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Double Subversion
aka: Doubly Subverted
"And sometimes there's a third, even deeper level... And that one is the same as the top, surface one. Like pie."

A Subverted Trope happens, or seems to happen... and then something "erases" the subversion.

These let a writer have their cake and eat it too: get the trick of a Subverted Trope, without abandoning the plot-furthering nature of that trope.

It is possible to triple subvert a trope (and so on); see Zig-Zagging Trope.

See Playing with a Trope for a comparison with many other ways that a trope can be used.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Quantum and Woody double subverts the Scary Black Man trope with Eric Henderson (Quantum). While he is a tall, muscular, and physically intimidating black man, his full-body costume and articulate speaking pattern means he's inevitably assumed to be Caucasian. People don't really freak out until they find out he's black underneath.
    "You're black? S-word!"

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • In All About Eve, Karen thinks about tricking Margo to help her understand, and justifies it to herself that Margo will like it, and there's no reason not to tell her..."in time."
  • In the 2009 Star Trek film, an obvious Red Shirt has to open his parachute in time to hit a floating platform. At first it seems he won't open his parachute in time and pancake himself onto the planet below, but in fact he does open it just in time... to burn up in the platform's rocket flame trail.
  • Death likes to play these in the Final Destination movies. Think that chain of events will kill our sure victim? Nope, he barely made it. But another trigger kills him anyway.
  • The Live-Action Adaptation of Speed Racer had one with Racer X's identity. Those familiar with the original show will remember that he's Rex Racer, Speed's older brother. However, the dramatic unmasking at the end shows that Racer X looks completely different from the Rex seen earlier in the film. But it's later revealed that it really IS Rex after all, and he had cosmetic surgery to hide his identity after faking his death, in order to protect his family.
  • Megamind double subverts a huge slew of Superhero Tropes
  • At one point in Monsters vs. Aliens, the heroes are wearing Paper Thin Disguises. Unfortunately, one of the enemies sees right through them... wait, scratch that. He only saw through one of them. The rest of the disguises seem to be working just fine. He even helps the heroes "arrest" the one he spotted.
  • In Buster Keaton's "One Week" (1920), a couple of newlyweds is given a portable house and a piece of land. Towards the end of the film, they discover that they have built the house on the wrong lot, and have to tow it across railroad tracks; predictably, the house jams on top of the tracks. The couple attempts to make it budge while arguing. Cut to footage of speeding train. Cut to train whistle letting off steam. Cut to couple jumping and looking past the house. Cut to larger plan of the couple making, in vain, a last-minute effort to move the house with the speeding train in the background, before stepping aside. Just as the train is expected to hit the house, the camera pans right, revealing the train passing on the tracks just next to the house. Cut to sighs of relief of the couple, who resume their arguing. Cut to another train running through the house from the other direction.
  • The climax of Big Trouble in Little China double-subverts Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Jack misses his knife-throw at Lo Pan by half a mile. When the villain sends the knife flying at him with magic, though, Jack catches it and throws it right between his eyes. "It's all in the reflexes."
  • Thor does this to The Big Damn Kiss when Thor and Jane lean forward to kiss, only for Thor to hesitantly pull away and kiss Jane's hand. But Jane un-subverts it when she pulls him into the kiss anyways.
  • Towards the end of Gladiator, Commodus stabs Maximus before their Coliseum battle so that he can get an unfair advantage, but Maximus is so much of a Bad Ass Determinator that he still kills him, though he dies from the stabbing shortly afterwards.

    Literature 
  • The novel The Dragons of Babel subverts the the long-lost heir trope by having a con man successfully pose as the heir to the throne. And then the one completely infallible test proves that he really is the heir to the throne.
  • At first glance, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash looks like your standard subversion of your typical Randian/Objectivist free market paradise, but if you really think about it, it's not that much more dysfunctional than real life and, despite its problems, everything does work out in the end.
  • In an early The Dresden Files novel, Harry Dresden tells us that a Deal with the Devil is safe enough to skilled wizards. Demons will accept deals that don't give enough influence over the human to have an effect. Indeed, he pulls this off. The demon then offers Harry his heart's desire. He refuses, but is reduced to a total wreck and does so despite himself. Turns out that Our Hero is just incredibly stupid.
  • Nation double-subverts the Chekhov's Gun - or, in this case, axe. Mau is taking part in a tribal Rite of Passage that involves an axe left in a tree by the last person to do it. He takes the axe, does the ritual, leaves it in the branch for the next guy - and then his island gets hit by a massive storm that kills everyone but him. In the immediate aftermath, the tree drifts by with the axe still stuck in it. He tries to free it again, but fails, and even feels vaguely cheated. Naturally, he finds it again during his showdown with the villain.
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles does this with the Everyone Can See It trope... many of the people Mendanbar and Cimorene encounter assume they are in love, for extremely silly and superficial reasons that are obviously wrong, when they are both extremely practical, goal-oriented people, not sentimental lovebirds. But having those traits in common is exactly why they are indeed perfect for each other after all.

    Live Action TV 
  • Shows which fulfil their Start to Corpse quote within the Cold OpenHouse, Casualty, anything Series/CSI — generally start employing Bait and Switch quite quickly to throw viewers off, before resorting to Double Subversion, sometimes Zig Zagging the trope to the point of Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts,
  • One pre-titles segment of House features a young girl diving in a competition. Standard procedure with the claiming of slight illness and shots of insides. She dives in, emerges and finds the judge on the floor, vomiting blood. After the titles, it transpires the entire audience and swimmers are being tested for meningitis. It's at this point the girl turns up again, with bizarre symptoms which aren't meningitis.
  • Golden Palace, pilot: Involving a robbery incident. See The Ditz.
  • Six Feet Under actually got a few of these into the opening sequences involving the deaths each episode revolved around.
  • In the NewsRadio episode "Stupid Holiday Charity Talent Shot", Jimmy tells the WNYX staff that in order for Matthew to get his job back, someone from the station will have to enter and win the upcoming corporate talent show. Matthew repeatedly tries to tell the group that he has a talent he can use, but everyone ridicules or dismisses him. Finally, when all hope appears lost, Matthew finally informs the group that he has a ventriloquist act and has been competing in ventriloquist competitions for years. A Genre Savvy viewer would expect that at this point, Matthew goes on stage, knocks them dead, and wins his job back, right? But that's not what happens. Matthew sucks... really badly. But... he ends up winning the competition anyway, on a pity vote.
  • Maeby Fünke of Arrested Development is a double subversion of Brainy Brunette: she's rebellious and Book Dumb, but outside school fends for herself quite easily, even landing a plum job in Hollywood.
  • Happens twice during the pilot episode of Castle. Mystery writer Richard Castle is informed that, in Real Life police investigations, fingerprint matches can take up to a week to get done, and the most likely suspect usually is the person who did it. Castle than proceeds to sweet talk the mayor into giving their fingerprint search priority, getting it done in under an hour, and proves that the most likely suspect was actually framed.
  • Nick Knight (pilot for later series Forever Knight) double subverts the old pane-of-glass trope: A runaway car, barreling down the hill. Guys carrying pane of glass across the road. Drive yelling and trying to wave them off. Frightened face of car's helpless driver reflected in the glass. Guys make it out of the way in time, saving the glass...except they're so busy watching the car, they walk into a nearby tree, smashing the glass anyway.
  • Comedy double act Lee and Herring used this trope a lot. In the first series of This Morning With Richard Not Judy, Richard Herring would describe some disgusting act (often involving bestiality) he had partaken in. For example in one episode he described going to the sewage works and swimming in the sewage. Stewart Lee would then accuse Rich of being sick, prompting Rich to say "But who is the real sick man in this so-called society. Is it the man who regularly has harmless pleasure swimming in sewage, or is the business man in his suit and tie who goes to the toilet and thus produces the sewage in the first place?" Stu would then point out that in that example it was the first man because the business man hadn't done anything wrong. It was triply subverted in the final episode of series one, a business man who wears a suit and tie turned up to complain, Rich was suitably apologetic, but then the as the business man walked away they saw that the back of his suit was missing and he was wearing bondage gear underneath. Rich was delighted to find out that the business man was the sick one after all.
  • In the first-season Farscape episode "Bone to Be Wild," an odd alien woman named M'Lee asks Moya's crew to protect her from a hideous monster. Subversion #1: the monster is a well-spoken scientist named Br'Nee who wanted to warn Moya's crew about M'Lee, who murders people and eats their bones. Subversion #2: Br'Nee is responsible for starving M'Lee's people to death (and kidnapping one of Crichton's friends), and M'Lee was only motivated by extreme hunger.
  • Each installment of Toei's Super Sentai during its early years has always started with a Five-Man Band of heroes and very rarely deviated from that concept.note  Choujuu Sentai Liveman, 1988 installment, starts its first episode with five friends who we are led to believe will become the titular Liveman team... But then two of the friends (Mari and Takuji) are killed off by the villains ten minutes into the episode, leaving the surviving friends (Yūsuke, Jō, and Megumi) with the duty to avenge their deaths as a trio. Halfway through the series, we are introduced to the fallen friends' heretofore unseen younger siblings (Tetsuya and Jun-ichi), who join the Liveman team, completing the five-member team.
  • In 30 Rock, Jack has a heart attack and is rushed to a hospital. When the doctor comes out to speak to Liz, Jack's mother, and Jack's fiance, he's covered in blood. He was at a costume party, and he was attacked by the host's dog. So he had to stab it.
  • In Community episode "Interpretive Dance" Jeff says that as soon as he and Professor Slater kiss, the blinds will open. They don't, but then it shown that blinds across the hall did open revealing his relationship to his friends.
  • Robin from How I Met Your Mother invites Barney back to her place. The dialogue suggests she wants you-know-what, although it's obviously intentionally vague. Sure enough, she just wanted to show him a video. And then...
    Future!Ted: So they watched it again. And again. And again. They watched it over and over that night, until finally... [shot of them making out on the couch] they stopped watching.
  • In CSI NY, Danny attempts an Honorable Marriage Proposal after Lindsay tells him she's pregnant. She declines, but a few episodes later he lures her to the Justice of the Peace and proposes again, and this time she says yes.

    Video Games 
  • Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness has Pleinair, originally just the Dark Assembly guide for that game, as a recruitable character, no sidequest needed, as soon as the tutorial is completed, setting up a use of Disc One Nuke. However, she's only recruitable in a New Game+, which is the subversion...until you remember that you can see one of the endings in about half an hour by losing to Mid-Boss at the end of the first chapter (and if you don't level grind at least a little, it's not all that hard to lose on that level). Hence the double subversion.
  • At the start of Secret of Mana the main character pulls a sword out of a stone signaling that he is probably the Chosen One. However, soon after that, he is told by Jema that he is too young to be a hero, and he was only able to remove the sword because the power of Mana is weakening. Much later in the game, it turns out that he was definitely the Chosen One all along. Of course, a Genre Savvy player wouldn't believe Jema's explanation for one second.
  • Portal 2 does this with respect to Boss Arena Idiocy. It's set up earlier that the AI in charge of the mainframe cannot remove the parts of the system that are designed to swap cores in the event of corruption. The Final Boss appears to ignore this in setting up its Evil Plan, and indeed during the fight you do cause a core transfer to be initiated. However, the boss actually did plan for this possibility by placing a Booby Trap designed to kill you when you attempt to press the Stalemate Resolution Button. What brings about its final defeat is that, all along, it's been ignoring the progressive collapse of the Enrichment Center due to an impending reactor meltdown.
  • The Elder Scrolls does this with Chekhov's Volcano. The Elder Scrolls: Arena showed us a giant volcano belching smoke... which kept on belching smoke all throughout the game. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind revisisted the volcano... and ended with the volcano calming down. Then the novels that came out in the run-up to Skyrim revealed that the events of Morrowind had led to a chain of events that caused the volcano to erupt a few years after Oblivion.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • In this short, the viewer is led to believe that Arthur has been using Excalibur to cut up people. Then, it turns out he was cutting lasagna. Then it turns out that yes, he was cutting up a person. And eating them.
  • In the College Humor Wish I Had a Portal Gun, starting around 1:47: we're led to believe that the singer wants to use the titular device to suck his own dick, but he merely uses it to change pants without having to look down. Then:
    "And then I'd suck my own DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICK!"''
  • In Running With Scissors (Exactly What It Says on the Tin), it looks like the guy's about to stab himself in the eye with scissors upon falling down. Then, he's safe because they merely fly out of his hands. Flying into and cutting a rope, which drops a piano on his head.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons, especially during its golden age in the 1990s, was a master at this trope. The writers often refer to jokes built on double subversion (as well as jokes built on simple subversion) as "screw the audience" jokes.
  • Futurama also enjoys this, even setting up its own jokes to subvert doubly.
    • One example involved the smelloscope, a telescope that allowed you to smell distant objects. After smelling Jupiter and Saturn, Fry said that he would be happy to smell more, as long as the professor didn't point it at Uranus. The other characters expressed confusion at his joke, and Professor Farnsworth noted that they renamed Uranus in order to end that stupid joke once and for all. The new name? Urectum.
  • House of Mouse: Donald Duck has set up his computer. A viewer would tend to expect that the computer would take all day to start up. Just 15 seconds after he turns it on, however, the screen reads "Startup Done", just long enough for the viewer to think "Huh?" before the word "Almost" is added to the screen, and it ends up taking all day after all.
  • Rick and Morty double subverts a joke about Prison Rape:
    Rick: You know, if somebody drops the soap, it's going to land on our heads and crush our spines, Morty. You know, it'll be real easy to rape us after that.
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: One of Jokerz mouthed off to the Joker after failing his mission. Joker pulls a gun and pulls the trigger - which produces a flag that says "BANG!" on it - then pulls it again, ejecting the flagpole at high speed and impaling the guy in the chest.
    • Joker Wins. FATALITY!
      • This is based on a scene from the comics, in "Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker!" (Batman #321).
  • The Joker really loves this trope. An especially ingenious one is in the short story "Joker After Midnight," in which he's walking home after being thrown out of a blimp by Batman (and surviving, of course). Feeling hungry, the Joker stops by a donut shop - frightening away the other customers - and helps himself to some jelly donuts before putting them over his eyes like a mask and saying "This is a stick-up, see?" to the man at the counter. Thinking the Joker has a gun, the man frantically pulls open the register and says the Joker can have everything in it - only to be reassured that "I'm just funning with you, keed." Then, in a very uncharacteristic move, the Joker pulls out a wad of dollar bills and pays the man for the donuts. But then the man notices that the bills are counterfeits with the Joker's face on them - and the Joker explains that he coated them with a toxic chemical that can only be activated by human sweat (which the counter guy has been releasing buckets of because he was so afraid of being shot). Long story short, the donut man is exposed to "Joker Venom" and dies after all with a whitened, perpetually smiling face.
  • In Anastasia, Anya is conned into posing as the long-lost Russian princess... and it turns out she really is the long-lost Russian princess.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack double subverts the Lost Him in a Card Game trope. K'nuckles bet Flapjack in a card game, but wins and discovers that the person he was playing against also bet his kid sidekick.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender double-subverts the Heel-Face Turn trope. Zuko, after being set up for a Heel-Face Turn since the introduction of his character and backstory, fails to complete it in the final episode of the second season. Halfway through the third season, he finishes what he started, in a way that is both awesome and well-earned.
  • Porky Pig double subverts the Precision F-Strike in this clip not meant for general audiences.
  • In American Dad!, Steve tells Stan that his English teacher hates him and that's why he has a failing grade. Stan says in a sinister tone that he'll "pay the teacher a little visit." Cut to Stan having a friendly chat with the teacher and his family, implying that he had come over for dinner and had a wonderful time with them all. He then walks to the door, starts to say his goodbyes, then says, "I almost forgot..." (pulls his gun and slams the teacher against a wall) "Why are you failing my son?!?"
    • Later in the same episode, Roger has this:
    Roger: You're going to go to jail, and they're going to take your cherry. Jell-O. Away. In the lunch line. After you're raped.
    • A second episode double subverts Training from Hell when Steve admits that he's scared to ask someone out:
    Stan: Steve, I'm going to motivate you the same way the CIA motivates its assassins. You know, when they have trouble asking out a girl. *clamps an electronic collar around Steve's neck* There. If you don't ask Debbie out in 24 hours, the collar will sense your stress levels and blow up.
  • Family Guy is fond of double subversions in general, possibly because it's a sneaky way to get two jokes for the price of one, or a way to sneak a joke in an otherwise mundane transition. One example is in "A Hero Sits Next Door" with their double subversion of Eye Scream. Lois mentions that someone "lost an 'eye' (I) during Bingo". We see a Flash Back of a scene of the MC calling out an "I" number, then dropping it on the floor and losing it. Just when we think the gag is over, he bends over to look for it and slams his eye into the corner of the table.
  • In the South Park episode "Here Comes the Neighborhood" where many extremely rich black people were moving into South Park Mr. Garrison exclaims that "their kind" is taking over the place. When one asks what he means, he states because they are "rich". However at the end, when they successfully drove all the rich people out of Town, Mr. Garrison exclaims they can sell the houses and become rich. When it is pointed out to him that doing so will make them the same as the people they just drove out, Mr. Garrison replies, "well at least we got rid of those damn nig-(interrupted by credits)".
    • Keep in mind that Mr. Garrison is bigoted towards just about everyone, including gays, even when he HIMSELF is gay (Which is even weirder when you consider he switches sexual orientations every other season or so)
  • One gag in The Emperor's New Groove involves Bucky the squirrel threatening to pop a llama-shaped balloon to wake up the jaguars sleeping all around Kuzco. Kuzco pleads with Bucky not to, Bucky does so anyway with a very loud POP, and...the jaguars stay asleep. Kuzco, upon realizing this, laughs and THAT'S when the jaguars decide to wake up and chase his llama ass through the forest.

    Other 
  • The Brick Joke is a double subversion of the Chekhov's Gun principle.
  • Voodoo Shark is possibly a double subversion of Plot Hole.
  • An old joke: A child is born without ears. Every family member comments on it, until the exasperated father promises himself that he'll knock out the next person to comment on it. Cue another relative arriving and remarking "Oh dear. I hope he'll have perfect eyesight." "What? Why?" "Well, how the hell is he going to keep his glasses on?"

    Real Life 
  • The Todd River Race in Alice Springs, Australia, is a tongue-in-cheek subversion of conventional river regattas in which the "rowers" must carry their boats along the dried-up riverbed. Nature sometimes sabotages the event by inconsiderately filling the river with water, subverting the intended subversion.

Discussed TropeTrope TropesDownplayed Trope
Discriminate and SwitchBait and SwitchLeaning on the Fourth Wall

alternative title(s): Double Subverted Trope; Double Subverted; Doubly Subverted; Subverted Subversion
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