From a kitten's book of etiquette, this lesson I take
You don't have to be embarrassed when you make a mistake
You pull yourself together, and you brush off your hat,
And tell the watching crowd, "you know, I meant to do that!"
— Catherine Faber and Arlene "Callie" Hills, "I Meant to Do That"
A spill or tumble can be quite embarrassing
if there are witnesses.
How to reduce the humiliation? Turn it into a stunt. Claim it was intentional, a show for their benefit.
The most common subversion to a pratfall
, an I Meant To Do That typically involves the clumsy character either managing to land on his feet (despite all odds) or springing up unhurt immediately after a fall.
There is a bit of Truth in Television
to this: if you trip up while walking, people are less likely to notice if you just keep walking afterward without looking sheepish or saying "whoa". Oh, they'll probably still snicker, but not as much. It is also a house cat's standard method of preserving dignity.
Some characters may create an apparent Gambit Roulette
by doing this, claiming random events to be all part of their plan
This trope can sometimes be used in less comedic circumstances, such as in a Fight Scene
. Compare Exactly What I Aimed At
and Unintentional Backup Plan
A Deliberate Flaw Retcon
(and its subtrope, Parody Retcon
) is what happens when an entire work
is claimed to have Meant To Do That.
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Anime & Manga
- Cowboy Bebop, in "Stray Dog Strut", when they activate the "Dog Whistle":
Is it on? I don't hear anything. Lab Tech:
It's high-pitched, only dogs can hear it. Boss: (long pause)
I knew that. I was just testing you.
- Samurai Champloo uses this with an overblown samurai who claims he's going to make it big one day. In a duel, he rushes up, draws his sword — and gazes skyward when it flies out of his hand and into the air. It looks like it's all over for the blowhard, until the sword falls from the sky and lands on his opponent's head, knocking him out. His response? "That was... my Flying Dragon technique!"
- Played for laughs in InuYasha, where Miroku "exorcises" a house (just to get some free accommodation), only to have a demon fly out of the roof, as the house really did need to be exorcised.
- Absolutely glorious example from the end of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Joseph Joestar drops Cars into a volcano to try and kill him. Unfortunately for him, it doesn't work, and Cars re-emerges and cuts Joseph's hand off, and it goes tumbling off into oblivion. Half a chapter later, Joseph manages to trigger a massive eruption, and Cars is planning to just fly away from it... until Joseph's severed hand comes flying out of the volcano again, propelled on venting gas, and hits him right in the throat, distracting him from the process of forming wings. His last words before he's blasted into orbit are directed at Joseph, accusing him of having planned this all along (which isn't as implausible as it sounds, in this series). Joseph immediately takes credit for it, while simultaneously thinking "As if! That was just total luck! But if it'll piss him off..."
- One Piece: Zeo seems like a rather harmless villain at first, to the point that Brook accidentally stood on his face for a while without noticing. But then Zeo reveals his master plan. Brook was never standing on his face at all. Zeo was in fact headbutting the bottom of Brook's foot! Genius! Anytime things don't work out for Zeo, he claims the negative result was what he was aiming for. To the point that he claims that he let himself be stabbed in order to dull the blade.
- Marvel's Secret Invasion. Brian Michael Bendis referencing older issues, sometimes years old, of various titles and claiming they are all part of the invasion. This is a habit of Bendis's. For instance, at the end of his Avengers Disassembled storyline, he included a few pages from the issue where Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch joined the team; their thought bubbles happened to seem kind of like foreshadowing.
- In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, in a bid for publicity, Ixus Nagus heals Bunnie of a wound she received in battle. Not only does he do so, he turns her back into a fully organic Mobian. He clearly is surprised by this, but quickly claims he meant to do it.
- Lauren Lopez, Draco's actress in A Very Potter Musical, claims that this trope is the reason her Draco rolls around on the floor all the time; he tries to look cool in front of Harry and his friends by posing, fails miserably, then tries to make it look like he did it on purpose.
- This Death Note fancomic.
- Calvin says this after shooting Hobbes in the nose trying to get him down from his trap in the first episode of Script Fic Calvin & Hobbes: The Series.
- A frequent characteristic of Vesta in Game Theory.
Films — Animation
- Chicken Run: Nick and Fetcher the rats bring the eponymous chickens a radio. Upon one of them patting the side, the tuning knob shoots across the coop. "It's supposed to do that."
- Thomas and the Magic Railroad gives us this:
Uh, Boss? Did you mean to make the roof fall in? Splatter:
All the way in? Diesel 10:
I always mean what I do, ya rattletraps.
Films — Live-Action
- The Trope Namer is Pee-wee's Big Adventure, where Pee Wee crashes his bike spectacularly in front of a couple of aloof kids, albeit ending up neatly on his feet at the end, giving the claim a little credibility. Although pratfalls had been a staple of comedy since the beginning of time, Pee Wee's priceless rejoinder made this one famous in its own right.
- Gimli after falling off his horse in The Film of the Book The Two Towers: "It was deliberate, it was deliberate!"
- The Terence Hill & Bud Spencer movie They Call Me Trinity features combat training with a group of Mormons. When one of the Mormons, during an actual battle, attempts to use Bud's trademark grapple, he keeps accidentally flipping the other guy 360 degrees — landing him right back on his feet. Repeat three times...
- Inspector Clouseau has done this in the various Pink Panther films.
- At one point he dismounted from a set of parallel bars by going down the stairs. When he saw that a bunch of people had seen him fall, he said, "Ah, that felt good!"
- After falling off a sofa in A Shot in the Dark he said, "I know I fell off the sofa, Madame. There's no need to tell me: everything I do is carefully planned, Madame."
- "Ah, the old closet ploy." (after walking into a cupboard when trying to leave a room).
- Non-comedic examples: the lightsaber battles in the Star Wars films, especially the prequels. One moment in The Phantom Menace: after Obi-Wan chops Darth Maul's lightsaber in half, Maul responds with a kick to the chin. Obi-Wan somersaults in mid-air and lands on his feet, his expression just begging for a chance to quote that famous line.
- In the Get Smart movie, Max accidentally knocks all of the hanging beads off of their threads, which later results in the guards slipping and knocking themselves out. He then turns to 99 and says "I set that up."
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Subversion: Willy Wonka, emerging from his shop for the first time in years, hobbles out on a cane. He continues hobbling after the cane gets stuck in the ground, seemingly unaware of its absence until he notices it gone, stops, falls over, but tucks into a roll at the last moment and springs to his feet, obviously more spry than he had previously let on. Gene Wilder added the scene as a way to introduce the fact that Wonka was more than he appeared. He also signed on to the movie on the condition he could do this exact scene.
- In Tomorrow When the War Began Homer shouts this after falling down Satan's Steps.
- In Desert Heat, Eddie Lomax walks into a door after being stunned by the diner girl's beauty, turns back to the rest of the diner, and laughs as though he was making a joke. But certainly appears embarrassed as he turns away and puts his hat back on.
- In Spaceballs, after mistaking the coffee machine for the radar, Dark Helmet insists that he always has a coffee before watching the radar.
- In the final book of Codex Alera, Tavi struggles to tear down the gates of one of the great cities of Alera, which are centuries old and have been continuously fortified and strengthened since their construction. He does manage to bring them down—as well as everything in a hundred foot radius. He doesn't say anything, but does play it off like part of the plan, to look more impressive.
- In a previous book, he does another wordless variation. When he's declaring that he's the Princeps of the realm, the ground shakes and a bright red light fill the sky as a result of a volcano erupting in the B plot miles away. Tavi has no more clue about what's going on than anyone else, but he decides to act as if he'd planned for it and use it to add dramatics to his speech.
- This is how Yossarian got his medal and rank in Catch-22: the military was unsure of how to handle his most recent flight, which destroyed the target but in an unusually risky manner and at a fairly high cost, so they decided to pretend this was intentional.
- Ciaphas Cain got the beginnings of his heroic reputation from this. While running away from a tyranid attack he discovered that it was a diversion and that his escape route went right into the main attack. Thus forewarned, his unit survived, and he got the credit because he couldn't very well admit that he'd tried to run.
- In the second novel of Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium, Emperor Grey trips and falls while visiting a planet in The Empire. In order to save face, he then begins to offer praises to the planet and its people (similar to the Real Life example below). This turns into the Prostration ritual, during which he visits all the planets in his domain and prostrates and prays after leaving his shuttle. Once, though, he forgets to do that and then simply declares that he is changing the ritual.
- In the first chapter of Redwall, an unnamed bird swoops down on a basket left behind by Matthias hoping for a free meal, only to find inedible (to him) nuts. To avoid embarrassment "lest any other birds had been witness to his silly mistake" he makes it out like he just flew down to look for something else to eat.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Lockheart founds the Duel Club and is dumb enough to suggest Professor Snape as his sparring partner. Snape promptly wipes the floor with him, but Lockheart just cheerfully explains that he just wanted to show what you shouldn't do in a fight.
- Similar is one of the running gags of El Chapulín Colorado (a Mexican TV Superhero spoof); he would fall and then say one of his catch phrases: "Lo hice intencionalmente, todos mis movimientos estan friamente calculados" ("I did that intentionally, all my movements are coldly calculated").He would also add silly reasons to the fall or otherwise klutz action, such as "testing the ground's stability" or "checking the balance of the walls"
- Batley from Eureeka's Castle is known to say this following bad landings. Which, in his case, is nearly every landing.
- Mr. T's absolutely hilarious educational video Be Somebody or Be Somebody's Fool tells you that if you trip over a pebble, turn it into a break dance move. The people will applaud you and you'll look awesome.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Vampires of Venice", the Doctor is doing some work to on the TARDIS and generally showing off for Rory and Amy when the console sudden erupts in an alarming shower of sparks. After an embarrassed pause, the Doctor defensively snaps "It's meant to do that."
- Red Dwarf, "White Hole". Lister is attempting to shoot a planet into the eponymous "white hole" as you would pocket a ball in a game of pool (long story). He shoots, misses, hits a completely different planet and "pockets" that one instead. Lister immediately starts crowing about how it was a perfectly executed trick shot. Everyone else thinks he was just a very lucky git.
- Invoked by many, many rejected contestants on reality show early rounds. They try to pretend their awful performance was to "punk the judges" but the very brief crestfallen look on their face says otherwise.
- Maxwell Smart from Get Smart is a master of this art. Often the unintentional pratfall does in fact save his life.
- Foggy from Last of the Summer Wine never misses a chance to boast about how he was putting on a facade of cluelessness to imply that the conversation is best held in private, how he acted all cowardly and prevented a situation from escalating into actual violence... generally how he did really badly, but nobody calls him on it because he'll just boast about that next.
- Rich Hall tells of such a moment in QI:
Funniest thing I ever saw was John McCririck
fall out of a boat. Stephen: (looks very interested) Really
Pretended it didn't happen, and I was interviewing him, and so none of the crew could laugh until two hours later. Everyone
laughed at the same time and didn't stop for half an hour. They kept it in for two hours. It is possible. Stephen:
. Because he was so... Sort of... Pompously refusing...? Rich:
Well, yeah, he's a big, blustery guy, and he had a cigar
... And he fell right on top of me. And then fell out of the boat. And then got back in and said; 'Right. Where were we
?' [makes 'Whut?' face]
'You just fell out of the boat! You're dripping wet!' Cigar just hanging out of his mouth... Guy pretended it never happened! So we
all pretended it didn't happen until two hours later. We're driving back and the guy driving was just... (makes zig-zag gesture)
..almost wrecked, he was laughing so hard.
- In MythQuest's depiction of the story of Minokichi and Yuki-Onna, Mosaku falls off an icy path. He assures Minokichi, "I'm alright. I just did that to prove how well I bounce."
- In the Cabin Pressure episode "Helsinki", while Carolyn is showing her sister Ruth her Alleged Aeroplane, she claims that the wing is supposed to be doing that and the plane is supposed to make that sound. She is unable, however, to go through with claiming that bits of the plane are supposed to fall off.
- In a possible Shout-Out to Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Paul Reubens also uses this line in his role as Rex, the droid who pilots the Starspeeder in the Star Tours rides at several Disney Theme Parks. After your ship has left the spaceport through the maintenance bay, Rex says, "I meant to do that — a little shortcut! Ha-ha!"
- Special Agent Oso: The title character's Catch Phrase: "It's all part of the plan... more or less."
- King of the Hill: In the "Hank's Back Story", Dale and Hank are practicing for an upcoming mower racing event and end up mowing towards each in a game of chicken and both stop just before the get to the hedges that divide their yards. Then Dale indicates he will back out and twists around to see where he is going, but instead of reversing, the mower shoots forward through the hedges, and Dale yelps and almost falls off. Once his mower stops, Dale feigns deliberateness and tells Hank, "there's more where that came from," then calmly reverses out.
- Sadlygrove tries to pull this out after being tripped and tumbling during his duel against Prince Armand. Nobody's fooled.
- In season 2's Gobbowl arc, Kriss Krass also protests this when the Masked Gobbowler takes back the gobball whithout Kriss even noticing.
- In an episode of American Dad!, Francine joins a womens' society but tries to get out when they expect her to cheat on Stan. Just as they prepare to kill her to preserve their secrets, Francine's neighbor Linda interrupts and gives her a VERY passionate kiss. This convinces the women to back off ("No wonder she refused the cheat on Stan with a man...), and afterwards Francine thanks Linda for saving her with the fake lesbian kiss. Linda's response is this trope combined with Suspiciously Specific Denial ("Oh, here is your husband. I should get home to my husband, whom I love and am still sexually attracted to.")
- Lasso Lass in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: C.O.W.G.I.R.L.", after crashing through the rotten floor of her treehouse with her horse. And again at the end of the episode when she crashes through Mr. Wink and Mr. Fibb's fence when trying to ride off into the sunset.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode "The Return of Harmony, Part 2", Applejack slips on some soap, knocking over the other ponies. She immediately invokes this trope. Somewhat of a parody, as she was hypnotized by Discord to lie about everything at the time.
- Done visually by the Wonderbolts flying team in "Secret of My Excess": While fending off a rampaging dragon, they get captured in a water tower. They're freed after the crisis has passed, adopt a heroic pose, then fly off without a word.
- When Gaius Julius Caesar went to Africa (to fight his nemesis, Pompeius Magnus), he stumbled and fell when leaving the ship. Since this could be considered a bad omen, he immediately exclaimed, "I have you, Africa!"
- William the Conqueror did something similar upon tripping on the shore of England, then proclaiming that he would "grasp it with both hands".
- Cats never break their cool, even in those rare moments when you might be mistaken into believing that they appeared foolish.
- (Pet) Fancy Rats, oddly enough, do the same thing. Every time they do something ridiculous it's either immediately followed by "I totally meant to do that" air, or hasty self-grooming and enforced nonchalance attempting to indicate it never happened.
- When a sex scene in his novel I Am Charlotte Simmons won the "Bad Sex in Fiction" award, Tom Wolfe started telling anyone who would listen that the sex scene was supposed to be bad.
- One time when Demi Lovato was performing "Until You're Mine", she tripped and started laughing. During one of the instrumental breaks, she said "I planned that, the whole falling thing? That was already planned."
- This trope seems to be the underlying philosophy behind the trend of people saying "I Lied" instead of "I was mistaken/I was wrong/My bad." Apparently, these people think of themselves as pulling off plans and believe that they're tricking you into believing that they just tricked you into believing that they were wrong about some small thing... It's Played for Laughs here.
- A rather more tragic example is the Battle of Verdun during World War One. The German general Falkenhayn attacked Verdun (which at the time formed a small salient on the French side of the front), intending to force a breakthrough and seize the city. He expected a quick and easy victory; instead, the offensive turned into a long and bloody battle, which eventually saw the French defenders victorious. Afterwards, Falkenhayn claimed that his objective had never been to actually break through the lines, but rather to force the French to spend a lot of resources and men on the defense of Verdun. In that, he had certainly succeeded; the area around Verdun is chock full of both French and German military cemeteries.