Elective Mute

Whereas The Voiceless can talk and presumably does off-screen a lot, this character remains quiet most of the time, often out of shyness. However, around a select few people, he'll all of a sudden begin talking quite a bit. This character may in fact speak on-screen often (The Voiceless will at most get a few lines onscreen, no matter how much they're stated to talk offscreen), if they happen to be a main character - a role that most Voiceless characters don't do well in. That's because if the story's focus is on the character, it will naturally have a lot of scenes in which the character is with the select few he'll talk with.

The name comes from "elective mutism," which was the old term for this condition in real life. The name was changed to "selective mutism" due to the implication that the person was choosing not to talk, when in fact, the usual case was the person getting so terrified that their vocal cords froze up and they were literally unable to.

Compare The Quiet One. Some examples may overlap between these two. Also compare Silent Bob, Cannot Talk to Women, Elective Unintelligible and Elective Broken Language.

When adding to this page, please think carefully about whether your example fits. This trope is not merely someone who doesn't talk often or who doesn't talk except for one line. What is important here is that this character has a select few characters whom he will speak to. If you cannot say who those specific characters are within your example, it is not this trope.


Anime and Manga
  • In The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Yuki Nagato rarely speaks more than a sentence at a time to anyone but Kyon. Justified in that she's an alien with limited information on Earth life, and more importantly (compared to others like her), was specifically created without social tools.
  • In the early parts of Bunny Drop, Rin falls into this. At first, the only one who she opens up to is Daikichi, in part because he resembles his grandfather (who is also Rin's father), and in part because he's at first the only adult who seems at all concerned for her well-being. It's most strongly demonstrated when, after slowly but surely opening up to others, Daikichi takes Rin to see his mother and father over the new year's holiday - and Rin immediately clams up again, remembering the harsh treatment she had previously received.
  • One of the traditions binding the shrine maiden Touka in Shindere Shoujo To Kodoku Na Shinigami is that she is absolutely forbidden from speaking with any man regardless of the circumstances, up to and including her own brother. The sole exception is her husband, when she chooses to take one.

  • While this trope isn't The Silent Bob, Silent Bob from the View Askewniverse would be an example.
  • Black Bolt of The Inhumans. He can talk, but chooses not to since his voice is as powerful as a nuke, and usually uses his wife, Medusa, as his translator
  • Kevin from Sin City never says a word on panel, his father Cardinal Roark informs Marv that he only talks to him.

  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Defenders of Warmth, Vulpix is this because of her social awkwardness and amnesia, choosing to only talk to Bulbasaur and, later, Isola. Anyone else she only speaks to when spoken to. This changes after she remembers her human life.
  • Peter in Jumanji, who talks to no one but his sister ever since their parents death by car accident. Once Alan gets out of the game and finds his parents are also dead, Peter starts talking to him as well.

  • Charles Wallace was this as a child in A Wrinkle in Time. By the time of the later books, he has grown out of it.
  • The young adult novel Robin's Country centers around Dummy/Richard's learning to speak. He is this for most of the book after Marion discovers he is not actually The Voiceless (he sometimes talks in his sleep).
  • Lewis from the book Lightland is highly selective about who he talks around. He won't speak to his mother, teachers, classmates, neighbors- only to his friend Lottie. When he finally speaks to someone besides her, It's a pretty dramatic scene.
  • Ben from the book The White Giraffe is less selective, but still only speaks o his parents, and his new friend Martine. the other students don't believe he can talk at all. In the second book, he opens up a bit more, and everyone is shocked that he talks.
  • In the first book of The Elenium, the foundling Flute doesn't speak at all, except possibly off-page to Sephrenia, the only other member of her race in the party. Partway through the second book, she apparently decides this is tiresome and reverts to her true personality, which is decisive and bossy.
  • The aptly named wizard Silent from The Black Company novels certainly qualifies. The circumstances leading to his vow of silence are speculated on by the narrator and other members of the company but are ultimately never revealed (everyone leaves their past and their real name behind when they sign up.) Refusing to utter a word doesn't make him any less badass a soldier or competent a wizard. Indeed, his speaking in sign language is eventually adopted by other members of company as for use as military hand signals.
  • In Tobacco Road, Pearl is willing to talk only with her mother Ada, and even then uses few words. Jeeter reflects that Ada herself used to not speak to him.
  • In Peter Pays Tribute, Matt has gone more than a year without talking. When he finally does, he starts out only talking to his close friend.
  • In Ro.Te.O, Satoshi (aka Uriel) is one. So far, he's only chosen to talk when voicing Daichi - a protagonist in the Show Within A Web Serial Novel.
  • A half-German boy living in Norway in WWI is violently beaten by schoolmates whose fathers were killed by a U-boat, in Jan Guillou's The Bridge Builders. When he recovers from the beating he refuses to speak Norwegian so he will no longer have to attend Norwegian school. He still speaks German, though, so this might also be a case of Elective Unintelligible.
  • In The False Prince, Imogen the maid is believed by everyone to be mute. She eventually reveals to Sage that it's a ploy to keep unwanted attention at bay. From then on, she speaks to him whenever they are alone, although she keeps up the act to others until near the end of the book.

Live-Action TV
  • In one episode of Firefly, the woman from the village of kidnappers assumes that Ruby must be this after River explains why Ruby stopped talking. Subverted when River corrects the woman, saying, "Ruby doesn't talk. Her voice got scared away." (In other words, River read Ruby's mind.)
  • The mostly silent Conundrum, from The X-Files episode "Humbug," spoke only one line, to Mulder and Scully and in the presence of Dr. Blockhead, at the end of the episode. It was implied he was very selective about those he spoke to.
  • Supernatural: After witnessing his dad's death, the son refuses to even talk with his mom. Dean gets him to open up little by little and by the end of the episode, he's back to the little kid he was before the incident.
  • Raj from The Big Bang Theory is like this around women, once an attractive woman like Penny comes near him he will not speak, when he feels like talking during this time he'll whisper into his friend Howard's ear what he wants to say, it is later discovered that he will talk to women when he's drunk, and he once went on some experimental drugs to cure him of this but it also caused him to take off his clothes in front of the woman he wished to date freaking her out.

  • In the play (and movie) Reckless, Pooty is this. Due to a Snowball Lie, her husband thinks she's a deaf-mute. When she's alone or with someone who will keep her secret, she talks.

Web Original
  • On the Behind The Veil site there's Jennifer O'Connell, who stopped talking completely after the car crash that killed her parents and left her stranded in there for hours (due to her own paralysis). She only very recently started to talk again, and only to her step-mother or when the situation is important enough.

Video Games
  • The Bug in Hover Car Racer only talks to people he feels very comfortable with and close to.
  • Chell from the Portal series. She can talk, she just refuses to give anyone talking to her the satisfaction of a response.
  • The New Kid of South Park: The Stick of Truth is a parody of Heroic Mimes and thus responds to everything with stone-cold silence, to the frustration of others. However at the end of the game he tells the kids "Screw you guys, I'm going home" when they talk about playing a new game.

Western Animation
  • Transformers Prime: Played with by Soundwave; while he doesn't use his own voice to speak, he uses recordings of others to communicate. He's apparently taken some kind of vow of silence, which Starscream considers a "cop out". He speaks exactly one line in his own voice (which sounds like an updated version of G1 Soundwave's).

Real Life