Gym Classes in fiction are torturous.
There's dodgeball, running, rude gym teachers, and favoritism, but the worst of all these horrors is the rope climb.
Rope climbing is the source of nightmares for nerds, kids with asthma, and people who are just not athletic. It's never portrayed in a positive light, and it will guarantee humiliation for nearly everyone involved. Expect rope burns, laughter, and crying. Sometimes, the rope climb will be a contest to see who can get to the top and ring a bell. Most of the time, however, there will be nothing at the top of the rope.
Fast becoming a Dead Horse Trope
, as many schools don't require a rope climb anymore (mainly due to parents taking legal action if it happens).
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- In the Chuck Norris vehicle, Sidekicks, this is a cause for some of the angst and ridicule that the protagonist suffers through.
- Naturally, this trope is featured in Gym Teacher: the Movie
- Mentioned in Wayne's World:
Garth, on Cassandra: She makes me feel kinda funny; like when we used to climb the rope in gym class.
- I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry mentions this trope:
Chuck: When we climbed the rope in gym class, I would pretend it was a guy.
- A variation occurs in Mulan with the goal being to get to the top of a pole while carrying weights. Mulan slings them around the pole and knots them together.
- In "The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School" by Kim Newman, the rope climb is a trope-standard pit of horrors, but the protagonist avoids the worst of it by judicious use of her floating-in-the-air superpower.
- In Witch Week, Nan is continuously humiliated by her inability to climb the rope. Once, she tries climbing with her eyes closed so she can concentrate without seeing the laughing faces of her classmates, and seems to have gotten high. But when she opens her eyes, she realizes that for all her effort she's still on the bottom knot.
- In The Neverending Story, this was among the many situations in which Bastian was humiliated in school. When he's transported to Fantasia where his wishes are fulfilled and becames physically perfect, he recalls it with amusement.
- In Anastasia Has the Answers, Anastasia is frustrated because she's the only girl in her class who can't climb the rope in gym, so she practices at home on a rope she hangs from the ceiling. At the same time, her English teacher is having her memorize a poem that begins with "O world! I cannot hold thee close enough!", insisting that she flings her arms out when she says the line. When she is finally able to climb the rope at the climax of the book, she's so happy that she screams, "O world! I cannot hold thee close enough!", flings her arms out — and falls.
- A rare positive example is used in the first book of the Alfie the Werewolf series to show how becoming a werewolf has changed Alfie for the better. First he had great trouble climbing the rope, but after becoming a werewolf, he is suddenly the best rope climber in his class.
Live Action Television
- In 3rd Rock from the Sun, Tommy refuses to climb rope in gym class, asking "What's at the top?" Dick asks the same thing when he later talks to the gym teacher, and doesn't understand why anyone should climb the rope when there is nothing at the top.
- Still Standing: Brian had to climb a rope against a wall or get his gym credit in square dancing.
- Techno Games (a spinoff of Robot Wars which featured Olympic style events rather than fights) had a "natural rope climb" event which was basically for robots built to do this.
- In The Complete Savages episode "Tutoring", Sam fails P.E. because he can't climb the rope.
- On Seinfeld, George and Jerry are said to have first met in gym class during this activity.
- Family Matters gave this its usual preposterous spin: Gangly 97-pound-weakling Urkel has to race a much more athletic rival in the rope-climb. Urkel uses a jet-pack to get up the rope. The gym coach seems okay with this. Urkel then flies away and lands in Step by Step. It doesn't make sense in context.
- In an episode of Frasier where he's dating a gym teacher, he visits the school and sees her exhorting an unfit girl to climb a rope, and immediately has a horrible flashback to his own schooldays.