This is why people usually only call him that once. Well, except for those who REALLY want to piss him off.
So you're dealing with a character who seems perfectly normal. He's a nice guy
; friendly, sociable, and well-adjusted, saving stray kittens and helping old ladies cross the street on the way to his day job of working at a soup kitchen.
But then you make a mistake. You happen to mention in passing what you think is a fairly innocuous observation, maybe pointing out that he could stand to lose a little weight, or is a little on the short side
, or maybe could use a girlfriend, or you do something that you think is no big deal in their presence, like question Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?
. And the character instantly goes ballistic
, flying into a screaming, frothing, sometimes tearful Unstoppable Rage
, from which you will be lucky to escape with your life.
You have just pressed the Berserk Button
The Berserk Button
is one type of Trigger
, where the response is one of extreme anger.
In comedic works, the Berserk Button tends to be a physical feature that the character is insecure or in denial about, like his height
. Animals also don't seem to like having their species misidentified
. Comedic Berserk Buttons
are often used to make an otherwise unflappable character lose his or her cool and go off on a hilarious rant. In cartoons, you can usually tell when a Berserk Button has been hit when the character who has it turns bright red and steam starts shooting out their ears
In dramatic works, the Berserk Button is often tied to something important about a character; a particularly hated enemy, or a painful failure that hits too Close To Home
. Insulting the memory of a dead family member, for example, or pitying someone who insists "Don't You Dare Pity Me!
." Many characters, particularly heroes, have a Berserk Button over someone messing with or threatening people they care about
. If you're unfortunate enough to hit someone's Berserk Button in a dramatic work, being on the receiving end of a rant is the very
least of your worries depending on the situation and the character.
Here are some related tropes:
- Anger Born of Worry: What makes a character angry is when another character has put himself into danger, just before crying about how much they're glad they aren't hurt.
- Apple of Discord: Someone uses a Berserk Button to cause division among a group of friends.
- The Berserker: What you get when you push the Button. (Trope Namer.)
- Berserker Tears: What the pissed-off character may very well cry as he or she is handing you your ass.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Trying to break a cutie sometimes causes them to snap instead.
- Big Brother Instinct: Don't mess with this character's little brother or sister (or anyone who would represent such).
- Bully Hunter: Bullying sets this character off in a big way.
- Comical Overreacting: The common result of hitting a Berserk Button in comedy.
- Conflict Ball: Why's he so angry about that all of a sudden? No reason; we just needed some conflict in this plot.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: You thought the person was harmless, didn't you? You shouldn't have pissed him off.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Sometimes, characters don't take kindly of being pitied by others.
- Enraged By Idiocy: Nothing pisses off some characters worse than someone saying or doing something stupid.
- Fandom Berserk Button: A misconception about a particular work enrages all its fans.
- Flame Bait / Flame War: There are some things you just can't even mention without igniting an Internet Backdraft.
- Hates Being Touched: This character will get angry if you touch him.
- How Dare You Die on Me!: What makes a character angry is when another character dies in front of them.
- Insulted Awake: When getting someone angry is the only way to snap them out of something.
- Internet Backdraft: What happens when you push an online community's Berserk Button.
- It's Personal: You've hurt someone a character cares about, and now he or she has a bit of extra incentive in hunting you down and making you pay.
- Law of Disproportionate Response: Berserk Buttons have a tendency to be rather minor in comedy, and the response to them to be rather extreme.
- Let's Get Dangerous: You thought that normal guy wouldn't be a threat if you pissed them off? Think again.
- Mama Bear and Papa Wolf: Don't mess with their kids if you know what's good for you!
- Minor Injury Overreaction: Some characters are set off by injuries to their person that aren't really that severe. This is especially common with vain and narcissistic characters who will fly off the handle if they receive a cut on the face or some other form of marring to their "perfect" features.
- Minor Insult Meltdown: When a character is hurt more than the person who snapped at them really intended to with their choice of words, often brought on by this.
- The Napoleon: It's not polite to mock this character's short stature.
- Nobody Calls Me Chicken: This character really does not like having his courage called into question.
- Not Good With Rejection: If this character is in love with you, it's not a good idea to tell him/her that you're not romantically interested.
- If I Can't Have You: Especially if he or she would rather see you dead than with anyone else but them.
- Pervert Revenge Mode: Looking at women in a perverted manner is not a good thing whatsoever.
- Rage Breaking Point: Sometimes, there's only so much a character can take before going ballistic.
- Rant Inducing Slight: And, sometimes, something relatively minor will be that thing that sets the character over the edge.
- Serious Business: Sometimes, a character will get angry at those who don't take a certain activity seriously like he does.
- Single Issue Wonk: Some characters will not let go of a certain issue that pisses them off to no end.
- Unstoppable Rage: Once the Berserk Button is pushed, there's no off switch.
- Violently Protective Girlfriend: She's quite devoted to her boyfriend/girlfriend and if any harm comes to them, she will make you regret it.
- Wife-Basher Basher: Do not beat on women around this guy. You WILL regret it.
- Woman Scorned: If you're this woman's boyfriend (or girlfriend), doing her wrong is a very bad idea.
A Trigger Phrase
can produce externally similar results if a seemingly innocent word or phrase makes the character go berserk. The key difference is that a Berserk Button
is a personality trait, often with a specific Hollywood Psych
cause, while a Trigger Phrase
is a result of hypnotism, brain programming or another kind of Mind Control
For a villainous character, pressing his/her Berserk Button
once, twice, or especially way too many times, can result in a murderous fit of rage - in simple words, a Villainous Breakdown
Contrast against Corner of Woe
, where the offended person ends up depressed instead of enraged. If nearly everything seems to be a person's Berserk Button
, they have a Hair-Trigger Temper
. A Motivational Lie
may involve pushing this intentionally in order to produce Unstoppable Rage
Examples of where Berserk Button shows up: