Smile. It confuses people.
—Various t-shirts and bumper stickers.
Bob just asked to borrow one of Alice's favorite records. Unfortunately, due to an accident involving a microwave, a packet of pop-rocks, and his Volvo
, Bob brings back the album shattered into pieces. He returns to Alice, expecting towering rage, an Armor-Piercing Slap
or Megaton Punch
, or worse. Instead, Alice takes back the pieces, thanks him for returning the album, and offers him a stick of gum before he heads out. He leaves in a suspicious, bemused daze. Charlene, Alice's roommate, asks if Alice has forgiven Bob.
"No way," Alice says. "I just wanted to throw him off balance before I made him squirm!"
This trope represents instances in which a character acts with politeness, kindness, or courtesy toward an enemy - not out of true well-meaning, but out of a desire to confuse, disturb, disorient, or lull the enemy into a false sense of security.
On occasion, the character will make an Unsmile
, Slasher Smile
, or something similar while doing this - especially when the intention is to disturb or frighten the victim rather than just to confuse them.
Compare Paranoia Gambit
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Anime & Manga
- In the manga adaptation of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji refuses to punch Touji back for the decking he got earlier, saying that he preferred Touji to owe him one.
- In an Archie Comics story where Betty starts off with despairing over the utter lack of courtesy she witnesses at a supermarket, she starts a project where she acts nothing less than utterly kind to the most disagreeable person she can think of: Reggie. After enduring some of Reggie's barbs, she simply laughs it off as him being witty; he then gets so confused that he doesn't commit his usual list of offenses and instead casually greets the people he usually picks on (e.g. poking fun at Archie's clumsiness, Dilton's nerdiness, nor flirting with Midge). When Betty hears the gang chatting about his unusual behavior at Pop Tate's, she's triumphant.
Live Action TV
- One of the Rules of Acquisition as stated by Quark in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Every once in a while, declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies."
- In the [[Series/Scrubs]] episode 'Their Story II', the Janitor doesn't get mad at Sunny when she is involved in a prank against him. While she is initially glad, she soon agonises over how the Janitor punishes the other perpetrators yet remains amiable to her. She believes it is because the Janitor considers her weak, but in the end he reveals that her agonising was the punishment in itself.
- Sheldon uses this to wind up and ultimately get back at Leonard in the episode The Itchy Brain Simulation in The Big Bang Theory. Not only does his calm demeanor eventually drive Leonard crazy (with the help of his itchy sweater), it also freaks out/confuses his other friends.
- A Rocky and Bullwinkle story arc has the duo dealing with an infestation of man-eating plants called Pottsylvania Creepers. After every attempt to stop them fails, Bullwinkle says "We've tried everything except being nice to them!" And sure enough, that turns out to be the answer. The Creepers are so used to people being understandably hostile to them that they don't know how to react to kindness, so they wither and die from it.