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Less Disturbing in Context
Actually, she's a wolf, and she was going to kiss him. Get it right, kid.

* p4 has joined #hynes
<Opius>So i stroke and stroke and stroke, and it does nothing
<Opius>then all of a sudden it goes nuts and puts white shit all over my work
<p4>i wont ask
qdb.us #33726 (abridged) Opius is talking about the stroke tool in Photoshop.

Sometimes, when you walk in at the climax of something, it appears disturbingly violent and brutal (or creepy). And then, when you watch it in the proper order, it actually seems less disturbing, if possibly still brutal (or creepy).

What's going on here?

Answer: The violence is built up to; the Villain is shown to be Ax-Crazy, and the hero is shown to be acting relatively sanely, and the point you walked in was the Despair Spot.

In other words, it's Less Disturbing In Context.

Note: If the film/show you're watching contains only one such scene, then your parents/grandparents/significant other/etc. will, with 100% certainty, walk in on you just when it happens to be on.

Subtrope of It Makes Sense in Context. Contrast Fridge Horror. Bonus internet points if "It's Not What It Looks Like" is uttered.

Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni:
    • Rika's suicide is quite disturbing taken out of context, but in the context of the series, it becomes a Crowning Moment Of Awesome. A disturbing Crowning Moment Of Awesome, but at least a less disturbing one. This is done intentionally, because the infamous scene appears at the beginning of the fifth episode, before the opening sequence, with absolutely no context, and it's not until the second half of the season that we see the events leading up to that scene.
    • Inverted in the first episode with a Cold Opening that may be shocking, but isn't quite disturbing until seen in the context of the arc. And then becomes more disturbing the more context is revealed after the arc.
  • The plot of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: A suicidal teacher wins the love of his students by asking them to commit double, or possibly collective, suicide with him. How is it less disturbing in context? 'Cuz it's played for laughs, that's why.
    • The fact that you will laugh at it is probably the most disturbing thing about it all, you seriously disturbed person, you.
  • Young man mutating into a monster and ripping a little girl's head off with his teeth? Even those who had read/watched Dance in the Vampire Bund up to that point probably flinched a little over that scene (while cheering the backfiring of a rather sadistic Shape Shifter Guilt Trip, admittedly) , seeing it out of context....
    • The key thing that makes this less disturbing in context is that this is one of the main characters doing it and he's done this kind of thing before (albeit usually to those who look like they could put up a fight).
  • Ax-Crazy heroin addict trying to kill classmates because they're standing there? He's actually The Messiah picking up garbage from the school grounds. Villain with Good Publicity seducing three girls for his demonic rituals? He's actually a Chaste Hero who loves them Like Brother and Sister. In Angel Densetsu the stuff In-Universe is always horror ... but for the readers it's always hilarious or heartwarming.

Film
  • In the Once Upon a Time in China series, Wong Fei-Hung has a romantic relationship with his own aunt... who is not a blood relative, only a relative through marriage.
  • There are one or two scenes in Love Actually that look like porn. In actuality the characters are lighting doubles and the director needs to make sure "everything" will be visible (while the characters just sit there and chat about the weather and politics). When watching the movie alone, it is practically guaranteed that someone else will enter the room during that scene. (Still, some red-blooded males might actually be less embarrassed about being caught watching porn rather than Love Actually...)
  • If you haven't seen Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, the scene in Austin Powers in Goldmember where Austin beats up Mini-Me probably looks pretty brutal and unfair. Unnecessary misunderstanding? Yes. But hardly unfair.
  • This trope is played with in Grosse Pointe Blank. The trained assassin, Blank, kills someone because this person is trying to assassinate him. However, Blank's girlfriend, who witnesses this, treats it like he's a serial killer and would kill anyone for no reason. Luckily, It Got Better.
  • I Love You Phillip Morris: About twenty minutes in, the movie suddenly cuts to Stephen having sex with a mustached man, complete with a barely covered, sweaty Jim Carrey (read: it's so graphic, it had a very limited release in American theaters). Granted, it's about a closeted Straight Gay conman and the scene is completely unprecedented, but failing to have any knowledge on the premise can give the impression that softcore gay pornography is being viewed.
  • If you watched Timecop in the VHS days, you might have thought someone had taped over it halfway through when it suddenly switched to porn. If you get into an awkward situation, just explain to your grandma that the movie is actually about an agency that polices time travel and the scene in question is a virtual reality sex simulation that has no bearing on the plot.

Literature
  • A major plot point of the His Dark Materials trilogy involves the two main characters killing the Christian God. People hearing this without context probably imagine this as quite different from how it was actually portrayed. Technically, he dies of old age, and the two of them just happened to be there when it happens, and while they may have had a role in it they didn't do it intentionally, in essence making it a Mercy Kill. And under one interpretation, God is really The Dust, while the antagonist is an impostor.
  • There's a Babysitters Club book that does this in-universe: Jessi goes to visit Stacey in NYC and overhears two guys discussing their plan to commit a robbery. She and her pseudo-boyfriend then spend the whole book following them around trying to get more concrete evidence, before overhearing hearing a repeat of the same scene, except this time with the two men bursting into laughter partway through and one exclaiming "Check your script!"
  • In The Waste Lands, some of the dialogue concerning the tribe of Pubes.
  • In Seven Men of Gascony the sixteen year old Camp Follower Nicheolette took turns marrying several members of The Squad until they died in combat or otherwise. Not brutal but kind of squicky. It is less disturbing when it is understood that this was to announce to other soldiers that she had the squad's protection in a camp full of young men who were accustomed to violence and seldom saw a woman.

Live-Action TV
  • This happens on any number of occasions in Frasier, and is usually effective in-universe. Some of the better examples:
    “Niles was getting on my nerves, so I had to go in and steal his ovaries.”
    "I tell ya, I'd be happy if Niles traded in a couple of teeth for his cojones!" Bonus 
  • Friends: When Phoebe goes to the hospital in labor, she tells the receptionist that "The father is my brother." She's acting as a surrogate for her brother and his wife, but the receptionist doesn't know that, and gives her a very strange look.
    Rachel: I am so going to miss watching you freak people out like that!
    • As the quote indicates, the writers got a lot of mileage out of this gag.
  • Scrubs: The following conversation between Dr. Kelso and Carla:
    Kelso: ...And yet, for some reason I'm not wearing a party hat sitting bare-ass on the hospital's copier machine. You know why? It's not because I have "Johnny" tattooed on my butt. He was an old navy buddy and if you went through what we did you'd understand... It's because your little theory is way off.
  • Everything Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm, due to the other characters misinterpreting what Larry has done. An example being the episode in which Larry puts a water bottle down his pants to sneak it into a theatre, and a little girl hugs him. She feels the water bottle, then runs into the lobby screaming, "MOMMY! MOMMY! That bald man's in the bathroom and there's something hard in his pants!" Larry has no choice but to escape through the window.
  • A common trope is to introduce a character who initially seems friendly, then have them do something shocking that appears to be an out of character moment. Then their back story starts getting revealed and it becomes clear why these things have been done. An example being Gus in Breaking Bad who seems friendly considering his position as a drug dealer. But then we see him brutally murder Victor for the sole reason of scaring Walt and Jesse. Soon we see a flashback where Gus's friend Max is killed in a similar manner.

Music
  • Tim Minchin has a song all about this, called Context. It's all about how he hates Jews who make and distribute kiddy porn, Black people who risk billions of other people's money gambling on future derivatives, the rich who use their wealth as an excuse for bigotry, the poor who use their poverty as an excuse for bigotry, whores who don't accept Visa, and more. But he only remembers the spoilered parts after he's run through it once...
  • Dir En Grey's "Mazohyst of Decadence" is another lyrical example, which, ripped from its context of abortion being a primary method of birth control in Japan, seems like a right-wing anti-abortion rant and Victim Blaming, when it's actually lashing out at a society that refuses to acknowledge the need for birth control and sex education and uses the most painful and traumatizing last-ditch procedure as a substitute for preventing pregnancy in the first place.
  • Pink's violent racism in the final portion of The Wall is less disturbing when you realize it may or may not really be happening. Either way, Pink Floyd is definitely not endorsing Pink's views, just showing the eventual effects of his isolation and mental instability (and he does get a My God, What Have I Done? moment at the end of the album)

Video Games
  • It's not uncommon for a non-gamer to overhear a gamer out in public discussing killing someone in a game, but miss the video game context, and shooting them either a horrified or dirty look. Most actions done in video games sound really bizarre or downright maniacal out-of-context, in general.
  • Not violent, but there are some scenes in Mother 3 that are... questionable. When Lucas gains PSI powers, it involves another character (that just so happens to look like a transvestite) holding his head under the water of a hot spring. Out of context, it could easily be mistaken for some kind of weird rape scene.
  • It's rather amazing how many people will quote one line from Silent Hill 3: "Monsters? They looked like monsters to you?" Check this wiki's Fridge Horror page for the usual reaction. What they leave out is the follow-up: "...kidding! Just kidding." In the context of the series, the monsters of Silent Hill really are monsters.
  • In Devil May Cry 4, Nero's special Devil Bringer move against Sanctus: brutally pummeling an old man in the gut with his giant demonic arm, repeatedly. If you know what that old man was up to it's a bit less unheroic to be doing that, but it's still hard to watch.
  • Due to foreign MMOs sometimes having been through "Blind Idiot" Translation, we get some weird terms that most bystanders would be freaked out by. Namely in RF Online, you could get someone saying something like "I'm killing hobos for money!". Hobo is actually a type of enemy that is good farming material for lower levels.
  • The way Persona 3's Evokers (handgun-shaped devices needed for summoning Personas) are used - by putting it to your head and pulling the trigger - can be disturbing even to those who know that they don't shoot bullets. This is especially jarring during the opening cutscene (when you aren't supposed to know about it yet), where one of the characters seemingly tries to kill herself. Strangely enough, a lot of people find Evokers one of the coolest things in the franchise.
  • Not only is Super Paper Mario about an Omnicidal Maniac trying to destroy the the multi-verse, an entire chapter of the story is dedicated to the heroes' murder and their descent into the underworld. It's actually presented in a humorous tone, and the characters actually make it to heaven before continuing on with their quest.
  • In the Mass Effect 2 DLC Overlord, a Paragon Shepard has the option to pistol whip Dr. Archer for what he did to his autistic younger brother, essentially turning him into a living computer, the titular Overlord. In any other context this might come off as a Jumping Off the Slippery Slope moment since Shepard, who's fully armored and makes a habit of taking out species destroying monsters is attacking an unarmed man, and as a Paragon isn't supposed to do stuff like that, but in context you'll probably be cheering instead.

Web Comics
  • This Sluggy Freelance strip. It's amazing how quickly you become desensitized to kittens slaughtering half-naked people.
  • More 'Less Poignant In Context', but this minus strip. It becomes less hopeful and more reasonable with the knowledge that the girl with the baseball bat is basically God.
    • A straight example is the last arc. The title character kills every human being on Earth — accidentally. The reason it isn't a full-on Downer Ending is because everyone chooses to live on in the spirit world instead, and "life" there is essentially just like life on Earth. It's still pretty gloomy, though.
  • In terms of Squick rather than brutal violence: in the epilogue to Act 4 of Homestuck, Jade's grandfather stuffs and preserves the corpse of her dead dream self.
    • Also, later on this part, showing an an angry glowing vampire chainsawing a clearly terrified guy in half. If you read the events leading up to that point, you would be cheering on the vampire with the chainsaw. (click the ==> button a few times)
    • Also, the semi-frequent Kissing of Corpses is a lot less disturbing (although still somewhat squicky) when you understand It's a way of resurrecting someone who's recently died.
    • The first view of Kanaya we have, before she's introduced or even named, is an anachronistic shot of her doing something to a sleeping Tavros involving a chainsaw and a Gory Discretion Shot, which also freaks out Karkat when he sees it out of context. When we reach that point in the timeline... she's amputating Tavros's ruined legs to give him mecha prostheses.
  • Freefall (pictured) features a romantic subplot between a veterinarian and his patient. She is smart enough to handle fusion reactors, legal informed consent goes without saying.
  • Goblins: "I'm nine years old and I'm still a virgin!"' Goblins, in the comic, only live thirty years, and therefore age much faster than humans.
    • And an in-universe example: Minmax ends up on the receiving end of an angry mob since he appears to be commenting on the attractiveness of underage girls (along the lines of "she's thirteen, but still pretty hot"). Except that the numbers he lists are their charisma stats, not their age. The townspeople don't make the connection, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Wapsi Square tends towards this rather frequently. For example, this strip is much less frightening if you know that the woman on the beach is essentially indestructible.
  • But I'm a Cat Person: "I got this list of the names of a bunch of impressionable teenagers! It has all their contact information!"

Web Original
  • The first line of this bash.org quote.
    NH Boy I broke my G-string while fingering a minor :(
    rycool ...
    NH Boy I was trying to play Knocking on Heaven's Door.
    NH Boy Oh well, time to buy new strings.
  • This short story from rec.humor.funny has this happening to two people playing multiplayer Doom on a plane.
  • Just try talking about Survival of the Fittest without people giving you strange looks. Just... try. This includes talking about the premise of teenagers being kidnapped by terrorists and forced to fight to the death. And specific scenes can fall into this as well; to most people a scene where a teenager pins another teenager to a tree with a sword and carves words into his chest would be disturbing, for example, but once you know the context it's a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
  • Reddit's r/nocontext is a repository of these moments.
  • A number of supposedly true short stories about Soviet borderguard sergeant "Allur" have been circulating Russian websites since late 1990s. In one story an inspecting major enters a weapon storeroom, then a gunshot is heard. The sergeant and a private rush in and see the major and another private covered head to toes in white goo and holding a Playboy issuenote . As it turned out, the major was checking if all rifles were properly unloaded, one rifle shot, the bullet flew through a can of wallpaper glue atop the weapon locker, splattering the glue all over the room, then the falling can knocked somebody's porn stash off the locker. In the end all blame was assigned to the last private who used the gun.

Western Animation
  • In Invader Zim...
    Zim:"The Dib! THE DIB! I don't care how delicious he is, he's evil!
    • Also AMV of the Halloween Episode would count as well. The episode is actually much more lighthearted.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Lesson Zero" has Twilight come across what appears to be Fluttershy beating a bear severely and then breaking its neck. She was actually performing chiropractic therapy on it
    • That same episode has a driven-to-insanity Twilight approach three VERY young girls and saying "Hi, Girls..." slowly and with a really creepy face. Anyone who saw this without realizing what it was would just scream "RUN, CHILDREN! RUN!" note 
    • "The Return Of Harmony, Part 2" features a scene where Discorded Rainbow Dash is tied up and pleading "Lemme go! I don't need you guys! Leave me alone!" as Twilight Sparkle walks up to her. Twilight is, in fact, trying to save her from being Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • Another is Homer Simpson's "Oh great, now my testicle's got ants on it!". (To top that, both Spanish dubs make it slightly worse, as the phrasing comes off more as "ants in it"). It was the chapter where Homer gets sent to an island as a missionary, and he drops the ox testicle he was drinking from.
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants has Patrick's line "Wait, Jeffery! I have to touch you!" He was obsessed with touching everything at a jellyfishing museum, and Jeffery was a mascot they were featuring there.

Real Life
  • Some computer scientist lecturers have to consciously remember to shut the doors and windows to the classroom before starting a lecture about UNIX Processes. Topics like "Forking children and then killing them," "Killing the parents so the children become orphans" or "What to do to prevent dead children from becoming zombies" tend to raise eyebrows of passersby that aren't familiar with the jargon. If you're curious about what kind of computer jargon would involve infanticide, it's more innocuous than it sounds.
    • It's even worse if you're talking about it in a language which lacks neutral pronouns, "just kill him if he misbehaves" comes out pretty disturbing out of context, even if the unwary listeners assume you're talking about animals (squid, tomcat, gnu ... ).
  • Truth in Television for many kinds of gamers: talking about what happened in role-playing game of any kind that is Darker and Edgier enough in public can get you anything from strange looks to arrested...
    • Just be careful never to related what your character did in the first person...
      • In Norway, a role-player had lost a note he'd written in first-person during a Modern Day game on the bus in Trondheim, and was pulled out of class in Olso by policemen who wanted to know why and how the hell he was going to do with a list of explosives, weapons and a plan to blow up an oil platform, and who he was working with, and who he was working for...
    • As shown in Penny Arcade
    • Try walking down the street and holding a conversation about a game with buckets of Video Game Cruelty Potential and watch the weird looks from passers-by.
  • Anthony Trollope overheard some people discussing the latest installment of his novel which was being published a chapter at a time in a magazine. One reader said, "I wish he'd kill off that horrible old woman!" Trollope interrupted to say, "That's an excellent idea. I'll kill her this afternoon!" (The same story is told about Charles Dickens and some other popular authors of the day.)
    • Richmal Crompton used this as the plot of one of the Just William stories: William eavesdrops on a man telling his friend that he's planning to kill a woman, but he turns out to be a writer talking about one of his characters.
  • More than one geologist has received an evil eye (or worse) when someone overhears part of a conversation that may include words such as "dike", "thrust", "bedding" and "cleavage".
    • as shown here [1]
  • David Cameron unveiling Margaret Thatcher 's bust at Conservative Party headquarters.
    • Again, doesn't have to be a lot less disturbing.
  • An advice columnist once advised a victim of frequent eavesdropping to have a little fun with the situation by loudly debating where to hide the drugs, what girl to send on the next call, or the like. A policeman wrote in to ask the column to print a correction, as he foresaw wasting time investigating calls from frightened gossips!
  • If you study typesetting, you will learn how to eliminate widows and orphans.
  • Due to the sense of humor many scientists have, scientific jargon or slang can be very misleading. For example if a phonecall by an immunologist's wife comes in, the truthful answer can be "he can't come to the phone now, he's doing ELIZA. He's been doing ELIZA all day". ELIZA naturally being enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays...
  • Anyone who's been in a particularly fringe fandom for long enough has heard (or uttered) the phrase "We're/you're scaring the normals again". Doubly true if the fandom likes to ironically act as if they're really in that reality (i.e. calling out the name of a fictional deity in a serious manner) as a parody of folks that DO get so lost, without giving the context necessary to let everyone else realize you're not that crazy.
  • Some of the brutality of the pre-modern justice system is more paletable when one realizes that there was seldom efficient methods of investigation, criminal records, or resources to spend on prisons, and that anyway even enlightened moderns haven't figured out how to make law enforcement nice and cuddly. It is still shocking of course, but one can realize the mitigating circumstances. See also: the real life section of Fair for Its Day.


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