Berserk Button

"Anyone who calls me by that name dies. That is the policy."
Touko Aozaki, Kara no Kyoukai

In short, some characters almost always get enraged when given a certain trigger.

Say you're dealing with a character who seems perfectly normal. They're a nice person; friendly, sociable, and well-adjusted, saving stray kittens and helping old ladies cross the street on the way to thier 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 they could stand to lose a little weight, or is a little on the short side, or maybe could use a girlfriend or boyfriend, 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. That is, engaging the trigger turns an ordinary character into The Berserker.

In comedic works, the Berserk Button tends to be a physical feature that the character is insecure or in denial about, like their 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 their 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.

If a person seems to have a long list of Berserk Buttons, they have a Hair-Trigger Temper. For the trope's opposite, see Kindness Button. See also Trauma Button.

For other related tropes, see Anger Tropes, Protective Tropes, Obsession Tropes and Prejudice Tropes.


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Real Life