Interviewer: How do you think your fans will react [now that you're returning to playing golf after being treated for sex addiction]?
: I don't know. I don't know.
— Interview, March 22, 2010
An ubiquitous utterance in film, television, and the legitimate theatre, signifying that the protagonist is (dramatically) out of ideas. For real, this time.
Whereas in Real Life
, most of us are content to say "I don't know" once, if at all, fictional characters are likely to repeat the phrase for dramatic effect. It's a common act break, being almost magnetically attracted to music stings and commercial breaks.
Although there are several variations of the Double Don't Know, there are a few particularly common breeds. Samples, with context:
After School Specials
Concerned Parent: But what about the Mid-Winter Sophomore Diversity Dance Social?
Troubled Teen: I don't know anymore... I just don't know!
(runs away, slamming any doors in her path)
Guy At Console: ''The ship's glowy core thing is bright red and leaking smoke for some reason! And stuff is shaking — that means this is serious, captain. What should we do!"
Captain: ''I don't know, Console Guy. I don't know."
(close-up of pulsating space-gas blob on the view screen)
The Double Don't Know is closely related to One-Liner, Name... One-Liner
- simple, repetitive phrases used to provide closure to a scene or plot, including but not limited to: "I do, Billy. I really do," or, "It sure is, Billy. It sure is." etc. This variation is mostly a Dead Horse Trope
, though the namesake phrase(s) linger on.
The Double Don't Know
is a stock phrase
trope. It has nothing to do with "what now?" cliffhangers that don't feature repetitive statements akin to those described above. It's also unrelated to Donald Rumsfeld's famous Unknown Unknowns
- "the things we don't know we don't know".
- From the Jonny Quest episode "The Robot Spy":
Jonny: What is it, Dad?
Dr. Quest: I don't know, Jonny, I really don't know!
- In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Bruce has yet to become Batman, and is torn between fulfilling his promise to his parents and his new love Andrea Beaumont. He knows that he can't risk his life if someone is waiting at home for him. Alfred walks in and suggests he tell her that, as she's on the phone.
Bruce: Alfred, I can't. Not now.
Alfred: What shall I say, sir?
- Played straight - as so many things were - in I Was a Teenage Werewolf.
- Top Gun, as the classic '80s cliche storm, features it, though in a slightly different way than might be expected.
Viper: Would you wanna fly with him?
Jester: I dunno. I just don't know.
- In Ghostbusters, after being fired from the University:
Ray: This ecto-containment unit that Spengler and I talked about is going to take a load of bread to capitalize. Where are we going to get the money?
Peter: [takes a swig from a bottle] I don't know, Ray. I don't know...
- The Terminator: When Kyle and Sarah are on the run from the Terminator, she asks him if he can stop it.
Sarah: Can you stop it?
Reese: I dunno. With these weapons, I dunno.
- In the Dirty Harry series film The Enforcer, one of the terrorists wants to know something:
Bobby: Did Wanda deliver the [Ransom Note] tape to the cops?
Lalo: I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. I wasn't with her.
- In the court case of Perry v. Hollingsworth, which attempts to strike down California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriages, the court's decision had the following:
At oral argument on proponents’ motion for summary judgment, the court posed to proponents’ counsel the assumption that “the state’s interest in marriage is procreative” and inquired how permitting same-sex marriage impairs or adversely affects that interest. Counsel replied that the inquiry was “not the legally relevant question,” but when pressed for an answer, counsel replied: “Your honor, my answer is: I don’t know. I don’t know.”
- John McCain spoke on November 5, 2008 at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, Phoenix, Arizona, when he conceded the Presidential election to Barack Obama:
I don't know. [interrupted by applause] I don't know what more we could have done to try to win this election.
: Can you think of anything that would make that last show something other than completely worthless? Waldorf
: I don't know, Statler, I just don't know! Both