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Had the Silly Thing in Reverse

A device or technique is used ... in reverse. Commonly, it is setting a car to reverse.

In comedies, or a comedic moment anyway, a new driver will pull forward, only it's in reverse. Conversely, they may put the car in gear as if it's in reverse, look behind themselves, and then drive forward.

Often a Sub-Trope of Driving Stick. Compare Backwards-Firing Gun. See also Wiper Start, for more comedic driver incompetence, Reverse Polarity, and Reverse Telescopic Vision.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Azumanga Daioh: one of Yukari's trips starts out with the car careening all over the yard before returning to its initial position, at which point she notices she was in reverse.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: In the penultimate scene of the climactic battle in episode 13, Panty and Stocking fire their Heaven-Ordered BFG from heaven THE WRONG WAY ROUND INTO HEAVEN. Corset can't believe how stupid they are... until a second later when it turns out that the right way because the thing summons a giant foot to stomp him to death.
  • First time panzer driver Hana in Girls und Panzer almost crashes her tank in the hangar's back door. Well, she didn't even know how to start the thing a moment before, so not noticing it was in reverse was a given.
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: In the movie version this happens when a tank is commandeered during the castle battle scene.

Film - Animation
  • The "forward when going in reverse" variation appears in the Pixar Short Mike's New Car.
  • In The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn, captain Haddock takes aim at the villain with a bazooka... and promptly takes out the dam behind them.
  • In Yellow Submarine, the Sub is traveling perilously close to the Vacuum monster, so Old Fred instructs the Beatles to put it reverse only to come perilously close to another monster.

Film - Live Action
  • Air Bud: Snively, the villain of the piece, gets into his truck and, fully intending to back out of his driveway, hits the gas. He proceeds to wreck the trash cans sitting in front of him.
  • Independence Day: Will Smith's character at first, accidentally, when piloting the captured UFO. He then turns the control instructions upside down and retapes them to the dashboard.
  • Big Trouble in Little China: Jack Burton and the other protagonists are in his truck ready to escape from Lo Pan's warehouse. Burton throws the truck into gear, they all lean forward...and the truck zips backward, bursting out through a wall.
    Jack Burton: Sorry.
    Gracie Law: Don't you know how to drive this thing?
  • Commando: Rae Dawn Chong's character tries to fire a missile launcher, but it's facing backwards and it blows up a structure behind her.
  • In Four Lions, one of the Jihads fires a missile launcher the wrong way, missing the American aircraft and demolishing the terror training camp he was staying at, killing many people. The video gets on the news as a comedy clip, much to the man's embarrassment.
  • Happens again in True Lies during the limo chase.
  • In Some Like It Hot, Josephine (Tony Curtis) is trying to impress Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) by showing her 'his' yacht (it actually belongs to someone else). They get in the motorboat used as the tender for the yacht, but he can only get it to work in reverse.
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie had this when Millie is attempting to drive Grayson's car for an escape.
    Miss Dorothy: No, forward, dear, forward.
  • Justified in The Gods Must Be Crazy, since the driver was a Bushman utterly new to any technology more advanced than a bow, and it was a shit car at that.
  • In Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Nick lets Norah drive his Yugo, and after showing off her "awesome" driving skills, she parks by the curb. When Nick comments on how far away from the curb she is, she goes to reverse closer to the curb and ends up driving forward ... into a fire hydrant.
  • A running gag in Austin Powers; in the first movie, he gets a vehicle stuck in an impossible position while trying to back up. In the sequel, he knocks over every possible object around him just trying to go forward.
  • Justified in Critters, in which the alien bounty-hunters have no clue how a car works and only succeed in making it go in reverse. The driver naturally looks over his shoulder when he starts it a second time, only to have it move forward.
  • In Moving Violations, the bad cop's squad car suffers a mechanical fault after a collision, forcing him to drive backward during the concluding car chase. As he's losing his temper, he proceeds to deliberately back up into someone's garden and through a brick wall.
  • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: we see how far Ricky Bobby has fallen when he resorts to delivering pizzas, and accidentally takes off in reverse, smashing a woman's shopping cart.
  • Invoked in DC Cab, when one of the cabbies covertly adjusts the hack inspector's shift lever and causes him to unintentionally back his car into a restaurant window.

Literature
  • John Varley’s Rolling Thunder: Podykane tries to drive a golf cart: “Clue number one: R probably means ‘Reverse’, not ‘Ride’(...) I looked for a gear named G, for ‘Go,’ but there wasn’t one. I tried D, for ‘Dear me, this is harder than I thought,’ and away I went.” The hilarity only starts there.

Live-Action TV
  • Top Gear did this in a season 15 episode with on of their Cheap Car segments. One of the cars, a Mercedes-Benz 190E Cosworth, had a slightly different gearbox setup than usual, and on the show, was always shown reversing at first in whatever tasks were set for it.
    • Even explained and lampshaded by the vehicle's driver, James May, that it had a dog-leg first gear (as opposed to left and forward, it was left and back).
  • In the Psych episode "You Can't Handle This Episode", Shawn picks up something and asks what it is. He's told that it's a rocket launcher, and he's pointing it at himself.
  • Similarly, in Stargate Atlantis episode "Condemned", the inmates have plundered the team's grounded ship and are testing out the weapons. They fire the gun correctly, but when the rocket launcher is attempted, they have the thing backwards and end up destroying the building behind them instead of shooting the explosive into the pool in front of them.
  • Mayweather in Star Trek: Enterprise when trying to fly a Xindi-Insectoid shuttle.
  • Mythbusters: inverted and thankfully averted, as Jamie reminds Adam that since his excavator is facing backwards on the dump truck, he doesn't have to set it to reverse.
  • Last of the Summer Wine: When Edie is learning to drive, she engages reverse instead of first and nearly backs into the protagonists. Her husband Wesley, who's used to her driving, merely comments "Sometimes she does that."

Newspaper Comics
  • Zits: "N for neutral, R for reverse... and D for disaster."

Radio

Role-Playing Games
  • In Dino Attack RPG, as a Shout-Out to aforementioned example from Independence Day, Rex's first attempt to drive an Iron Predator after several months of inactivity resulted in driving in reverse because the control instructions were accidentally placed upside-down.
    • This also happened to Elizabeth the first time she tried to drive an Iron Predator, demolishing a T-1 Typhoon in the process.

Video Games
  • World of Warcraft has a scene with a Dwarf test driving a new tank a Gnome just built. Due to being built on the spot with random parts, the gearbox was in backwards, and the tank takes off in reverse.

Web Comics

Web Original
  • Super Mario Bros. Z had a scene where Professor E. Gadd drove his Poltergust 3000 backwards, in a direct homage to the Duck Dodgers scene.

Western Animation
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Duck Dodgers in the 24˝th Century: Duck Dodgers initially launches his rocket ship into the ground, citing he Had The Silly Thing In Reverse.
    • Witch Hazel had the same problem with her broom in A Witch's Tangled Hare. (She tends to have mistakes with brooms a lot. In another cartoon, she grabs a broom, and it starts sweeping the floor - with her on it. "Silly me," she says, redfaced, "that was my sweeping broom!")
    • In Mad as a Mars Hare, Marvin accidentally set his space-time gun in reverse, resulting in Bugs becoming a neanderthal rabbit.
  • In the DuckTales episode "Superdoo!", two inept alien criminals are scheming to recover their stolen power crystal. One of their plots involves destroying the summer camp with an alien bazooka; unfortunately, the one holding the bazooka is holding it backwards, and it ends up blasting the forest behind them instead.
  • In a Men In Black: The Animated Series episode, J finds an alien flamethrower and threatens the monster of the week with it. Then it turns out the weapon was really pointed at his own head, the thing he thought to be the scope really being where the flames came from. Leads you to wonder...why would a flamethrower have a scope?
    • The monster even tells him that it's in reverse, and after J doesn't listen, shrugs "Just trying to be helpful."
  • Sym-Bionic Titan: in the flashback episode, Ilana and Hobbes, her bodyguard, are able to tank-jack, but since the bodyguard was too wounded, Ilana had to drive the tank. The first thing she does at the controls is drive the tank in reverse.
  • In the Pixar short Lifted, the alien novice who just failed his abduction test gets pity from his tester, who lets him fly the ship back. He crashes it downward first.
  • Taz-Mania: Happens at the end of "Bird-Brained Beast" when the Platypus Brothers back their truck over Taz as they are leaving.
  • The opening of Wacky Races has Dick Dastardly putting the Mean Machine in reverse accidentally, causing him to smash into and crack the steel beam on which the other racers have been chained.

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