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"Beware of fainting-fits... though at the time they may be refreshing and agreeable, yet believe me: they will, in the end, if too often repeated and at improper seasons, prove destructive to your constitution."
If people in Real Life
actually do faint when presented with a shocking development, it is an extremely rare occurrence. So rare that you may not have actually ever seen it anywhere but on TV or in the movies.
Fainting in fiction usually takes one or more of the following forms:
- The Corset Faint - One of the oldest forms of the trope hanging around from the late unlamented days of the corset, when women were a deep-inhalation away from being cut in twain.
- While not specifically being a faint per se, the phenomenon where a delicate Southern Belle responds to a dramatic situation by declaring, "Ah do believe ah have a case a' da vapours!" serves much the same purpose as a Corset Faint. It shows the fragility and delicateness of the heroine, done purposely as a theatrical ploy by the heroine or as an excuse to remove herself from a dramatic situation. By the way, "the vapours" are just a fancy, euphemistic name for "intestinal gas."
- Girly Man Faint - Occurs when a male character—usually the most cowardly member of the cast—is confronted with a nameless horror which causes him to faint dead away, sometimes letting out a little girly scream. Almost exclusively played for comedy.
- Anemia Faint - An affliction which seems to strike a very high proportion of Japanese shoujo heroines, causing them to black out at inopportune times and thus, give their love interests a convenient excuse to hold them and act all manly and protective. This is also true for people who have recently been Kissed by a vampire.
- Truth in Television to an extent. This is why you get an iron test when you give blood and the necessary threshold is set above what counts as anemic - you can faint while giving even if your iron is only slightly down. It's also one of the reasons why the nice folks at the donation center tell you not to do any heavy exercise for the next 12 hours.
- Fake Faint - A character pretends to lose consciousness in order to create a distraction. Tends to overlap with Corset Faint above, although it can be done by anyone in just about any time period.
- Pregnancy Faint - A slightly more dramatic way than morning sickness to indicate that a female character is now expecting. In real life, fainting while pregnant falls under the medical realm of syncope, as the baby is taking the blood that the pregnant person's brain needs. It is also very rare. (Dizziness is more common)
- The Monster Faint - Refers to a special subset of fainting that is rarely played straight these days, but was a big staple of '50's era monster/alien movies. A young, nubile heroine sees a hideous monster (or alien or gorilla) coming towards her and she faints, usually into the approaching monster/alien/gorilla's arms. Whereas in real life, faints last only a few seconds, the Monster Faint can last several minutes, or even several hours, if the plot dictates it. The "monster carrying an unconscious girl" motif was so popular during the '50's pulp movie era that movie posters would frequently feature a monstrous creature carrying a girl, even if no such scene appeared in the movie.
- Emotional Faint - When done well, this one can be thoroughly justified - in times of extreme high emotion, people do faint. However, such extreme levels of emotion that would make it realistic are actually fairly rare. This is also the reason that Breaking Bad News Gently involves the phrase "You better sit down".
- Exhaustion Faint - This one is used when a character is extremely tired from a great deal of exhaustion. This one is also Truth in Television, as fainting in exhaustion is caused by heat stroke or stress.
Not to be confused with Non-Lethal K.O.
, due to the term "fainting" being occasionally interchanged with getting knocked out thanks to certain games like Pokémon
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The Corset Faint
- This is both played straight and parodied in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Early on, Elizabeth faints from her overly-tight corset; near the end, she pretends to faint in order to distract the local guards. In the sequel, it's parodied again as she pretends to faint in an attempt to break up a fight between her current and former fiancés, and they both ignore her.
- The fact that she's not wearing a corset in the latter instance probably has something to do with the men ignoring her. The reason cited (the heat) is less-than-convincing coming from a convicted pirate/swordswoman who's spent more than her share of time in the tropics. That, and they're so focused on surviving their three-man swordfight that they continue to not notice her when she starts shouting and throwing clumps of sand.
Girly Man Faint
- Sleepy Hollow: In The Movie, the 'cowardly' Ichabod Crane is the hero and can't very well show true cowardice, so he tends to stick out any dangerous situation and then pass out once it's over.
- The Cowardly Lion (naturally) does this (minus scream) when he faces The Wizard of Oz.* Guy's girly-faint upon seeing the evil reptilian aliens for the first time in Galaxy Quest.
- Happened to love interest Pike (not to be confused with Spike from the TV series) several times over the course of the BtVS movie, to the point where it became a running gag.
- Stirling from the Kit Kittredge movie does this twice after discovering hobos.
- Captain Spaulding does this in Animal Crackers as Mrs. Rittenhouse is hailing him for fearlessly journeying through Darkest Africa.
- In an early episode of Stargate Atlantis, Rodney learns that the city is in danger and responds by promptly keeling over. After a brief moment of panic, his teammates are only too happy to inform him that he pulled one of these. He does it again before the end of the episode, only this time he's being heroic, and it's actually an Exhaustion Faint.
- Done without the scream on multiple occasions by Mr. Humphries in Are You Being Served?, typically as a silent collapse into the arms of his coworkers.
- Frank from M*A*S*H had been known to do this.
- In the X-Files episode "The Unnatural", Dales faints away upon seeing Exley's true alien form, and then faints again (and again, and again) when the alien revives him.
- Gomez in Addams Family Values.
- Gilligan in Gilligan's Island.
- Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. See also Emotional Faint.
- A Running Gag in the Doctor Who episode "The Crimson Horror" has a minor character coming face to face with things like Madame Vastra or Strax for the first time and immediately, noiselessly fainting.
- In the Ace Attorney case "Turnabout Sisters," Phoenix faints once he sees Mia, who is dead and is the victim in the case. It's really Maya channeling Mia for the first time. Upon waking up and seeing her once more, he almost faints again. Lampshaded by Mia: "'GACK?!' Is that any way to treat your boss, Nick?"
Anime and Manga
- Yoko Tsuno Faints all the time in comic books, usually after being struck on the neck.
- Kimberly of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has done this a time or two.
- Scully in The X-Files episode "Redux" faints in a meeting with Skinner and other FBI higher-ups after her cancer progresses to a dangerous point. She was about to tell the board who the mole was working in the FBI, and as Skinner catches her before she hits the floor, she whispers "You", implying that she believes he is the mole.
- Star Trek: The Original Series. When the effects of a Negative Space Wedgie causes members of the crew to start passing out, Kirk orders them given booster shots. McCoy is later shown injecting a line of Starfleet personnel—who are all female. Presumably tough spacemen are not in the habit of swooning. Or maybe they're just in a separate line being injected by Nurse Chapel?
- In Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, Jasmine's briefly fainting and being caught by Umeko (not a love interest... theoretically) replaces the usual Psychic Nosebleed.
- In the Doctor Who episode "Smith and Jones", Martha uses CPR to revive the Tenth Doctor, who has fainted dead away after having a life-threatening amount of blood drained by a plasmavore.
- Miho from MegaTokyo has this shortly after being introduced.
- Mio Kisaragi from Tokimeki Memorial 1 has this as one of her main traits. Suffering from anemia, she can faint at any moment. When she utters the memetic words "Memai ga..." ("I'm feeling dizzy..."), it's the signal of an impending black-out.
Anime and Manga
- Rachel from Tower Of God pretended to faint after she heard that Baam had died. We know she's faking it because she killed him.
- In Dave, the eponymous character performs one after confessing to the President's illegal actions and exonerating the Vice President, during the joint session of Congress. It works because the President (whom he had been impersonating) had suffered a stroke earlier in the movie, and everyone present thought he'd suffered another one.
- The above is not entirely correct: Dave was hired specifically to hide the real President's stroke, so it was not intended to make everyone think he suffered another one. His faked collapse during the confession was used as a means of swapping Dave with the real coma-bound President after he chose to come clean about the President's illegal activities. The "first" stroke was never revealed to the public, so for all they knew the one during his address was the only one he had.
- In Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim, Bill Atkinson faints loudly and dramatically during a public lecture in order to aid the lecturer's escape. It doesn't quite work, as the lecturer (and title character) faints for real seconds after.
- Christine in Maskerade pulls this one whenever a play would call for the heroine to faint, usually Monster or Emotional Faint situations. Agnes notes with considerable scorn that she even falls in such a way as to avoid hurting herself when she lands.
- In the Dragonlance novel, Dragons of Spring Dawning, when the elven princess Laurana is threatened with rape by the Dragonarmy officer Bakaris, she pretends to faint, and then when he moves in to catch her, punches him hard in the stomach.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Gilderoy Lockhart pulls a fake faint to try to steal a wand. It works too well, though.
- Mr. Scott pulled off a brief Fake Faint to distract and help disarm an intellectually-empowered, yet still-not-all-that-bright female alien in the "Spock's Brain" episode of Star Trek.
- Doctor Cox does this an episode of Scrubs to "demonstrate" how boring J.D.'s story is.
"Hope that hurt."
"Totally worth it!"
- Used as a distraction in iCarly.
- In Frasier, Niles pretends to faint into a man's arms in the last of a long string of attempts to stop said man from throwing Frasier out of a party before he can seal an important deal vital to Niles and Frasier's latest Fawlty Towers Plot.
- In the Fawlty Towers episode "Gourmet Night", Basil is forced to introduce a man named "Twitchen" to another man who had a facial tic. He frantically tries to get out of it, and eventually pretends to faint for a moment.
- A Fake Faint also occurs in the William Shakespeare play Macbeth, pulled off by Lady Macbeth in an attempt to draw suspicion away from her murdering husband. Macbeth is being asked some very awkward questions about why he killed King Duncan's supposed killers (instead of keeping them alive so they can tell who put them up to it). Her fainting diverts the attention of the questioner, and by the time everything is sorted out the king's sons have fled and Macbeth can put the blame on them.
- A ploy frequently employed in opera:
- In Act I of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Susanna tries one of these, apparently to get her employer to leave her alone. Depending on the production, this may actually backfire if the Count decides to give her some air by loosening her clothes...
- In Act II of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West, the heroine throws a poker game by pretending to faint so she can retrieve a winning hand from somewhere about her person.
- Princess Adora, in the pilot of She Ra Princess Of Power, pulls off one of these to convince Skeletor and his cronies that she's a helpless, timid royal. Humiliations ensue for the poor creeps when the ruse is revealed.
- Yoko Tsuno the Japanese action girl frequently faints after being subjected to a neck chop, L'or du Rhin being one example.
- Happens several times in The X-Files episode "Requiem", which ends with Scully's pregnancy being revealed.
- Chloe from 24 discovered her pregnancy this way.
- Sissi must be the mother of this trope.
- Phoebe in Charmed fainted twice because of demonic pregnancy.
- Roxie Hart from Chicago faked this to attract media attention and help influence the jury in her murder trial.
- Parodied in Of Thee I Sing, where President Wintergreen's impeachment proceedings are interrupted by his wife bringing the news that he's going to have a baby. He faints, and the Senators have no choice but to exonerate him, since they would never impeach an expectant father. (If you wonder how on earth a show from 1931 could parody a musical from 1975, see Adaptation Displacement.)
- Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella.
- Lorraine Hainsberry's A Raisin in the Sun has Ruth fainting at the very end of the first act for this exact reason.
- In Dragon Quest V, your wife faints on the trip to Gotha. Eventually, it's revealed to be this trope when she faints again while meeting King Albert.
The Monster Faint
- In Home With The Fairies, Maddie faints when she first sees an elf, one of an Inhumanly Beautiful Race. Before she faints, she feels "a strange preternatural sense of both awe and fear"; the elf "looks so perfect it was painful". Maddie faints perhaps because she is a transplant from a world with no elves. The faint lasts more than a few seconds. Someone moves Maddie to a bed, and she stays asleep until late morning.
- Done by Janet Weiss (SLUT!) when she sees Frank N. Furter for the first time in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- In 1995's Casper, both sassy teenager Kat and her father, James Harvey, faint (the former from meeting the ghostly hero for the first time, and the latter when Casper's trouble making uncles pull a surprise Nightmare Face on the Dr.
- In Shrek, a lady in the audience faints when Fiona reveals to Shrek that she turns into an ogre at sunset.
- In nearly every version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, April O'Neil does this on her first sight of the turtles, whereupon they pick her up and take her home. In a possible Running Gag, Michelangelo asks "Can we keep her?" in both the first movie and the second series just after she faints.
- In the first movie, April did not faint upon seeing the Turtles for the first time—her unconsciousness was due to being attacked by the Foot Clan before they got their ever-loving asses kicked by Raph. When she woke up in the sewer den, she freaked out instead, which ended up freaking the Turtles out as well.
- Splinter elicited a fainting reaction from Keno and Kenshin in the second and third movies, the latter being lampshaded.
Donatello: "You sure have a strange effect on people, don't you, Master?"
Splinter: "Hmmmm...out cold."
- A combination of this and Emotional Faint happens in Xenosaga, when Albedo intimidates the young Momo. Justified, as this troper was feeling a bit faint himself after he tore his head off!
Anime and Manga
- From Eroica with Love: Caesar Gabriel does this twice a chapter. (Yes, he was only around for two chapters, but still.)
- In Please Twins!, Karen fainting at any surprise or stress is a running gag, though like many such things, it tapers off as the series goes on. Becomes a bit less amusing when you consider the parent series, Please Teacher!, which had a condition called Standstill, in which a person can spend years in a coma-like condition (without aging) after too much extreme emotion. One of these days, Karen might not wake up for a long time...
- Emma of Victorian Romance Emma faints at a ball, partly because her corset is laced too tightly and from seeing William with Eleanor.
- Albert of Gankutsuou faints from when he accidentally drank water that was laced with poison.
- Hinata of Naruto faints almost any time Naruto (her Love Interest) gets too close. Character Exaggeration.
- In Tsukigasa, Azuma faints when Kuroe kills the robbers and it brings up trauma from when he hurt Kuroe.
- Barnaby in Tiger & Bunny faints in Episode 19. With good reason, as because he's been plagued by recurring nightmares about his parents' death (which he thought he'd begun to put behind him after seemingly finding their killer), and as a result has barely eaten or slept recently. When trying to discuss his fears with Kotetsu, Barnaby breaks down in tears and then passes out.
- A Running Gag in One Piece Film: Strong World is Xiao's tendency to faint whenever she's surprised. Because of how easy she is to surprise, she faints all the time.
- Tubby does this as the end of Episode 20 of the Little Lulu anime, in response to his mother telling him that he'll be spending extra time on his violin lessons.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon's mother, who was until this point mentioned several times how she doesn't want Kyon to become a delinquent, faints when she is told about her son's relationship with a Yakuza family. A relationship which, ironically, she was a strong supporter.
- John faints in With Strings Attached when he sees himself in the mirror for the first time and realizes that he's grown wings. He'd kind of worked himself up to it, given that he'd awakened in a strange bed, starving to death, with a growing panicky awareness that something was terribly, terribly wrong with him...
- Calvin faints in Calvin And Hobbes The Series when his dad suggests getting a pug (after he'd spent the entire episode watching over one). In addition, Hobbes (a stuffed tiger to Dad) slumps over, and the MTM shuts itself off.
- In Jumanji, Sarah faints when she realizes Alan is standing on her doorstep. (And like the Sherlock example above, it's because she had thought he was gone forever).
- The Incredible Mr Limpet. When George Stickel hears the supposedly drowned Henry Limpet's voice coming from the sea, he faints dead away—probably because he thinks he's hearing Henry's ghost.
- Thumbelina. Mocked mercilessly by The Nostalgia Chick: "And like all animated heroines she has a tendency towards fainting. Boom! Unconscious!"
- Doc Brown faints at the end of Back to the Future Part II after Marty (whom he had just sent away in the time machine) reappears behind him—
Doc: (practically shrieking)
"But I just sent you back to the future!!!" Marty:
"I know, Doc, but I'm back. I'm back from
the future." Doc: "Great... Scott!" (faints dead away)
- In Jurassic Park, Alan Grant starts to faint upon Hammond's big reveal of living dinosaurs.
- In The Notebook, Allie faints during her wedding dress fitting when she sees Noah's picture in the newspaper.
- Superman. A helicopter crash almost causes Lois Lane to fall to her death. Superman makes his first public appearance by catching and saving both her and the falling helicopter. After he deposits her on the top of a building and flies away, she collapses to the ground in a dead faint.
- Happens twice in Batman:
- When Jack Napier's girlfriend Alicia Hunt comes home and discovers not only that he's not dead but that he's turned into the Joker, she faints dead away.
- The Joker goes to Vicki Vale's apartment and scares her out of her wits, including apparently killing Bruce Wayne. After the Joker leaves, Vicki Vale opens the box he left her. A hand holding a bunch of weeds pops out, and she collapses to the ground.
- Subverted in The Silver Chair: Jill collapses to the ground when Eustace falls off a cliff and hopes she'll faint, but the author comments it's not that easy.
- Doctor Watson faints when Sherlock Holmes reappears in his office after a long absence. (He has good reason to faint, though, since he thought Holmes had died in the battle with his nemesis, Prof. Moriarty, three years earlier.)
- In The Quiller Memorandum, Quiller is faced with torture. He attempts to delay it by putting himself into syncope, through breathing heavily then holding his breath to drop his blood pressure. It's an Emotional Faint because he is under massive stress and he uses that to make his enemies believe he is weak.
- In The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, during the island getaway episode, the shy time-travelling Mikuru faints promptly upon seeing the stabbed body of the mansion owner, and stays out of the action for a while under Yuki's supervision, providing Haruhi and Kyon an excuse to go exploring alone together.
- Occurs to such an extent in The Pickwick Papers, that Charles Dickens may well be parodying it.
- In the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon faints when his mentor, Brom, is fatally stabbed. But then, he faints at the end of almost every chapter, as well.
- This happens to Twilight's Bella a lot.
- Dante does this in Inferno to the point where many modern readers think of it as Girly Man Fainting. His spells are usually a symptom of extreme empathy with someone he meets in Hell, as in, "Oh my God, I identify with your suffering so much I just can't stand it. * thud* "
- Actually he only fainted twice in the Inferno. Once when he first enters Hell, due to a sensory overload, and another time in the circle of Lust, where he meets a couple that is the Romeo and Juliet of his time. That one was from empathy, due to his being in love with a woman from afar his whole life. (And a possible fangirl episode... they were pretty famous)
- Tamaris in Robert E Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born". Nearly being feed to a monster and finding yourself in the middle of a battle after months of Cold-Blooded Torture and isolation do make a good excuse.
- In Robert A Heinlein's short And He Built A Crooked House, Mrs. Bailey repeatedly faints throughout the adventure in the tesseract house.
- In the book 'Double Star' the heroine faints quietly and without fuss after an intense scene which probably means the ruin of all they've been working for. Later another character reveals precautions have been taken and they're safe - whereupon she faints again. Still, given what's at stake and the extended strain she's been under it's hard to blame her.
- In the Dragonlance novel, Dragons of Winter Night, the elven princess Laurana faints at a public banquet after her father calls her a whore, and her older brother gives her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- Parodied mercilessly by Jane Austen in Love And Freindship [sic], from which the opening quote is taken.
- Cathy of Team Human faints upon being reunited with the boyfriend she thought had abandoned her, but it's pointed out that she also hadn't eaten much in the past week, what with her lovestricken distress and all.
- Bobbie Waterbury in The Railway Children manages to prevent a train from careening straight into a landslide via clever use of red petticoats, but has to stand on the tracks to do so. When the train finally manages to stop — just inches in front of her, as she's still standing on the tracks — she very understandably collapses in a dead faint. Jenny Agutter's rendition of the scene in the 1970 Film of the Book is iconic.
- Red Dwarf has featured this version in a couple of episodes: Rimmer does it in "Psirens" after viewing a graphic demonstration of how and what the eponymous monsters eat, while in "Epideme" The Cat freezes up and keels over after seeing Kochanski apparently chop off her own arm. (Amusingly, in the latter case, he's just left lying on the floor, incredulous index finger still extended.)
- Olive does this in the fifth episode of Pushing Daisies when it seems a dead horse jockey's ghost is out to kill all the other jockey's from that race, which includes her. Justified-ish in that Pushing Daisies never pretended to be realistic medically or otherwise - later the "dead," jockey shows up really tall, because he was paralyzed so the doctors cut off his dead horse's legs and put them on him.
- Fawlty Towers.
- In "Communication Problems", Basil is robbed of his gambling winnings by Mrs Richards, then she's complaining it was "ten pounds short". When a man enters the hotel carrying a vase she bought the previous day and asks Basil if he knows her. He is so immensely frustrated that even the mention of her name makes him faint. (He does get straight back up though).
- At the end of "Basil the Rat", he also faints from the pressure.
- On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon tends to faint when he can't process the stimulus his brain is receiving; for example, when his hero Steven Hawking points out an arithmetic error in a paper Sheldon wrote.
- Thoroughly justified in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard. In the course of the first act, Elsie Maynard is A. Forced to marry a condemned criminal to buy medicine to save her mother. In one of the other plots, Fairfax was framed in order that his cousin can inherit his fortune, but, by the terms of the will, he can shift the inheritance to another branch of the family if he's married, so he arranges with his guards to sort out a marriage with anyone whatsoever, for cash. B. She witnesses the highly-charged leadup to his execution by beheading, and, C. She then finds out he's escaped, meaning she, as a poor woman in Tudor times, is now permanently a criminal's wife. And being a moral woman, love is now forbidden her, because loving anyone else would be adultery. It is at this point she faints.
- At the end of Act II, the jester Jack Point, who is in love with Elsie Maynard, faints because Fairfax is pardoned and is married to Elsie.
- In the Ace Attorney series, Miles Edgeworth loses consciousness due to his extreme seismophobia. He developed a fear of earthquakes after a traumatic experience in his past that resulted in the murder of his father.
- Happens twice to Ema Skye, once as she witnessed what she thought was a Serial Killer stabbing another man, and then two years later, when she realizes that she may have accidentally killed the aforementioned man.
- Tae Asakura of Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army appears to either have a problem with this or the Anemic Faint, not sure which. Troper thinks it may be this. Or, who knows, she may be wearing a badly-designed corset or something. It's never even discussed in-game, she just has a fainting problem that nobody seems to think about. Whatever it is (if not this, please move to proper section), it certainly must be aggravating for her, since she's trying to represent a feminist (the perfectly-sane kind, thanks, not the Hollywood kind) push (setting: 1931 Japan).
- Jennifer, the protagonist of Rule of Rose keeps fainting at slightest provocation during the early cutscenes; they actually tend to mark the borders between chapters. But when she finds her inner courage in the last chapter, she can watch far more traumatizing sight than all the previous ones put together and keep her consciousness.
- Fiona in Haunting Ground upon learning that her pursuer, Riccardo, and her father, Ugo, are clones of the game's main antagonist and that Riccardo killed her father.
- Rarity faints twice during the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Bridle Gossip." First, when she hears that mysterious zebra Zecora's stripes are not a fashion choice, but something she was born with, and then again when the other ponies list the "horrors" of The Everfree Forest. Applejack also ends up fainting in "Applebuck Season" after believing she's finished her apple-picking all by herself, only to be shown an acre that still needed to be picked. In the latter case, it's likely justified, as Applejack was suffering from severe sleep deprivation in addition to the shock.