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Downplayed Trope
aka: Downplayed
It has been said that "a trope cannot be partially subverted any more than a woman can be a little bit pregnant". So then what do you call it when The Butler Did It, but "it" was eating the last cookie in the jar? Or when a powerful weapon glows so little you can't even notice it in good light? Or when someone only becomes slightly peeved rather than incredibly furious at being called a certain nickname?

You call it a Downplayed Trope.

A Downplayed Trope is when a trope is played to a much smaller extent than it usually is. In particularly extreme cases, the lack of extent to which the trope is played is Played for Laughs for the same reason as its antithesis, the Exaggerated Trope. The exact definition varies on a case-by-case basis, but the above works as a general rule. It's also why The Same But Less doesn't really make a new trope, since Tropes Are Flexible.

In case the introduction didn't tip you off, many cases of Not a Subversion fall into this trope's territory.

A form of Playing with a Trope.

Compare Subverted Trope, Parodied Trope.

Contrast Exaggerated Trope.

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Yazan Gable of Zeta Gundam downplays the Ax-Crazy and Psycho for Hire tropes. Yazan is a dangerously insane, feral predator who joined the army just so he could get the chance to hurt people and has no empathy whatsoever for those around him. However, he's as rational as a person with that kind of motivation can be, enjoys the company of a few likeminded sociopaths (though he doesn't care at all when they die), follows the orders of those superiors he respects, and is generally portrayed as a brutal uncaring thug rather than the cackling madman that is typical of both tropes.
  • Rei Kiriyama from Sangatsu no Lion is downplayed example of The Eeyore. He spends much of his time and narration contemplating over his many issues and is prone to frequent emotional lows. However, he is not unreasonably depressed, and he is capable of showing other emotions for more than just a brief moment.
  • Fairy Tail's Fairy Law is a downplayed, laser-guided Fantastic Nuke. They have the real thing in the Magitek Kill Sat Etherion, though.
  • In Gaiking: Legend of Daiku Maryu, Gaiking's Puncher Grind attack is a downplayed Rocket Punch; it's not propelled, and it can't return to Gaiking after being fired. Daiya has to improvise by using the Zecter Hook technique to retrieve it from mid-air.

Comic Books

Film (Live Action)
  • The Matrix downplays Like a God to Me, where a guy calls Neo a "personal Jesus Christ", but in the context of being polite instead of amazed.

Live-Action TV
  • The Mentalist: The butler was the driver for the socialite who did it, making him an accomplice. Said socialite arranged for the butler to go free if she confessed.
  • Bones: The butler confessed to doing it, but it's pretty likely he's just taking the fall for his employers.
  • Justified:
    • Dickie Bennett downplays Evil Cripple. An injury from high school left him with a limp. It doesn't impair him overly much, and is only noticeable when characters call attention to it. At the same time, said limp is at the core of his anger with the world, and twenty years after receiving it, he still wants payback on the man who gave it to him.
    • Johnny Crowder, conversely, downplays Obfuscating Disability. Johnny really is crippled. A shotgun blast to the stomach left him with a shuffling, painful walk, and it's much easier for him to use a wheelchair. What he is not however, is a full on paraplegic, which is what he pretends to be; if Johnny has to, he can walk.

Videogames
  • David Sarif of Deus Ex: Human Revolution fits this aspect of Corrupt Corporate Executive. He's not a bad guy per se, especially given the setting. He's shown to genuinely care about his employees, but he's also willing to cut some corners that would be difficult to explain in an investigation and to take "creative" interpretations of some of his employee contracts. That said, he's the nicest bigshot you'll meet in the setting and the only one not in cahoots with The Illuminati.
  • Fina of Skies of Arcadia has a small version of a Cleavage Window (because it has a purpose other than Fanservice).
  • In Bastion, you have a Short Range Shotgun in the Scrap Musket, but those qualities can be downplayed by installing upgrades that tighten the spread and reduce the damage falloff at range. Or it can be further tuned in the other direction with an opposite upgrade that further widens the spread.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, the resident Team Pet comes equipped with a downplayed Breath Weapon. He's too young to use it without an Amplifier Artifact, and even then it's too weak to be useful outside of puzzle solving.
  • The Templar's Ancient Conspiracy status in Assassins Creed 4. The Templars are rich and powerful in the Carribean but not so much that the similarly rich and powerful English Navy and plantation owners can't ignore them at their leisure.
  • Love Triangle is downplayed in Fire Emblem Awakening. Not only Cordelia and Sumia never catfight over their "love interest" Chrom (Sumia is one of his potential wives, but Cordelia isn't... and yet Chrom's not mentioned in their support talks), but both women can end up with other men or as bachelorettes if the player so desires.
  • The computer opponents generally in Pokémon, and those in the battle facilities in particular are noted for being such blatant cheaters with illegal movesets. Come the Battle Maison in Pokémon X and Y, however, and the opponents use Pokémon and movesets that are all legal. Only two instances of cheating - which aren't really blatant forms of cheating:
    • Pokémon with unreleased hidden abilities - which were programmed in the first place, just not released to the general public, so it's different to tacking on a random ability just to gain an unfair advantage.
    • Their Pokémon also sometimes hold items unavailable in X and Y - but they were all available/used in the previous generations of games - so that's not really cheating either.

Web Original
  • Red vs. Blue downplays Outdated Outfit with Caboose, who opted to stick with his Halo 1 armor and weapon when every other main character was upgrading to Halo 3. His armor is only outdated in-universe, while to viewers not familiar with the games he just looks like a custom loadout.

Western Animation
  • Futurama downplayed Implausible Deniability in Into the Wild Green Yonder, when the head of the robot mafia isn't denying his wife stole his lucky foot. He's just insisting they need more evidence when the evidence so far is conclusive.
  • Transformers Prime downplayed Pink Means Feminine by making Arcee blue, with just pink touches.
  • Similarly, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's Princess Celestia downplays Princesses Prefer Pink, as she only has a pink outline and pink strands in her hair; she is mostly white.
    • Not that you'd know it, looking at the earliest toys based on her, which depicted her with a pink coat instead of a white one. Thankfully, with the arrival of Princess Cadence, a princess who really is pink, Celestia is now free to have the first toy that actually looks like her made years after her introduction.
  • In Gravity Falls, Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress is downplayed. When Dipper and Mabel run off a cliff, they fall down at a realistic speed, but instead of falling forward in an arc, they go straight forward, then down.
    • The pair also downplay Half-Identical Twins: they're almost the exact same in terms of height, face and body type, but have different hair styles and outfits, as well as personalities. (Also, Mabel wears braces while Dipper has a birthmark hidden under his bangs.)

Double SubversionTrope TropesEnforced Trope

alternative title(s): Downplayed
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