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Correlation Causation Gag
"My bear went off!"
Radar, Mash, after pointing a teddy bear at the colonel at the same time someone shoots himself in the foot

A situation where a character doing something minor seemingly causes some major effect, although it's obvious that's actually not the case. If the character is an animal, young, or just plain stupid, they might think that they actually (say) caused a explosion by pointing their finger. Otherwise, they'll simply be shocked and confused. Take, for example:

Alice and Bob are playing around in the woods, Flynning with some sticks. But when their sticks clash, they hear a massive explosion! Did the clashing of two seemingly normal sticks sound off such a massive bang?

Of course it didn't, but the gag is that it seemed like it did. What actually happened was dynamite detonating about half a mile away to open a mine, or a warship firing its guns in the distance, or something similar; they just heard the explosion at the same time their sticks hit.

The name comes from the logical fallacy of Correlation vs. Causation (two things happening in succession or together does not imply that one caused the other). This is where the humor or irony in this trope comes from.

Often Played for Laughs (or at least irony). Framed for Heroism is a specific subtrope. It can, however, be Played for Drama, as it can be used to reveal something ominous (like an invasion or gunfire). If a minor act truly does have a catastrophic effect, that is Unwitting Instigator of Doom.

Examples

Advertising
  • In the "Darth Vader Kid" Super Bowl commercial, a boy tries to use The Force to manipulate everyday objects around the home, but is continually disappointed. He then tries to use it on his dad's Volkswagen, and his dad starts the engine remotely, making him think he has succeeded.
  • There is an entire set of Bud Light commercials centered around guys who draw conclusions of this type between random actions on their part (Going to the basement for more beer, inviting an annoying coworker over to see the game, eating a veggie burger...) and good fortune happening to their favorite football team.

Anime and Manga
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos: Near the beginning, Alphonse sets off a party popper, and at the same time there is an explosion outside causing all the glass in the windows behind him to shatter. He cries out "That wasn't me!"
  • Naruto: A trio from the Cloud Village are headed to Konoha. On the way, Karui throws a rock at Omoi, which misses and falls into a valley. Omoi immediately freaks out, imagining the rock somehow causing a massive rock slide which would level Konoha. Upon arrival at Konoha... it's a crater due to the previous, entirely unrelated arc, causing a beautiful Oh Crap reaction from the two. (The third member of the team is the Only Sane Man who quickly dispels the notion.)

Film
  • The Dark Knight: Two boys are mime-shooting imaginary guns at cars on the street. Suddenly, there's an explosion where they were aiming, making it seem as though they caused it.
  • In The Lion King, Simba roars, trying to scare off the hyenas attacking him and Nala, but as a small cub he can only manage a small growl-ish thing. The hyenas taunt him about it, goading him to try again, but this time Mufasa roars at the exact same time Simba does.
    • Invoked darkly again in the stampede scene; Simba is practicing his roar (nudged on by Scar), and when he manages a particularly loud one, the wildebeest begin the stampede...which the hyenas had started on a cliff above by attacking them. Scar uses this to his advantage in making Simba think he killed his father.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, there's a scene where Indy is trying to break into a secret passage in a library, causing loud thumps to echo through the library — coincidentally in time with the librarian stamping a pile of books. At one point, the librarian stops and looks at the stamp with a puzzled expression.
  • Mallrats: Silent Bob tries to use the force to retrieve a fallen VHS. Someone bumps the support it had fallen on, knocking it up into Bob's hand. This later triggers his only line in the movie, where he quotes Yoda.
  • In Space Jam, Wayne Knight's character takes a photograph of Michael Jordan just as the latter is sucked down a golf hole. After a second, Bill Murray demands to know what kind of camera that is, and that it not be pointed at him.
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: Brom Bones has a dog howl just as Ichabod is giving a singing lesson, causing him to think he produced the sound himself.
  • In The Road to El Dorado, our heroes have just arrived in the City Of Gold, and are mistaken for gods. After being asked for a show of godly power, they get into an argument. As their fighting builds to a peak, a nearby volcano starts to erupt, only to abruptly stop just as Tulio yells "STOP!" at Miguel.

Literature
  • Good Omens: The witch-finder Shadwell mistakes Aziraphale for a demon and points an accusing finger at him at the exact moment Aziraphale's mortal body is destroyed from the backlash of scuffing a pentagram. Shadwell spends the rest of the novel believing he has the power to banish demons with his finger.

Live Action TV
  • In the Season 4 M*A*S*H episode "The Gun", Radar is blamed for the loss of a colonel's personal revolver (actually stolen by Frank Burns). Radar eventually gets drunk and confronts the colonel with a teddy bear; at the same time Frank tries to return the gun...and shoots himself in the foot.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation a child who was the lone survivor of a destroyed starship thinks he caused it because he accidentally hit a computer console when he was thrown off-balance just before everything blew up.
  • In one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Uncle Phil runs for a judge position against a former mentor of his, who is rather nasty in his campaign. When the former mentor wins, Phil insists that they go to his party anyway. At the party, Will derides his uncle's opponent, culminating in a, "You can drop dead for all I care!" He does.
  • In the episode of Jeeves and Wooster where Bertie goes to stay in Devon, there's a scene where somebody blows a car horn several times to attract his attention, each time just as he's blowing a note in the trombone he's learning to play, with the result that the trombone apparently makes a noise even Bertie can tell trombones shouldn't make.
  • In Alice, Charlie gets in one last shot from his crossbow, and then the Hearts Casino explodes. He triumphantly whispers, "Bullseye!" before passing out. Cut to the arrow landing uselessly in the middle of a field.
  • Community
    Jeff: I know it's sad, but death is a natural part of life and by the time I finish this sentence, a hundred people will have died in China.
    Troy: [wild-eyed] WHY DID YOU STOP TALKING?! I have to call my penpal!

Video Games
  • In the World of Warcraft expansion Cataclysm, there's a game going on Goblin starting zone, of a sport similar to soccer but played by woodcutting robots of death with a bomb for a ball. The player character takes part in such a game, but kicks the bombball through the goalposts so hard it flies into a nearby volcano, which then erupts, starting the titular Cataclysm event.

Webcomics
  • Shamus Young links the failure of MMORPG game Tabula Rasa and its eccentric creator's space tourism in this Stolen Pixels strip:
    The publishers are apparently so enraged at designer Richard Garriott that they've decided to launch his ass into space, which seems excessive to me. But this MMO stuff is apparently a cutthroat business.

Western Animation
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender , Momo is playing with some pebbles. He drops one on a rock, but at the exact moment the pebble hits the rock, a nearby Earthbender chucks a rock at a wall, making it seem as if Momo's pebble caused the bang. Made hilarious when it happens twice.
  • In the Sponge Bob Square Pants episode "Hall Monitor", Patrick is eating ice-cream when SpongeBob calls him. Patrick thinks his ice-cream is the one who spoke and has a freak-out.
    • In another episode, "Valentines Day", Patrick makes a valentine for SpongeBob out of stone when SpongeBob calls him. Patrick thinks SpongeBob is trapped inside the rock and smashes it in an attempt to rescue him.
  • On the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Oily Hare", a Texas oilman lowers dynamite down Bugs' burrow to blast for oil. Bugs sees the "present" and throws a party. The oilman is then confounded when he detonates the dynamite and hears noisemakers instead of explosions.
  • In Hey Arnold!, Harold, Sid and Stinky wanted to replicate Mr. Simmons Soda and Vinegar Experiment. They tied up 7 rockets together and added a whole jug of vinegar and a whole box of Baking Soda (and Tabasco Sauce). The rockets went out of control and landed on the Police Dept. At the same time, Ernie was commisioned to demolish the old Police Dept. They think they exploded the Police Dept and attempt to escape and become hobos.

Other
  • In one of Jeff Dunham's routines, Walter tells a story about how he told his grandson to pull Grandpa's finger. When the boy did, an earthquake went off.
    Walter: Little snot will clean his room when told.
  • Subverted in a Russian Humour story about a warship. A torpedo is fired in the ship's direction, and the captain wants the bosun to prevent crew panic. The bosun comes to the deck and yells: "Let's bet that I can sink our ship with a fart!" and promptly farts. An explosion, fire, everybody jumps into the water. The captain angrily yells: "You're an idiot, bosun, and your jokes are stupid! The torpedo missed!".
  • Invoked in another joke. A very old man goes to the doctor for a check-up and proudly mentions that his attractive young wife is pregnant. The doctor tells him a story about a hunter who picks up an umbrella instead of his gun when he goes out one day. A bear attacks the hunter, who raises his umbrella. There's a loud bang and the bear drops dead. "What do you think of that?" asks the doctor. "Impossible!" says the old man. "Someone else must have been doing the shooting." "Exactly," says the doctor.


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