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Fear Is the Appropriate Response
9: "And you're nothing but a blind man, guided by fear."

Usually Played for Laughs. A character is facing a conflict. The Big Bad or a similar foe has been revealed at last. This may be the moment of triumph for the protagonist... however, instead of standing and fighting it like a Hero would do, this character does what any of us would do: freezes up in terror, screams, runs away as fast as his legs can carry him, or a combination of the first three.

Also used with a party of two or more, when they are cornered. One asks "What do we do now?" and one says something along the lines of "we... RUN!", often having about a three-second head start before the others realize what is happening. Sometimes this may be used to save another character, who is completely oblivious to the danger. This, of course, is only one type of example of this trope.

The fear responses ordinarily come in four different types:
  1. Freezing - Going completely immobile in fear, which may conceal the character from the foe's notice. note 
  2. Flight - Running from the threat at top speed.
  3. Scream - Giving a cry of terror as loudly as possible (which may or may not deter the threat, but might alert someone who can help).
  4. A combination of the three above.

Related to You Can Panic Now, and Run or Die. The distinction between this and Run or Die is that with this, you're choosing to break off the engagement mostly on your own terms, but with Run Or Die, you're narrowly avoiding (or escaping) what you know is a Curb-Stomp Battle.

A Mentor may explain to a young character that only a Fearless Fool would face this when he had options.

See also Screw This, I'm Outta Here!!


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • Unusually for a shonen series, in Slayers it's a common gag for Lina to throw a Burst Rondo in the face of powerful foes that don't go down in the first few volleys and skedaddle.
  • Another shonen example comes from Fairy Tail. In a competition to determine the next S-Class wizard, Natsu goes up against Gildarts, one of the most powerful (if not the most powerful) member of the Fairy Tail guild outside of the Guildmaster. After a short scuffle, Natsu demands that Gildarts reveal his true power... which he does. The simple act of powering up leaves Natsu paralyzed with fear. Gildarts then reveals that Natsu passed the test, despite not winning the fight (he had no chance anyway), as being able to recognize when you're totally outclassed is a sign of strength.
  • Sword Art Online: Kirito's and Asuna's response to spawning The Gleam Eyes in the 74th floor dungeon is high-tail it out of the Boss Room.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, the titular protagonist usually screams in terror and runs for his life whenever his masters announce that they intend to increase the severity of Kenichi's training regime. Since this is a series that takes Training from Hell Serial Escalation, Kenichi's reaction is completely justified.
  • There's a bit in Ah! My Goddess! where Mara and Hild have put together a magical trap that zaps all of the main cast except Belldandy... and then Bell accidentally releases them. Mara realizes that this overloaded the trap's system, and takes off running until Hild snaps, "Mara! Halt! Explain yourself!" Mara explains that overloading means the thing's about to explode. "Mara... Thank you for explaining!" as Hild runs away.
  • It's played in One Piece by Kamakiri after he discovers that Enel can become intangible (by turning into electricity) thanks to his Devil Fruit power.
  • Joseph Joestar runs from more powerful opponents in the second (and briefly in the third) arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Subverted, though, in that it's usually a part of one of his plans.

     Comic Books 
  • From Watchmen:
    "[I]n any event, I never said 'The superman exists and he's American.' What I said was 'God exists and he's American.' If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you are still sane."
    Prof. Milton Glass, "Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers," Watchmen

     Film 
  • In 9, the Trope Namer, 1 says this right before the Winged Beast attacks. However, considering that 8 tries to fight the Winged Beast before they run, this trope applies more to the awakening of the Fabrication Machine, in which 7, 9 and 5 immediately run away as soon as it's awakened.
  • A good villainous example for that one would be from The Princess Bride, when Inigo finally catches up with Count Rugen, and Rugen... runs away.
  • There are several instances in The Road to El Dorado, one of which involves Miguel and Tulio being cornered by a raging bull.
    Miguel: What do we do now?
    Tulio: You... pet him. And I'll... RUN!
  • In the Jimmy Neutron movie, Nick runs out into the arena, holding a spear, to face Poultra and the Yolkians. Suddenly, Poultra starts hatching and her three eyes glare down at Nick... who then screams like a girl and runs away.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • When the hobbits first meet the Ringwraiths, their only strategies are running or hiding (both things Hobbits can do very well in a pinch).
    • Gandalf is listed in Run or Die already, but it's worth pointing out that, in the film version, he doesn't just inform them that the Balrog is unstoppable. He calmly explains what a Balrog actually is while it's coming at them (not as Egregious as it sounds though, as it wasn't even in visual range), pauses to take a deep breath, looks shaken, and then shouts... "RUN!" and takes off ahead of the others, while they are still standing there looking at it. Making an about-face in the process.
    • A bit of a meta-example shows up in the production of the movies, where the first attempts to shoot large-scale battles between orcs and men using computer simulated armies who, left to their own AI devices, decided the best tactic was to run away from the enemy.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The Rabbit of Caerbannog has just killed several of Arthur's knights.
    Arthur: Run away! Run away!
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Salah has just met Marcus Brody in Iskenderun. A German comes up to them and invites them to a museum. Salah realizes that there is no museum in Iskenderun and that they're in danger.
    Salah: Run.
    Marcus: Yes. [snip]
    Salah: Run!
    Marcus: Did you say...?
    Salah: (punches German in the face) Run!
  • In Lady and the Tramp 2, Scamp and Angel are talking on a railroad about what they could do living in the wild. There is a train coming toward them, unnoticed by Scamp.
    Angel: Run.
    Scamp: Yeah, and run!
    Angel: No, I MEAN RUN!
  • Yellow Submarine: "Once more into the breach, dear Meanies. You're advancing in the wrong direction! Retreat backwards!"
  • Before they were the Ghostbusters, Doctors Stanz, Venkman, and Spengler do this in the New York Public Library, after attempting to bum-rush a ghost.
    Librarian: Did you see it? What was it?
    Ray: (still fleeing) We'll get back to you!
  • From the (now infamous) 1998 version of Godzilla:
    Animal: What do we do now?
    Philippe: Running would be a good idea.
  • Played for Laughs in Star Wars: Han Solo and Chewbacca foolishly charge a squad of stormtroopers, who run away. A moment later, Han and Chewie reappear, running the other way with a larger group of stormtroopers in pursuit...
  • When the "Blood-Red Van" comes after the dogs in Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco, they immediately react by running and hiding.
  • One of the more notable examples of the screaming response is directly advised in The Lion King 1:
    Uncle Max: (to Timon) What do you do if you see a hyena?
    'Timon: Scream "Mommy!"
  • In District 9, the main character, Wikus, initially turns and runs away when finally confronted by his bounty hunter, Koobus.
  • Walt Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks: After it becomes clear that their weapons are useless against the animated armor/costumes, the Nazi soldiers run like bunnies.
  • In Short Circuit:
    Ben Jabituya: I don't know about you, but I am planning to scream and run.

     Literature 
  • A Running Gag in the Captain Underpants series involves this exchange of dialogue between George and Harold:
    George: I've got an idea.
    Harold: What?
    George: RUN!
  • Ciaphas Cain's reaction to Necrons tends to be like this. Then again, he's one of the few people to have survived an encounter with them, so he's well aware of how deadly they are.
  • Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files reminds us that running away from things you cannot hurt is the best strategy at least twice in every novel. And he really knows best. In fact, he spends quite a bit of his downtime running so that the next time something tries to kill him he'll be able to run away even better.
    • Unfortunately, the monsters always seem to cheat, with their stupid unnatural speed...
    • Later in the series, this gets turned around. In Changes, for example, Harry comes upon a Red Court Vampire in his office building. The vampire's entirely justified response is to scream its head off and run away like his ass was on fire. Which, to be fair, was very nearly the case.
  • Rincewind from the Discworld series adapted this as his default strategy in any remotely dangerous situation (particularly the running type).
    • Being Genre Savvy and having a strong belief in his own pre-emptive Karma, Rincewind has a very broad definition of "any remotely dangerous situation".
    • He also knows more than anyone else how to run away: It's all about knowing you are running away from one thing, not towards something else. He's practically turned it into his religion, which has a large following.
  • Tal of the Seventh Tower understands the dangers of Aenir and the tower much better than Milla does and lacks her Proud Warrior Race Guy characteristics, resulting in him having far more sense when it comes to knowing when to run and when to fight. It causes serious tensions between them at times. It's played completely seriously.
  • Flashman runs away in almost every conceivable situation. He'll cheerfully abandon friends to save his skin. For example, in Flashman at the Charge, while being pursued by Cossacks, he threw a naked woman out of his sledge to lighten the load. (It worked, but the guy driving the sledge was so pissed that he in turn abandoned Flashy when the sledge overturned.)
  • Fisk is always trying to teach Michael this in the first two books of the Knight and Rogue Series. By the third, he's finally getting it.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Red Dwarf does this frequently, but standout moment is from "Meltdown" the 6.28 mark here:
    Rimmer (having just beamed onto a planet from a ship): "Now what?"
    Kryten: "Now we run, sir. I'd suggest we ambulate as fast as the local gravity will allow!"
    Rimmer: "Why?"
    Kryten: "Well, because of that, sir." (points to gigantic Kaiju-esque moving wax work monsters, then when Rimmer makes no response he turns around and sees that he is now half a field away and still running).
  • This seems to happen quite a bit on Doctor Who; the default modus operandi seems to be: Go somewhere, walk around until you find something horrid that wants to kill you, then run away from it until you find something whose Polarity you can Reverse, fixing the problem.
  • An episode of Sliders had the group go to a witch-doctor, and upon not being able to pay for the service, they form a huddle so that Arturo can outline his plan: "Run! Run like hell!"
  • The Dekaranger episode of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger feature this exchange, when it suddenly occurred to the wanted space pirates that walking into S.P.D. HQ was likely to get them arrested:
    Jasmine: "I suggest you all turn yourselves in."
    Luka: "Well, if that's how it's going to be, then we'll just have to..." (cracks knuckles) "...RUN!"
  • There's a villainous variation in the TV movie Spenser: Small Vices. After a failed attempt on Spenser's life, a hitman flees the scene, although fear wasn't his motivation. Spenser tells his wife that the hitman is a pragmatist when it comes to killing; he ran to avoid arrest or death and wasn't interested in proving who was the bigger man.

     Theatre 
  • From Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers:
    In enterprise of martial kind, when there was any fighting
    He led his regiment from behind (he found it less exciting),
    But when away his regiment ran, his place was at the fore, o!
    That celebrated, cultivated, underated nobleman, the Duke of Plaza-Toro!
  • The Taming of the Shrew gives us this rather priceless stage direction when the Zany Scheme goes awry:
  • Shows up in Spamalot, which isn't surprising, as it's just the stage version of the Holy Grail (see also under Film above). Worth mentioning because they turned "Run Away" into a broadway hit song.

     Video Games 
  • In Left 4 Dead's opening cutscene, when a Tank appears, Louis asks Bill, "Run or shoot?" Louis has to repeat his question several times before Bill comes up with, "Both!"
  • In Guild Wars, this trope applies to a nobleman's responce to harpies attacking a festival that he is at.
    Prince Mehtu the Wise: "Everyone move to the exits in an orderly fashion! There is only one of them! This is not the time to panic!"
    More harpies land
    Prince Mehtu the Wise: "Very well! This is now the time to panic!"
  • Played for Laughs in Portal 2
    Wheatley: But don't be alarmed, all right? Although if you do feel alarmed, try to hold on to that feeling because that is the proper reaction to being told that you've got brain damage.

     Web Comics 
  • In Buck Godot, the previously absolutely undefeatable Hyraxx' reaction to the Ulgib mercenaries is a simple, panicked "RUN!"
  • In Freefall, after learning that the area they are in is going to be hit by an asteroid, Sam and Helix immediately decide to panic (against Florence's protests).
    Sam: Two votes to one. The motion to panic has been carried. Screaming and flailing may start immediately.
  • In The Order of the Stick, this is the standard response every time they face overwhelming odds (which they seem to do with great regularity).
  • In Goblins, a chance encounter with an Eldritch Abomination gives us this exchange:
    Grem: (unsheathing his sword) I am a goblin prince. I know when to fight.
    Dies Horribly: (grabbing Grem's arm) I am a COWARD! I know when to RUN!

     Web Original 
  • In one of the first episodes in Red vs. Blue, Grif and Simmons both turn around and are looking right down the cannon belonging to Sheila [the tank]. Simmons says, "All right, on three, we make a break for it." As he starts counting, Grif quietly runs away. (Ironically, this made Grif a better target and he was the one who got fired at immediately.)

     Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic gives us this exchange:
    Spike: Now if you don't back off, you'll see what us ponies do when confronted by a huge group of jerky dragons!
    Garble: Oh yeah? *snort* What's that?
    Spike: RUN AWAY!!!
    • When Cerberus arrives at Ponyville:
    Pinkie Pie: Okay, everypony, follow my lead! [Screams and runs.]
    • Suited for Success:
    Twilight Sparkle: Now what do we do?
    Fluttershy: Um... panic?
    Rainbow Dash: That's your answer for everything!
  • In Codename: Kids Next Door "Operation L.I.C.E.", the doorway is surrounded by scores of giant lice. Numbuh 2 asks Numbuh 1 what to do.
    Numbuh 1: Follow my lead.
    (scene change later)
    Numbuh 1: RUN!
  • The Penguins of Madagascar, "Cat's Cradle":
    Skipper: Kowalski, options.
    Kowalski: I suggest a strategic retreat.
    Skipper: Elaborate.
    Kowalski: It's like running away but manlier.
    Skipper: Execute!
  • Even though Shaggy and Scooby-Doo run away from everything as a Running Gag, around a third of the time it works in their favor.
  • From Futurama:
    Opera!Bender: Leela! Leela! Save Fry, save Fry! Godzilla will devour him! As for me I must be off to have my doctor check this cough! runs away.
    Bender: I don't recall ever encountering Godzilla, but that is so what I would have done.
  • Chuckie Finster, from Rugrats, often tries to convince his friends to follow this trope before they actually get into trouble. Most of the time they should listen to him.
  • Sheen Estevez, from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, despite often being Too Dumb to Live, sometimes would recognize when something is just too dangerous or scary, and will suggest his friends to obey this trope. In the spin-off series, Planet Sheen, he even admits that running and yelling when facing danger is his primary ability.
    • In the Jimmy Neutron episode "Sheen's Brain" after Sheen becomes an Evil Genius:
    Sheen: Don't be alarmed, unless you find it alarming that I'm declaring myself supreme overlord of the town, in which case, be very alarmed!

     Real Life 
  • Stereotypical "Negro" response: "Feets, don't fail me now!" IMDb says it also shows up in Leprechaun 4.
    • It's also a phrase that gamers sometimes say when playing Dungeons & Dragons, according to Gamer Jargon, in this case referring to "feats".
  • There is a t-shirt slogan to this effect:
    I am an explosives expert. If you see me running, try to keep up.


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