It won't end well.
So you're facing a powerful enemy, and you appear to have some sort of power over them? Perhaps you've locked them up, or they're not as terrifying as you thought, or maybe they've lost all their powers. At any rate, you start to taunt them, confident in your victory.
And they promptly obliterate you.
We repeat: Do. Not. Taunt. Cthulhu.
A Sister Trope to Death by Mocking.
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Anime & Manga
Dragon Ball Z: Do not piss off Buu. Chi-Chi did this, and was turned into an egg and crushed in front of her family, friends, and her youngest child, Goten! In the Battle of Gods movie, Buu is on the receiving end of this trope when he eats two plates of custard that Bills wanted and then mocks him for it. Bills responds by blasting him into a lake, then fishing him out and smashing his head against Gohan's.
In Shakugan no Shana, do not attack Shana or get in Yuji's (as the Snake of the Festival) way with her or else he'll grievously hurt and/or even kill you.
Belldandy from Ah! My Goddess is a nice girl...but when a jerkass attempted to rape her, she kicked his ass. Withlightning. In the manga, she instead tossed him through a wall, with a tornado.
In Pokémon: The First Movie, Ash's Charizard, upon being released from his Poké Ball, looks Mewtwo in the eye before defiantly blasting a Flamethrower in his direction. Mewtwo just shrugs it off.
In Bokurano, one military officer who points a gun at Koyemshi loses the hand(anime)/fingers(manga) attached to it, and Koyemshi comments "You really are beyond help. Provoking an enemy without grasping his strength?". In the anime, immediately after Kanji gives a You Monster! remark to Koyemshi for the second time , he asks if he has a death wish, then arranges for him to pilot next which will end with his death.
In Little Witch Academia, the Alpha Bitch and her cohorts find an ominous container at the bottom of a dungeon. They open it, expecting some sort of final boss, but a harmless lizard crawls out. Unaware of the fact that it eats magic, they make fun of it and blast it with spells. It quickly grows into an enormous dragon and goes on a rampage through the school.
In Attack on Titan, the Survey Corps has a really bad habit of taunting the Female Titan whenever they appear to have the advantage.
Doctor Strange foe Dormammu once greatly increased his already immense power to the point of literally pushing the Hulk around. Unfazed, the green goliath threatened Dormammu, but the dark lord merely mocked him and warned that insulting him would be unwise. When the Hulk asked why, Dormammu responded that he had enough power to defeat him without lifting a finger, but Hulk's only response was "That I'd like t'see". In the next panel, Hulk was turned into glass. Hulk has been on the other side of this as well. Taunting him isn't really advisable, yet people are dead set on picking fights with him.
In one chapter of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Progress, Princess Luna, the immortal god-queen of the moon, is tormented with her fear of baseballs by Angel Bunny. In the next chapter, Luna starts to overcome said fear with a little help from Fluttershy and Applebloom, and proceeds to terrify Angel into submission when he tries it again (mainly because he broke her glasses).
In the Total Drama story, Legacy, when Chef Hatchet leaves Duncan and LeShawna to guard the (currently unarmed and docile) serial killer, he sternly warns them to not taunt the prisoner.
Queen Tiamat, the Dragon's patron deity, is exceptionally polite and generally a nice woman. However, attempted genocide on her people will piss her off, and her resulting Roaring Rampage of Revengeleveled a country.
In Star WarsA New Hope, Admiral Motti feels the need to mock Darth Vader (and the Force), who, it must be said, is a telekinetic, lightsaber-packing, 7-foot-tall armored hulk of a man who has no qualms about killing people. Just to make a point, Vader gives the first ever demonstration of what the Force is capable of by using it to casually strangle the admiral from across the room, stopping only after Tarkin asked.
Swimming To Cambodia:
Athol Fugard: Spalding! The sea's a lovely lady when you play in her. But if you play with her, she's a BITCH! Play in the sea, yes, but never play with her. You're lucky to be here! You're lucky to be ALIVE!
Stuart Little 2 has something sort of like this. After being told that Margolo isn't going anywhere, Stuart replies, "Yes she is!" and fires an arrow at Falcon which simply bounces off his beak. This, of course, pisses him off, and his retaliation almost manages to kill Stuart.
In The Remake of Clash of the Titans, the human characters do this a lot. Their plan is apparently to render the gods mortal by ceasing to worship them. They appear to have overlooked the fact that they're still invincible teleporting superbeings, who don't take kindly to humanity's rather laughable attempts to fight them. The Dragon is memorable for taunting Zeus (i.e. the god of thunder) on a cliff during a thunderstorm by raising his sword toward the heavens. That would be a bad idea without all-powerful beings who get angry at the drop of a hat.
Two villain-on-hero examples come from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both directed at Hulk of course. The first happens in The Incredible Hulk when Emil "Soon-To-Be-Abomination" Blonsky walks right up to the big green guy and says "Is that all you got?". He is promptly punted into a tree and breaks most of his bones. The second example happens in the tail end of The Avengers. Loki mistakenly believes that Hulk can be threatened into surrendering and is grabbed by the cape and beaten into the ground for his trouble. "Puny god."
The serial-killing menace in The Car goes out of its way to run down people who taunt it, including plowing through one victim's house.
Towards the end of Licence to Kill, it's safe to say that Franz Sanchez had a bad day. His drug refining facility has been destroyed, the religious cult cover has been exposed, and Bond has now destroyed two of the tankers with millions of dollars worth of petro-cocaine and managed to steal one. The last thing he needs at this point was his snot-nosed financial adviser berating him for messing up a lucrative business.
Brian Lumley's "The House of Cthulhu" focuses on some barbarians who go to R'lyeh. Their leader dismisses the legend of a star-spawned abomination as a myth to scare away the weak, and believes the "tomb" to hold vast treasures. He's wrong.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld books contains Rincewind describing Twoflower as such: if total chaos and destruction were lightning, Twoflower is the equivalent of "standing on top of a mountain in a thunderstorm, wearing full copper plate armour, while shouting at the top of your voice "ALL GODS ARE BASTARDS"."
Hysterically done to Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Bilbo makes this mistake when talking to Smaug. While Smaug can't see him since he's invisible, he can smell Bilbo, as well as hear him breathing, so he's got a good rough idea of where the little hobbit is. Smaug also has fire breath. Bilbo gets somewhat burned for taunting the dragon, and in a rare example of this trope where the person who did the taunting figures out it's a bad idea, is prompted into saying "Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!"
In The Odyssey, Odysseus taunts Polyphemus the Cyclops after having blinded him and escaped back to the ship. An unwise decision on Odysseus' part, since this incenses Polyphemus' father — who just happens to be Poseidon, god of the sea, who ensures that Odysseus doesn't make it back home for another ten years. What really made this unwise is that Odysseus revealed his real name while taunting. If he just had let Polyphemus think it was "No Man" who blinded him, then he wouldn't have suffered for almost ten years. A film version had Odysseus taunt Poseidon himself after the destruction of Troy, claiming humans no longer needed gods. After finally having enough of being fate's bitch, Odysseus asked Poseidon what he wanted. Poseidon replied that he merely wanted to show Odysseus that humans will always need gods.
In the Khaavren romances, Morrolan e'Drien sets off to kill the Physical God Tri'na'gore for various reasons, including that god's followers sacking his adopted home town while he was away. After slaughtering a village full of Tri'na'gore worshipers, Morrolan decides to relieve himself on the god's altar, causing him to manifest so quickly and angrily Morrolan barely has time to button up his pants. This was a bad idea on Tri'na'gore's part.
In the Harry Potter books, Hogwarts' motto translates to "Never Tickle A Sleeping Dragon". Take from that what you will.
In The Dresden Files, Harry does this pretty much all the time. Sometimes the "power" he has over the creature in question is that they consider that it would be politically disadvantageous or just impolite to kill him, rather tenuous protections. At one point, when going to ask Odin for help, he thinks of a joke, then remembers that he shouldn't mouth off to his door guards. Then does it anyway, and defends himself by pointing out that he's insulted the faerie queens, vampire courts, and demigods; at this point it's expected of him.
After a certain point in the series, Harry himself could be considered Cthulhu...
In the book Ghost Story, Harry makes the mistake of leaving the "el" off of the Archangel Uriel's name. Uriel, who's a cheerful and affable sort, very quickly tells Harry that he does not want to make that mistake again. The Fridge Brilliance behind it: "Uriel" means "Light of God", with "el" being the "God" part. Who else's name meant just "light"? Lucifer.
I thought it had more to do with Harry's penchant for nicknames combined with the whole "names are powerful" thing.
"Cthulhu's" reaction? To ask politely to not taunt him again. Also unique (particularly for Harry!) in that it was UNINTENTIONAL.
Inverted in Death Masks when Murphy meets Harry's mentor, Ebenezar. She is not impressed, and demands brisquely she be the driver since he doesn't have a license in Chicago. Harry tells Ebenezar he better just let her do so, calling the older man 'sir'. Cue Murphy dropping her armload in pure, unfiltered shock at hearing Harry Dresden address someone with authority with respect. She talks to Ebenezar afterwards as if he's on the same level as the Pope.
In Everworld, Senna is pretty quick to remind the team that it's nice to stand by your morals but sane people do not anger the trigger-happy gods by refusing to sacrifice a goat. Unfortunately, they don't listen and it takes some very quick thinking by Jalil to get them out of a serious mess.
The War Against the Chtorr. In the short story "Enterprise Fish" an Upper-Class Twit is The Load on an investigation into the eponymous creature, a huge monster fish beached and decaying on the shores of Alaska. He doesn't listen when the protagonist tries to explain that the creature isn't 'dead' as it's actually a colony of creatures, all feeding off the decaying body of their host. The twit starts slapping and then kicking the corpse, only to be swallowed whole by something leaping out of its flesh.
In The Southern Reach Trilogy, the twelfth expedition into the Eldritch Location Area X hears a moaning creature in the reeds and decides to taunt it by moaning back at it. When the moaning becomes louder and angrier, they realize that this was perhaps not such a good idea after all, and quickly desist.
The episode "Fear Itself" has a subversion, where they see the Fear Demon that has been terrifying them all episode be no more than a Barbie doll. Xander starts baby talking him when Giles tells him to "Don't taunt the Fear Demon.". Xander wants to know if it's a threat, but Giles assures him "No. It's just tacky."
And in "Something Blue":
Buffy: Oh, look at my poor neck. All bare and tender and exposed. All that blood just pum-ping away.
Spike: Giles, make her stop!
Buffy is attacked by a vampire on the way home from the burger joint she works at, only for him to back off as she smells awful. The vampire is in the middle of saying he'll just have to try eating her another day when a pissed-off Buffy hurls a stake into his chest.
In season one of Heroes, Mohinder has Sylar tied up and begins to taunt him. The trope name didn't need to be said for the audience to start saying it.
Picard learns the hard way that for all his flippancy, Q is still a near-omnipotent being of god-like power. When Q offers to join the Enterprise crew, even going so far as offering to renounce his powers and bring his near-limitless knowledge to their aid, they all but laugh in his face, claiming they are equipped to handle things themselves. With a snap of his fingers Q puts it to the test by hurling them into the path of The Borg. Even if Q wasn't exactly trustworthy, it was a supremely arrogant statement on the part of Picard, and one that ended up costing him not only his pride (having to beg Q to save them), but the lives of several crew-members. Not to mention everyone else who the Borg eventually assimilate or kill in the Alpha Quadrant, the latter including Picard.
This was eventually revealed as deliberately set-up on Q's part to shatter Starfleet's complacency. The Borg already knew about Earth and had it on the list to be conquered, but the Federation would have been caught completely off-guard without this little demonstration. As for the method, well, an immortal has to have some fun.
Q: If the Continuum has told you once, they've told you 1000 times, DON'T PROVOKE THE BORG!
In the same episode, q at one point seals Neelix's mouth shut. Later on, when his powers are removed temporarily, Neelix feels the need to mock and annoy an individual who may once again gain unlimited power in a week.
Like the Doctor, this trope applies to Jack in Torchwood, and when he dies and comes back, Owen to some extent. People underestimate Jack, thinking he's nothing more than an ordinary human, albeit a very annoying one... with over a century of experience in combat, obfuscation and political intrigue. And that's selling him short.
Played for Laughs when Wesley has to consult a loa about a prophecy. The Loa takes the form of a giant plastic burger-man outside a fast food joint. Wes starts arguing with the Loa, who promptly zaps him with lightning from its eyes.
Loa: "Your insolence is displeasing." Wes: (picking himself back up) "You try chatting with a cranky hamburger!"
Death in Supernatural embodies this trope, and everyone knows it. Dean, who has at one point threatened to hunt freakingGoddown like he hunts down everything else, immediately shuts up in Death's presence. When they mess things up in Season 6 and the Leviathans get out of Purgatory, Death tells Dean what he needs to do to put them back in. Dean snarks for the first time in Death's presence. Death immediately turns around and says "Figure it out.". Dean shrinks down and obeys. This is after Dean uses Lucifer's own spell to bind Death. Dean and Bobby try to politely make requests and sometimes demands from Death but always end up stuttering and adding some nice words and/or honorific to the request. After Castiel frees Death and takes off, we have the awkward moment of Death sitting amongst the people who bound him to their service and we get this exchange.
Sam and Bobby look to Dean
Dean: ... Ahem... umm-
Death: Shut up, Dean.
Dean nods quickly and shuts his mouth
In The Walking Dead, Carl finds a walker with its feet stuck in the mud by a riverbank, and decides to foolishly stay, throwing rocks at it, then coming in close to shoot it... At which point it manages to wrench one of its legs free, knocking the gun from his hand and nearly catches him before he can get away. Later it makes its way to the farm and kills Dale.
The Incredible Hulk: Not a good idea to upset someone that can change into a large green monster.
Banner: "Mister McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
In Leslie Fish's Filk Song"Bashing the Balrog", a low-level adventuring party attempts to take on the titular balrog, with predictable results. Especially pertinent is this verse:
It is even more foolhardy For the changed and weakened party To stare back at the balrog and to say, "We can zap and we can bite you, We are quite prepared to fight you, We suggest you turn around and fly away!"
And that's called insulting the balrog For balrogs aren't easy to bluff They know with a competent balrog, No army is half strong enough\\
In one Garfield strip, Garfield started teasing a leashed dog.
Don't take God lightly. There's a reason "Don't take His name in vain" is one of the Commandments, and many Blasphemous Boasts have been answered.
The same goes for His representatives; the best example is probably when a gang decides to start mouthing off to Elisha. They are promptly mauled by bears.
In extra-Biblical Christian legend, there's the Wandering Jew. Y'see, this guy decided it would be fun to taunt Jesus on his way to be crucified. According to the legend, this man is still wandering around to this day, and will be until the Second Coming.
Also applies to Angels, as well. One person thought it was a good idea to mouth off to Gabriel, which ended poorly. He didn't die or anything, but being mute for 9 months while his wife was pregnant must have been a real pain in the arse.
It's generally a very, very bad idea to mock the deities of Greek Mythology, even if you are also a deity or part-deity. The Greek gods could be very petty and very cruel to those who offended them. (For the most part, they were petty and cruel to everybody, but mouthing off did earn you extra attention.)
When Fergus goes to negotiate the terms of Combat by Champion with Cu Chulainn in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, Etarcomol begs to come along. Fergus allows Etarcomol to accompany him on the condition that Etarcomol keep his mouth shut, as nothing good can come out of taunting an unstoppable demigod as Just a Kid. So naturally, the Etarcomol decides to taunt the unstoppable demigod, challenge the unstoppable demigod to a duel, and insist on continuing the Duel to the Death after the unstoppable demigod kicks his ass three times in a row and tells him to scram.
In BIONICLE's Federation of Fear webserial, Carapar tries to attack their world's Cthulhu counterpart Tren Krom, only to get destroyed by one of the creature's laser eyes.
Besides Cthulhu, the page picture could also have been inspired by what Ultros says right before battling him in Final Fantasy VI: "Uwee hee hee! Game over! Don't tease the octopus, kids!"
In the first Spongebob Squarepants game, you are warned, "It's not a good idea to antagonize the Dutchman right now."
In StarCraft on a certain installation mission, a pair of marines are shooting at some zerglings in a pen. One complacently states "Hehe, they're not so tough, they bleed too." Subsequently the base is overrun by zerg.
In a similar type of mission in the Brood War Expansion. When the base gets overrun by Zerg, your squad will eventually come across a group of Ultralisks trapped in a pen. One of the marines will say, "Well wouldya look at that! They're trapped!" And they really are.
It is played straight in the demo (which is set before the events of the retail game), where after a marine says the same thing, the zerg units escape through a door that opens right then and there.
Left 4 Dead: As any experienced player will tell you, do not startle the Witch!
In Team Fortress 2, There is only one golden rule if you're near a Heavy: NEVER touch his weaponry, especially his Minigun whom he calls "Sasha", or else he will mow you down with it. It's also dangerous if you kill his assisting Medic.
In Clive Barker's Jericho, poor Cole decides to inform the team that the Firstborn is going to unleash some crazy awesome reality bending magical shit. As thanks, he implodes her mortal form.
After solving a conflict between a priestess of Umberlee and some followers of Talos, the hero of Baldur's Gate notes that "Gods are not to be trifled with. They trifle back."
In Metroid Prime, on one of the Space Pirates terminals you can read "Science Team reminds all personnel to refrain from antagonizing Metroids. Severe penalties will be enforced for all violations of this order." Similarly, the Chozo warn against defacing their artifacts lest the offenders "face [their] wrath, unfettered and raw." Meta-Ridley missed the memo. The Space Pirates were also warned to refrain from feeding the Metroids pet food, as they can't digest solid food and get sick (and more irritable) from eating it. Do not food-poison Cthulhu?
Subverted in Arcanum. One of the end-game characters in a giant, humanoid dragon. Logic would suggest not pissing this creature off. However, as you can learn earlier in the game, this creature is actually a human who transformed himself with magic and a huge coward. Puff up your chest (or mention Nasrudin, the wizard who locked him up in the final dungeon in the first place) and he'll be cowed instantly. Even better, he's one of the few characters in the game you can't provoke to attack you through dialogue. Keep threatening and insulting him all you like, he won't raise a talon.
In City of Heroes there are classes and powersets that include a Taunt power. Tankers are especially encouraged to taunt high-level villains... including gods.
Yuuto lacks what might be considered proper respect for the godlike Wisdom in Eien no Aselia. As in, he insults it, berates it and ignores it whenever possible. Not that he has no respect, he's just rude in general.
Additionally, as the byproduct of extraordinarily powerful necromantic magic, it may not be a good idea for the Nameless One to offend Lothgar, Keeper of Skulls.
Morte, one of the companions, has an ability called Litany of Curses that when used on an enemy causes him to spout a random insult at it. If you attempt to use it on some of the most powerful enemies in the game, such as The Fiend From Mordor's Box, in place of his normal insult Morte will instead say "No way, I am not taunting that!"
Played with in Dragon Age II. Knight-Commander Meredith clearly sees herself as The Hero and despite her mandate to track down Apostates, she allows Mage Hawke to continue roaming freely around Kirkwall. It's heavily implied that Meredith doesn't want a riot for arresting the people's Champion, not to mention the fact that even if she managed to get Mage!Hawke in chains, she'd likely lose hundreds of Templars during the attempt.
In Psychonauts, you can use your Psychic Powers on a large variety of things, including the teachers who taught you the techniques. Doing so will not make them attack you back, but they note that they certainly could:
Cruller (after being picked up with telekinesis): "Yes, very good. Now try it on something that won't make your head explode when you make it mad!"
At the start of the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money, you wake up without your equipment and with a shiny bomb collar around your neck. Father Elijah tells you (via the holographic display in the fountain) that he had it placed there, that you may go free if you do what he tells you, and that he won't hesitate to blow your head up if you refuse to play along, or try to get smart with him. You have a dialogue option to refuse rather rudely. Choose it, and he will blow your head up. Hey, what did you expect would happen?
In a MMORPG, it's never a good idea to mock the Random Number God, because mess up your day or deny you gear drops. Don't shower it with praise either, it only pulls its attention on you. Or casually mention it in chat. Or ignore it. Who knows what really sets it off to begin with?
In Evil Genius, you can capture enemy agents and taunt them for points (at a small risk of them escaping). If you try this on a Super Agent they will escape, and assuming they don't kill you right then and there, will blow up half your base on their way out.
Tossing him into magma was nice; early on, Richard animated the skeletons of his enemies while they were still alive.
Gunnerkrigg Court: Coyote gets his nose flicked on this page. Antimony later has to be reminded (rather violently) that however amicable and silly Coyote acts most of the time, he and his ilk are not to be trifled with.
2. Do not taunt Cardinal Krozen about his inability to capture/kill the Crew. It's not bad, just tacky. 3. Do not taunt the The Lords of Dust about their inability to capture the Crew. It really should be bad, but it's not. Still tacky. 4. Do not taunt Queen Aurala about her inability to capture the Crew. Otherwise she'll stamp her foot and pout.
There is a creepypasta floating around the Internet called The Willow Men. In the story, the narrator sees fit in his ultimate wisdom to taunt the titular forest spirits, who are widely known to exact justice for perceived wrongdoings. Things quickly go downhill...
In Caught Not Sleeping, Caught, believing that the Operator symbols being left in his area are just part of some kind of prank, leaves a $20 bill in one of them, playing along and laughing about how stupid the joke was. He then turns around and finds that the very real Slender Man does not enjoy being mocked.
The protagonist Blake has a bad habit of doing this when cornered in Pact. Considering that one of the beings in question is a literal manifestation of Conquest and close to a god and another is a Sphinx who dislikes smartmouths, that is a bad thing.
The Slimer! short "Don't Tease the Sleaze" is pretty much made of this. The eponymous Sleaze is locked in the Ghostbusters' containment unit. Ray cautions Slimer not to taunt it. You know what happens next.
Of course in this case it was reversed as rather harmless Ed was taunting his insane little sister Sarah
The trope is taken to its most depressing level in Superman: The Animated Series. Darkseid is trying to take over Earth. He's captured Superman and it looks like he's going to win. But Dan Turpin steps up, rallies the public, and even manages to free Superman. Then New Genesis shows up to scare Darkseid off. As Darkseid leaves, Turpin shouts taunts after him. Darkseid pauses, then tells Superman that every victory has its price right before vaporizing Turpin in an excellent example of not-played-for-laughs spite.
In JumanjiThe Series, any player who tries to cheat, insult, or damage the malignant game gets randomly transformed into an animal, or gets attacked by its inhabitants. Of course it mostly happens to Peter whether it's his fault or not.
Avatar The Last Airbender had Zhao, a man who thought that killing the spirit of the moon was a good idea. We don't really know what consequences it ultimately might have had, but it definitely got the ocean spirit to rip apart the Fire Nation fleet.
By the time of the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, we find out that he was tossed in the Fog of Lost Souls, a Spirit World prison for intrusive humans that forever leaves them in a despondent state. He's forever doomed to be ranting about being the Moonslayer and wanting to kill the Avatar.
The Legend of Korra; during their one-on-one duel near Zaofu in Season 4, Kuvira confidently tells Korra that she's free to use all the elements, even the Avatar State. Once Korra does, she wipes the floor with Kuvira and only stopped when her Enemy Within showed up.
In the pilot episode of TRON: Uprising, Beck's friend Bodhi mouths off to the Black Guards that have just moved into Argon, claiming not to be afraid of them. He's promptly murdered to demonstrate that, yeah, you totally should be. Didn't quite have that effect on Beck, naturally.
DO NOT, under any circumstances, taunt Brock Sampson of The Venture Bros. Seriously, don't.
Doctor Orpheus: Sooo, anybody who doesn't immediately give you respect, you murder?
"Do Not Meddle In The Affairs Of Dragons, For You Are Crunchy And Taste Good With Ketchup." is a spin on the J. R. R. Tolkien line "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle, and quick to anger," which is possibly an interpretation of a quote of the even earlier G. K. Chesterton: "Do not invoke the ancient gods, for they annoy very easily."
The (possible) origin of the "Dragons" version is Bored of the Rings. It has also been attributed to: