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 their 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.

If a person seems to get angry over anything and everything, they have a Hair-Trigger Temper. For the negative effects of hitting the Berserk Button, see You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry. For the trope's opposite, see Kindness Button. See also Trauma Button. Compare and contrast Rant-Inducing Slight and Rage Breaking Point, where it's a series of events that causes them to no longer be able to hold back anymore. If a person gets angry that other people aren't taking a (very unimportant) thing seriously, see Serious Business.

This trope is not about anger in response to something that would reasonably enrage someone, like being hurt or threatened, having a loved one hurt or threatened, being seriously insulted and disrespected, etc — anger in those situations is a reasonable response. (Extreme reactions to minor provocations may still qualify, however.) Also, Berserk Button does not apply if the worst that happens is if the character scowls or frowns at the provocation. It's "Berserk Button", not "Mildly Put Out Button". If you see such an example on the page, or were link here by such an example, please remove it.

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


    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Four Gospels see Christ advocate for love for enemies repeatedly, but Christ's love can be tough, as seen when he finds Pharisees making a marketplace out of God's temple. Christ is furious at the worship of money, the selfishness of the Pharisses, and most of all, their hypocrisy for doing this while claiming the moral high ground. The messiah proceeds to flips the tables in the Temple and chases the Pharisees from the Temple.
    "My house shall be a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves."