related to the above, Evangeline is wondering who Negi likes, and pressures him to talk, until Satsuki Yotsuba, the quiet girl who barely talks, asks her:
      Yotsuba: You keep pressuring him to say who, but... Evangeline-san, what will happen if he says it's you?
  • In Medaka Box, Ajimu asks Zenkichi just how he plans to "defeat" Medaka. In other words, what exactly does Zenkichi want from his upcoming battle with Medaka? After some soul-searching, during which he deconstructs his own Subordinate Excuse, he finally has his epiphany: "Ah, I see. I want to go out with Medaka-chan."
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: The Bandit does the to Tohru by accident when she asks her what the freedom of being a dragon is like. Tohru had never considered herself free and had never even wondered what she would do if she was.
  • In Monster, Johan delivers one to former cop Richard regarding an incident where he shot a teenager while intoxicated.
    Johan: You shot that boy while you were intoxicated. That's what you told the media, correct?
    Richard: What are you getting at?
    Johan: You see, I asked several witnesses about you, and they all mentioned seeing drinking in a bar after the incident when you shot that boy. But no matter how many people I asked not a single person could recall having seen you drinking before that.
    Richard: What?
    Johan: I think we've kept up this charade long enough. Detective Braun, were you really drunk when you killed that young man? I believe you were quite sober, and calm. You knew exactly what you were doing. He was scum after all, and so you executed him. Well? Did I get it right?
    Richard: (eyes widen in realization)
    Johan: You're guilty of murder, and you hid from the truth. Tell me, was it a lie to convince the press, or a lie you tell yourself? How will your little girl feel when she finds out that her daddy is a cold-blooded killer?
    Richard: (stares at Johan in horror)
    Johan: (grins sadistically, then pulls a bottle of booze from his coat) Well, Richard, how about a drink?
  • In Muhyo and Roji, after Roji is put on leave as Muhyo's assistant in order to think about what he can do, he starts staying with Judge Imai. Roji then begins offering to do chores for Imai, who angrily responds with "Is that what you want to do? ERRANDS?!" before telling him about how her subordinate Fujiwara was incompetent and cowardly, but worked his fingers to the bone. After that question and the follow-up doesn't quite sink in, Imai replies with "You don't want to know anything, do you?" which results in Roji taking the first steps toward finding out what he can do to improve.
  • Being the Genre Deconstruction of the Fighting Series Played for Laughs, at Muteki Kanban Musume this works to sustain the misunderstanding at the One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Wakana talks about how 10 years is too much a time for Belligerent Sexual Tension between Kankuro and Miki. Unknown Rival Kankuro believes Wakana chastises him because he Can't Catch Up with The Rival Miki:
    Wakana: You're just frustrated because of Onimaru-san, aren't you?... Have you felt that way for a long time?
    Kankuro: Ever since I met her at elementary school... so I guess It has been 10 years now...
    Wakana: Huh?! It's been teen years and you still haven't made any progress?! I can't believe it! And you call yourself a man?
    Kankuro: (thinking) On some levels that hurt more than any of Miki's punches, nya...
  • In Naruto, after the revelation that Danzo might have manipulated Mifune into making him head of the alliance, Gaara notes that if people cannot trust each other, there is no future for the world. While the Tsuchikage mocks his ideals, Gaara asks the other Kages "When did you all forsake yourselves?" and in so doing, causes the Tsuchikage to remember "how (he) was before (he) became a stubborn old man" and veto a potential plan to eliminate the eight- and nine-tailed beast hosts.
  • In The Pet Girl of Sakurasou:
    • Sorata asks Jin why of all the women he rejects Misaki. Jin in turn asks Sorata if he's really meaning to escape the Sakura Hall.
    • When Sorata follows Mashiro to the Love Hotel, she asks him why is he there (he had told her previously he was too busy).
    • Ryuunosuke Akasaka seems to like doing this.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • Alien granter-of-wishes Kyuubey, in response to Sayaka's anger over her situation, asks two questions of her. Sayaka's fall into despair is, among other things, coming to regret her becoming a Magical Girl.
      Sayaka: Why... why do we have to go through all this...
      Kyuubey: You had a wish you wanted granted even if it meant being fated to live a life of battle from then on, right? And that wish has certainly come true, hasn't it?
    • Even earlier, Mami made a question to Sayaka that fitted fairly well here...
      Sayaka: Does this wish have to be for ourselves? (...) If there's someone much worse off than me, I was wondering if I could make a wish for him or something like that!
      Mami: I don't really like the idea... Miki-san, do you want to make that person's dream come true? Or do you just want to make him indebted to you for making it come true?
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • Stepford Smiler Seta Soujirou, while fighting Kenshin, was already starting to suffer from a Villainous Breakdown, is muttering that Kenshin wasn't around to protect Soujirou when it mattered. Kenshin destroys what's left of Soujirou's cool with one question: "Is it too late to start over?"
    • Revenge-obsessed villain Enishi flips out when Kenshin asks if his dead sister is smiling for him.
  • In Saiyuki, the villain Kami-sama, who has stolen Genjo's sutra, claims that he was trained by a Sanzo priest and inherited the title from him. However, Genjo has a question for him: "If you really inherited the title, where the hell's your Sutra?" He goes on to point out that Kami-sama went out of his way to steal a Sutra from Genjo because he didn't have one of his own, and that his master may have taught him everything he knows, but he still never gave him the title of Sanzo. At this, Kami-sama finally snaps.
  • In the final arc of Sailor Moon, the Big Bad reveals that she was in fact the Galaxy's greatest Sailor Guardian that even she was unable to contain Chaos inside her, proving that sealing away such evil was impossible. Sailor Moon's response: "Why would you try to do that alone?"
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    • This instance:
      Nia: So does this mean you hate me too, Adiane?
      Adiane: Hate you? I really couldn't care less about you. I was told to kill you, so that's precisely what I'm going to do! Whether I hate you or not is irrelevant.
      Nia: So you're saying that you're willing to kill me simply because you were ordered to do so?
      Adiane: Of course I am, what of it?
      Nia: If my father ordered you to take your own life, would you do that too?
    • An even better example comes later in the series, when Nia is taken over by her Anti-Spiral programming, and insists she no longer has any emotional ties to her past life. Simon responds to this by asking "if you don't love me anymore, why are you still wearing your engagement ring?"
  • X:
    • A Tearjerker along the lines of a villainous Armor-Piercing Question. The question, asked of a 14-year-old schoolgirl named Yuzuriha Nekoi. "Why is it wrong to kill humans?" Which, in intent, amounts to something like "Why are you guys the Good Guys and we (the Well-Intentioned Extremists) the Bad guys?" The Tearjerker? Her pet spirit wolf Inuki, who has been with her essentially since birth, springs forward to fight for her. And is immediately killed, causing said Genki Girl to go through a less over-dramatic version of a Heroic B.S.O.D..
    • Yuzuriha finds an answer to that question, by the way, which is "Because someone will always grieve for your victim". Inuki is soon reborn shortly after this. Although, Yuuto was actually the one who first said so. And to the very face of Satsuki, the person who made the question.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Although Tea is often criticized for her speeches, one of her best moments is when she delivers one of these to Kaiba in a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Although Kaiba tries to play it off cool ("I have everything I need."), he is visibly shaken.
    Tea: What do you have? What do you have at the end of the day? Tell me? TELL ME!
  • In an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Yuma duels a guy who is a member of a famous soccer family. The guy rants that he hates soccer and has become a duelist to get out of his brothers' shadows and prove himself better than them. Yuma shakes him up by asking, "Then why are you using a soccer deck?"
  • Digimon Adventure 02:
    • Takeru asks the Kaiser, "How long are you gonna live under the impression that you're always right? Is it fun?" He goes on to tell the Kaiser that he doesn't know anything about the evil powers he's using. This causes the Kaiser to lash out.
    • Later, Blackwargreymon arrives at the cabin where Arukenimon, Mummymon and Oikawa are hiding out, claiming to want to look upon his creator's face. Arukenimon sneers at this and points out that's she's the one who gave him life from her hair, to which he responds by asking both her and Mummymon who created them. Neither one has an answer, until Oikawa reveals that he did so.
    • During the first season, while Yamato is taking Takeru home on the subway and they're discussing if Yamato should get off at the next stop Patamon asks, "Do you not like separating?" to which Takeru promptly tells him to shut up, sparking a fight between them.
  • In anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, Satoshi Honma is able to point out to his mother Irene just how much the latter had been absorbed in their grief over Menma's death that they had completely neglected him by asking:
    Satoshi: I grew three whole centimeters this year, Mom, did you know that?
  • Attack on Titan:
    Historia: Father... why didn't... my older sister fight?
  • In Seven Deadly Sins, Gowther, after hearing about Slader's royality to the king, asks him why he follows orders from great holy knights, and when he tries to tell him that king is ill and they just representing him (which was a lie, that knights used to take over the kingdom), asks if king told it to him personally. After hearing that, Slader stops fighting and leaves to meet the king, still in deep shock.
    Gowther: Is that, what the king said? Did he tell you all this, while you were at his bedside?
  • In Fruits Basket, Haru confesses his love to Rin and asks if she feels the same way. Rin replies that Akito has forbidden them to have romantic relationships. Which is true, but doesn't answer Haru's question, so he repeats it until Rin gives a real answer, an answer based on what she thinks.

    Comic Books 
  • The end of Batman Hush features one of these: "What time is it when an elephant sits on your fence?" Specifically, Batman is asking the Riddler — who is revealed to be The Chessmaster for the whole series and has deduced Batman's identity as Bruce Wayne — a riddle that everyone knows the answer to already, which makes it a worthless puzzle. Batman then points out that if the Riddler reveals the Caped Crusader's secret to anyone else, the riddle "Who is Batman?" will become just as well-known — and therefore as pointless — as the elephant question. The Riddler, due to his psychosis, can't allow that to happen, and has a Villainous B.S.O.D..
  • In Birds of Prey, the Question once managed to get Huntress (whose Berserk Button is crooked cops) to back down by boiling the entire sorry socioeconomic underpinning of Gotham City's hellholishness down to one simple question: "Do you know how much an honest cop makes in Gotham before taxes?"
  • In Blackest Night Issue 7, we have one from Nekron to a nameless Guardian of the Universe that comes with a Wham Line response that shows just how far the Guardians of Oa had fallen by that point, and sign of how much worse they were going to become:
    Nekron: Why have you spent eons fighting so hard to protect life when you don't live it, creature? Why did you vow to guard the universe?
    Guardian of the Universe: I... I do not remember.
  • The Chick Tracts are notorious for having uber-religious protagonists deliver what they think are armor-piercing questions to Straw Evolutionists. The questions may be armor-piercing in-universe, but they never stand up to scientific scrutiny.
    • In "Sin City", Ray, a gay minister, quotes Bible verses to argue, among other things, Sodom was not destroyed for the sin of homosexuality, but rather just inhospitality to Malcolm, a fundamentalist who was beaten up by the police and charged with a hate crime for an anti-homosexuality demonstration at a gay pride parade. After a lengthy exposition regarding Chick's views on homosexuality, Bob delivers two questions in rapid succession to Ray.
      Bob: Malcolm lovingly tried to warn homosexuals of God's judgment. So who committed the hate crime? Malcolm, or the guys who almost beat him to death? Tell me, Ray, of all the sins, lying, adultery, stealing etc., can you think of any other sin where God Himself wiped out entire cities to remove that sin?
      Ray: No... No I can't!
    • A fairly common one is the Christian witnessing to a non-Christian asking the other whether he or she has done anything wrong at all. "It's the Law" has one such exchange between Bob and his nephew's teacher. It's partially erroneous given that on average, teachers spend $200 of their own money per year on classroom supplies, on top of the classroom budget provided by the district. You can't be a thief for taking a paperclip you bought with your own money
      Bob: Have you ever told a lie?
      Teacher: Of course — who hasn't?
      Bob: OK, so what does that make you?
      Teacher: Gulp... a liar.
      Bob: You broke the 9th Commandment and God hates lies. Ever take home a paperclip from your classroom?
      Teacher: Umm... hmmm.
      Bob: So what does that make you?
      Teacher: Yeah... but... (sigh) a thief.
      Bob: So now you've admitted you're a lying thief. The 10 Commandments show us we are ALL guilty before God- We are ALL sinners.
    • In "The Bull", the eponymous character asks a chaplain who doesn't believe the Bible is the Word of God, "If you don't believe any of this, then why are you a chaplain?"
  • Enigma features the arc words "And then what?"
  • Green Lantern:
    • If not parodied, then certainly not taken seriously: Hal Jordan has gotten a blue (hope-powered) ring against his will, and it won't unlock its full powers for him until he answers a question: "What do you hope for?" Since he can't make the ring leave him until he unlocks its full powers, and until then it just sits on his hand asking again and again, and he gives a series of insincere answers like "World peace," Hal eventually snaps, "I hope you stop asking me that question!" The ring accepts this as a sincere answer.
    • Green Lantern was once asked why he helped "blue skins, orange skins, and purple skins," but never "black skins." The question drove Green Lantern and Green Arrow to travel across America solving problems closer to home.
  • In H'el on Earth, after Superman is done gathering information from Lex Luthor, Lex Luthor gives him something to think about.
    Lex Luthor: Why can H'el do much more than you? Is he more powerful than you... or have you just failed to make yourself as powerful as he? And if that is the case... what are you so afraid of, Superman?
  • House of M leadup ("What would you have me do?"). The Avengers are coming to kill the Scarlet Witch because she is destroying reality. Quicksilver confronts Magneto about it. Magneto asks the question. Quicksilver repeats the information. Magneto repeats the question.
  • Iron Man: In Warren Ellis' Extremis run, Tony Stark when he delivers this to John Pillinger, an anti-war activist/documentarist who is interviewing him in regard to the weapons Tony designed for the military over a decade ago.note  Over the course of the interview, Pillinger is clearly determined to make Tony out to be as unsympathetic as possible to the point of insinuating that he is Not So Different from any current arms dealer; he interrupts Tony at every turn, gives Tony no chance to expand on his answers, and more or less dismisses incredibly significant medical breakthroughs as meaningless just because they aren't available in third-world countries.note  He also brushes aside the fact that Tony hasn't designed weaponry for the military in over ten years, and has in fact put his efforts and resources into venues that could improve the world.

    The real kicker comes when Tony, rather than attempt to make excuses for the damage the weapons he once designed have done, flat-out admits that he knows that no matter what he does, he will always have blood on his hands — and Pillinger reacts as if Tony has given some long, rambling explanation to excuse himself from responsibility. Tony ends his statement by saying, with obvious sincerity, that he's trying to be a part of making the world a better place regardless. Pillinger responds with a caustic "...I see." However, at the end of the session, Pillinger asks Tony why he agreed to the interview. Tony responds beautifully with an Armor-Piercing Question of his own.
    Tony: I wanted to meet you. You've been making your investigative films for what, twenty years now? I wanted to ask: Have you changed anything? You've been uncovering disturbing things all over the world for twenty years now. Have you changed anything? You've worked very hard. Most people have no idea of the kind of work you've done. Intellectuals, critics, and activists follow your films closely, but culturally you're almost invisible, Mr. Pillinger. Have you changed anything?
    Pillinger: I don't know.
    Tony: Me neither.
    (the two mensches shake hands amicably before parting)
  • Kingdom Come:
    • Edward Nygma, who is now Selina Kyle's lover — though "boy toy" is a better description — loves to do this, highlighted by asking Lex what he plans to do about Superman. It's the only time Lex is completely out of control.
    • In the Novelization, when Wonder Woman is questioned by the Amazons about her actions during the crisis, she states that Paradise Island had become too insular.
      Diana: For example, who among you has actually met a living soul who does not live on this Island?
      (a few hands went up among the four- or fivescore assembled sisters; even they went down when everyone realized what their former princess meant by "living")
  • Providence has Dr. Alvarez giving one to Robert Black:
    "There is a concealed country, therefor, hidden below the society we show the world. Uncomfortable truth, it lurks behind our pretences. This truth, it is a land sunken beneath many fathoms. Were it one day to rise and confront us all, what would you do, Mr. Black? What would any of us do?
  • In The Sandman, Morpheus asks one of these. Archangel Lucifer, having surrounded Morpheus with the Legions of Hell and intending to trap him, claims that Morpheus is powerless as dreams have no power in Hell. Morpheus asks him, and the assembled demons, what use there would be for Hell if those in it could not dream of Heaven. The demons disperse and Lucifer is forced to let him go.
  • It was only asked of Spider-Man once, but the question was so profound that it didn't need to be repeated: "Did the radiation enable the spider (who bit you) to give you powers, or was the spider trying to give you those powers before it died of the radiation? What came first, the powers or the radiation?" The question hit Spidey as hard as any foe ever did, and he had no idea what the answer was. And then there that other question: But as you go, given this last chance, remember one thing... The man died, the Spider was reborn. I... was reborn. So the question is... are you you? Or are you me? Are you the man who dreamed of being a spider? Or the spider who dreamed of being a man? Are you the one or are you the other? Worth noting that he decided that it didn't matter...
  • Butch gives an epic one to both Anita and Gila at the end of the Confidential arc in Spy Boy.
  • Superman: Red Son: Brainiac warns Superman against even speaking to Lex Luthor, so Luthor puts the question in a letter. Superman has been haunted by his failure to restore the Kryptonian "bottled city" of Kandor; that's one of the thing that drives him to protect Earth (which he does, by establishing a benevolent dictatorship). Luthor's question, which drives Superman to his knees: "Why don't you put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?"
  • During their team-up to take down Malcolm Colcord's attempt to revive the Weapon X project, Daken tries to deliver one to his little sister, Laura Kinney a.k.a. X-23, by asking why she holds herself back by caring for others and is afraid to let go and fully embrace her training and skill as a killer. The question falls flat: Laura isn't fighting to prove anything, but is instead fighting for something bigger than herself. She then completely turns it around on him by asking why he holds back and is afraid to allow himself to care about others. Manipulative Bastard that he is, Daken still doesn't have an answer.
  • In God Loves, Man Kills, Kitty punches out a fellow dance student who calls her a "mutie-lover". When Stevie Hunter, her African-American dance instructor, tells her his rhetoric was "just words," a furious Kitty responds:
    Kitty: Suppose he'd called me a nigger-lover, Stevie? Would you have been so damn tolerant then?!
  • Prodigy/David from the Young Avengers hits Teddy with this when convincing Teddy to mend his romantic relationship with his fiancé Billy and thus save the universe with The Power of Love after Teddy has an existential crisis over Loki insinuating that Teddy was possibly wished into existence by Billy's reality-warping powers.
    David: Listen. Yes, [Billy] could have accidentally wished you into existence. Existential nonsense. Who cares? It doesn't matter. You're you. He's him. Your love is as real as anything I've ever seen.
    Teddy: But—
    David: Teddy, listen. A magical power someone else has over you for no reason you can really justify but cascades through you until every cell cries out for his touch? What do you think love is?
  • In Infinite Crisis, the Golden Age Superman, Kal-L, drops in on Batman in an attempt to recruit him in his quest to restore Earth-2. Kal-L tries to explain that this Earth is too corrupted to save. However, despite Batman being in a Despair Event Horizon, he counters with one question: "What about Dick Grayson?" It's enough to get Kal-L to back down and begin questioning his actions, something that doesn't take until the Modern Age Superman hits him with a Wham Line.
  • Nemesis the Warlock: While Purity's attempt at Shaming the Mob doesn't work on the majority of the Terminators assembled to watch her execution, Brother Gogol is momentarily shaken when she asks them "What are you all hiding behind your masks?"
  • In Civil War II: X-Men #3, Magneto confronts Rachel Grey with the intent on recruiting her to take the Inhuman Ulysses. At first, she rejects it, but when Magneto asks if the Inhumans ever lifted a finger to save the mutants in her timeline, it's enough to instantly sway her.

    Fan Works 
  • In A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script, a The Silmarillion fanfic:
    • To a Feanorian kinslayer after he hit her:
      Maiwe: Your answer is the same as ever was, to them that refuse your tyranny — hard word, and harder hand. Was that not how it befell your own King at high Formenos, my kinsman?
    • Beren to Aegnor after the latter tried to give him a hard time:
      Beren: I'm sure it was more complicated than just family, but even with there not being all that many places to go, after the Sudden Flame, the thing I'm wondering is, if maybe you feel a bit guilty, since maybe you all being so tight with that crew had something to do with Finrod giving them such a warm welcome, if it was partly for your sake. —Just going on how things were in Dorthonion after it started getting bad, and the way people react, how it isn't all just what's the most reasonable thing to do.
      Steward: A most interesting question. —Is that the case, I wonder?
      Aegnor: (glowering) I do not choose to answer your unworthy speculations.
      Steward: I believe that you have quite well, your Highness.
    • Elenwe to Amarië as they are listening to the bit about Finrod’s doom:
      Elenwe: (to Amarie, puzzled) Art thou not much wrung, for thought of thy consort's fate?
      Amarie: (coldly) His own fate, he did him choose.
      Elenwe: Thou answerest not. —Why?
      Amarie: (sharp) Wherefore I answer not unto thee, kinswoman.
      Elenwe: Again thou answerest not.
  • A Crown of Stars:
    • In the first chapter, Asuka’s older self is trying to talk Asuka into taking up Daniel’s offer:
      Older Asuka:” You don’t have to be afraid anymore. Of anything. And ‘you’re allowed to be happy now.’ Don’t miss this chance.”
      Asuka: “A month ago I took on an entire army and two Evas with nothing but a half-functioning Mass Production Unit that couldn’t produce an AT-Field and the Third Child. Afraid? I’m not afraid of anything already,”
      Older Asuka: “Right. Sleeping all right? No bad dreams? No little bad moods grabbing your attention?”
    • And in the next chapter Asuka realizes her older self is wearing a ring on her finger. She cannot believe the implications (getting married to Shinji), but then her other self Asuka shouts:
      Older Asuka: ”And try this one out, ‘me’; did he ask you? Or did you ask him?”
  • Adamantine Mist:
    • After learning that Ranma is now engaged to Kasumi, Ukyo confronts her about it. She accuses Kasumi of taking the engagement out of duty, rather than love for Ranma, prompting Kasumi to respond thusly:
      Kasumi: It is perhaps a trifle presumptuous of you to claim to know what I feel inside. Not that it truly matters. As for your own feelings, only you can know them and I will not ask for proof. But are you so sure? Tell me, would you dare to ask yourself on how many occasions you have put Ranma's needs ahead of your own?
    • Later on, Ukyo visits Ranma to try and talk him into breaking off the engagement and marrying her instead. When she insists that they'd be happy together, Ranma points out that none of his engagements were made with his happiness in mind, and then we get this:
      Ukyo: So you're just going to do what they want you to? Even if you end up miserable?
      Ranma: And how's that different from doing what you want?
  • Advice and Trust:
    • In chapter 3 Asuka is trapped inside Leliel and Nerv's plan is throw all of their bombs at it. Dismayed, Shinji asks Misato if Asuka can survive the blast, and Misato evades the question (which was noticed by Shinji).
      Misato: "Shinji? [...] Get ready. The bombers are on their way. We're five minutes from the mark."
      Shinji: "Misato-san... I don't like this plan. How... how can we be sure Asuka can even survive the blast?"
      Misato: "Her batteries will be all but drained by now, Shinji. We have to try something before it's too late, or there'll be no hope at all."
      Shinji (thinking): 'She didn't answer my question.'
    • In chapter 7, Kaji finds out that Shinji and Asuka are having sex and he tries to dis-encourage them... with null success. When Asuka says Shinji has said he loves her, Kaji asks why she is so sure that it will last as long as she thinks. Shinji's answer shuts him up:
      Asuka:“He loves me, Kaji. He’s said it right to me,” she said calmly. “No one else ever has. Not even you.”
      Kaji:“It’s just words, Asuka. Words are easy to say. They’re a lot harder to really mean. How can you possibly know if it’s true, and will be for as long as you’re talking about?”
      Asuka:“I believe him,”
      Shinji(coldly):“Just words, [...] Just words... have you said them to Misato-san?”
  • A Growing Affection: Nagato admits to Naruto that the main reason he is helping Gouki is because if Gouki succeeds in becoming ruler of the continent, he will have the right and authority to forgive Nagato for failing to protect Yahiko and the original Akatsuki. Naruto, who knows (thanks to Ino's Mand Transfer and Kakashi's deductive reasoning) that each Path of Pein contains part of the mind and soul of the original person, asks "What about Yahiko? Does he forgive you? Does he have the right to forgive you?"
  • In the MLP Fan Fic Asylum, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are among those at the titular asylum and at least at first, are the only friends each other has. So when Rainbow Dash continues to constantly excerpt herself at the risk of her health, prompting her therapist Scootaloo to ask her:
    Therapist Scootaloo: “And if you get hurt, then what would happen to Fluttershy?”
  • Evangelion 303: In chapter 12 Asuka is arguing heatedly with her subconscious:
    Asuka: Nobody understands what I’m going through!
    Asuka: Do YOU understand?
  • The Child of Love:
    • In chapter 5 Gendo is rambling about his plans furthering the human evolution:
      Fuyutsuki:"You're going too far, Ikari. Yui wouldn't approve what you're about to do. She would probably wonder what happened to the Gendo she loved and married... and how could you call that 'humankind's evolution'?"
    • In chapter 8 Asuka is furious with Shinji because he has lost his nerve and he has broken up because he thinks he is unfit to be her boyfriend and their child’s father and she tells she does not love him anymore. Misato does not buy it, though:
      Asuka:"Shinji's a bastard. Nothing more."
      Misato:"Asuka... tell me. Do you love him?"
      Misato:"Do you love him...?"
      Misato:"DO YOU LOVE HIM!?"
      Misato (frowning):"DO YOU LOVE HIM!?"
      Asuka (between little sobs):"Yes... I..."
  • Doing It Right This Time:
    "Is there a reason I'm piloting the [Evangelion] that ate Mother?"
    • Later on, Misato snaps Shinji out of a minor Heroic B.S.O.D. with another:
    "Shinji, do you actually want to die or do you just not know what else to do?"
  • Ghosts of Evangelion: Asuka tries to get Shinji stop blaming himself for Kaworu's death and Third Impact. So she asks him why Kaworu simply didn't leave if he had Free Will.
    Asuka: Who is this Kaworu person, anyway?
    Shinji: He was a good person, [...] He came to Nerv to be a pilot after you... went away. He was my friend and I killed him.
    Asuka: Why?
    Shinji: I had to, [...] If I didn't, everyone would have died.
    Asuka: Why?
    Shinji: He was an angel! [...] He was an angel who looked like a human. Like Ayanami, I guess.
    Asuka: Weird. So why did you have to kill him?
    Shinji: He said that humans deserved to live. He wanted me to live and be happy, so I had to kill him!
    Asuka: That's what he wanted?
    Shinji: Yes.
    Asuka: You're sure? [...] That's what he said?
    Shinji: Yes!
    Asuka: If that's so, [...] then why didn't he leave?
    Shinji: ... what?
    Asuka: If he wanted us to live, why didn't he go back to where he came from? If he was like Ayanami he had to live somewhere before he came to Nerv, right? Why did you have to do anything?
  • HERZ: During the Grand Finale Rei shows Kihl the Ikari family (Shinji, Asuka and Akiko) like an example of true Human Complementation: two human beings loving each other and the fruit of that love. Then she asks him:
    Rei:"Do you understand?"
  • The One I Love Is: In episode 11 Shinji decides to regard Kaoru as his friend. However a part of his mind asked:
    'If she's your friend, then why did she leave so suddenly, without a word?'
  • Scar Tissue:
    • Ritsuko is telling Misato how Shinji and Asuka’s health was recovering quickly after several months of deterioration:
      Misato: So what you're saying is that they're good for each other? I wish I could believe that, I really do Ritsu, but Asuka almost killed Shinji, with her bare hands, for touching her. She broke his fingers that time, too, I guarantee it.
      Ritsuko: Dislocated. She dislocated one of his fingers, she didn't break both.
      Misato: It doesn't matter! If they're so good for each other's health, how come this happened!? How come they've both been wasting away all this time?!
      Ritsuko: How should I know? I'm not their guardian, I'm their doctor.
    • Rei returns and tells Shinji that she will protect him from Asuka from now on. Shinji replies that whatever goes between Asuka and him is their concern and he does not like when someone else try to meddle. When she insists his safety is HER concern, he angrily retorts:
      Shinji: Then where the fuck were you!
    • Asuka later also uses this line during their fight.
  • The Second Try: After Gendo discovers his son and Asuka's machinations, he interrogates them to pry their knowledge of the future out of them. Shinji demolishes him with a single line:
    Shinji: "Do you really think she would come back to you because of that?"
  • In Alternative Gods, a Death Note Cyber Punk AU Light and L have an arrangement where L is killing criminals for him, but L does not really approve and is trying to get Light to reconsider:
    L: How does Light-kun feel about death? Death, Light-kun. What is it like to die?
    Light: I don't know, I haven't died yet.
    L: This is a lie.
    Light: (laughing) So I'm dead?
    L: Mostly, yes.
    Light: Really?
    L: Let me ask it another way then, is Light-kun a God?
    Light: Yes, I am a God.
    L: But before you became a God, you were just a man. As a man, you have died, and now you are a God. So I am asking Light-kun what it is like to die.
  • An Alternate Keitaro Urashima:
    • When the Hinata Girls are trying to convince Keitaro to come run the Inn, Keitaro asks Shinobu if she thinks it's right to force somebody to do something against their will. Though he extends this question to the rest of them afterwards, Shinobi is the only one seriously shaken by it, leading to her Character Development.
    • Earlier on, the girls suggest beating up Keitaro if he tries to kick them out of the inn. When Shinobu asks if they'd do the same if it was a woman who was kicking them out, all of them fall silent.
  • During the first encounter in Yognapped between Sben and Griefer Alpha, the former constantly interrupts the latter's request for an alliance with taunts and cold derision. Frustrated, Griefer Alpha asks him about his reasons for waging war, which causes Sben to immediately lose all bravado because he's forgotten the answer.
    Griefer Alpha: You heard me, Sben. What motivated you to form Ironstorm in the first place? WHY do you want to destroy Minecraftia?
  • In A Pikachu in Love, when Pikachu is telling Pichi about his life with Ash and how he'll always be a trainer, Pichi asks Pikachu if he wants to be a sports Pokemon all his life. Though it stuns Pikachu for a few seconds while he tries to think of an answer, he eventually decides to leave it up to the future. Though, later on, he eventually starts asking this question to himself when he realizes Ash won't be young and a trainer forever...
  • A Protector's Pride: Zangetsu uses this as a indirect Quit Your Whining / Trickster Mentor question to Ichigo.
    Zangetsu : What makes a person a monster?
  • In Boys Do Tankary, Vincent does this to Maho, although he and the author don't seem to understand that Maho is putting on a Jerkass Façade and is striving to be a perfect heiress for Miho's sake.
    Vincent: Is it true that you have failed to see what is most important to you?
    Maho: No.
    Vincent: Then why have you pushed your sister so far away? You know nothing about true family.
  • Build Your Wings on the Way Down Edward asks Roy if the military knew about Tucker using his wife to make a chimera and would he even go to jail.
    Mustang: Of course we didn't know. That's disgusting.
    Edward: I believe that you didn't know but are you sure the military didn't?
  • Children of Time is absolutely full of these, thanks to it being a characterization-heavy series that develops Sherlock Holmes into a Darker and Edgier person, as well as touching several times upon the Doctor's past and darker side.
    • On their very first adventure together, Holmes is on his Hiatus, and the Doctor has just lost Rose Tyler and spent Christmas with Donna Noble. And when the Time War enters the equation, Holmes tries to get the Doctor to open up: “It is not my wish to distress you, my dear sir, and I am all too aware that there is a great deal more to this than you would wish to divulge. But I ask you, Doctor: how I am to aid you effectively if you will not confide in me?”
    • “What did he tell you, I wonder, of the Last Great Time War? Did he tell you of the battles he waged? ... He told you none of this, did he?"
    • “Ah, so is this truly about me, or is it about yourself, Holmes — as usual? Are we truly speaking of your concern for my wellbeing, or your own selfishness?
    • Holmes later quotes this question of Moriarty's: "Of the two of us, which is truly the more reprehensible: the man who never had neither friends nor a heart, or the man who had both and sold both away in a childish desire to avoid emotional pain?"
  • Corrin Reacts: Felicia asks one of these that directly forces Flora to quit ignoring the question of her burgeoning feelings for Corrin.
    Felicia: ".....what do you see in Jakob of all people?"
    Flora: "He became my friend when nobody else was, helped me even when I hurt him and even when I wasn't worth it. He makes my life worth living, because I know that if I keep on living, I'll get to see him again, even if I can't stand with him like Azura can. He's..."
  • Death Note Equestria: When Twilight sets up Sunny Days to die as part of a plot to clear her own name, Byuk asks Twilight what she did to deserve to die. Twilight's weak excuse causes her to face the fact that she's been killing innocents, as opposed to her original plan of just killing criminals, and she has a miniature breakdown before composing herself.
  • Danzo asks one of Kurenai in Danzo's Team after she insists Team 7 isn't ready for the Chuunin Exams.
    Danzo: "Where are your reports?"
    Kurenai: "What?"
    Danzo: "The reports you must have written about your observations and analysis of Team 7 that would make you more qualified than their commanding officer to judge what they're capable of."
  • In Dirty Sympathy Phoenix is trying to convince Apollo that the public would trust him and Klavier for the Vera Misham and look up to them, Apollo responds with this:
    Phoenix: The public loves you both already, you know.
    Apollo: Like they used to feel about you and Miles Edgeworth.
    • When Trucy is trying to motivate Apollo into working harder for Vera Misham and trying to call out his treatment of the case.
    It's different! You ignored Wocky because of the dumb stuff he said and that was fine. You're ignoring Vera because she's easy to ignore. And you of all people should know what that's like -
    • This nearly ends up backfiring as it nearly sends Apollo into a Heroic B.S.O.D. instead of motivating to get his act together.
  • In Don't Blink, the Doctor is wrongly suspected of murdering a man at one point. He briefly freezes up during an interrogation by a police officer when the officer asks him out of the blue "Are you a killer?", as the question causes him to flash back to his actions during the Time War.
  • Escape From The Hokage's Hat has Kakashi on the receiving end of a couple for teaching Sasuke way more than Naruto and Sakura. To elaborate he only taught Naruto and Sakura ONE skill yet focused more on Sasuke.
    Sakura : (Kakashi indiectly calls her weak in front of Jiraiya and Team 8 while she points out he abandoned training her) "What part of Those who abandon their allies are worse than trash do you believe?"
    Jiraiya (On why he didn't teach Naruto ANYTHING) : "You didn't want to teach him (Naruto) anything that would've pissed off the Uchiha right?"
    • Tenten gets a rapid fire version that lightly crosses with "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
      "Then let me ask you a question Kakashi-san. Is it true that the only true technique that you taught Naruto and Sakura before the Chunin Exams was the ability to walk up trees with chakra? Or how about the rumor that Uchiha Sasuke started suddenly pulling new fire jutsu out of nowhere during that same period? The thing you should be asking yourself is not Where did I go wrong with the Uchiha?. It's What would have happened if I made the others stronger?. Would Sakura have been able to stop Sasuke from leaving in the first place? Would Naruto have been nearly killed twice because he couldn't go any farther on his own? It's because you're asking the wrong questions that you're not finding the right answers."
    • Naruto is told The Needs of the Many speech from every leader he talks with. Upon asking if himself if he could do the same, he stalls when he realizes he might have to force a childhood like his on someone else.
  • In Frozen Hearts, when Hans' brother Heins is talking with Kristoff, who doesn't trust Hans because of what he did, Hans' brother Heins asks this question about Hans. The person being asked the question is forced to admit to never having officially met Hans, and becomes slightly more receptive to what Heins has to say about Hans.
    Heins: ... how long have you known him?
  • Twilight Sparkle manages to do this to Prince Blueblood in Getting Back on Your Hooves during a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. After explaning how Celestia and Luna seek such a close relationship with their subjects, a stark contrast to the self obcessed, high and mighty Blueblood, she asks him a question that, for once, actually makes him think about his actions. When we see him again, he approaches Applejack and apologies to her for being so rude to her at the Gala, implying it stuck.
    Twilight Sparkle: If they're the highest royalty in the land, Blueblood, what does that say about how you behave when you're so much lower than they are?
  • Many of the Original Characters in the Ben 10 fanfic series Hero High: Sphinx Academy which often has Reality Ensues deconstructs Ben's view of seeing himself as a comic book logic of the ways of a super hero and show that War Is Hell and Grey and Grey Morality.
    • Word of God states that he did this so as to link as to why Ben is so cold in the Time Skip episode in the series.
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, the Sorting Hat tries to deliver one to Harry: "What happens if you fail?" But even though it goes on to spell out the answer, Harry still refuses to hear it.
  • Hogyoku ex Machina: Ichigo has traveled back in time (to the end of the Soul Society Arc) from near the end of the Deicide Arc. Ishida is more then a little disturbed by Future/Ichigo's vehement desire to kill Aizen, wondering what happened to turn him:
    "Kurosaki. When did this become some kind of grudge match between you two?!
  • There have been quite a few of these in Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox so far.
    • One of the earliest ones comes from Naruto when Kiba tries to fight him, ostensibly to restore Hinata's honor after her Accidental Kiss with Naruto sometime earlier. Fueling Kiba's anger is the fact that, earlier that very day, Hinata had rejected (albeit as kindly as she could) his own love confession. Naruto's response to Kiba's increased efforts to fight him gets Kiba to stop and think.
    Naruto: What was Hinata's opinion?
    • Later on, Hinata herself gives one to Ino, who's angry that Naruto is showing interest in Sakura instead of Hinata, when Ino has been trying to get the two together. Not only does Hinata reveal that she doesn't mind Naruto checking out other girls (since they're both taking the relationship slow by mutual consent), but her next question leaves Ino stammering (because she's got a personal quarrel with Sakura, which was another factor in her anger).
    Hinata: Are you angry solely because Naruto-kun has shown a crush on someone other than me... or is it because the someone in question is Sakura-san?
    • Tenten winds up giving one of these to Fuu when, during their fight, the latter begins a rant on how she hasn't gotten the honor she believes she deserves after all she has done for her country. The question stops Fuu in her tracks because, to answer it, she's going to have to admit she's a Kyuushingai and specifically the one most directly responsible, albeit accidentally, for Tenten's parents' deaths.
    Tenten: What have you done for your country that you haven't been honored for, Fuu?
  • In the Total Drama story, Legacy, Courtney rants about her unfair elimination and thoughtlessly says that she should have been kept on instead of the recently murdered Gwen. Noah shuts her up by saying, "She would be here. Alive. And you?"
  • In The Legend of Total Drama Island, the normally self-effacing Beth defuses an impending No-Holds-Barred Beatdown when she asks, "Hasn't there been enough blood today?" Coming on the heels of a challenge where an intern and a contestant were lost in separate incidents, Beth's question stops everyone in their tracks.
  • In Making Uzumaki Naruto asks several of Kakashi after the latter explains why he won't help Rari, Kuri, and Mou become Konoha ninja (their clan was responsible for Rin's death).
    Naruto: "You must really hate me, don't you Kakashi-sensei?"
    Kakashi: "What? How could you ever think that!"
    Naruto: "The Kyuubi. It took your sensei from you so you must hate me."
    Kakashi: "No! How could you ever think that?"
    Naruto: Well, it's the same isn't it? I mean Mou, Rari, Kuri, yeah, I get it their clan are a giant sack of dicks who did something really horrible, but were they even born yet? Even if they were, how is it their fault, they were just babies!"
  • In Marching Orders by Gray Matter, Xander has chewed Buffy out for trying to feed the then-rogue Faith to Angel as part of a cure for a magicla poison, saying that the truth was, Angel was a monster, and you never intentionally fed people to monsters, even the evil people. Later, Buffy tries to justify her actions to Oz, saying that it was Angel, and she'd have done anything to save him because she loved him. Oz thinks about it for a minute, points Willow out to Buffy, and asks the question that stops Buffy cold: "What if it was witch's blood that was the cure and not slayer blood?"
  • In My Little Denarians, Fluttershy does this to Fallen-possessed Rarity. She asks Demon-Rarity, despite her lightning powers, mind-control abilities, and a freaking lightsaber:
    Fluttershy: Why haven't you killed me yet?
  • In one Naruto story, Naruto goes to a group of older kunoichi for advice on his date with Hinata. When they start going on about the new clothes he'll have to buy along with making reservations at a fancy restaurant and buying flowers, Naruto promptly shuts them up with three words:
    Naruto: "With what money?"
    *Awkward silence*
    Naruto: "In case you've forgotten, I'm currently supporting three people on Genin pay. Not to mention that for the past two months I was either participating in the Chuunin Exams or searching for Tsunade, neither of which I got paid for."
  • Naruto: Asunder:
    Kakashi: "You broke the deal! You were supposed to have him for 3 years and then I would take over!"
    Jiraiya: "That's because you didn't hold up your end."
    Kakashi: "What?"
    Jiraiya: "I left Naruto to you so you could build up his basics but you were too busy giving the Uchiha prick everything he wanted instead of helping the rest of Team 7."
    Kakashi: "B..B..But! You're pushing him too hard in his development!"
    Jiraiya: "Bullshit. The brat burned through everything I planned to teach so I had to do more. The Akatsuki is after him! Would you prefer I keep him weak so you can have your desire to train him?"
    Kakashi: "... (solemn) Still I wanted to teach him about his elemental affinity. "
    Jiraiya: "Well too bad. You had your chance and you pissed it away. Oh and another thing, why did you want to train him?"
    Kakashi: "He's sensei's son."
    Jiraiya: (scowls) "That's your problem! You see him as something other than who he is! You see the Yondaime's (4th's) son, the villagers see him as a demon! I see him as a cocky if somewhat determined and loyal blond! Seriously, if he wasn't Minato's son would you even be training him?"
    Kakashi: "...
  • Naruto in NBH cuts off the Kyuubi's Motive Rant about not being some "nameless, pathetic little spirit" by calmly asking, "What is your name then?"
  • In Necessary To Win, there are a few, often delivered by Miho herself
    • In Nodoka's Interlude, Miho and Nodoka discuss Nodoka's decision to try to convince her father to let her stay at Oarai if she wins the tournament. In the course of telling her story, Nodoka realizes that she has passively gone along with everything her father has asked her to do, in spite of how unhappy it has made her, until now, and Miho's question helps change that.
    Nodoka: "All my life, I've been doing everything my parents have told me to do. Tankery is the one exception, but now that I think about it, while my father doesn't like it, he has never actually told me to stop."
    Miho "Would you stop if he told you to do so?"
    Nodoka ""
    Miho: "I thought not. There are some things we simply must do, no matter who opposes us. I may not be the strongest-willed or bravest person in the world, but even I have realized this."
    • Just before the finals, Teru approaches Miho to ask if Saki is still on the team. Miho's question, while simple, forces Teru to ask herself why she has not talked with Saki about many things.
    Miho: "Why don't you ask her yourself, Teru-san?"
  • On the Shoulders of Giants: "What exactly is a soul, and what is it good for?" Not as Earth-shaking as some of the examples on this page, but philosophers and religious leaders the world over had to think long and hard about how to answer it.
  • Perfection Is Overrated
    • Mariko, opposing the rest of the SUEs' plan to reshape the world, tries, but The Usurper responds with his own Armor-Piercing Questions to argue that she depends on her powers as much as the rest of the SUEs do.
      Mariko: "But what makes you think that you're much better than they are to make that decision? And if they make mistakes, shouldn't they at least be their mistakes, and shouldn't they earn the negative and positive consequences of their actions?"
      The Usurper: "Have you ever considered, Mariko, how much you have earned yourself? What if everything you ever had- your beauty, your grades, your maturity, your popularity and everything else- were given to you by someone else, for the sake of using you to enter another world and sway it to that person's will?"
      Mariko: "Th-that's impossible. After Mother and Father died, life was often difficult, even with the wealth they left behind. I had to try hard to get by after that, and if I have many things, it's because I earned them!"
      The Usurper: "Tell me, Mariko, can you recall a time when a person disliked or disagreed with you?"
    • She does this more successfully, albeit with the help of her powers, once the SUEs set out.
      Mariko: "The question we should be asking ourselves, more than how we plan to go about doing this, is should we be trying this?"
      Shizune: "What do you mean, Suou-san?"
      Mariko: "In order to win, we must potentially sacrifice 10 more innocent victims, while potentially giving up our own lives, as well as the lives of those we cherish the most. And for what? Do our goals mean so much to us that we'd risk everything and cause harm to others for them?"
    • In the main story, Yukino asks one of Shizuru, when proposing that the rest of the student council be informed about what is going on. She says that although they may not have powers, their help may prove necessary. Yukino asks this question that causes Shizuru to reflect on what she did for Natsuki before she realized she was also a Hime, and then goes on to say that Haruka's determination may be what they need to face the SUEs.
      Yukino: And, what would you do if, for example, Kuga-san were a Hime and you were not?"
    • Toward the end of the story.
    Natsuki: I have to wonder- was this the moment I've been hoping and working toward all those years? Everyone involved with my mother's death is now dead. They deserved it for serving the Obsidian Lord, even if I did not have a more personal grudge against them. But my mother is still dead, and this triumph seems hollow, and I'm not sure if I got what I wanted in the end.
    Nao: What do you want, Natsuki?
  • In the Pony POV Series, the Dark World Series is fond of this:
    • A large part of the Father of All Alicorns' dialog to Liarjack consists of these. Justified, as Applebloom got his help in the first place to break Discord's control on Liarjack and reform her into Applejack.
    • Rarity gives one to Rainbow Dash to snap her out of her Heel–Face Turn-induced Heroic B.S.O.D., asking her the one question Discord hasn't let her ask herself for a thousand years.
    Rarity: Dash... we all have a choice... Ours is to save the world... I've chosen to want you back as my friend... But what do YOU want to do?
    • Rainbow Dash later returns the favor after ripping out her own Element to snap Rarity out of her own self-delusion. Also a Call Back to Rarity trying to forcibly take it when Rainbow was suicidal.
    Rainbow Dash: Not so hot when you have to do it the dirty and ugly way is it?
    • Twilight delivers one to the rest of the Dark World!Mane Cast to make them realize that attacking a defenseless, mortally wounded Discord was wrong.
    Twilight: What does hurting a monster who's already dying and no longer a threat to anything DO? Payback? Retribution?
    • Discord manages to do this to himself by proxy of asking the question to Twilight and hearing her answer, making him realize there's one choice he can make to stop Nightmare Paradox's "Groundhog Day" Loop plan.
    Discord: ...Twilight... what would you say if I said I never had a choice?
    Twilight: ...I'd say you were wrong. You always have a choice.
    Twilight: What are you?
    • Back in the main timeline, at the climax of the Wedding Arc, Applejack gets a big one on Queen Cadenza (Alicorn!Chrysalis), making her realize the Elements of Harmony gave her a heart and beginning her final Villainous Breakdown.
    Applejack: Ya say the Elements fixed ya so ya weren't half-baked? Tell me darlin', what so harmonious about a Alicorn who can't feel a thing for the ponies who love'er more than they love breathin'?!
  • In Bond Fan Film Property Of A Lady, the new M gives a lecture about their duty to the crown, right after he’s shot one of the captured mooks to get the confession from the other. Eventually, it comes to this, foreshadowing that M is the real Big Bad:
    M: Once we give everything to the service, we become property of a lady. We stay that way unless we get stolen.
    Bond: Sir, were you stolen?
  • Used by a therapist in the Ranma ½ Fanfic Decode Chapter 11. Note unlike most examples this was done to help him.
    "Do you have anything that's unrelated to martial arts that you're sure about? Just with life in general?"
  • In the fic ''Rainbow in the Dark', Mecha delivers one to Rainbow Dash after the latter accuses her of being Brownie's girlfriend.
    "If you don't have feelings for him, then why are you getting so defensive? And why are you acting jealous at the idea of him being with me? You wouldn't be doing this if you didn't have feelings for him. Admit it, you like him."
  • RWBY: Reckoning has one where Cinder tells Darrel of Kimba's supposed motives, and with one question, completely destroys his trust in her.
    Think about this, Darrel. I am in a position where I can fulfil my role as your protectorate. I have promised you a way home. Has Kimba offered you such a reward?
  • In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- fic Shatterheart, Kurogane does this twice on R!Syaoran's behalf.
    • To Sakura:
    Kurogane: Look. I know everyone's gone through a lot of shit since Tokyo, but you're really not helping anything by hiding out by yourself. You need to talk to him (Syaoran).
    Sakura: This Syaoran—
    Kurogane: Why do you have to call him that? Why does it have to be 'this Syaoran?' Why can't you just call him 'Syaoran?'
    • To Fai, when he realizes that he's been horrible to Syaoran.
    Fai: What does this Syaoran like?
    Kurogane: Well for one, he'd like it if you'd drop the 'this Syaoran' bullshit and just called him by name.
  • In Bleach fanfic Sight Sakanade rips Shinji a new one when Ichigo gets Shinji to talk to her for the first time in a century.
    Sakanade: :You cannot hear me anymore! You can sense my presence within you but you cannot hear me! What good is a bond like that? You've completely shut me out after what happened! The Hollowfication was not my fault so why are you punishing me for it?!:
  • In the Girls und Panzer fanfic, Steel Carnage, Asuka gives Momo a scathing "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Momo regarding her poor aiming skills (and to a degree, everyone else for not helping her improve), resulting in Miho and some of her teammates stepping up to defend her. Asuka asks Miho if she has faith in Momo, and when Miho says yes, Asuka asks whether Momo was on the gun during the match of the tournament. Given that Anzu had taken over the gun on the Hetzer at the midpoint of the previous battle, Miho is unable to respond, and later concedes that as harsh as Asuka is, she is correct.
  • In System Restore, Sonia tries to call out Togami for being willing to sacrifice himself, but gets this in response. It becomes somewhat Harsher in Hindsight later on, when Sonia murders Pekoyama to prevent Koizumi's death and, in the revised version, mentions that she wants to get home to her people.
    Sonia: This cannot be sensible in any situation!
    Togami: Any situation? I’m surprised you’re reacting this way, Sonia Nevermind. As the princess of Novoselic, I would think that you, more than anyone, would understand. Under the right circumstances, wouldn’t you be willing to die for one of your people?
  • Ryo from the Tamers Forever Series often uses friendly versions of these against Rika to covertly tease her about her relationship with Takato
    • Chaos is on the receiving end of several from Takato and Ruki.
  • In The Boy With The Magic Notebook, while during the Undersider's attack on the PRT headquarters, Lily asks one to Skitter that makes her pause. The next Interlude showed that she actually froze and had to stop everything to think about the question.
    Lily: Didn't you want to be a good guy?
  • When Ritsuko tries to explain in Thousand Shinji why Shinji's ideas for modifying the simulation program might be a bad idea Shinji stops her with a single question.
    Ritsuko: "Increasing the strength, speed, and durability are fairly easy, but actual learning and the mutation factor would take quite a bit of time to program. Not only that, but if we increase the durability too much then the Angel could become immune to conventional weaponry even if you neutralize it's AT field."
    Shinji: "And that would be unrealistic how Dr. Akagi?"
  • In Uchiha Potter Harry delivers an epic one to a young Gaara:
    Gaara: Existence can only be proven by being stronger and killing those stronger, their deaths make me stronger.
    Harry: Once they're all dead, what will you do then?
    Gaara: Stop... stop screwing around with my head!
    Harry: I'm not. It's a simple question. Once you're the strongest, what will you do then? How can you prove your existence if all those who had once been 'strong' are dead?
  • In the Katawa Shoujo fanfic Weekend at Hisao's, Hisao is having a phone conversation with Misha about a fight that he had had with Shizune earlier that day because he refused to go over to a party that his friends at his old school were planning that night, because Iwanako, the girl he confessed to, was going to be there. He explains that the reason he did not want to go was because he could not stand to be pitied by his old friends like he was after he had his heart attack, and he recalled them looking at him and Shizune with what seemed like pity. Misha responds with two of these questions:
    Misha: Why didn't you tell any of your friends that you were going to be in town?
    Misha: Are you ashamed of Shicchan?
  • In Whispers Nightmare Moon attempts one of these, but Celestia shoots it down.
    Nightmare Moon: "And what would father say, knowing that we... that you used his gift to do this to me?"
    Celestia: "Nothing. Father isn't here, Luna. He was never here."
  • In With Strings Attached, the Hunter confesses to Paul that he's envious of the friendship between the four, and that his life, while rewarding and exciting, has left him without anyone he could trust with his soul. Paul then asks him a series of probing questions about whether he actually likes his life, ending with, “Don't you think if you were really keen on your life, four days with us wouldn't've made any difference?”
  • Paul gets to do it again when he devastates Spectrem with one of these in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. Quite pissed off at Paul for refusing to do anything violent, Spectrem proceeds to attack him with various rays of power, in an effort to force Paul to take a swing at him. However, none of the beams damage Paul in the slightest. He proceeds to upbraid the astonished Guardian, and reduces him to a stammering wreck with the simple question: “What if you'd killed me?”
  • In the final arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! Forever, after main character Yugo (Yugi's son) is angrily called out by Serenity and Yugi for making a two-edged deal with the Big Bad that will result in either his own death or the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, all for the sake of trying to rescue Kaiba's mind-controlled son from said Big Bad, in despair Yugo asks his father one question:
    Would you just stand by and do nothing while the bad guys took one of your closest friends away from you?
    • Fridge Brilliance also kicks in to make the question more potent: in canon, Yugi refused to do that very same thing when Marik mind-controlled his friends.
  • In Misunderstandings, a human named Peter Collins ends up in Equestria. A guard named Peppermint York has joined a conspiracy against him, thinking Peter is a dangerous monster although it is slightly understandable since Peter did seriously wound one of her subordinates, albeit accidentally. But each action the conspiracy takes against him only improves Peter's reputation. When the subordinate, Swift Wind, recovers and visits Peter for answers, York follows him. Even after seeing evidence of what Peter went through, York continues to ignore it and call Peter a monster. Swift Wind tells her off, saying that he has forgiven Peter for shooting him, and asks her:
    "Why do you hate him so much?"
    • York wordlessly flies away and admits to her role in the conspiracy.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic Retribution, Spock gets Kirk to give up his self-blame about the harsh things he said by reminding Kirk that Kirk forgave him for much worse in a similar situation.
    Kirk: Spock, you weren't in your right mind!
    Spock: And today, Captain, today — were you?
  • Hope On A Distant Mountain: Naegi has a natural knack for this. It helps that he's got extra insight on his classmates from his experiences in the Unwinnable Training Simulation, though the way they were portrayed there wasn't always accurate.
  • Gensokyo 20XX:
    • Chen does this a few times. In her "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Yume Ni, she asks "If Reimu died, would you be happy then?!" and, earlier, in 20XXIV, she asks, "Is that what you want, to be quiet and act like everything is fine, while you stagger around in darkness, living in misery and sadness?" to Miko
    • Later in 20XXV, she asks Yukari, "Damn! Don't you know how to make decisions for the best?!" She is rightfully silenced.
  • At one point in Origin Story, Wonder Man turns to Tony Stark and asks, “Why are we hunting this girl when she's done nothing wrong?” Tony has no better answer than "Because the law requires we do so."
  • In Code Geass: Cornelia of the Defection, Schneizel asks Lelouch if he's talked to Nunnally at all about his revolution, causing Lelouch to backpedal, realizing things are all for naught if he doesn't have Nunnally's approval.
  • In Glaring Problems, Tenten had been stalked by the Kuno siblings who wanted to date her until Naruto posed as her girlfriend. After Tenten refuses to honor her promise of a favor and eternal friendship, Naruto poses as her girlfriend again and tells the Kunos that they've broken up and Tenten has been calling out for "Kuno" in her sleep. Tenten calls him evil for doing so.
    Naruto: "More evil than to swear eternal friendship to a friendless orphan then pretending he doesn't exist?"
  • In A Drop of Poison, Naruto disabuses Konohamaru of his idea that defeating the current Hokage makes you the new Hokage.
    Naruto: "Anyway, say you're right. You managed to beat Jiji somehow, and now you're Hokage... How long until someone else comes against you and beats you? Someone like me?"
  • In Wizard Runemaster while the group discusses the possibility of raiding Karazhan and all the horrors likely found within, Fleur Delacour brings up a question no one considered.
    Fleur: "You said that the protections may be failing. What if the protections aren't one-way?"
  • After her team's failed murder attempt on Naruto in The Darkest Light, Gai asks Tenten why she tried to kill him. When she answers that she was jealous of his skill with a sword and hated him for it, Gai's followup question further drives home her Heel Realization.
    Gai: "Hated enough to kill?"
  • Naruto gives one to Elizabeth Weir in The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor when she discovers he plans to conquer all of Earth.
    Elizabeth: "You can't go taking over countries left right and center!"
    Naruto: "I can't? Isn't that how your country was formed, by taking land from someone else? Come to think of it, wasn't that how every country was made?"
    Elizabeth: "That was hundreds of years ago!"
    Naruto: "What does the time period have to do with it?"
    • Earlier he manages one on SG1 when they're shocked he and his wife are intending to conquer Earth.
    Naruto: "I told you that I planned to conquer the galaxy. Did you think I meant the galaxy except Earth?"
  • The World is Your Oyster, The Universe is Your Namesake has Steven asking these as the initiator of many arcs in the story.
    “I feel like we’re isolating ourselves from humanity. Why do we do that?”
  • Saito deliberately asks Louise one in Soldier of Zero
    Saito: "If I'm going to act in your interests I first have to know what they are. What do you want? What are your goals? What fate do you want to avoid?"
  • Stars From Home has Chris Summers make excuses for beating his son—it happened once, he was drunk, and it was after the War. He acknowledges that it was wrong but doesn't take full responsibility until he realizes how Scott sees this.
    Scott: Did I deserve it?
  • In Enslaved, Derflinger reveals what the Familiar runes are doing to Saito by asking him a series of questions about his life back in Tokyo. When Saito can't answer a single question, not even his parents names, he learns that the runes are changing him to accept his new life.
    • Given that Derflinger later asks Saito and Louise more, it seems to be a specialty of his.
  • Harry Potter asks one accidentally in Petrification Proliferation after Remus is outed as a werewolf in St. Mungo's, when he asks why everyone is so worried if the full moon is over a week away.
  • In We Can Be Heroes, Dawn Summers asks Buffy, Willow, and Faith a series of questions about Xander and Cordelia after seeing a Birds of Prey poster that appears to have Cordelia on it. Eventually the trio realize that the only information they have about the two is that they live in New Mexico; not the city, not if they have kids, where they work, anything.
  • In the Worm fic Security!, after Emma Barnes is caught red-handed bullying Taylor Hebert by the self-insert protagonist Mike Allen, the following conversation takes place during a meeting between the protagonist, Emma, and her father.
    Mike: "Just because someone with a stupid fucking philosophy of life does you a huge favour does not make that philosophy right. It’s still fucking stupid. Sophia can’t really help the way she is; her power fucked her head up. You don’t have that excuse. You can change. It’s up to you.”
    Emma: “But I did change! Sophia showed me how! I was weak, now I’m strong! I am!”
    Mike: “Yeah. So ... how’s that working out for you, exactly?”
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged Cell drops one of these on Trunks, showcasing his knowledge of the future and pushing a major Berserk Button.
    Cell: Does Gohan know, by the way?
    Trunks: Does he know what?
    Cell: That you let him die.
    Trunks: ...I'm going to power up now.
  • In MagicTale, Louise tells Undyne to give her one reason why she shouldn't consider herself Undyne's master and Undyne her servant.
    Undyne: Asgore's a good guy, but do you think he'll be jolly to hear you tried to make yourself my master?note 
  • Subverted in Stories of the Lone Traveler when the Vorlons ask Harry Potter, "Who are you?" and he gives the correct answer without thinking: "I am myself."
  • In The Undesirables, while it doesn't have much of an effect the first time she's asked, later on Starlight reconsiders and joins Luna's team after she remembers the question under different circumstances:
    Princess Luna: “Does it ever occur to you what might happen if the Elements of Harmony, your friends, don't return one day? If they venture out to combat a threat and end up failing? What will you do if that day comes, Starlight?
  • In Back To Us, Chat Noir/Adrien gets a couple of these, though it takes a while for either of them to really take effect.
    • When Chat talks with Marinette while she's patching him up in the middle of the Bari-Star attack, he tries to justify his approach by claiming that akuma victims have something inherently dark in them that draws Hawk Moth to them:
    Marinette: ...Seven years ago, my best friend was akumatized. Hawk Moth took advantage of her when she was at her lowest point, and I knew that. Even afterwards, not once did I hold it against her. She’s such a spirited and compassionate person, always concerned with truth and justice... and if it weren’t for her, I honestly don’t think I’d be the person I am today. Are you telling me someone like that deserves to die just because a supervillain used her for his own schemes, once upon a time?
    Chat: ...Is she really so great, if she was willing to go along with the schemes of a supervillain?
    Marinette: She was feeling trapped. She was in a moment of weakness, with nothing and no one to turn to. And then someone came along and offered her power beyond her wildest dreams, the power to change her life. Are you really so arrogant that you can claim you wouldn’t jump at such at such a chance immediately? (Grabs his hand and holds it up to his face.) How can you sit there and judge anyone for wanting the power to change their life with this ring on your finger?
    • Later, Ivan brings up the same point in a therapy session with Adrien, when he admits that Chat Noir scares him: "I don’t know what happened to change him... but the guy saved my life, once. I thought he was the coolest guy ever. But now, how do I know that he wouldn’t rip right through me if he saw me on the street? Or... Or what if Mylene ran into him in a dark alleyway? What if, instead of us, he only saw the akuma we once were?" Adrien is torn between thinking, "I would never do that!" and "Once an akuma, always an akuma," and he immediately recognises his hypocrisy. The above conversation then comes back to him, with Marinette's question being described as a seed of doubt that's taking root despite him trying to dig it out.
  • Naruto attempts this in Six Paths of Rebellion after hearing Suzaku's plan to become the Knight of One and rule Japan. Unfortunately for him, Suzaku is far too deep in his Black and White Insanity to listen.
    Naruto: What about the other Areas?
    Suzaku: What?
    Naruto: You planned to help them right? Or were you only going to help Japan? Don't you think they need to change for the better? All the people you would have to kill to rise in rank and you only want to help Japan.
  • At Zero's urging, Kallen in The Whiskey Revolution asks the Black Knight the one question they should've asked themselves before trying to execute him.
    Kallen: If Lelouch was controlling all of you Geass, how are you capable of betraying him and working with his brother to perform this coup? (Beat) God he's right, you're all fucking idiots.
  • When Ned Stark refuses to give his approval for Daenerys Targaryen's assassination in HBO Joffrey from Game of Thrones replaced with Octavian from Rome, Octavian in Joffrey's body asks him if he would choose his honour over his children's lives. When a furious Ned wants to know if it's a threat against his daughters, Octavian answers this:
    No, of course not. It was an hypothetical question. What I was going to say was that if you were prepared to sacrifice your honour for the sake of your children, would it be truly honourable to be prepared to let the children of another man die for it? Countless children of countless men in this case.
  • Lelouch as Zero asks Kallen several questions in God's Gambit to make her realize more than the Japanese despise Britannia.
    Zero: How many people attending Ashford Academy would like revenge on Britannia for wrongs done to them?
    Kallen: Only me. There is no one els-
    Zero: You're not that special. In fact, I could name at least three lives at that school that were destroyed by Britannia. Not to mention, you have to wonder how many have fond memories of a time where they were friends with Japanese children their own age, as twenty-eight of them were here before Britannia invaded.
    Kallen: That's not true. I would know if anyone there wanted to fight.
    Zero: Like they know you do?
    Kallen: Of course not. I can't let them find out or else...
  • In Continuance, Souji is highly suspicious about his mother, Izumi, claiming to have turned over a new leaf and wanting to reconnect with him, her brother Ryotaro Dojima, and her niece, Nanako, and bluntly says that visiting him on the way to visit the Dojimas is unlike her. She then takes him off guard with the following question, and while he's tempted to say that she can't, he realizes his personal experiences prove otherwise.
    Izumi:Do you believe people can change?"
    Souji: What?
    Izumi: People. Do you think they can change if they realize they were wrong about something? I won't deny that my job has been important. It's been what I've wanted since I was younger than you. But I want to try to reconnect with Ryo and Nanako. I'd like to talk to you without us fighting. I've gotten three calls tonight, and haven't taken any of them. Tell me: do you think that people can change?
  • In The Stalking Zuko Series, Aang gets kicked out of a meeting discussing what to do with Ozai now that his followers are planning on returning him to power after Zuko gets tired of Aang's stubborn refusal to even consider killing Ozai. As Aang begins wallowing in self-pity and complains that Zuko never listens to him, Hakoda asks him several such questions- why Aang thinks Zuko should listen to him, whether Aang thinks his opinion should matter even if he's wrong, and whether Aang's been listening to Zuko.
  • In What the Cat Dragged In, Tony outright refuses to believe SHIELD stayed away from Ladybug and Chat Noir's civilian identities. To make him understand, Natasha asks him how old is Ladybug. When he finds himself unable to answer, she reveals both of the vigilantes use a glamour to keep curious away.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Cats Don't Dance, Danny and Sawyer take their friends hostage backstage- as they protest, Danny attempts to explain his motives, telling them that if they're prepared to accept what others think of them, they can leave, admitting that he nearly did. As they protest, he asks a question to which they won't admit the answer to, which he exposes thereafter.
    Cranston: Well, you should have! Life here for animals is the pits! We're always playing the scapegoat!
    Woolie: Quickly forgotten!
    Frances: Working for scale!
    Danny: Then why are you still here?
    Cranston: Well— (nobody can answer)
  • In Frozen, Anna asks her older sister Elsa, who has isolated herself for the last 13 years, "What did I ever DO to you?! (...) Why do you shut me out?! Why do you shut the world out?! What are you so afraid of?!" Unfortunately for Anna, she doesn't know that what Elsa's afraid of is harming others with her powers, specifically Anna (like she had 13 years ago), and this question causes Elsa to snap and accidentally reveal her powers to everyone in the ballroom.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Astrid does this when she asked Hiccup why he spared Toothless the Dragon when killing him would have seemed better. When he is forced to finally answer honestly, that creates a personal epiphany that makes him realize his own self-worth as a worthy viking warrior in his own way.
  • In Monsters University, while Oozma Kappa has so far stayed in the school tournament, Dean Hardscrabble still doubts Mike's potential, prompting Sully to try to defend him.
    Hardscrabble: Do you think he's scary?
    Sully: He's the heart and soul of the team!
    Hardscrabble: Do you think he's scary?
    Sully: (silent)
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, former Alpha Bitch Sunset Shimmer tells current Alpha Bitch Adagio Dazzle that she and the Sirens will never get away with trying to take over the school. Adagio's response is "Why? Because you didn't?" Not only does this throw off Sunset Shimmer, but Adagio and the Dazzlings proceed to tear into Sunset about how no one trusts her, even if she's sincere about wanting to be better. That Sunset falls silent long before the conversation's over and can't even look them in the eye when it's done are clear signs of just how badly the Sirens got to her.
    • Beta Bitch Aria Blaze's first line in this scene qualifies too.
    Sunset: I've changed! I'm in a much better place now!
    Aria: Waiting in the wings while your friends have all the fun?
  • Toy Story 2 has an armor-piercing question as well as an armor-piercing statement:
    Woody: I'm sorry, Buzz. But, this is my only chance.
    Buzz: To do what, Woody? Watch kids from behind glass, and never be loved again? Some life.
  • Toy Story 3: After hearing about Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear's original owner and how he came to power in Sunnyside Daycare, Woody delivers this armor-piercing question.
    Woody: Wait! What about Daisy?
    Lotso: (beat) I don't know what you're talkin' about.
  • The Suicide Shop had a client asking Lucrèce how would she kill herself, which made her think about her inability of committing suicide. This just after telling her kids that they have a responsibility, and can´t commit suicide.
  • In Big Hero 6, after discovering the identity of the villain who killed his brother, Hiro tries to order Baymax to kill him. After his team-mates stop Baymax, allowing the villain to get away, Hiro takes Baymax back to his lab to fix his sensors and track the villain down. Baymax manages to subdue the furious Hiro with a simple question:
    Baymax: Is this what Tadashi would have wanted?
    • Later on, Hiro tries to turn this around on Callaghan, asking him, "Is this what Abigail would have wanted?"
  • In The Little Mermaid, Sebastian tries to stop Ariel from striking a deal with Ursula, knowing she's an evil witch, but Ariel, still pretty sore at him for inadvertently causing King Triton to destroy her collection of human treasures, delivers one to guilt him.
    Ariel: Why don't you just tell my father? You're good at that.
  • Kovu from The Lion King II: Simba's Pride delivers a pretty good one to Simba when he asks to join the pride, a question that hits close to home.
    Kovu: I have left the Outsiders. I am a rogue. Judge me now for what I am... or am I to be blamed for a crime I didn't commit?
  • In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Kyle delivers one to his mother in an attempt to stop her plan to destroy Canada with a war.
    Kyle: What about Ike, Mom? Don't you know your own adopted son is Canadian!?
    (all the soldiers gasp)
  • Zootopia: After Judy makes her remarks about predators at the press conference, Nick calls her out with a series of these like "Are you afraid of me?", "Do you think I might go savage?", and "Do you think I might try to eat you?", all of which begin forcing her to confront her unconscious prejudice as she slowly realizes that Nick, as a predator, falls under her statement that predators "seem to be reverting back to their primitive savage ways" leaving her speechless.
  • In Storks, Junior is elated with the prospect of becoming the boss of, talking proudly about how "cool" and "awesome" it will be, but when Tulip actually asks him why he wants to be the boss, or what changes he would make to the company with his new power, he can only brush her off with sarcastic remarks since he had never actually thought about it. He later tries to throw the question back in her face, but she calmly replies with the sorts of policies she would institute, leaving him speechless.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Accepted, Bartleby gives a series of these to school officials thinking of shutting down the South Harmon Institute of Technology.
    Bartleby: Well, what about you parents? Did -did the system really work out for you? Did it teach you to follow your heart, or to just play it safe, roll over? What about you guys? Did you always want to be school administrators? Dr. Alexander, was that your dream?
  • The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. Sigerson does the "repeatedly ask a question" bit with Jenny Hill twice: "What was in the letter, Miss Hill?" and "What does your father do, Miss Hill?".
  • American History X: "Has anything you've done made your life better?"
  • In the seldom-watched sequel to Arthur, Arthur, followed around by the ghost of Hobson, goes to his nemesis Susan Johnson to admit defeat and marry her so that he can get his fortune back. The doorman asks "is she a friend of yours?" Hobson comments: "It's a very perceptive question, isn't it? Cuts right to the heart of the matter."
  • Mustapha in Austin Powers was especially vulnerable to the trope. He has to answer any question that's asked three times. Also, at the end of the second movie, Felicity Shagwell asks Fat Bastard "Are you happy?"
  • In Bad Day at Black Rock, Macreedy knows that something is wrong at Black Rock, and that Smith is near the heart of it.
    Smith: I swear, you're beginning to make me mad.
    Macreedy: All strangers do.
    Smith: No they don't. Not all of 'em. Some do when they come around snooping.
    Macreedy: Snooping for what?
    Smith: I don't know. Outsiders coming in looking for something.
    Macreedy: Looking for what?
    Smith: I don't know. Somebody's always looking for something in this part of the West. To the historians, it's the "Old West." To the book writers, it's the "Wild West." To the businessman, it's the "Undeveloped West." They say we're all poor and backward and I guess we are. We don't even have enough water. But to us, this place is our West. And I wish they'd leave us alone.
    Macreedy: Leave you alone to do what?
    Smith: I don't know what you mean.
    Macreedy: What happened to Komoko?
  • Coach Carter is disturbed that the system his school has expects the students to fail. He tries to inspire the players on his team to rise above the system. The principal disagrees has it out with Carter.
    Principal: Your intentions are good, Mr. Carter, but your methods are a bit extreme. (locking the gym until every player gets at least a 2.8 GPA)
    Carter: You painted an extreme picture.
    Principal: No one expects them to graduate, no one expects them to go to college. So you take away basketball. The one area of their lives where they have some success.
    Carter: Yes ma'am.
    Principal: And you challenge them academically?
    Carter: Yes ma'am.
    Principal: And what if they fail?
    Carter: Then we've failed.
    Principal: Unfortunately, Mr. Carter, both you and I know that for some of these kids, this basketball season will be the highlight of their lives.
  • Clerks: "If we're so fucking advanced, what are we doing working here?"
  • Constantine. Constantine tries to get Angela Dodson to figure out where her twin sister left a message.
    "What did she do, Angela? You know what she did. What did she do, Angela? You know what she did. What are you afraid of? What did she do? What did she do? What are you afraid of?!?
  • At the end of Disclosure, Tom (Michael Douglas) and Meredith's (Demi Moore) final verbal match ends with him asking her, "Did it ever occur to you, Meredith, that maybe I set you up?" Meredith looks down at the floor, with nothing more to say.
  • Doom, the live-action adaptation of the iconic Doom games, also had one when Reaper, the lead marine, realises the origins of the "demons" they were fighting.
    Reaper: What was in the files? What were you sent to protect?
    Sam: The research data!
  • In Dracula 2000 Mary is losing the fight to Dracula, after discovering that he's actually Judas. Halfway through the fight Dracula snarls at her as they stare at a cross: "He won't have me," (referring to his immortality) to which she replies: "did you ever ask?" The question clearly hasn't occurred to him before, and it's enough to give her the upper hand.note 
  • Fast Five: After Dom catches Vince trying to retrieve a chip for the Big Bad, Vince calls him out for never lessening and when Dom tries to argue:
    Vince: Where's Letty Dom?
  • A Few Good Men: The JAG lawyer, Kaffee, asks Col. Jessup that "if you ordered that Santiago wasn't to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why did Santiago need to be transferred off the base?" It's this question that instantly puts Jessup on the defensive, leading to a Villainous Breakdown where Jessup argues that he did what he had to do to "save lives."
    Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?
    Col. Jessup: I did the job you sent me to do—
    Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?!
  • Subverted for humor in Field of Dreams. After all but kidnapping one of his heroes, the author Terence Mann, to take him to a baseball game, Ray asks Terence, who's in the middle of a rant about why he's all but in hiding from the world, what he wants. As one might expect from a writer, Terence has his answer ready. A recluse from all the hippies he inspired in the sixties, he snaps that he wants people to stop asking him for answers, start thinking for themselves, and give him his privacy. Ray says, somewhat nonplussed, "No, I mean... whaddaya want?" and gestures. Terence follows the gesture... and sees an impatient looking concession stand worker. "Oh. Dog and a beer."'
  • Subverted in Good Will Hunting: "It's not your fault." Not quite a question, but repeating it a dozen times does bring the main character to his knees.
    • Also played straight a little earlier in the movie, when the simple question "What do you want?" cuts Will off in the middle of a speech and causes him to just stare blankly at his therapist. The therapist notes that Will can spin bullshit stories and justifications for anything... but he can't answer the simple question.
  • In Grumpy Old Men, John and Max have been feuding for years after falling out over a woman when they were young, and a new love interest has only made things worse. However, when John has a heart attack and Max goes to see him in the hospital, the nurse asks him "Are you friend or family, sir?". A shaken Max pauses for a long time before concluding "...friend."
  • Actually averted in the movie Harvey, notable because the character asking was clearly trying to invoke this trope. It ends up as a minor CMOF instead.
    Dr. Sanderson: Mr. Elwood... what was your father's name? (Expecting it to be Harvey, the name of Elwood's 'imaginary' rabbit friend)
    Elwood: ...John.
  • I Heart Huckabees: "How am I not myself?" Notable in that it is an Armor-Piercing Question to the person who asked it in the first place, completely unintentionally unhinging his entire life.
  • Iron Man 3: In the middle of a panic attack, Tony's kid sidekick says "if you're a mechanic, why don't you build something?" Tony instantly calms down. What's interesting is that we actually see him testing Tony's PTSD earlier, pushing the limits of acceptable behavior a lot like Tony does.
  • One of filmdom's most famous examples comes from Marathon Man: "Is it safe?" Three words which comprise Sir Laurence Olivier's first eight lines of dialogue. It's also an interesting subversion of the trope, since Levy dearly wishes he could answer Szell's question, but he genuinely does not know the answer. Not that Szell believes him. Ouch.
  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: Melville and Monica Crump are locked in the hardware store basement and the husband has been trying, ahem, creative ways to escape. When he sets upon a faulty burglar alarm in a rage:
    Monica: Melville. Melville! (finally getting his attention) Even if you do get the bell the ring and somebody comes, what about about the damage?
  • Jesus Christ Superstar. The camera freezes on Jesus' face during "Hosanna" when he is asked "Won't you die for me?"
  • Man of Steel: After teenage Clark is spotted using his powers to save his school bus after it crashes into a lake, Jonathan Kent scolds Clark for using his powers in public. Clark responds with "What was I supposed to do, just let them die?" Jonathan hasn't got an answer to that, only mumbling "...Maybe", clearing not buying it himself for a second.
    • Jor-El uses an Armour Piercing question of Zod at the start of the film. Notably, it's one of the only times that we see Zod pause, even if it's only for a moment.
    Zod: Help me save our race. We'll start anew. We'll sever the degenerative bloodlines that led us to this state.
    Jor-El: And who will decide which bloodlines survive, Zod?... You?
  • The Matrix
    • The first film has the Dare to Be Badass variety.
      Neo: You're too fast!
      Morpheus: Do you believe my being faster or stronger has anything to do with my muscles in this place?
      [Neo shakes his head no, while breathing heavily]
      Morpheus: Do you think that's air you're breathing now?
    • The Matrix Revolutions combines this with Break Them by Talking but it gradually becomes closer to a inversion as he slids into a Villainous Breakdown:
      Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson, why? Why, why do you do it? Why, why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something, for more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is, do you even know? Is it freedom or truth, perhaps peace - could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson, vagaries of perception. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself. Although, only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson, you must know it by now! You can't win, it's pointless to keep fighting! Why, Mr. Anderson, why, why do you persist?
      Neo: Because I choose to.
  • Miracle: "Who do you play for?" "The United States of America!"
  • My Cousin Vinny. Vinny is questioning a witness during the trial about how long it took him to cook some grits. The witness originally says five minutes, but Vinny needs to prove that it took longer. After showing how it should have taken longer, Vinny says "Are you sure about that five minutes?" to the witness and gets a weak response. He repeats the question two more times and finally gets the witness to admit that he might be mistaken.
  • Nuremberg has Robert Jackson considering quitting, and his assistant asking him "does Herman Göring actually believe in his ideals more than you believe in yours?"
  • This exchange in The Music Man:
    Harold: What's the matter? You wanted the truth, didn't you? Now I'm bigger'n you and you're going to stand here and get it all so you might as well quit wiggling. There's two things you're entitled to know. One, you're a wonderful kid. I thought so from the first. That's why I wanted you in the band, just so you'd quit mopin' around feeling sorry for yourself.
    Winthrop: What band?
    Harold: ... I always think there's a band, kid.
  • Asked by one of the characters in Oldboy (2003) to himself: "Now, what joy will I have to live for?"
  • The Prestige: "What knot did you tie, Borden?"
  • The Prophecy: Thomas asks fallen angel Gabriel why he just doesn't ask God about His actions. This is the one time Gabriel isn't snarky or hostile.
    Gabriel: Because He doesn't talk to me anymore.
  • Pulp Fiction has a non-serious example when Jules gives a speech on how a foot massage has no sexual implications whatsoever, to which Vincent replies: "Would you give a guy a foot massage?"
  • The film of The Reader:
    Hanna: We couldn't keep everyone. There wasn't room.
    Judge: No, but what I'm saying — let me rephrase — to make room, you were picking women out and saying "You you and you have to be sent back to be killed."
    Hanna: Well, what would you have done?
  • In The Rock a soldier under Hummel's command who and his unit were left to die after countless reassurances that they would be extracted from their secret black-ops mission.
    Soldier: They're not coming for us are they sir?
  • In The Rocketeer, when Cliff Secord confronts mobster Eddie Valentine, who's working for Neville Sinclair.
    Cliff: What's it like working for a Nazi, Eddie? Does he pay you in dollars or reichsmarks?
    Neville: C'mon, Eddie. I'm paying you well. Does it really matter where the money comes from?
  • In Say Anything..., John Cusack's lovelorn character drops one on the guys he's been taking romantic advice from:
    Lloyd Dobler: If you guys know so much about women, how come you're here at like the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere?
    • They try to assert that they're there by choice, but neither the characters nor the audience believes them.
  • In Secrets & Lies, Cynthia hits unwittingly hits a nerve when she casually quizzes Maurice about his plans for the future.
    "You're never going to make me an auntie, then?"
  • In Selma, Coretta Scott King asks Martin Luther King, Jr., to tell her honestly if he loves her. He replies that he does. She stares him down, and asks the follow-up: "Do you love any of the others?"
  • In Serenity, as Mal queries River's readiness for a heist they're preparing to perform, River bounces Mal's question back at him, but with somewhat more layered meaning, causing him to reflect on the circumstances that have driven him to crime:
    Mal: Hey, little one — understand your part in all this?
    River: Do you?
    Mal: It's what I do, darlin'.
    [River walks away]
    Mal: It's what I do.
    • Mal actually faces quite a few of them. Kaylee's "Tell that to Inara" shuts him right up; Jayne's more malicious "Besides Zoe here, how many... men in your platoon came out of there alive?" requires an answer from Zoe, as Mal is beyond words.
  • In The Shawshank Redemption:
    Red: Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It's got no use on the inside, you better get used to that idea.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice handily shuts down Dr. Lecter's Hannibal Lecture dissecting her personal history by asking him "Are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself ... Or maybe you're afraid to?"
  • Another occurs in Spider-Man:
    Green Goblin: If there's one thing [people] love more than a hero, it's to see a hero fall, fail, die trying. Despite everything you've done for them, eventually they will hate you. So why bother?
    Spider-Man: Because it's right.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: "How do you feel?.....How do you feel?.....How do you feel?"
      • Leads to later Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, "Tell Mother... I feel fine."
      • Another from this movie is Sarek's "You have the right to commit murder?" which kills the Klingon Ambassador's claim that they were defending themselves in the previous movie (they were in fact the aggressors).
    • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: "What does God need with a starship?"
    • In Star Trek: Insurrection, Picard's line about relocating the Ba'ku, "How many does it take, Admiral, before it becomes wrong?".
    • In The 2009 film, a possible Call Back (callforward?) to this line...
      Amanda Grayson: There's no need to be anxious. You'll do fine.
      Spock: I am hardly anxious, Mother. And "fine" has variable definitions. "Fine" is unacceptable.
      • ...turns heartbreaking after the death of Spock's mother Amanda, thus ensuring that Spock will never get the chance to speak those words for her.
      • There’s also this Armor Shattering Question: "What's it like not to feel love or heartbreak? Or the limitless need to avenge the death of the woman who gave birth to you?"
  • Steal the Sky managed to do one with one word: "How?" Iraqi fighter pilot Munir Redfa has been lured to Rome by "Helen Mason" for what he thinks is a romantic getaway, only for her to reveal that she is actually an Israeli intelligence officer who wants to recruit him to steal an Iraqi MiG-21; he of course becomes outraged and storms out. He is then approached on the street by "Mason's" supervisor, who asks him what he's going to do now, to which he replies that he is going to go home. The problem is that he left Iraq illegally, and in fact had to be smuggled out of the country by what "Helen" told him were her friends, who were of course actually Israeli intelligence assets. At this point, "Mason's" boss simply asks "How?" and Redfa realizes that he is already in too deep.
  • Three O'Clock High. Jerry Mitchell (Casey Sziemasko) offends the new student, Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson), who now wants to beat Jerry up. Jerry will do anything and everything to avoid the fight, and ultimately offers Buddy $350 to leave him alone. Buddy takes it, but says to Jerry, "You're the biggest pussy I ever met in my life. You didn't even try. How's that feel?" The question makes Jerry decide to go through with the fight, even though he knows he'll probably get hurt, to prove he's no coward.
  • Titanic (1997): After Jack saves Rose, she meets him the next day for a formal thank-you. She blames it on the stress she felt over her upcoming wedding, when Jack stops her in her tracks by asking "Do you love him?" She finds five different ways to avoid the question.
  • In Tomorrowland Casey resorts to this after hearing one too many teachers tell her how the world was doomed. She simply asks, "What's the solution?" That stops her teacher in his tracks.
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
    Galloway: So let me ask, if we ultimately conclude that our national security is best served by denying you further asylum on our planet, will you leave peacefully?
    Optimus Prime: Freedom is your right. If you make that request, we will honor it. But before your president decides, please ask him this: What if we leave and you're wrong?
    Lennox (to Galloway): That's a good question.
    • In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Carly asks Megatron about if he'll really rule the world, going as far as saying he'll be "Sentinel Prime's bitch". He considers killing her, but realizes she's right.
  • Van Helsing (the 2004 movie with Hugh Jackman) asks this of Frankenstein's Monster, which surprises him so much he stops mid tirade and stares at the questioner.
    Anna: What do you want?
    Frankenstein's Monster: ...To exist.
  • From Wanted - "Why did you come here?".
    • It almost literally becomes an Armor Piercing Question, when Fox asks Wesley this by beating the crap out of him. Made even more explicit because when his formerly aimless, smug demeanor is broken, he finally answers the question. And when he finally answers the question we begin to see him actually master the skills he's being forced to learn and become the badass we was meant to be.
  • In The World's End, when asked if he ever regrets not finishing The Golden Mile as a teen, Gary says "no", but you can tell it's a Eureka Moment for him.
    • Also: "Can I just ask, how many people did you have to replace in Newton Haven?"
  • X-Men:
    Erik: Angel. Azazel. Emma. Banshee. Mutant brothers and sisters, all dead! Countless others experimented on, butchered! Where were you, Charles?! We were supposed to protect them! Where were you when your own people needed you?! Hiding! You and Hank, pretending to be something you're not! You abandoned us all!

  • Nightfall Series: Sissi to Myra: “You mean to tell me you regret these past two months? You wish you had never been captured and none of this had happened to you?”
  • In A Brother's Price, there is a practice in Queensland which Princess Ren hates — the small children of treasonous families are killed along with them. Her harsher and more pragmatic sister Halley reminds her that no relatives will take a traitor child, and if they do, well...
    "Do you think our babies would be safe around her once she realized that we executed her mothers and grandmothers?"
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign: "Why didn't you say 'no'?" Miles makes a horribly clumsy public proposal to Ekaterin, who storms out in a rage (for complicated reasons). Later, when Ekaterin is discussing the incident with her aunt, her aunt notes that running off was Ekaterin's way of avoiding the question, and that she could have said no.
    Ekaterin: It wouldn't have been polite.
    The Professora: You could have said 'no thank you'.
  • For Artemis Fowl, it's: "Artemis... Isn't that a girl's name?" Artemis later gives his answer with a code phrase that sets the final part of an Awesome Moment plan in action.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Jaime Lannister says he wants to die after losing his sword hand, and is asked "Are you so craven?". While he has been called dishonourable or treacherous countless times in the past, nobody has ever accused him of cowardice, and so the APQ shocks him out of a downwards spiral, and restores his determination to survive and get revenge.
    • Euron Crow's Eye has proposed a risky plan and tries to sway the doubters.
    Euron: Have you forgotten? I have sailed the Smoking Sea and seen Valyria.
    Rodrik Harlaw: Have you?
    • Euron responds with a threat, never actually answers the question, and has changed his plans within hours.
    • In the first novel, Varys uses a pair of these — one answer, and one question — to get under Eddard Stark's armour. When Ned asks him who he serves in the Gambit Pileup, Varys answers "The realm, my lord. Someone must.", and then, when Ned says he's perfectly comfortable dying if it means not giving a false confession, Varys asks him what will happen to his family. This convinces Ned to 'confess' to prevent civil war and save his daughters.
  • In Angela Carter's "A Very, Very Great Lady and Her Son at Home," the lady of the title recounts her mother's advice to overcome her shyness by imagining the people who intimidate her looking ridiculous on the toilet. Her son, who has been attending to her for most of the story, proceeds to ask "And do you look pathetic on the lavatory, mother?" She promptly collapses.
  • In the third book in Jonathan Stroud's The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Kitty asks Bartimaeus a single question. "What about you and Ptolemy? The question gets to him so badly that we don't see his reaction until the next chapter, where about half of it deals with him absolutely breaking down and scaring the crap out of Kitty.
  • Blade of Tyshalle ("What do you want?") The opening quote is about two-thirds of the way through a dressing down Tommie gives Deliann, which takes a little under a page and a half. "What do you want?" happens to be both the identifying code phrase and the central tenet of the persecuted philosophy Tommie holds. Tommie has to ask the question, with mildly different phrasing, over five times. No, Deliann, not what you feel guilty about, not what you think went wrong in the past, not what you like or wish or would settle for. What you want.
  • A couple of examples from The Belgariad—Garion has a dream the night before his Awesome Moment of Crowning where everyone asks him "Are you ready?" until he accepts that yes, he's ready to take up his birthright.
    • A sort of inversion of this is that all throughout the series, he keeps asking "Why me?" His aunt finally returns the question, "Would you trust anyone else to do it right?" To which Garion is forced to reply that no; he wouldn't really, therefore burying this question forever.
  • The Bible: God really likes these kinds of questions (the most frequent one being "What is it you have done?"). This often overlaps with What the Hell, Hero?
  • The Bronze Bow, a historical novel, has this conversation between Jesus and Daniel, a man whose hatred of the Romans has grown so all-consuming as to poison his familial relationships:
    Jesus: Would you kill for God?
    Daniel: Yes, of course I would!
    Jesus: But would you love for God?
  • Catch-22 has Yossarian ask the show-stopping question: "Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?" (It's eventually revealed that Snowden had died horrifically during a bombing run, waking Yossarian up to the Crapsack World around him and causing him to realize that he really, really didn't want to die, not for anything.)
  • Gordon R. Dickson's Tactics of Mistake: Founding Father of the Dorsai, Cletus Grahame, has forced Melissa Khan to marry him as part of his overarching strategy as he explains exhaustively in their bedroom on their wedding night. Melissa has only one question; "Then you never loved me?" "Did I ever say I did?" Cletus responds, and leaves the room. This tells Melissa all she needs to know. He loves her. If the answer was "No", he would have come right out and said "No" instead of evading the question.
  • Lampshaded (naturally) in the Discworld novels. The philosopher Ly Tin Wheedle was asked "Why are you here?" by a fellow guest at a dinner party (because Ly Tin Wheedle wasn't invited), and took three years to formulate a suitable reply.
    • Or Wen the Eternally Surprised who, after reaching enlightenment, told his apprentice to ask him a question, anything. His apprentice, who was quite stupid and not at all inclined to be philosophical (...or was he?), just said "Er... what [do you] want for breakfast?" "Ah, one of the difficult ones."
    • Also parodied with Detritus' interrogation technique, which simply consists of asking the same three questions ("Did you do it?", "Are you sure it wasn't you what done it?" and "It was you what done it, wasn't it?") over and over again for hours until he gets the right answer: "Yes! It was me! I did it! I did it! Now please tell me what it was I did!"
    • In Jingo, Nobby, of all people, asks some questions that puncture the anti-Klatchian rhetoric going around Ankh-Morpork.
      • Nobby is actually quite good at these. He'll let Colon go on a rant, seemingly agreeing with everything he's saying, then bring up one of the things Colon said earlier that pokes a great big hole in his logic.
    • In Monstrous Regiment, after a cease-fire is called, Polly Perks ends up negotiating with one Samuel Vimes about possible war aid to the starving country of Borogravia. When Polly remarks that Borogravia is "a proud country", Sam retorts by asking what Borogravia has to be proud of. Polly is mad at Vimes for asking the question, but she's even angrier at herself for not having an answer, and at her own country for all the centuries of pointless warfare caused by the same thoughtless "proud of being proud" mindset she caught herself falling into.
    • In Snuff, Vimes shakes the Gordon sisters out of their passive-young-flower-awaiting-a-good-match rut by asking them what, precisely, they actually do.
  • In The Dresden Files book Small Favor, Michael asks the question "Where is your blasting rod?" to Harry, because Queen Mab of the Winter Court stole it without Harry noticing earlier in the book, and then put Harry's mind into a brainlock that kept him from remembering either his blasting rod or the ability to use fire magic. Harry himself never realized this had happened, and the question sends him into a brief but intense spasming fit once he realizes what had been done to his mind.
  • In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse causes Guy to begin questioning his entire way of living by asking the simple question "Are you happy?" and causing him to realize that no, he isn't. He's unable to automatically smile after that as "she had run off with it and he couldn't just knock on her door and ask for it back."
  • In Fated by Benedict Jacka (the first book of the Alex Verus series) a ghost asks Alex why he didn't run away and hide from more powerful wizards when he could have. Alex gives evasive answers but under repeated questioning admits he stayed to protect another person. It was a revelatory moment for Alex, as he had spent the last few years only looking out for himself.
  • In The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August by Claire North, Harry is asked in his third life by Franklin Phearson "What is the point of you?" when he is both unwilling and unable to help him. The question sticks with him and tortures him for all of his lives after, eventually leading to his eventual betrayal of Vincent and systematic destruction of Vincent and the quantum mirror.
  • The original Fisher King could only be healed by being asked the right question. In some tellings, this is explicitly an Armor-Piercing Question that jolts him out of his self-centeredness; in others it just has unexplained magical properties.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Transcedence, Diomedes cites the Silver-Gray cultivation of such questions — such as, if a philosopher tells you it's right to lie, why do you not suspect him of lying when he says it? Loading such questions into the gadfly virus proves crucial.
  • In Good Omens, as Adam Young starts to be overtaken by his demonic heritage, his rambles about his plans to kill off all the grown-ups who've messed up the world and leave things to him and his circle of friends, which includes him divvying up the world among them. One of his friends, Pepper, asks what part of the world Adam wants, and Adam slowly starts to come back to normal as he realizes all he really wants is his hometown of Tadfield.
  • The Guns of Navarone: "The gangrene's past the knee, isn't it, sir?" Andy Stevens uses this to convince his teammates to abandon the idea of No One Gets Left Behind.
  • Attempted by Ford Prefect in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when he asks the young Vogon guard if he actually enjoys his work. Subverted because the guard is too close-minded and stupid to do more than ponder the question for a minute or two, then resume throwing the stowaways off the ship.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: In chapter 15, a group of men ready to lynch Tom is stopped dead by Scout when she asks one of them how his entailment (i.e.: an inheritance problem) is coming along. In this case, it's not specifically the question that's armor-piercing so much is that it's coming from the innocent young daughter of Tom's defense lawyer — it breaks the men out of their mob mentality and they quickly disperse in embarrassment, much to the confusion of Scout, who was only trying to make small talk.
  • In the StarCraft novel, Liberty's Crusade, a reporter confronts Colonel Duke with a Fridge Logic question that probably works on many players — if the Protoss just appeared and started attacking with no warning or communication, how do we know their name?
    "Where did we get the name 'Protoss', Colonel? Is that ours, or theirs? And if it's their name for themselves, how come we know it?"
  • In the Warcraft Expanded Universe short story Of Blood and Honor, Eitrigg tells Tirion that the orcs were an honorable people who were corrupted by the warlocks. Tirion asks why the orcs would go along with the atrocities of the Old Horde if they were honorable. Eitrigg responds with the following question, and later points out that Tirion, who is a wealthy noble in addition to a paladin, has never had to sacrifice anything to do the right thing.
    Eitrigg: Have you ever stood against the will of an entire nation, human? Have you ever questioned an order, knowing that to disobey meant immediate death?
  • In Stanley Ellin's short story “The Question,” the narrator is what he refers to as an “electrocutioner” – the man who rigs up the electric chair and throws the switch on condemned prisoners. It's a secretive job (virtually no one knows the narrator does what he does, including his son), but he's proud that he performs it well. He spends the story telling the reader of how he attempted to persuade his son to follow in his footsteps, citing society's need for the death penalty, comparing rapists and murderers to rabid dogs, and justifying his position as “electrocutioner” by saying that someone must take the responsibility for doing a job no one else wants. His son is shocked and utterly refuses to do it, and reacts with horror when his father says, “It's just a job.” The son asks, “Just a job? But you enjoy it, don't you?” As the narrator searches his soul, he reflects on all the men he's watched die gruesomely in his electric chair, and ends the story with the question, “My God, how could anyone not enjoy it?”
  • The narrator of The Ocean at the End of the Lane gets one when confronted with his father, who is being manipulated by an Eldritch Abomination.
    Narrator:Does it make you feel big, to make a little boy cry?
  • In Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides, a captive pirate decides he'd rather be shot than hanged, so asks one of these ("Is it true what Panda Beecher once told me about you?") of the Navy captain who's questioning him. As Panda Beecher is a criminal who pays Navy officers to smuggle goods, on the one hand, and the owner of a whorehouse catering to "exotic" tastes, on the other, the question pushes the captain's Berserk Button and a fight breaks out. Bonus points because it's an Armor Piercing Shot In The Dark: the pirate actually knows nothing against the captain, he just knows lots of Navy officers do business with Beecher.
  • Perhaps the biggest Crowning Moment of Awesome in Sarum goes to Captain Wilson's wife Nellie, who upon her return to Salisbury is immediately accused by Holier Than Thou Abigail Mason of being a harlot. Not only does the Captain denounce Abigail by asking the crowd, "And who's this pasty-faced scold?", but Nellie — quickly sizing up the situation, in which Abigail and her brother-in-law have been watching her spouse Peter Mason being executed for heresy — declares the Armor-Piercing Response, before the entire town:
    "Why, 'tis Abigail Mason who's just burned her husband so she can get another."
  • Suspicion by Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt: Dr. Emmenberger keeps asking Inspector Bärlach what it is that he believes in. When Bärlach refuses to answer, Emmenberger even makes suggestions: Christianity, justice or maybe the law? Bärlach remains silent, forcing Emmenberger to go away in disgust.
  • In the Star Trek Novel Verse, we have "Are you Whole?" for the Andorians. Supposedly asked of the mythical hero Thirishar by all-powerful Uzaveh (AKA Andorian God), the question drives the modern Andorian culture in its entirety. To be truly Whole requires both reassembling in unity the four genders derived from Thirishar (essentially, bonding with three others in an marriage quad) and gaining knowledge of the "missing piece", an elusive aspect of racial knowledge hidden to the Andorian people. See the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch in particular.
  • It's not actually a question, but it does fit. In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Padme's Body Guard Crush, Captain Typho, searching for her murderer then finding him and getting utterly curbstomped, manages to stop Darth Vader cold by telling him "I know you killed Padme." He still gets killed after the pause, but he's comforted by the knowledge that he hurt the Dark Lord. Though, not knowing the actual events, he never knows why — his investigation basically went: Padme was killed with the Force, Skywalker was supposed to be bodyguarding her, Skywalker was killed shortly before her, Vader appeared after that, therefore Vader killed them both.
  • When Zedd is describing Seekers in Wizard's First Rule, he references this trope, saying that a truly great Seeker could bring even a king to his knees by asking a question.
  • Used in The Tale of Despereaux. The question in, well, question is "What do you want, Miggery Sow?" This comes as such a shock to Mig, who'd never been genuinely asked, that Pea only had to ask once.
  • In the fifth Temeraire book, Victory of Eagles, Napoleon has invaded Britain. Laurence, who technically committed treason at the end of the last book by saving the dragons of Europe from biological genocide, is given a stay of execution because the Admiralty needs someone to ferret out pockets of French troops — and he has orders to take no prisoners. It's dirty, dishonorable, and depressing, but he obeys until Tharkay arrives, sees his plans for the next attack, and plainly asks, "What are you doing?" It prompts a small breakdown from Laurence, and a frank assessment of what he is prepared to take responsibility for.
  • The sequel to Those That Wake has this near the end, which opens Laura up to talking about her problems and memory loss.
    The Librarian: Tell me, Laura, what is your life like now?
  • In the World of Warcraft novel, Tides Of War, Jaina is given one by Kalec that short-circuits her Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    "Do you really want to be remembered as another Garrosh? Another Arthas?"
  • In the novel Vol'jin: Shadows of the Horde, when Vol'jin plans on going out in a blizzard to rescue Tyrathan, despite the fact that, due to being a Jungle Troll unsuited to snow and still recovering, he has practically no chance of survival, much less success. Taran Zhu asks him this question regarding his motives for the search that gets him to call it off.
    "Is it to save the man that you wish to act, or to preserve your own self-conception as a hero? I expect much dusting to be done before you have reached the truth."
  • In James Garfield's novel Follow My Leader, Jimmy wants revenge against his former friend Mike, who had accidentally blinded him with a firecracker. Jimmy's roommate at The Seeing Eye asks this question: "How would you like to go through the rest of your life knowing you made someone else go blind?"
  • A more-literal-than-usual example in the children's picture book Exclamation Mark: one of its characters is a literal question mark who barrages the protagonist, an exclamation mark, with a number of curious questions about who he is. The exclamation mark, who has been suffering a crisis of identity about not being like the periods he hangs out with, finally yells "STOP!" in response to the endless questions — and in doing so, realizes just what his identity as an exclamation mark means.
  • In MARZENA we have Livia, a psychotherapist, asking Lauren, an ex-medical resident, the following question: "So you spent all your time chasing money, but ended up at the age of 25 with no money, no valid professional license, and 100,000 Credits in debt, how do you make sense of that?"
  • The Riddle Master Trilogy: Not quite a question, but at the end of Heir of Sea and Fire when Morgon is about to kill Deth, Deth says, "They were promised a man of peace," referring to the words of the Earth-Masters' children, who had given Morgon the sword he was currently holding above Deth's head. Morgon is so affected that he drops the sword and lets Deth walk out of the room intact.
  • In Wolf Hall, Thomas More remains silent rather than take the oath confirming Henry VIII as head of the Church of England and says that there's no need for his imprisonment; he thinks none harm and does none harm. Cromwell's reply: "What about Bilney? What about Bainham?", two friends of his whom More had burned at the stake for distributing the Bible in English, and says that More ought to be grateful they're sparing him the methods he used on others.
  • At the end of The Dagger and the Coin series, Clara Kalliam is restored to the barony of Osterling Fells for her heroic actions in overthrowing Geder and the spider priests, thereby saving Imperial Antea and the world, meaning that Clara will once again be a leading member of the Antean royal court. She resolves that she must send her young lover, Vincen Coe, away, since it would be too much of a scandal were it found out that she is carrying on her affair with a servant young enough to be her son. In breaking the news to him, she explains that, if it were just her own reputation at stake, she would not care, but that the problem is that her infant granddaughter has been named after her, and the scandal will damage her reputation as well. Vincen assures her that he will leave without any fuss, but asks her one simple question first: "why do you want your granddaughter to live her life with less courage than yours?" She is completely unable to answer, and then, after a prolonged flustered silence, decides that she will continue her affair with him after all.
  • In The Reader 2016, Captain Cat asks of Captain Reed, who insists on continuing his journey to the edge of the world to be remembered for all time, "who will remember your crew?" It's harsh because writing doesn't exist in this world, and most people realize that any supporting characters in Reed's legends will be reduced and forgotten over time as the oral tradition degrades.
  • A Christmas Carol: Scrooge's fiance Belle begins to think that he has changed, and that he is now more concerned with making his fortune than with their relationship. She asks him, "If this had never been between us, would you seek me out and try to win me now?" Scrooge doesn't give a straight answer, which she takes as a "no".
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: When the governor of Nevada asks the commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation what Grant should have done, if not enlarging Hoover Dam with sandbags.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the season one finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson has a question for Ward:
    You devoted your entire life to a deranged narcissist who never gave a damn about anyone, and now he's dead. You've got the rest of your life to wrestle with the question: who are you without him?
  • Babylon 5:
    • "Who are you?" by the Vorlons, "What do you want?" by the Shadows; both of them are asked until the subject stops giving superficial answers and starts revealing things about themselves. J. Michael Straczynski has a degree in psychology and cited Synanon as an inspiration.
    • Sinclair shouts "Who are you?" and "Why are you doing this?" at the Grey Council. Imagine how chilling that must have been coming from their savior.
    • In the fourth season, Sheridan and Delenn point out that the Shadows and Vorlons don't have answers to their own questions anymore. This is part of what convinces them to leave the galaxy once and for all.
    • Later, more get added. Lorien asks "Why are you here?", and the Spin-Off series Crusade adds "Who do you serve, and who do you trust?" for the humans, and "Where are you going?" for the Technomages.
      • Actually, "Where are you going?" and "Why are you here?" are very subtly laid in all through the original five seasons of Babylon 5. JMS himself states that those four questions (Who are you? What do you want? Where are you going? Why are you here?) are critically important to the whole show. "Who do you serve and who do you trust?" is pretty unique to Crusade, though, but it may have just been a cunning way to introduce the supporting cast.
    • In the episode "Comes the Inquisitor", the titular Inquisitor (Sebastien) comes specifically to ask these of Delenn and later Sheridan. The big one is, of course, "Who are you?", as he works for the Vorlons, but one notable failed attempt at an Armor-Piercing Question comes when he asks Delenn whether she'd ever considered that she could be wrong. It fails because she has an answer: "Yes, sometimes." It's one of the few times Sebastien quiets down during the performance of his task. Delenn also attempts a few times to pierce his armor with questions of her own, but he's very good at his job, and (mostly) manages to keep his composure.
  • The final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, already bleaker than the other episodes, had Baldrick ask one of these, specifically why World War I happened and why couldn't they all just stop fighting. Even Blackadder had no real response. Not long after, they all go over the top.
  • Used very emotionally in the season three finale of Bones, Brennan to Gormogon's apprentice. Not quite a question so much as a series of logical statements, as Brennan explains to Booth as he keeps asking Zack to give up the Gormogon without getting a response, "Zack responds to logic." Brennan proceeds to give a series of arguments that seem to justify Zack and the Gormogon's motives, and then delivers the armor-piercing line: "Yet you risked it all so you wouldn't hurt Hodgins."
    "There was a flaw in my logic..."
  • From the episode "Ozymandias" on Breaking Bad, "Where is Hank?".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has an accidental example in "Gingerbread". The corpses of two children are found and a literal witch hunt ensues. When Buffy finally meets up with Angel, she fills him in on the situation. When she mentions the dead children, he asks "What were their names?" Suddenly, Buffy realizes that the children were never claimed and something is very wrong.
  • Criminal Minds has Constantly Curious Ellie Spicer ask Tim Curry's character (a serial killer) why he kills people. Subverted when he replies that the best question would not be why he kills people, but why he doesn't kill all of them.
    • There's also this exchange during "A Beautiful Disaster":
      Derek: How can you, of all people, tell me to back off?! You didn't back off with Foyet!
  • Doctor Who
    • In Dalek, as the titular creature is about to kill Henry van Statten:
      Rose: You don't have to do this anymore. There must be something else - not just killing. What else is there? What do you want?
      Dalek: (Silence. Turns back to van Statten, and then back to Rose) I want... freedom.
    • Rose gets another one when the Ninth Doctor, filled with rage, comes running in to shoot the Dalek. Rose's question stops the enraged Gallifreyan in his tracks.
      Rose: It couldn't kill Van Statten, it couldn't kill me. It's changing. What about you, Doctor? What the hell are you changing into?
    • In Daleks in Manhattan, Dalek Sec asks his fellow Daleks:
      Sec: There are millions of humans, and only four of us! If we are supreme, why are we not victorious?
    • Amy gets one aimed at her by "The Dream Lord" aka the Doctor's Enemy Within during Amy's Choice. He mocks her belief that the Doctor trusts her, and when she stands up to him he simply asks "So what's his name?"
      • Comes back again in The Name Of The Doctor. Clara, like Amy to the Dream Lord before her, tells Madame Vastra that the Doctor can trust her with anything, and Vastra refutes this, saying the Doctor doesn't share his secrets with anyone, before asking her, if she really is the exception to that, what his name is.
    • Amy also gets an armor piercing statement from the Dream Lord. It's effective nonetheless.
      Dream Lord: Poor Amy. He always leaves you, doesn't he? Alone in the dark. Never apologises.
      Amy: He doesn't have to.
      Dream Lord: That's good. Because he never will.
    • The Dream Lord gets a hefty bag of armor piercing questions to throw at the Doctor:
    • In series 4, Davros asks the Doctor something along the lines of "How many people have died for you, Doctor?" The answer is: a lot. As we are told, via a brief flashblack to all their faces from just the past three out of 45 years alone.
    • The Doctor's question to all of Britain about one Harriet Jones, Prime Minister. "Don't you think she looks tired?"
      • Which was not actually intended to be an APQ about that particular person, but rather to make them so paranoid that they would fulfill the requirements. The Doctor at his finest.
    • The classic series also presents an example in The Pirate Planet, when the Fourth Doctor is confronted with a room filled with entire planets compressed into football-sized spheres and held in place by technobabble. The Doctor has questioned the Captain several times already about his motives, but here is where he truly loses his composure in the face of such destruction:
      The Doctor: The concept is simply staggering! Pointless, but staggering!
      The Captain: I'm gratified that you appreciate it.
      The Doctor: Appreciate it? Appreciate it? You commit mass destruction and murder on a scale that's almost inconceivable, and you ask me to appreciate it?? Just because you happen to have made a brilliantly conceived toy out of the mummified remains of planets?
      The Captain: Devil storms, Doctor! It is not a toy!
      The Doctor: THEN WHAT'S IT FOR?! What are you doing? What could possibly be worth all this?!
    • Martha asks Professor Yana how he knows his watch is broken if he's never used it, getting him to admit he doesn't know... ...and shattering the perception filter keeping Yana from becoming the Master, the Doctor's nemesis.
    • "Did you ever count?" How many children there were on Gallifrey that day. Cause both Ten and Eleven to freeze up, and their answers say a lot about them. Ten said "Two point four seven billion." and Eleven forgot, asking "What would be the point?"
  • Two examples from Frasier:
    • The episode "Ask Me No Questions" combines this trope with a Driving Question; the story begins with Niles asking Frasier if he thinks he and Maris are meant to be together. Frasier then spends the rest of the episode wondering what his answer will be.
    • In "Dark Side of the Moon," Daphne is in anger management therapy as part of her court sentence for inadvertently causing a four-car pileup. As Daphne recounts the events that led up to the traffic accident, she reveals that she had been invited to Niles's apartment for the evening for a bridal shower; she didn't know about the party, and spent the whole day leading up to it suffering from numerous mishaps. While she tells the story, she repeatedly mentions that she planned to wear her favorite dress to see Niles. As the session closes, her therapist asks her a seemingly small question: if the bridal shower was supposed to be a surprise, why was Daphne so intent on wearing that particular dress for what she believed to be a casual get-together? This forces Daphne to admit that she actually wanted to spend a romantic evening with Niles, making her realize that she loves him as he does her—which is highly problematic, considering that she is about to marry Donny.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Varys tells a riddle to Tyrion about a king, a priest, a rich man who each command a sellsword to kill the other two. Varys asks Tyrion who lives and who dies. Tyrion immediately says the sellsword is the one who decides, since he has the sword. Varys then asks why people still believe in nobility, religion and wealth if the sword is the only real power in the world. Tyrion has no answer for this.
    • Later in the series, Tyrion, having had enough of Varys' secrecy, bluntly asks him what he wants. Varys turns it around and asks Tyrion the same question. Tyrion admits that, after being marginalized his whole life, he likes being the acting Hand of the King and is happy about being able to make a real difference in the world. Which is something that actually has an effect on Varys (among other things), as he later refers to Tyrion as "the only person capable of saving the realm".
    • Arya asks her father how she can let Sansa marry someone like Joffrey. Ned Stark can't think of an answer.
    • Throughout the series, whenever someone asks Sansa of Joffrey, she gives her careful answer of a declaration of love. When someone asks her to be honest about it, however, she virtually collapses. "He's a monster."
    • Qyburn is debating Jaime on the ethics of the work he does, experimenting on people for the greater good. Qyburn wonders how many people Jaime has killed, and they settle on countless, which "has a nice ring to it." He then asks Jaime a question he doesn't expect him to be able to answer, but in a subversion and to his surprise, Jaime does.
    Qyburn: And how many lives have you saved?
    Jaime: Half a million. The population of King's Landing.
    • When Renly asks Ned, "Tell me something: do you still believe good soldiers make good kings?" the older man remains silent.
    • Theon delivers an epic one to his father.
    Balon: "We do not sow. We are Ironborn! We are not subjects, we are not slaves. We do not plow the fields, nor toil in the mine. We take what is ours! Your time with the wolves has made you weak!"
    Theon: "You act as if I volunteered! You gave me away, if you remember?! The day you bent the knee to Robert Baratheon! After he crushed you! Did you take what was yours then?"
    • Theon is on the receiving end later, from Bran: "Did you hate us the whole time?" He didn't, but he's torn between loyalty to his birth family and birth culture (which he succeeded in holding onto, despite what Balon Greyjoy thinks) and the adoptive family he loves and probably loved him (at least Robb did) but always kept him feeling like an outsider.
    • Shireen asks Stannis if he's ashamed of her, implying that the cause is her greyscale. Stannis is actually proud of her, but since he's taciturn and distant, it takes him a direct question to spit out the answer.
    • Varys strikes absolute terror into Ned by asking, "And what of your daughter's life, Lord Stark? Is that a precious thing to you?"
    • Talisa rattles Robb by asking, "And Then What?" of his plan to depose and execute Joffrey.
    • When Davos insists on being humble about his mistreatment by Blue Blood lordlings, Stannis asks, "And where were those lords when Storm's End starved?"
    • Quaithe's query to Jorah concerning Daenerys. "Will you betray her again?" is unsettling for coming from someone who had no way of knowing he had.
    • When Jon angrily points out he and his family are of the same blood as the wildlings and have just as much claim to the North, Ygritte asks, "Then why are you fightin' us?" for which Jon has no answer. Apparently the wildlings' frequent Rape, Pillage, and Burn and overall intent to overrun his homeland with primitive anarchists doesn't occur to Jon.
    • Jaime devastates Brienne with one in "Kissed By Fire":
    Jaime: "Tell me, if your precious Renly commanded you to kill your own father and stand by while thousands of men, women, and children burned alive, would you have done it? Would you have kept your oath then?!"
    • Brienne looks like a deer in the headlights when Cersei asks her directly if she loves Jaime in "The Lion and the Rose". While she doesn't answer in the affirmative, this sputtering reaction tells Cersei all she wanted to know.
    • When Jaime is balking at seeing Tyrion, Bronn says, "He named you as his champion because he knew you'd ride night and day to come fight for him. Are you going to fight for him now?"
    • Hizdahr zo Loraq confronts Daenerys about her execution of the masters with the question, "Is it justice to answer one crime with another?"
    • When Tyrion tries appealing to The Power of Friendship to talk Bronn into fighting for him, Bronn replies, "Aye, I'm your friend. And when have you ever risked your life for me?"
    • Jorah cannot bring himself to answer when Daenerys demands to know, "Did you tell them I was carrying Drogo's child?"
    • Ralf Kenning unintentionally hits the nail on the head when he demands of Reek, "Are you a woman, boy?"
    • Jaime has no answer when Bronn asks if his lover shares his desire to die in each other's arms.
    • In "The Dance of Dragons", Dany has no answer when Hizdahr asks whether she thinks the pit fighters (who are ostensibly free men) have no ability to know their own minds and make their own judgements about what they're willing to die for. Tyrion interjects with a Shut Up, Hannibal!, but doesn't actually say he disagrees.
    • When Davos accuses Melisandre of stringing Stannis along with the Chosen One line, Melisandre protests she didn't lie, she was just wrong. Davos sadly replies "Aye, you were wrong. How many died because you were wrong?", and Melisandre can't answer.
  • Glee: After Karofsky's suicide attempt, Figgens, Will, Emma, Sue, and Shannon are all processing it and discussing how to handle breaking the news to the students. Sue blames herself for not doing enough when she was principal.
    Will: Guys, we were all hard on Dave. We thought he was going to hurt Kurt. I just never thought he'd hurt himself.
    Figgins: It wasn't our job to know.
    Emma: Then whose job was it? [no one answers]
  • Heroes: Season 3, shortly after Claire is finally caught and victimized by Sylar, her biological mother Meredith (a pyrokineticist) accedes to her wishes to train her in combat inside a trailer so that she can fight villains like Sylar. Instead, Meredith repeatedly asks her "why do you want to fight bad guys?!" while superheating the air inside the trailer, causing Claire to admit the true reason behind her vigilante urges - revenge on Sylar for what he did to her (tantamount to rape.)
  • On House:
    • Dr. House frequently does this to enlighten or enrage. It can be hard to tell at first why he's so persistent. He may think it relevant to a diagnosis, he may be trying to manipulate, he may simply be "trying to solve a puzzle", or all of these.
    • In the first part of the Season 4 finale, "House's Head", the mysterious female bus passenger repeatedly asks House "Who am I?" and "What is my necklace made of?" until House realizes the mysterious woman is a subconscious substitute for Wilson's girlfriend Amber.
    • In "The C-Word" from Season 8, while undergoing a massive dose of chemotherapy, Wilson hallucinates an 8-year-old deceased former patient, who asks why he died if he did nothing wrong. The question is even more devastating to him than the pain of chemo.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, the episode "Platonish" is a flashback episode where Barney continually bothered Lily and Robin to get more challenges. Their latest challenge led him to meet the Mother, chronologically the first one out of the core group, who then realized Barney was only accepting challenges to cope with him being heartbroken over Robin and asked him, "Do you want to keep playing or do you want to win?" This inspired Barney to come up with "The Robin".
  • In the episode of iCarly where Carly's friend Missy returns to her life and secretively tries to remove Sam from Carly's life, Sam gives a good one to Freddie when asks for his help and for him to believe her about Missy's manipulative ways.
    Freddie: Tell me one reason why I should believe you.
    Sam: Because I came here. Have I ever come to you for help before?
  • JAG: In "Ice Queen", the NCIS Backdoor Pilot, Harm is arrested as the prime suspect for the murder of Lieutenant Singer and as he’s being handcuffed Gibbs ask a question he wasn’t prepared for:
    Commander Rabb: Can you tell if someone's guilty by their eyes?
    Special Agent Gibbs: I can.
    Commander Rabb: Yeah? Well, look in mine. Ask me. Ask me.
    Special Agent Gibbs: Would you kill for your brother?
  • In the fourth season of Judging Amy, we get a particularly good example. After Kyle goes behind the other doctors' backs to make sure a patient gets the treatment she needs, the head doctor at the hospital calls him out on his maverick behavior and her disappointment in him:
    Lily: Every time I think I'm getting closer to you, you do something stupid, or foolish, and I catch just a glimpse of what you must have been like before you got kicked out of med school.
    Lily: "Back then?" ...what's your excuse now?
  • Law & Order has tons of examples of these on the witness stand. Some include:
    • Ben Stone's cross-examination of an anti-abortion activist who had tricked a woman wanting an abortion into carrying a bomb to the clinic. After the woman self-righteously declared what she had done was just, and that the victim, a former follower of hers who had become pregnant, deserved what had happened, the question came that left her speechless.
    If abortion is murder, then no matter how you feel about Mary Donovan, aren't you guilty of the murder of her unborn child?
    • Another episode involving the killing of an abortion clinic doctor had Jack McCoy questioning the man who had arranged the murder. The defendant was trying to use justifiable homicide as a defense (that he had to protect all those unborn children by having this woman killed). McCoy pierces his armor by asking why then, if he was so sure it was right and justified and necessary, he hadn't done the deed himself instead of just arranging the murder? The man is forced to admit that he believes any killing is morally wrong and thus couldn't go through with it himself, destroying his own defense completely.
  • During season 2 of Legend of the Seeker, Richard became affected by a magic-induced rage, and to help him control it, the wizard Zedd kept asking Richard "What are you angry at?", knocking down each of Richard's answers until they got to the real answer: Richard was angry at Zedd for lying to him about heritage and bringing him into the conflict in the first place
  • Cal Lightman of Lie to Me uses this all the time to get a reaction he can read off of someone.
  • Lost:
    • In Season 1, Locke leaves Boone and Shannon tied up in the jungle, allowing the monster to kill Shannon. After Boone gets free, he comes after Locke with knife, screaming accusations. As soon as he says the words "she died in my arms," Locke delivers his first APQ: "Then why is there no blood on you?" This forces Boone to realize that the whole thing was a hallucination. But then Locke drops his second APQ, asking Boone how he felt when he thought Shannon was dead. Despite his rage, Boone says "relieved," effectively concluding his arc as he sheds his emotional dependence on her.
    • Season 3.
    Sayid (to Juliet): You said earlier that if you told me everything you knew, I'd kill you. I'm going to test the validity of that statement.
    Sawyer: He means "talk".
    Juliet: We don't have time for this.
    Sawyer: We cleared our schedules. We got all the time in the world.
    Juliet: You know it's interesting... that you two are now the camp's moral police. I'm curious Sayid, how long was it before you told everyone on that beach exactly how many people you've tortured in your life? Do they know about Basra? And I'm sure the first thing you did when you got here, James, was to gather everyone in a circle and tell them about the man you shot in cold blood the night before you got on the plane. So why don't we just skip the part where you two pretend to be righteous? I'm taking that medicine back to Claire, and you're going to let me. Because if she doesn't get it, she's going to die. And the last thing either of you need right now... is more blood on your hands.
    • Jacob to Ben in the season 5 finale: "What ABOUT you?"
  • In Mad Men, there's a particularly effective one where Peggy is upset at the way the mother of a child actress acts towards her, which makes Stan think that she was upset that she never had children, which is obviously not true. After a flippant joke from Stan about the possibility of have illegitimate children, Peggy talked about the unfair double standard of women having to pay for a mistake while men can just walk away. This leads to Peggy revealing one of her deepest secrets.
    Peggy: Maybe she was very young and followed her heart and got in trouble. And no one should have to make a mistake and not be able to move on. She should be able to live the rest of her life, just like a man does!
    Stan: You're right...
    Peggy: I know (pauses) Maybe you'd do what you thought was the best thing
    Stan: What did you do?
    • And then, of course, from "Seven Twenty Three"
    Bert Cooper: After all, when it comes down to it, who’s really signing this contract anyway?
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • In one prominent instance, Commandant Spangler asks Francis "Can you name one thing wrong with your life that you don't blame on your mother?". Having blamed his mother for every problem he's ever had, regardless of how much Insane Troll Logic it took, Francis is stumped.
    • Malcolm is trying to burst Reese's charade of wanting Cynthia's help with homework, so that he can get close enough to her to grope her. When flat-out telling her what his plan was doesn't work, Malcolm asks Reese one question, to show that he doesn't care a single bit about Cynthia.
      Malcolm: "What's her name?"
    • The episode where the aftermath of Reese's backfired prank results in a diatribe by none other than Lois. All about how Malcolm should become president by finishing High School first. Knowing how Malcolm's usual arguments end, Lois asking her own son to doubt potential of becoming a president renders him speechless.
  • In the final episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye is committed after an incident on a bus. Sidney Freeman has him relive the scene, where they pulled off the road to hide from an enemy patrol and needed to keep completely quiet, but a woman's chicken wouldn't stop making noise. He says she killed the chicken to keep quiet...but Sidney then asks "She killed the chicken?" This sparks Hawkeye's real memory, that she'd actually smothered her own baby to keep it quiet.
    Hawkeye: You son of a bitch. Why did you make me remember that?
    Sidney: You had to get it out in the open. Now we're halfway home.
  • Tony on NCIS manages to turn his interrogation around while being question by Eli David, the Director of Mossad. He's being interrogated about killing a Mossad officer, who was romantically involved with Ziva but whom Tony thought had nefarious ulterior motives for being the US.
    Tony: You send all your rogue agents to D.C., make it our mess? Guess I shouldn't be surprised, since you did the same thing with Ari, and he was your son. Speaking of family, what kind of a father would throw an out-of-control assassin at his own daughter? What kind of business are you running here, huh? Everyone just runs around, doing whatever the hell they want?
    Eli David: (grabs Tony by the throat) They do as I say.
    Tony: Rivkin?
    Eli David: Always.
    (Tony looks up at the security camera, knowing Ziva is on the other side and heard the whole thing.)
  • The Prisoner:
    • "The General" shows Number Six defeating a highly advanced computer by Logic Bombing it with a question which he is certain its predictive and logic circuits will not be equipped to answer: "Why?"
    Prisoner: It's insoluble, for man or machine.
    • And in "Hammer into Anvil", after exploiting Number Two's paranoia all episode:
      Two: Sent here by our masters to spy on me.
      Six: ... Just supposing for argument's sake that I was planted here? ... What would have been your first duty as a loyal citizen?
      Two: (Oh, Crap! face)
      Six: Not to interfere.
    • Shattered Visage, the comic follow-up to the series, has this one: "Does the presence of Number Two require the existence of Number One?"
  • In Red Band Society, Kara incessantly acts like an Alpha Bitch, whether at her school or in the hospital where she's currently confined. When she throws yet another inane insult at Leo, he simply responds, "Can you ever just give it a rest?" Kara actually stops for a second, gives a bitter smile, and somberly replies, "If I could, don't you think I would?"
  • In Red Dwarf, Kryten delivers one to the Inquisitor when making his case for existence.
    Inquisitor: In a human, this behaviour might be considered stubborn.
    Kryten: But I am not human. And neither are you. And it is not our place to judge them... I wonder why you do?
    Inquisitor: ENOUGH!
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, "Will you join us?" - pierces through Cameron's literal armor, which is saying something. This prompts, amongst other things, an Oh Shit Moment for her, with John even bewilderedly pointing out she's upset, not him.

    Funnily enough, the same question actually gives her the same reaction twice. First in the future hearing it from Jesse, then again in the present from Ellison.
  • Parodied in Saturday Night Live guest starring Christoph Woltz with a game show sketch called "What Have I Become?". He asks the contestants the titular question and they all Freak Out in different ways. Finally one contestant asks him the same and he guess crazy.
  • Scrubs:
    • In one of the most emotional episodes, Dr. Cox is headed to his son's birthday party and is talking to his best friend, Ben. In the middle of the conversation, the camera switches so that Cox's face is in the foreground, and J.D. walks up to him and asks him what he's talking about. When Cox gives him the expected answer (the topic of the conversation), J.D. waits a Beat and asks "Where do you think we are?" The camera then switches back to where Ben was, except he is no longer there. They were headed to Ben's funeral the entire time; he, not the elderly Patient of the Week, had died earlier in the episode.
    • In "My Fifteen Seconds", Jill Tracy is back at the hospital for unexplained poisoning. Every time Cox and J.D. talk with her, she behaves in her typical over-the-top and frivolous way. It's only later that the two doctors understand she had tried to kill herself. They rush back to the hospital and the question "How have things been going recently?" finally prompts her to tell the truth.
    • Happened during Season 5 when J.D. saw a dead Jill Tracy wheeled in to the hospital and her mom asks : "Could someone have done anything?". This hits J.D. hard due to him having seen signs that Jill was a Stepford Smiler with suicidal tendencies but kept avoiding her because she's a Motor Mouth. He answers with no but thinks "Unless you mean me."
  • In the historical drama miniseries Speer Und Er about Nazi Germany's chief architect Albert Speer, there's a scene where Speer is questioned after the war by a group of Allied officers. After Speer basically casts himself as an Anti-Villain and Only Sane Employee, he gets reminded that this possibly makes him worse than the outright fanatics. An officer points out that Speer fully understood that the people he worked for were murderers and thugs, yet knowingly applied his skills to prolong the war. He then asks Speer "How can you explain that to me? How can you justify it? How can you bear to live with yourself?"
  • Sports Night has a relatively trivial example. The coach at Casey's alma mater calls a disastrous play, and Casey spends the next week making fun of him on air for it... until someone asks him "What play would you have called?" and he realizes he has no idea.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" has the Enterprise sent back to the 60's and accidentally cause an Air Force jet to crash. They beam the pilot on board, then debate whether or not to return him to his time. McCoy argues for taking him back to their time while Kirk argues for returning him to his time. Kirk's argument is mostly about how he doesn't fit in with their time and technology. McCoy counters that he can be trained. Kirk's response: "Can he be trained to forget his family?"
    • In "Errand of Mercy", an impending Federation-Klingon war is interrupted when the Organians run out of patience with their visitors' violence and reveal their true nature. Both Kirk and Kor protest, until Ayelborne cuts to the heart of the issue:
      Kirk: You have no right to dictate to our Federation...
      Kor: ...or our Empire!
      Kirk: to handle their interstellar relations! We have the right...
      Ayelborne: To wage war, Captain? To kill millions of innocent people? To destroy life on a planetary scale? Is that what you're defending?
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the classic James Newcomer episode "The Measure of a Man," Picard is forced to defend Data's rights when Commander Bruce Maddox claims he is not sentient and is Starfleet's property, giving Maddox the right to disassemble Data against his will to study and replicate him. Picard's defence is one giant Crowning Moment of Awesome where he questions the real implications of Maddox's work that eventually leaves Maddox shaken and silent.
      Picard: A single Data, and forgive me, Commander, is a curiosity: a wonder, even. But thousands of Datas, isn't that becoming a race? And won't we be judged by how we treat that race? Now tell me, Commander, what is Data?
      Maddox: I don't understand.
      Picard: What is he??
      Maddox: A machine!
      Picard: Is he? Are you sure?
      Maddox: Yes!
      Picard: You see he's met two of your three criteria for sentience, [intelligence and self-awareness,] so what if he meets the third, consciousness, in even the smallest degree? What is he then? I don't know, do you? (to Riker, who'd been forced to argue for Maddox's side) Do you? (to the judge) Do you? Are you prepared to condemn him and all who come after him to servitude and slavery?
    • Picard himself is taken aback by Data's question earlier in the same episode, after he suggests to Data to agree to Maddox's procedure for the sake of Starfleet.
      Data: Sir, Lt. La Forge's eyes are far superior to human biological eyes, true? Then why are not all human officers required to have their eyes replaced with cybernetic implants?
      [Picard is at a loss for words and turns away]
      Data: I see, it is precisely because I am not human.
      Picard: [shaken] That will be all, Mr. Data.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the pilot episode "Emissary", the Prophets have one for Sisko: "Why do you exist here?"Further explanation 
    • The show clearly channeled a bit of TNG's "Measure Of A Man" when they had Captain Sisko dismantle a Kangaroo Court that tried to frame Worf in "Rules of Engagement".
    Sisko: No. You are an expert on the Klingon Empire. So, tell me, Advocate. Isn't it possible that there were no civilians on the transport Worf destroyed? Isn't it possible that the ship he saw was sending out false sensor images and that this whole affair was staged so that the only Klingon officer in Starfleet would be accused of a massacre and the Federation would be forced to stop escorting the convoys? Tell me, Advocate, isn't. It. Possible?
    • In "Tacking into the Wind," Worf discovers Gowron is setting Martok up to fail in battle to either get him killed or disgraced, making the war with the Dominion even tougher. Worf's attempts to resolve the problem fail, and he seeks advice from Ezri. She points out that Gowron is "a symptom of a larger problem": the Klingon Empire itself being corrupt. Worf initially disagrees, but Ezri asks him to name the last Chancellor he respected or one that didn't try to cover up a scandal. Her conclusion is what really gives Worf something to think about.
      Ezri: Worf, you are the most honorable and decent man I have ever met. And if you're willing to accept men like Gowron, then what hope is there for the Empire?
      • The same episode sees Kira trying to help Damar's new resistance movement against the Dominion. Damar is dealt a nasty blow, though, when he learns the Dominion hunted down and killed his wife and son.
      Damar: What kind of state tolerates the murder of innocent women and children? What kind of people give those orders?
      Kira: Yeah, Damar, what kind of people give those orders?note 
      • This particular question shakes up Damar so much that Kira considers apologizing, but Garak talks her down, saying that Damar's romanticized view of the old Cardassia desperately needed a reality check. Later, Damar rescues Kira and Odo from an old-guard Cardassian, killing the latter, completing an important bit of Character Development in the process. To quote Damar: "He was my friend. But his Cardassia's dead... and it won't be coming back."
  • In the first season finale of Transparent Maura asks Ally, "I have a question, now that you're not on the payroll anymore. Do you like me? If I didn't give you any money, would you even talk to me?"
  • Several examples of this occur in The West Wing, since it's a show about career politicians with rhetorical training. Sometimes it's the White House staff trying to cut through political facades, like when Oliver Babish interviews Bartlet over his MS, and sometimes it's a reporter, such as Danny Concannon investigating the assassination of a foreign national by US intelligence.
    • Central to the second-season episode "Noel" is a psychologist asking Josh "How did you hurt your hand?" over and over until he tells the truth.
    • An amusing sequence occurs in the introduction to the re-election arc, where a potential candidate for President completely flubs the question "Why do you want to be President?". Bartlet's staff giggle incessantly over the completely unorganized and unconvincing response, until one of them asks the other "What would Bartlet say to that question?" and they realize they don't have an answer either.
    • Abbey Bartlet helped her husband conceal his MS by secretly prescribing him medication. When his medical condition is revealed, Abbey is forced to submit to a hearing which might result in a year's suspension of her practitioner's license, a prospect that greatly upsets her. This comes to a head in "Dead Irish Writers," when Abbey, C.J., Amy, and Donna all sneak off to drink during a White House party. Amy and C.J. can't figure out why the suspension is such a problem: Abbey's done great work for health care (and will continue to do such work after her license is restored) and has a family. She repeatedly replies "I'm a doctor"—to which Donna remarks, "Oh, Mrs. Bartlet, for crying out loud, you were also a doctor when your husband said 'Give me the drugs and don't tell anybody' and you said 'OK.'" This stuns Abbey into silence, and prompts her to voluntarily give up her license for the remainder of her husband's time in office.
    • It's the nature of the office that even the President's playful banter can bring about one of these, such as when he attempts to resist being administered a flu shot by his Navy physician:
      Bartlet: I don't need a flu shot.
      Doctor: You do need a flu shot.
      Bartlet: How do I know this isn't the start of a military coup? I want the Secret Service in here right away.
      Doctor: In the event of a military coup, sir, what makes you think the Secret Service is gonna be on your side?
      Bartlet: [subdued] Now that's a thought that's gonna fester.
  • The Wire:
    • In the second-to-last episode of Season 1, D'Angelo Barksdale decides to quit the Game:
      "Where's Wallace? Where the fuck is Wallace? Huh? Huh? String? String? Look at me! Where the fuck is Wallace?"
    • And a possible callback at the end of Season 4, when the System fails Randy:
      "You gon' help, huh? You gonna look out for me? You gonna look out for me, Sergeant Carver? You mean it? You gonna look out for me? You promise?! You got my back, huh?!"
  • In the fourth episode of Wolf Hall, Thomas More is imprisoned for not signing the Oath that confirms Henry VIII as head of the Church in England. He makes his defense silence, saying that he doesn't speak against it, and that he thinks none harm and does none harm. Thomas Cromwell says "What about Bilney? What about Bainham?" Both men were Protestants (and friends of Cromwell's) who were tortured and executed under More's authority—Bainham just at the end of episode three. It's one of the only times that Cromwell makes an open display of anger in the series.
  • Mirabelle puts one to Devin in The Kicks episode "Choosing Sides", which focuses on Devin's reluctance to replace her friend Zoey as the team's goalie. Despite Zoey's well-established unsuitability for the position, Devin is afraid of hurting her feelings. During a game of Truth or Dare, Mirabelle asks her this in front of the whole team:
    Mirabelle: Do you think Zoey is a good goalie?

  • Death Cab for Cutie's "What Sarah Said": "So who's gonna watch you die?"
  • "What Would You Do?" by City High, where the viewpoint character gets put in is place when he asks a girl he went to school with why she's stripping for money.
    What would you do if your son was at home, crying all alone on the bedroom floor,
    Cause he's hungry and the only way to feed him is to sleep with a man for a little bit of money?
    And his daddy's gone in and out of lock down, I ain't got a job now, He's just smokin' rock now,
    So for you this is just a good time
    But for me this is what I call life
    And all I know is
    If my mama can do it
    Baby, you can do it
  • In the music video of Beyoncé's "Pretty Hurts", the question "what is your aspiration in life?" makes the pageant contestant pause and it clearly rattles her.
  • In "Downstream" by the Rainmakers, the singer asks Harry Truman "What about the Bomb, are you sorry that you did it?", to which the president answers, "Pass me that bottle, and mind your own business."
  • "What Would You Do (If Jesus Came To Your House)," a country gospel standard popularized by singers Porter Wagoner and Red Sovine. The armor-piercer is indeed the titular question: Christians who do not uphold their stated principles in private life are asked what they would do if they learned Jesus Christ was making an unexpected visit, and what would they do to prepare, such as having to hurriedly get rid of ill-reputable materials and be unable to carry on the normal household conversation ... and treat him like an honored guest instead of someone they were uncomfortable with having around. The song also asks listeners whether they would uphold their values only when Jesus were around before reverting to a less-than-Christian lifestyle after he had left, or if they would practice Christianity all of the time.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In one Bloom County strip, Oliver Wendell Jones takes Binkley and Opus on a Mind Screw journey contemplating the nature of the universe, all the while asking "Why?" As the trip gets more and more out of control and Oliver keeps asking why everything is the way it is, Opus gets fed up and asks "Well, WHY NOT!?" which metaphorically brings Oliver back down to Earth.
  • In one strip of Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin asks his father, "Dad, how do soldiers killing each other solve the world's problems?" His father has no answer for him.
    • Two from the arc where Calvin and Hobbes go to Mars to escape Earth's pollution: "Is that your candy wrapper over there?" and "Would you welcome a dog that wasn't house-trained?", both asked by Hobbes after Calvin litters on Mars. Calvin realizes he's part of the problem and he and Hobbes go home so as not to ruin things for the Martians, and partly out of the realization that as human habits cause pollution, it's not right to go to another planet to escape the mess they've caused on Earth.
  • In Doonesbury a soldier asks her friend what she'll say if she's asked "Was it worth it?", to which her friend says that joining the army was greatnote  for her. Her friend responds that they'll be asking if the war was worth it; her friend's response is "what do you think I'm avoiding answering?"
  • In Dykes to Watch Out For #452, Conservative lesbian student Cynthia relates her problems with her homophobic parents to her professor Ginger. Ginger tries to end this conversation by saying "Oh. Jeez. Well, uh ... maybe you should talk to someone." Cynthia's response ("I thought I was.") may not be framed as an armor-piercing question, but functions like one ("What do you think I was trying to do just now?").
  • Linus does this in one Peanuts strip when he asks a doomsday prophet who has been terrorizing (or boring) the camp kids for a week: "Have you ever considered that you might be wrong?".
    • Another strip has Charlie Brown getting ready for a baseball game and explaining to Sally that he has to put his left sock on first.
      Sally: What would happen if you didn't?
      Charlie: Well, we'd probably lose the game.
      Sally: Have you ever won?
  • Argentinian cartoonist Quino made a strip about a man showing to his grandson his collection of books:
    Man: I've dedicated my life to reading all these books. I have learned who were the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, Incas, Mayas...
    Boy: Wow! And we grandpa? Who are we?
    Man: ...
    (a moment later)
    Mom: Where's your grandpa?
    Boy: In the library, crying.
    • In his comic strip Mafalda, Felipe is celebrating the end of the school year and the start of summer vacation. After cheering, he suddenly flops on the sidewalk and asks:
    Felipe: My God, what are we going to do with all this freedom from now on?
    • In another Mafalda strip:
    Manolito: Today the teacher congratulated me for my high marks in arithmetic, she praised my natural ability with numbers.
    Mafalda: That's great Manolito! And what about the other subjects?
    Manolito: (beat) the teacher congratulated me for my high marks in arithmetic, she praised my natural ability with numbers...
  • In B.C. by Johnny Hart, Thor is attempting to explain the game of golf to the Cute Chick.
    Cute Chick: Let's see if I get this right. The less you hit the ball, the better your score?
    Thor: That's right.
    Cute Chick: Then why hit it at all?
    shift to nighttime; Thor standing by the tee holding his club
    Thor: Why ... do ... it ... at ... all?

    Professional Wrestling 
  • During their 2010 feud in DGUSA, Jimmy Jacobs (at the time an atoning for his past sins) confronted Jon Moxley and tried laying one of these on him combined with Not So Different: "When I look at you, I just see myself in the mirror... Whole life's a struggle, isn't it? Keep fighting. Keep fighting, then what? Then what?"
  • On the July 11th, 2011 edition of Raw, John Cena delivers one to CM Punk. Punk had spent the entire promo Moving The Goal Posts while talking over his contract to renew with the WWE and trying to win over the audience in the process. Cena comes out and hits Punk with a Kirk Summation, pointing out how big of a Hypocrite Punk is before asking him this question; if you love the WWE universe so much, why are you trying to leave the WWE? Punk, who'd been in full Magnificent Bastard mode all night, gets furious and tries to lay the blame on Cena, but the fact he'd just been offered the very things he'd been complaining about Cena having and more but still hadn't gotten enough to stay in WWE renders him unable to effectively answer this. Punk would then piss off Cena, by deriding his claim of being the underdog. He stated that Cena, like his hometown of Boston, has long since become a dynasty, comparable to the New York Yankees. Cena, unable to argue against that claim and angered over the comparison, promptly decked him in the face.
  • John Cena has been on the receiving end of armor-piercing questions as well. Such as on the March 2, 2015 edition of Raw Is War, when Stephanie McMahon — after raking him over the coals for demanding a spot in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXXI without (in her view) doing anything notable to earn it — makes a bone-chilling, soul shaking comment: "It's not where would WWE be without John Cena. It's where would John Cena be without WWE!" (Which Cena, of course, successfully sells.)

  • This idea, applied reflexively, is the idea behind Zen koans. The teacher, when asked a question by the student, provides an answer which is supposed to prompt the student to ask the right question to pierce their own ignorance.
  • Often used by Jesus in The Four Gospels to challenge His disciples, or to confound and remonstrate the Pharisees for being Holier Than Thou.
    • The Pharisees frequently tried to do this to Jesus, usually by asking questions about secular traditions that seemingly contradicted religious mandate. Jesus's answers inevitably pointed out and defied the false dichotomy.
      • A good example of this trope is Luke 20:1-8. The Pharisees demanded Jesus tell them by what authority he was performing miracles, so he asked them whether John's baptisms were of heaven or men. If the Pharisees said heaven they knew Jesus would call them out on condemning John; if they said men, the people would hate them because the people believed John was a real prophet. They tried to Take a Third Option and say 'We don't know', to which Jesus replied 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things', meaning he won either way.
  • The Book of Job features a famous example from God Himself. The premise of the book: Satan is having a chat with God in Heaven after the former has been out and about in the human world. God points out Job, His faithful servant, and Satan argues that Job is only faithful because God has blessed him with wealth, health, and many children; if he lost all of that, he would surely turn against the Divine. God accepts the challenge and tells Satan that he's free to hurt Job however he likes, as long as he doesn't murder him. Soon after, Job's sons and daughters are killed, he loses everything he has, and he's struck with festering boils and illness. At the end of the book, Job, who's been The Stoic throughout, finally asks God why he's being punished. God replies as such: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" In other words, These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, and God is so beyond mortal comprehension that humans can't even begin to grasp His workings. Job repents, acknowledges God's mastery, and admits his own limited wisdom; this pleases God, who rewards Job with more prosperity and children. note 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Dark Champions villain known as Dr. Enigma has a similar power called The Unanswerable Question that can leave a person in a helpless daze. He touches the victim with a chemical and then asks a bizarre question such as "Why must two and two make five?" or "What color is Tuesday?"
  • Mage: The Awakening invokes this with the spell called "The Inescapable Question", which causes any question to cause the hearer to stop and ponder its meaning and answer (it is noted that particularly savvy mages can get the effect by simply asking "Why?"). In effect, the spell adds a distracting veneer of profundity to a question that can be a completely inane Ice-Cream Koan.
    • Hunter: The Vigil: vampires around the world will crap their pants upon receiving a piece of paper, or an SMS, or an email, or a phone call, that asks "Who is Cain?" This isn't necessarily because of the significance of Cain; it's because it means the Cainite Heresy is coming for them.
    • In Hunter: The Reckoning the redeemers have this power. They can ask a question, although what exactly the question is and if the monster answers, is not of much relevance. As long as the hunter appeals to the humane side of the target they bring it forward and the creature is overcome with possibly forgotten feelings and emotions of being alive and mortal. The book states that a common question is "Do you remember?"
  • In the backstory of Warhammer40000, the primarch of the Night Lords, Konrad Curze, subdued the Wretched Hive of a planet he landed on as a child through brutal and uncompromising murder of anyone who broke the law. When down the line this method of governing causes extreme problems for both the planet (when Curze is gone, the place slips back into its old ways without fear of him keeping people in line) and the Astartes recruited from it (they're a bunch of sadistic, murderous psychopaths), Curze's second in command calls him out for using such brutal methods, leading to this exchange:
    Sevetar: No? What other ways did you try?

  • The Crucible - "Is Your Husband a Lecher?" Repeated a few times.
  • "Now tell me, how do you take religion?" Asked by Gretchen to Faust, in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's version. Having made a Deal with the Devil, he has a hard time answering it. Became so influential that "Gretchenfrage" entered the German vocabulary.
  • 1776: When Adams and Jefferson speak out in support of the anti-slavery clause in the Declaration, Jefferson describes it as an infamous practice that wounds human nature. Rutledge immediately points out Jefferson's and Massachusetts' hypocrisy:
    "Then see to your own wounds, Mr. Jefferson, for you are a—practitioner, are you not?"
    "[singing] Who sails the ships out of Boston?"
  • Into the Woods has "Last Midnight," a song sung in the second act by the Witch. The whole first verse consists of simple questions delivered to the Baker, Jack, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood: "Told a little lie... stole a little gold... broke a little vow, did you?" Those questions force the heroes to admit that their shortsighted, self-centered wishes and "small" wrongdoings have had major consequences for everyone.
  • In Company, Bobby, with a little help from Joanne, manages to give one to himself:
    Joanne: I'll take care of you.
    Bobby: But who will I take care of?
    Joanne (a big smile): Well, did you hear yourself? Did you hear what you just said, kiddo?
  • The Andersonville Trial - During a recess in the trial, Baker confronted Chipman with the possibility of his being a puppet of a higher mortal power, not very much unlike Wirz. Chipman does not take it well.

    Video Games 
  • BioShock: "In the end what separates a man from a slave?" note 
  • Rather heartwarming example in the BlazBlue: Continuum Shift story Heart to Heart.
    Noel: "I've never seen a... beastkin, before, so I..."
    Tsubaki: "And, I've never seen a live squirrel, either..."
    Makoto: "That has nothing to do with it. I'm completely different from you guys."
    Makoto: "Different? Uh... The difference..." *beat* "...I'm not..." *begins crying* "I'm not different from anyone else! I'M NOT! I wanna be the same! I just wanted to be the same..."
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, a conversation between the Dalish Elf and a Chantry Priestess at Ostagar, where they call her on claiming that the Maker only desires peace and love when His Chantry branded the Dalish as heretics, lead an Exalted March against them and destroyed their homeland.
    Dalish Warden: You administer blessings to Elves?
    Priestess: Of course. The Maker accepts all those who would hear him.
    Dalish Warden: And does he steal the Homeland of those who don't?
    • Anora later poses one to Loghain:
    Anora: Did you kill Cailan?
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • Paarthurnax will respond to the Blades' demands that he be killed with dignity and admits that Dragons like himself aren't exactly trustworthy beings and that he is trustworthy only due to tremendous effort — he fights his tyrannical urges every day. He invites the Dragonborn to ponder one question, one that has actually made many players hesitate to kill him: "What is better - to be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?"
    • In the Dragonborn DLC, Miraak may show up and steal the soul of the dragon that the Last Dragonborn just killed. At one point, he calls them out for casually slaying dragons just to gain more power.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: Who are you, that do not know your history?
    • Notably, it is not asked by or to the player character: Ulysses asked it of the Think Tank. This almost caused disaster: it led to the Think Tank trying to break out of the Big Empty rather than being more-or-less confined there.
      • Though the player can choose to turn this question around on Ulysses during the final battle, though one has to show him that they understand the meaning behind it for it to work.
    • The player can deliver an armor-piercing statement while attempting to get Cass to sell what's left of her caravan to the Crimson Caravan, with a high enough Speech skill.
      Courier: If you made the caravan, you're responsible for killing it.
      Cass: (angry tone) What did you just say to me? Cause you sure as hell got my attention now.
  • Final Fantasy XIII
    • The amazing scene in Chapter 7, when Hope finally musters up the guts to confront Snow about his mother's death (which he unwillingly contributed to) consists mainly of a barrage of armor-piercing questions that bring the resident Idiot Hero onto his knees in despair. Said questions include "What happens when your actions end up ruining someone's life?" and "How do you pay for what you've done?"
    • A milder example occurs between Fang and Lightning earlier. Fang admits that all the events up to then, including Serah becoming a l'Cie, were because she and Vanille woke up. Lightning is furious and punches Fang, only for her to ask "What did that do for you? Did punching me make you feel better?" and Lightning realizes that hitting someone in anger was not an answer or changed anything.
    • In Chapter 8, when Sazh is confronted with the fact that Vanille was at fault for causing his son to be turned into a Cocoon l'Cie. During this dramatic scene, Vanille apologizes in tears for causing this and begs Sazh to kill her to make up for his son's apparent death. Sazh counters with his own words.
      Sazh: "You think you die, and that's that? You think you die and everything'll be sugar and rainbows?!"
  • In Fire Emblem Awakening, Genki Girl Cynthia's supports with her father are mostly a cute deal about a young teenager wanting to become a Daddy's Girl and cheerfully dragging her dad along. But almost at the end, the dynamics change completely when she asks him:
    " You... will remember me, won't you, Father? Even once the Cynthia of this world is born?"
  • In one of the final Missions of Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko Bellic finally accomplishes his reason behind moving from "the Old Country" to Liberty City. He's finally tracked down his old war buddy (and the word "buddy" is used loosely) that sold out their troop and resulted in almost their entire squad being slaughtered like pigs, all so the traitor could get money to buy drugs with. Needless to say, in the conversation that follows As shown below), an armor piercer is shot at Niko, that actually affects him... for about five seconds.
    Niko Bellic: Strange choices?! How much?!
    Darko Brevic: (laughing) A thousand.
    Niko Bellic: (Close to tears) You killed my friends for one thousand dollars?
    Darko Brevic: (laughing) How much do YOU charge to kill someone?
    Niko Bellic: (pauses) You ruined me, you fuck!
  • Grand Theft Auto V manages to combine this with a Wham Line.
    Trevor: Let me just ask you something, alright, something I've been thinking about. Up in North Yankton, exactly who was buried in your place?
  • Delivered by Doctor Breen in the penultimate level of Half-Life 2, and repeated, posthumously, at the beginning of Half-Life 2: Episode 1.
    "Tell me, Dr. Freeman. If you can. You have destroyed so much. What is it exactly that you have created? Can you name even one thing?"
  • In Illusions Of Loyalty, it's "Ideals? A few flimsy ideals were worth all this? How many died, Brother?" The protagonist, Julius Logan, asks this to his brother, Bruce, the night before his execution, and he can only say that he’s not afraid of death, which Logan scoffs at. In the end, Bruce’s ghost asks the same question of Julius, after his actions in the service of the opposite ideal have also caused him to end up in the very same cell, on the eve of his execution. The reply is also the same.
  • Iron Gaia: Virus reveals that the Big Bad of the original, GAIA, only went mad with the desire to "improve" and command humans after Dr. Cross had asked the following question to her:
    Cross: With all the historical knowledge stored in your data banks... Do you really believe, continuing as it has been, the human race can actually survive on its own?
    GAIA: The odds against that are astronomical. Very well, Doctor, I will allow you to conduct your experiments, but I will also start my own.
  • Garcian attempts one in Killer7. Matsuken has been attempting to control the United States using Japanese ideals for the whole game, so Garcian challenges him: "what is United States? What is the purpose of the President?" Matsuken simply counters with "I'm Japanese, how the hell should I know? Figure it out for yourself." Not only does this tie into the recurring theme of two nations misunderstanding each other, Garcian's lack of an answer turns out to be significant: he's actually the assassin Emir Parkreiner, reincarnated, and Emir was an assassin for the Japanese government whose death coincided with the fall of Japan.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, you infiltrate the Sith Academy and meet a woman with a tragic past that made her receptive to the Sith philosophy. She was enslaved and abused. She finally escaped and originally trained as a Jedi. However, she wanted revenge for all that was done to her and other slaves. Here is part of the dialogue tree that leads to her beginning to question the ways of the Sith...
    Yuthura: I wanted to use the Force to free the other slaves I knew, to fight for what I knew was right. The Jedi restrained me until I couldn't stand it any more. They claim the dark side is evil, but that isn't so. Sometimes anger and hatred are deserved and right. Sometimes things change because of it.
    Player Character: But not always. Mostly it makes things worse.
    Yuthura: Any failure to get the results I want is due to a lack of power on my part. That can change, in time. As a Sith, my mettle is tested far more than when I was a Padawan. I know this may sound strange, but only my compassion stands in my way, now. Once that is gone, let the slavers beware.
    Player Character: But... if you lose your compassion, will you still care about those slaves?
    Yuthura: [sounding unsure] I... yes, of course. I—I mean... losing my compassion as in... holding back...
    • The sequel has a question that can be delivered as the punch line to a series of speeches to erode the will of The Dragon:
    The Exile: Sion... Your life... Was it worth living?
    Darth Sion: ...It was not. No matter how many Jedi I killed... No matter how many lay broken at my feet... The pain would not end. I am glad to be rid of this place.
  • Mass Effect has a question that spurs a centuries-long war that drove an entire species from their planet: "Does this unit have a soul?"
    Shepard: They sound like wonderful people. The galaxy is lesser for their loss.
    Erinya: Yes, it is.
    Shepard: Do you think they'd want you to do this? (*Asari has a meltdown*)
    • Shepard ends up on the receiving end of more than a few of these due to his-or-her affiliation with Cerberus throughout the second game. Even one of the game's minor villains gets to call bullshit on Shepard's holier-than-thou attitude because of this.
    • In general, Shepard uses a LOT of these when persuading people, and sometimes regularly in dialogue to keep events moving.
    • In Mass Effect 3: "Does this unit have a soul?" Which, depending on whether or not you end the war that started with the same question, makes this an extremely Armor Piercing Question.
    • A Paragon Shepard can issue a rather massive one to The Illusive Man in Mass Effect 3
    The Illusive Man: "We don't have to destroy them! I can end this war! I can control them, Shepard!"
    Shepard: "Are you willing to stake humanity's existence on it?"
    The Illusive Man: "I...I..."
    • A particularly harrowing one can be asked of Mordin Solus, leading to O.O.C. Is Serious Business. Shepard reminds Mordin that he had defended the genophage and his role in modifying it whenever he was asked, and that he had to be talked into saving Maelon's data, before asking him why he changed his mind about it now. Mordin says, "I MADE A MISTAKE!"
    • In the "From Ashes" DLC of Mass Effect 3, Javik asks Shepard if they believe they have any hope of winning the war with the Reapers with their honor intact. Shepard answers that they do, but have no reply to Javik's rebuttal:
    Javik: Stand in the ashes of a trillion dead souls, and ask the ghosts if "honor" matters! *beat* ...that silence is your answer.
  • Max Payne 2:
    Mona Sax: What are you so afraid of? What do you want from me?
    Max Payne: [narrating] The things I want, by Max Payne. A whisky, a smoke, for the sun to shine. I want to sleep to forget, to rewrite the past, my wife and baby girl back, unlimited ammo and a license to kill. More than anything at that moment, I wanted her.
  • In Payday 2, in the trailer for the Dentist's heists, just before Dallas leaves, the dentist asks "How did it feel, leaving him behind?" note  causing Dallas to stop and turn around. The dentist then asks his assistant to show Dallas "the transfer plan for inmate Jim Hoxworth".
  • During the trial scene in Neverwinter Nights 2, most of your dialogue is composed of these. Your Diplomacy/Taunt/Bluff checks determine the reaction of the opposing lawyer; successes on Taunt checks get really silly angry responses.
  • "What can change the nature of a man?", a riddle asked by the Night Hag Ravel Puzzlewell, in Planescape: Torment. Ravel killed all those who couldn't give the right answer. As it turns out, her right answer wasn't a 'what' but a 'who': She only wants The Nameless One's answer, because the first incarnation was the one who gave her the question in the first place and she still hasn't found an answer herself. The question essentially drove Ravel to mull over it for an unknown number of millennia and slowly drove her mad.
    • Furthermore, The Nameless One's final answer can be used in part of a "World of Cardboard" Speech to defeat the The Transcendent One.
      • Note that, when asked this question personally, the Big Bad simply shrugs it off. However, the trope can still be played straight: the Nameless can ask him a series of Armor-Piercing Questions (starting, funnily enough, by asking after his actual armor), finally forcing him admit two things: One, that he suffers as much as you do even though he's too stubborn to admit it. Two, that despite everything you've heard and done over the course of the game, neither of you are immortal.
      • There's another way to do this, as well, if you opened the bronze sphere. The question that's been following you around since before you heard the Arc Words, since the beginning of the game: "What is my *name*?" The Transcendent One doesn't remember. Unfortunately for him, you do.
    • There is a very clear straight example, however, which when asked manages to mentally unbalance a Fallen Angel:
      The Nameless One: Have you forgotten the face of your father, Trias?
  • In Resonance of Fate, this happens to several people at various points, actually, but perhaps the harshest of which is- again- the bridge scene, posed by Lagerfield to Zephyr.
    "Tell me! Why did you live while they died? Is your life worth more then theirs?"
  • Runescape has one from the finale of the goblin quests. The god of war has possessed your friend, Zanik. During the fight, she can regenerate indefinitely thanks to said god's power. At one point, she says she has to kill you because humans are the enemy. The player asks her: "But am I, personally, your enemy?"
  • In Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes, Motonari ends up asking Misanthrope Supreme Yoshitsugu about whether his stated goal of bringing misery to all humans includes bringing misery to Yoshitsugu's Morality Pet, Mitsunari. Yoshitsugu, who hadn't even considered the thought of having a human he does not hate up to that point, gets completely stumped.
  • This is Rabbi Stone's primary rhetorical tool and weapon in Wadjet Eye Games' The Shivah.
  • In Star Control II, there is only one question that can get any meaningful response out of the Ur-Quan Kohr-Ah. While this won't let you avoid fighting them in the game, the first time it was posed to them in the backstory (by the Mael-Num), it locked them up long enough to allow for an escape. 'The Words' are a simple plea: "Hold! What you are doing to us is wrong! Why do you do this thing?". Both sides come to a total stop when they hear it, ceasing combat to justify their actions. The Kzer-Za more quickly explain themselves, while the Kohr-Ah will give the prey who asks substantially more time.
  • In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Juno Eclipse asks Starkiller why he defied his master Darth Vader and saved her. Starkiller awkwardly answers that he needed her to fly his ship, but she retorts that they both know that isn't true. This foreshadows that Starkiller has feelings for Juno, and that he is slowly becoming a hero instead of Darth Vader's servant.
  • In Tales of Graces, Asbel's biggest Crowning Moment of Awesome comes when he asks "And Then What?" to the villain. The Final Boss is ranting about how humans are evil, and how he's going to Kill 'em All. Asbel promptly turns this into an Armor-Piercing Question by asking "Okay, then what? If you kill everybody, you'll be totally alone, and you and everything in the entire world will die. You really want that?" The Big Bad is silent for a Beat, then basically throws a tantrum and begins the final boss battle proper. After defeating him, Asbel shows Lambda that there's another way by proving that Humans Are Special.
  • In Talesof Symphonia, Lloyd and the party confront Remiel on what it really means for Colette to become and Angel, and Sheena's reveal that she comes from another world. When Lloyd protests about the Angel transformation, Remiel has this to say (to which Lloyd doesn't have an answer):
    Remiel: The sacrifice of one single person, the Chosen, will being salvation to world. Are you saying you would choose one soul over the entire world?
  • Tales of Xillia proves that one should not try to ask one of these questions to King Gaius by attempting to point out a hypocritical aspect of his actions. He will retort with one himself and it will work much better.
    Gaius: "Yes, to try and live a satisfying life. How do you think one can achieve that? Do you even know?"
    Jude: "W-well..."
    • However, Milla does manage to briefly get Gaius to falter with such a question, suggesting that Gaius is Not So Stoic. During a Motive Rant, Gaius reveals that his plan is to gather all the world's superweapons to protect the weak and to keep the weapons out of the hands of those who would abuse them. Milla's response can be summed up as "since you're going to die one day, how are you so sure the next guy who takes the throne will have the same ideals that you do?" For the only time in the game, Gaius has no response.
  • In World of Warcraft, during the legendary quest chain in Mists of Pandaria, after you head off with Wrathion to use the Thunder Forge as part of your plan, he will ask you if you, by blindly trusting a black dragon in pursuit of power, are any different from Garrosh- who is the enemy of the Alliance and is quickly becoming the enemy to the Horde through his increasingly corrupt and immoral actions.
    • In the trailer for the Siege of Orgrimar patch, Taran Zhu comfronts Garrosh, who tells him that he confronts a force beyond reckoning. Taran Zhu's answer visibly upsets the Warchief.
      "Your father dabbled in powers beyond reckoning. Where is he... now?"
  • Mithra sets a barrage of these when you encounter him in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, intending to draw you to the Reason of Shijima. No matter how you answer, Mithra will lose his composure and decides that the Demi-Fiend and his demons need to die.
  • Guilty Gear Xrd has a string of these delivered to Sol Badguy. The receiver seems hit very hard by all that's said, but ultimately it's beneficial for Sol because it kicks off the start of some much-needed positive Character Development.
    Sin: "It's almost like you're telling me I shouldn't trust anybody, or just go be a grumpy, lonely bounty hunter."
    Sol: ...!
    Sin: Your world must be real small. You could at least try and make some friends. I think you'd like it, honestly.
  • Final Fantasy X-2 has this about burning the Besaid Village Temple:
    Beclem: Going to help him [Wakka]? I'm not going to wait much longer.
    Yuna: You want to see it burn that badly?
    Beclem: (gasps at her question, but tries to regain his composure) It's... for the safety of the village.
  • Played for awesome in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. One possible encounter in Novigrad has a priest giving an anti-Witcher speech to an assembled crowd. One possible option is to ask the priest how many people he has saved from monsters. The priest is reduced to a stammering mess and, just to pile on the humiliation, his own crowd insult him and disperse. This causes him to send assassins after you later, but they're no real challenge so it's still worth it.
  • In Sands of Destruction, Morte is out to destroy the world and Kyrie has agreed to help her because he fell for her within five minutes of meeting her. Elephas Rex eventually points out to Kyrie that if Morte succeeds in destroying the world, they won't be able to be together. He then leaves Kyrie to figure out for himself exactly what he should do and whether he should continue assisting the World Annihilation Front. Kyrie eventually decides Morte's safety is more important to him than their being together, and asks Naja to kill him so his power couldn't be used to destroy the world.
  • Played literally in Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3: Phoenix Wright's level-3 hyper combo has him grilling the opponent right in the middle of the battlefield, doing actual physical damage. Also one of the most damaging hyper combos in the game: combined with X-Factor, it can One-Hit KO if it lands.
  • In Undertale , one is delivered by Chara at the end of the genocide route, though it's more of a statement than a question, it still has the intended effect.
    Chara: You want to go back.
    Chara: You want to go back to the world, you destroyed.
    Chara: It was you who pushed everyting to its edge.
    Chara: It was you who led the world to its destruction.
    Chara: ...You think you are above consequences.
    Yes No
    • During Sans' judgement, if you've played through more than once and killed Papyrus he asks if you should use any special power responsibly. If you answer "yes," he then asks "Then why'd you kill my brother?"
  • Starcraft II Heart Of The Swarm has Kerrigan asking Raynor one while making him hold a pistol to her forehead, inviting him to kill her.
    Kerrigan: You were the only one who ever believed in me. Do you still believe in me?
  • In Persona 5, Futaba Sakura is given an armor-piercing quiz by her own Shadow to derive the exact nature of her self-loathing and the true face of her mother. Futaba is led to believe, prior to this, that her mother hated her and wished she would die; in reality, Wakaba Isshiki cared for Futaba as a mother should, and her "hateful" last words were a fabrication written by the legal team who tampered with the will at the Conspiracy's request.

    Visual Novels 
  • One could argue that finding these is pretty much the entire point of gameplay in the Ace Attorney series, since you're trying to peel away lies to uncover truths in the courtroom. Appropriately, the people being asked often react as if they've been physically pierced by the questions.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations 2, the new "Logic Chess" system involves having a verbal battle of wits to draw a secret out of someone by way of Dialogue Trees rather than presenting evidence and pressing statements. Hits hardest with the final opponent, Yumihiko Ichiyanagi, when the point of the final round turns out not to be acquiring any case-relevant information, but to help find a cause that's enough for a completely broken individual to go on living for.
    • The player is actually treated to a pair of interrelated questions at the end of the second Phoenix Wright game:
      • Is it right for a murderer to get off scot-free, in order to protect the life of a completely innocent bystander? This wouldn't be too hard to answer on its own, as most justice systems have an answer built in: protect the innocent, no matter what.
      • It's the second question that makes it more complicated: Is it still right if another completely innocent person gets convicted in the guilty party's place if the latter walks free? (In context, this also amounts to "what is justice?" and "what does it really mean to be a lawyer?") As one player put it, "I have never been so paralyzed by a simple yes-or-no question in a video game."
    • Earlier that case, an exchange like this happens between Phoenix and Edgeworth, when Phoenix, having realized that Engarde is indeed guilty, begins to question what being a lawyer means.
      Edgeworth: It doesn't matter who, every person deserves a proper defense and a fair trial. Isn't that the basis of our judicial system?
      Phoenix: "Proper defense"? But what exactly is that? Is it where a lawyer forcibly and blindly gets an acquittal through shouting and trickery?
      Edgeworth: ...*sigh* Ironic that you of all people should say such a thing. Isn't that exactly how you have fought for your clients up until now?
  • Katawa Shoujo:
    • In Rin's route, as Nomiya is angry about Rin walking away from the exhibit and Hisao questions whether the commitment is worthwhile, Nomiya asks Hisao if he has anything comparable to Rin's passion for Art. Hisao, who may or may not have left the club by this point, based on player decisions, silently concedes that the answer is no.
    • Also, asking one of these of Rin is the key to getting her good ending. Rin laments that what she really wants is for someone to understand her well enough to not have to ask her questions; Hisao asks, "But if you found someone like that, then what?"
    • Jigoro, in response to Hisao suggesting that he visit his daughter Shizune at Yamaku, ends up asking Hisao when the last time he's called his parents. Hisao is forced to concede that he hasn't done a very good job of keeping in touch with them; other routes show minimal, and usually off-screen contact with them.
  • A Profile's second route has Miku as the heroine, who is prone to asking Masayuki questions he really doesn't want to answer about his study habits and how he quit track. The answer that he doesn't want to admit is that he really misses being on the track field. Before this, people were too afraid to mention it in front of him.
  • Youhei, of all people, gets one of these in Kyou's route in CLANNAD, when he forces Tomoya to confront the fact that the Fujibayashi sister he is dating is not the one he actually cares for.
  • Much like the Ace Attorney example mentioned above, these questions are the entire point of Socrates Jones Pro Philosopher, which draws heavy inspiration from that series AND is about philosophy and debate.

  • In Angels 2200, Quetz ends up asking this to herself. When Hammer sneaks into her hospital room to check on her, Quetz rather than being appreciative or even concerned for Hammer, contemplates pressing the call button on her bed to summon help in an attempt to get Hammer caught and removed as commander of Icebreaker Squad, unaware that they already know she's in here because of surveillance cameras. Hammer talks Quetz down by telling her that if she betrays her, no one in Icebreaker will want to follow her. Quetz then questions herself as to why she didn't press the button, and ultimately concludes that it's because she wants to belong.
  • Arthur, King of Time and Space: Morgan of Gore, aka Morgan la Fey, Arthur's half-sister the would-be usurper asks herself one in the science fiction arc.
  • The Beast Legion , when Master Surya asks Xeus, whether he'd last for two blinks against Dragos.
  • Darths & Droids: While Obi-Wan and Yoda are discovering the Jedi Temple massacre:
    Ben: Sally, this is serious. You need to play it seriously.
    Sally: Just because you do everything Dad tells you to!
    Ben: What? No I don't!
    Sally: Why are you studying medicine then?!
  • In Dubious Company Sal accidentally does this by saying: "Of course I have a home. Doesn't everybody?" By the looks on Walter, Tiren, and Elly's faces, those words were devastating.
  • In Evon, in response to Hero protesting that his feelings for Evon are strictly professional, his friend Felvis asks him if that's the case, why is he still with Evon, protecting her, since the job she originally hired him for (retrieving her father's spellbook) was long since done.
  • Freefall: This is all it takes for Florence to finally catch a break in her quest to save Jean - because Rousseau Was Right.
    • It may be subjective, as it's an all-caps comic, but there seemed to be an undertone of intense worry there; "Yes! Of course the glass plates we're eating off of are clean. We use only the finest window cleaner on them... Oh, Crap!."
  • In Girl Genius, as Tarvek prepares to escape Sturmhalten with Lucrezia-Agatha, inadvertently asks one of these of her. "It's difficult, leaving... all this behind, not knowing when I'll return. You ever get like that?" He doesn't see her reaction, but the expression on her face is one of the few times we see a real emotion on Lucrezia's face.
  • Homestuck: Rose actually renders Dave Strider speechless.
    TT: Have you ever looked into the sky without your shades?
    • When Terezi starts sharing her concerns and doubts with Dave, he is unsure how to respond. He finally asks "Do you want me to tell you to be a better human or a better troll?" She avoids actually answering the question.
    • Lil Hal springs one of these on Dirk when the latter is attempting to kill him.
      TT: I am scared to not exist.
      TT: Aren't you?
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: After Galatea outlines her latest plans for conquest, Bob asks, "And that'll make things better?" She starts to answer, realizes she can't think of an answer, stops silent, and then asks dejectedly (he has done similar stunts to her before), "How do you do that?'' Bob: "Hm? Oh, I dunno. You O.K.?" Galatea: "Yes."
  • Ménage à 3: Kiley to Sonya. "So how long have you had these latent homosexual urges?"
  • Nedroid has a perfect example in this comic
    Rabbit: Maybe everything is invisible and you're the only one who can see it.
  • The Order of the Stick Hallucination/ghost Shojo sets Belkar up for his Crowning Moment of Awesome with the question, "What are you?".
    • During the "No Cure for the Paladin Blues" arc, Elan asks Roy why he likes Miko. Namely, why does Roy like someone who's mean to everyone, no exceptions. Roy is unable to give any answer beyond "She's really good-looking", and is actually ''happy' when they get attacked because it means changing the subject.
  • Questionable Content has a minor version of this:
    Raven: Are you always this mean to people you barely even know?
    Faye: I am not... uh, I mean, not to every- I'm just- it's... Goddammit, I've been flummoxed by someone with the IQ of a herring.
  • Slightly Damned: Without quite realizing it, Sammy asks Kieri to think about Buwaro's feelings for her, and their recent falling out. The question... stings.
  • Spina Cage: "Hasn't anyone ever depended on you?" seems to be one for Joven.
  • At the start of Three Apples, Applejack tries to cheer up her little sister by explaining that Cutie Marks mean more than simply their appearance. Apple Bloom then asks what AJ's mark stands for, throwing her sister for a bit of a loop.
    Apple Bloom: So what's three apples?
    Applejack: Pardon.
    Apple Bloom: Your three apples. What does that make you— ripe?
    • In the second act, Apple Bloom hits her with a harder one by asking, "Does anybody like you, Applejack? \ Are you anyone's favorite?"
  • In Serenity Rose, this is done three times in as many pages when we're shown excerpts from the documentary "American Gothic"; The creator of a trashy, unoriginal comic is asked how many goth comics he's actually read after he continually derides them, the bassist of a goth/punk band is asked whether every fashion statement has to be political after she repeatedly rails against teenage girls who only subscribe to the lifestyle superficially, and nihilistic maniac superstar Rivet Hed is simply told straight up that "In the 16th century, they burned people like you at the stake."
  • Nebula: After a long argument trying to get Saturn to agree to hand over their moons, Uranus finally demands to know what would happen if they just reached out and took the moons, if Saturn would actually try and stop them. After a long, tense moment, Saturn admits that no, they probably wouldn't.
  • In the lore of Kill Six Billion Demons, the Hot-Blooded goddess Aesma poses one of these to YISUN, the Top God who created the universe, and it's remembered as the only time in existence that YISUN hesitated. When YISUN tells her in typical gnomic fashion that the universe is not a self-evident truth, she pitches a fit and asks "Then what is it?"
    "My opinion", said YISUN, finally.
  • Megatokyo: Just as Miho's about to crash headlong over the Despair Event Horizon following the horde attacking her at school and seemingly killing Piro in the process, Kimiko stops her short with a question that causes Miho to question her entire perspective regarding the futility of fighting against her "story", which has killed and resurrected her countless times over the years.
    Kimiko: What about what happens to you in his story?
  • In Season 3 of Survivor: Fan Characters, a livid Montana is about to dump the tribe's supplies into the fire after the other contestants unexpectedly voted out her best friend N over her, until Violet asks her if N would want her to throw away her chances of winning just to get revenge which causes her to reconsider.
  • Zarla's Handplates'verse gives us Sans asking one of those to Gaster.
    Sans: Did you ever enjoy it?
    W.D. Gaster: Excuse me?
    Sans: Did you ever enjoy hurting us?
    W.D. Gaster: ...I do what I have to do.
    Sans: That's not an answer... But it's the only one you got, isn't it?
  • In the MLP fan comic Trixie Vs, Trixie is visited by The Ghost of Hearts Warming Eve multiple years in a row, to the point that the ghost is forced to resort to showing Trixie the Ponyville of a world where she was never born, which looks exactly the same as the Ponyville from her world and asking her:
    Ghost: Ok, so you say Trixie is the biggest thing to ever happen to Ponyville, right?
    Trixie: Without a doubt!
    Ghost: But in a world without Trixie Ponyville is no different. One minus zero is still one. Ponyville minus Trixie is still Ponyville. Do you understand what that means?

    Web Original 
  • In Hitherby Dragons, this is the method Ii Ma uses to trap others within the Place Without Recourse. They are given a question that they cannot answer without negating everything they believe in — and while that question remains unanswered, they're left in a place where nothing they can do matters at all.
  • The question that shatters Jappleack's self-delusions in Ask Jappleack, after Apple Bloom's death, is a very simple one: "What's the point of growing apples?" When she can't come up with an answer, her entire worldview falls apart. It's worth noting that, near the end of the story and after much Character Development, someone asks the question again... and she comes up with an answer.
  • Nostalgia Critic
    • In his phone call to the director of My Pet Monster, the critic's self-loathing starts to seep in when he gets asked why he's in his twenties and is still watching kids' movies.
    • Santa Christ give an armor piercing question and statement in Christmas Story 2 that causes the critic to show guilt.
    Nostalgia Critic: Santa Christ, I need your help on something. I just threw out this really annoying person named Hyper Fangirl.
    Santa Christ: Well, what did she do?
    Nostalgia Critic: She tried to make me appreciate Christmas. (he just realizes his mistake)
    Santa Christ: Wow. You're a douche.
    Nostalgia Christ: No no no, it's not like that. She did all these terrible things and she deserves to be punished for it.
    Santa Christ: Well last I heard, she was flying 35,000 feet through the air completely set on fire. Sounds like punishment enough to me.
    Nostalgia Critic: You're not gonna be on my side, are you?
    Santa Christ: I don't think you're on your side.
  • In Worm, Emma uses one of these on Taylor in Chapter 2.4 as part of her bullying campaign.
  • In one Global Guardians story, Big Bad Lord Doom is ranting over the captured heroes about how his entire motivation is saving mankind from itself by taking over the world. This prompts Bungie, the team's Plucky Comic Relief, to ask the mastermind, "What's the most important part, taking over the world, or saving mankind from itself?" The answer to that question causes the villain to release the heroes and vanish. Five years later, he returned from hiding, and carried with him an AIDS cure, functional prostethic replacements for lost limbs, and cheap fusion power, all of which the villain supplied to all nations freely.
  • In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Jane asked Lizzie what she planned to do with herself after her degree and the normally vocal Lizzie is rendered with only a few words.
  • RWBY:
    • In the episode Search And Destroy, Dr. Oobleck asks Blake why she wants to become a Huntress.
      Blake: There's too much wrong in this world to just stand by and do nothing. Inequality, corruption... Someone has to stop it.
      Oobleck: Very well. How?
    • He also asks Weiss and Yang the same question. The result is the three realizing that they weren't being honest with themselves about why. And then realizing that their personal motives didn't matter: what was important was that they chose to protect others, not why they chose it.
    • He doesn't bother asking Ruby, because she knows exactly why she's a Huntress: To help people by fighting monsters and bad guys, and because it's cooler than being a cop.
    • In an earlier episode, Weiss was complaining to Professor Port and expressing frustration that Ruby was made team leader and not her. The professor counters her with this:
    "So the outcome did not fall in your favor. Do you really believe that acting in such a manner would cause those in power to reconsider their decision?"
    • During an argument with General Ironwood about his decision to bring an entire army as security to Vale, Ironwood protests that his fleet makes people feel safe. Ozpin's response actually makes Ironwood hesitate over his decision for the first time:
    Ozpin: A guardian is a symbol of comfort, but an army is a symbol of conflict. There is an energy in the air now; a question in the back of everyone's minds: if this is the size of our defenses, what is it we're expecting to fight?
  • A humorous example in "The Salvation War". A succubus is hosting a talk show and is interrogating some corrupt politician about his misdeeds. When he's trying to flip the script by mentioning the atrocities she earlier commited, she responds that yes, she did, but then she's a literal demon from Hell. What's his excuse?
  • In Welcome to Night Vale Earl Harlan is trying to talk to Cecil about being stuck at nineteen years old for a century while Cecil is reminiscing about their last days in high school together and glossing over Earl's concerns, until Earl asks him what year they graduated. After several seconds of absolute silence Earl prompts him with "You don't remember, do you?" and Cecil abruptly changes the subject.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin had two examples, both involving the main character asking Jasmine the same question. The first is before they leap from the building while Jasmine's "undercover", and the second segues into "A Whole New World":
    Aladdin: Do you trust me?
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • ("Who are you angry at?") Delivered by Azula and her friends to Zuko in "The Beach".
    • Also, when Aang expresses his opinion that "Violence is never the answer", Zuko responds: "Then I have a question for you... what are you gonna do when you face my father?"
    • There's also a Shout-Out to Babylon 5: "Who are you, and what do you want?" Delivered by Iroh to Zuko in "Lake Laogai".
    • From an exchange between Iroh and Zuko, after finding Aang's Air Bison.
      Iroh: What do you plan to do now that you have found the Avatar's bison? Keep it locked in our new apartment? Should I go put on a pot of tea for him?
      Zuko: First I have to get it out of here.
      Iroh: [losing his composure for probably the first time ever] AND THEN WHAT?! This is exactly what happened back at the North Pole! You had him, and then you had nowhere to go!!
  • In an episode of the Golden Disk arc of Beast Wars, what was Sarcasm Mode for Rattrap was an armor-piercing question for Dinobot:
    Rattrap: Where have ya been? Out saving the universe or something?
    Dinobot: (more to himself) Possibly, yes...
  • In "Joker's Favor," an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, everyman Charlie Collins, after a bad day, shouts at a speeding motorist who cut him off... that motorist happens to be The Joker. In exchange for his life, Charlie agrees to do a "little favor" for the Clown Prince of Crime—a favor the Joker can cash in at any time. Charlie spends two years hiding from the Joker, but he still finds him and makes him help him with a plan to blow up Commissioner Gordon at a city banquet—and Charlie as well, just for the heck of it—by threatening Charlie's wife and son. When Batman saves the day, Charlie confronts the Joker, who laughs at him and then vows to kill his family if he's caught. Charlie then reveals that he found another one of the Joker's bombs, and threatens him with it. But the Joker's real deepest fear isn't death—it's the idea of dying at the hands of a "miserable little nobody" rather than Batman, and not pulling off a remarkable, memorable crime before he goes. Charlie reduces the Joker—a mass-murdering psychopath who's laughed at the Dark Knight himself—to a quivering wreck by asking him about this:
    Charlie: See? I can destroy a man's dreams, too! And that's really the only dream you've got, isn't it?
    Harley: He told me things! Secret things he never told anybody!
  • In the original Ben 10, when Grandpa Max spends an episode obsessing over a sword he's been looking for his whole life for, Ben as Fourarms brings tries to snap some sense into him when he brushes off Gwen's injuries:
    Fourarms: Grandpa, I think Gwen needs a second to catch her breath
    Grandpa Max: No can do. Enoch may already have the sword.
    Fourarms: Ever since that alarm went off, that sword is all you think about!
    Grandpa Max: You two have to keep your eyes on the prize and remember what's important here!
    Fourarms: We DO remember! Do you?
  • One Captain Caveman segment from The Flintstone Kids had the title character facing an egotistical superhero-turned-tyrant named Perfect Man. The battle does not go well for Captain Caveman until he manages to reduce Perfect Man to a sobbing mess with one of these:
    Captain Caveman: If you're so perfect, how come no one likes you?
  • In one episode of Fairly OddParents, Timmy has been wishing for a large volume of new things in preparation for a fairy inspection. Due to a spate of recent shoplifting incidents, his parents fear he might be stealing them and confront him about it. Timmy gives them his usual excuse (he bought them over the Internet), but when his dad asks where he got the Internet, he's reduced to stammering.
  • Family Guy has a few of these, but one memorable moment in "Brian In Love" has Brian talk to a therapist about his urinating problem. When the therapist asks Brian about Lois, Brian immediately tries to tell him that he isn't in love with Lois and how she is Peter's wife.
    Therapist: Who are you trying to convince, Brian, me or you?
  • Played for Laughs on Futurama when Bubblegum asks Bender "Are you funky enough to be a Globetrotter? Are you?"
  • At the conclusion of the Gargoyles four-part episode, "City of Stone," the Weird Sisters ask a series of Armor-piercing questions to Macbeth and Demona. They convince Macbeth to spare Demona's life by asking him about times in his life when murder never solved any of the problems it should have. They convince Demona to give up vital information by asking her whose actions led to her clans' demises (hint: it was hers). Unfortunately, Demona is so deluded that the revelation doesn't last long.
    • Hudson gets to ask several of Xanatos, all in one episode ("The Price"):
      "Growing old terrifies you, doesn't it?"
      "Demona and Macbeth are immortal. Has it brought them happiness?"
      "When all your scheming's done, what will be your legacy, Xanatos?"
  • Kilowog delivers one to Razer in the pilot of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, calling him out on his He Who Fights Monsters hypocrisy:
    Kilowog: We know what you're fighting against, kid, but what are you fighting for?
  • A couple in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Patriot Act". An old woman asks a mutated General Eiling, who's been fighting several 2nd, 3rd, and 4th string JLU members with no powers, exactly how many people without powers he was going to kill in order to save such people. And when Eiling protests that those with super powers are a threat, a kid points out that he is the only one there who has any. Eiling admits that he has become what he sought to destroy and retreats.
    • Done earlier in the Justice League episode 'A Better World' from Batman to Batman. The Justice Lords took complete control of their world to eliminate crime, and Batman has this exchange with his counterpart after apparently surrendering to him, and (while parked at a stoplight) witnessing a citizen being taken away by the police for arguing over a restaurant check.
      Batman: They'd love it here, don't you think?
      Lord Batman: Who?
      Batman: Mom and Dad. They'd be so proud of you.
      Lord Batman: Just drive.
      • Batman and his counterpart attempt to trade several of these earlier in the episode with Justice Lord Batman eventually getting the one that (seemingly) hits the mark.
        Lord Batman: Think about it - a world where there's no crimes. No victims. No pain.
        Batman: And no choice! Who elected you, anyway?
        Lord Batman: Who elected you? The problem with democracy is, it doesn't keep you very safe.
        Batman: It has other virtues. But you seem to have forgotten that.
        Lord Batman: I didn't forget! I just chose peace and security instead.
        Batman: You grabbed power!
        Lord Batman: And with that power, we've made a world where no eight-year-old boy will ever lose his parents because of some punk with a gun!
        Batman: ... You win.
  • The climax of the rehab scene in the ''Metalocalypse episode "Rehabklok" is the doctors asking Pickles why he drinks, and then pointing out if he doesn't admit to them (and himself) the real reason he's The Alcoholic, he'll never get to play in the band again.
    • What finally convinces Nathan that there may be something to the prophecy surrounding Dethklok is when Ishnifus asks him "What drove you to destroy your record?".
  • Rarity does this to her sister Sweetie Belle in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Ponyville Confidential" upon discovering that, in their pursuit of their talent and destiny-declaring Cutie Marks, Sweetie Belle and her friends have been writing a slanderous gossip column.
    Rarity: Do you really think that writing nasty things and making everypony feel horrible is your destiny?
    • In Twilight's Kingdom Part 2, Discord notably pauses and looks uncertain after Shining Armor is drained and asks him "How could you do this?" (referring to Discord siding with Tirek)
    • Speaking of Discord, in Keep Calm and Flutter On, he manages to do this to himself when he asks Fluttershy if she thought he'd give up his World of Chaos for her sake. The moment he asks, he starts thinking about the question.
    Discord: You think you can boss Discord around? You think I'm going to turn all this back because you say so? Because if I don't, I'll lose the one friend I ever had?
    • In "28 Pranks Later", when Rainbow Dash finds out that the ponies of Ponyville faked an epidemic to get back at her for her town wide pranking spree, she tries to tell them off for scaring her, only for her friends to launch a barrage of questions at her.
    Rainbow Dash: Well, I didn't think it was so funny! And I'm the one who got pranked! I was really scared! I thought I made everypony sick! You can't just go around—
    Twilight: Pranking whoever you feel like?
    Fluttershy: Without thinking about how it might make them feel?
    Rarity: Or even if they'd enjoy it?
    Applejack: Or think it's funny?
    Rainbow Dash: Yeah! (beat) Ohhhh...I see what you did there.
  • In the South Park episode "Butterballs", Kyle accuses Stan of exploiting Butters in his anti-bullying video in order to make money. Stan argues that his video could change the way people think about bullying and that it needs to be seen by everyone; Kyle retorts, "If it needs to be seen by everybody, then why don't you put it out on the Internet for free?" After a long silence, Stan's only answer is "What was the question again?"
    • In "Cartoon Wars, Part 1", an episode of Family Guy is set to depict the Muslim prophet Muhammad uncensored, resulting in several terrorist threats. Kyle tries to defend the Family Guy writers for standing up for free speech, while Cartman uncharacteristically points out that people can get hurt. This leads to Kyle teaming up with Cartman to get the episode pulled. It's revealed that Cartman doesn't care about people getting hurt however, and that he's just exploiting the controversy in order to get Family Guy cancelled.
      Cartman: If ten people die because Family Guy just had to have its little joke, will you still think it's funny? What if a hundred people died? Will it be funny then, Kyle?
    • In the episode 'Cartman's Mom is a Dirty Slut' when the gathered adults gasp in shock when Mr. Garrison reveals he slept with Mrs. Cartman, he shuts everyone up by asking "Who here has never had sex with Mrs. Cartman?" To which nobody, not even the female mayor or principal in the room can answer.
      Halfy: I haven't.
      Mr. Garrison: ...You don't count, Halfy, you don't have any legs!
      Halfy: Oh. Yeah.
    • Cartman gets another good one in "Bass to Mouth." The school faculty consult him to help curb suicide attempts by students who crapped their pants, but balk at his plan to keep kids from being singled out by making everyone crap their pants with laxative-spiked pizza. Cartman then asks "Well, if you have a better idea, then why am I here?" One beat later, Mr. Mackey is one the phone, arranging a Pizza Day.
    • Played for Laughs when Kenny is hit by lightning late in "Rainforest Shmainforest".
      Stan: Oh, my God! They killed Kenny!
      Kyle: You bastards!
      Kelly: [gasp] Who?! Who killed him?!
      Stan: [stunned silence] ...They did...
      Kelly: Who's they?!
      Stan: You know... They!
      Kyle: They're... they're bastards...
  • In the Spongebob Squarepants episode where SpongeBob becomes a Hikikomori, he's only able to leave his house again after a gorilla attacks Patrick and Sandy, and his desire to save them overrides his fear of being injured again. The gorilla literally tears him in half within seconds, but when SpongeBob asks, "What's a gorilla doing underwater in the first place?", the gorilla panics and flees. On a pantomime zebra. It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • "The Honourable Ones": Twice.
      • When Zeb points out that the Geonosians were wiped out by the Empire, Agent Kallus is skeptical, because all he knows is that they're gone now and can't see why the Empire would go to such lengths. Zeb tells him to look for the answer, even though he might not like it. It seems to get to Kallus.
      • When Kallus reveals why he dislikes Lasats so much, Zeb tells him that he can't judge all Lasats as the same. In response:
        Kallus: Does that sentiment apply to Imperials?
        Zeb: All the Imperials I know.
    • "Trials of the Darksaber": Kanan is trying to get Sabine to discuss her issues so they don't get in the way of her sword training, and taunts her by saying that in Mandalorian culture, she's considered a coward for running away. Sabine says that's not true, so Kanan asks:
    [ignites his lightsaber to block her swing] "Then what's the truth?"
    • "Legacy of Mandalore": Kanan does it again, during the duel between Sabine and Gar Saxon, when Sabine's mother Ursa says that no one can interfere in the duel because it's Mandalorian custom. Kanan asks her what she values more, Mandalorian customs or her daughter's life. She can't think of a good answer to that question, and ends up proving it's her daughter's life when she guns down Saxon after he tries to shoot Sabine in the back after losing.
  • Steven Universe:
    • In Giant Woman, Steven is trying to get Amethyst and Pearl to cooperate so they can fuse into the eponymous Giant Woman. The two spend the entire time antagonizing each other, until Steven gets in trouble. After the two of them save him he asks.
    Steven: "That was so great how you worked together. Why don't you do that all the time?"
    • In "Rose's Room", Steven, upset with the other Crystal Gems, spends most of the episode alone in the eponymous room. He finds that the room can give him (a simulation of) anything he wants, including a quadruple bunk bed and a tiny pink whale. However, a poorly-worded request prompts the room to recreate all of Beach City for him; this turns out to be too big for the room to handle, causing A Glitch in the Matrix. When he realizes what's happened, the simulation collapses altogether, and Steven is left falling into a black void.
      Steven: I don't want this...
      Tiny Whale: (with Rose Quartz's voice) What do you want, Steven?
      Steven: I want to be back with the Gems!
    • In "We Need to Talk", Greg realizes that Rose Quartz can't tell the difference between loving humans and being in love with a human, and becomes concerned about whether her affection for him is one or the other. When she doesn't take his concern seriously (confirming it in the process), he confronts her about it, which marks a turning point in both their relationship and Rose's own Character Development:
      Greg: Can you just talk to me for one second, like a real person?
      Rose: ...I'm... not... a real person. I thought... haven't we... is this not how it works?
    • In "Keystone Motel", Steven ends up sharing a motel room with Ruby and Sapphire, who are both upset about Pearl's actions in the previous episode, but are at odds on how to deal with the matter. Both Gems are in a poor mood for most of the trip, and all of Steven's attempts to resolve their conflict are ignored or dismissed. Eventually, Steven becomes fed up with the whole thing, which is when the two realize how much of an effect their argument has had on him:
      Steven: I was so happy when Garnet said she was gonna come on this trip with me and Dad! Home's been awful! Here's been awful! I thought you wanted to have a fun time, but everyone's been acting awful too! It- it just came with us! I don't understand! Is it... is it me?
    • In "Back to the Barn" Peridot is baffled when Pearl refuses to obey her orders, as the Pearl Gems are a custom made Servant Race back on the Gem Homeworld. Pearl insists she is her own master, but is unable to respond when a confused Peridot asks "Then what are you for?"
  • In an episode of Super Friends, Wonder Woman is Brainwashed and Crazy thanks to space pirates and Superman has to fight her. When she snares him with his magic lasso, which has the side-effect of making people answer anything only with the truth, he manages to snare her as well and asks her one question, "Are you my enemy, or my friend?" At that, the truth of her friendship sets her free.
  • Spoofed in the Treehouse of Horror segment "Easy Bake Coven", where Marge is accused of being a witch and is about to be pushed off a cliff as a test:
    Lisa: Wait! Doesn't the Bible say "Judge not lest ye be judged"?
    (townspeople talk amongst themselves)
    Chief Wiggum: The Bible says a lot of things. Push her!
    • From "The Principal and the Pauper":
    Agnes: (reminiscing) Now there was a weenie you could be proud to call your son.
    Marge: Did you ever tell him that?
    (Agnes looks regretful)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) had "The Ancient One", where Leonardo, frustrated with their crushing defeat at the hands of Shredder, was seeking out the Ancient One in order to train to become stronger to avoid such an event in the future. Near the climax of the episode, he's pitted against a stone golem that taunts him over his weakness, causing him to fly into a rage and hack at it's head, yelling that he did everything that he could, and that there was nothing more he could do to stop Shredder at the time. When the golem's head crumbles, it reveals Leonardo's own face within.
    Ancient One: If there was nothing more you could do, why do you punish yourself so?
  • The pilot for Welcome To My Life ([1]) concerns T-Kash about to get into a fight with another kid for saying that he kind of looked like him. Just before the fight, T-Kash's friend asked the bully "So, what's wrong with being like him?" Sure enough, T-Kash and the tough guy end up making peace and becoming friends.

Alternative Title(s): Armour Piercing Question