aka: Dutch Courage
"Whoever has the most liquor to get the soldiers drunk and send them to be slaughtered... he's the winner."The consumption of alcohol has many effects on a person, one of which is the lowering of inhibitions. It can make a person feel more confident in their abilities, eliminate self-consciousness and doubt, and just plain make things seem less frightening. As a result, some people will consume alcohol in a deliberate attempt to bolster their courage before doing something they consider scary or intimidating. The fearsome event can be anything from relatively minor (giving a speech) to potentially embarrassing (getting naked on stage) to life-altering (proposing marriage) to life-threatening (actual combat); the key to this trope is that someone (usually the drinker) feels the anticipated event warrants the alcoholic aid. Occasionally, the booze is provided by someone else who thinks it will be helpful. Contrast Drowning My Sorrows (in which a character drinks to forget something that makes them feel sad or depressed), I Need a Freaking Drink (in which a character consumes a stress-reducing drink after the event, not before) and In Vino Veritas (in which a character speaks their thoughts a little too openly when drunk). A dark side of this is the Alcohol-Induced Idiocy. This is probably one of the Oldest Ones in the Book; it's often called "Dutch courage" after an old synonym for gin (which originally came from the Netherlands) or, in humorous psuedo-intellectual fashion, "pot-valiancy." Truth in Television, of course. Just remember your drinking limits, okay ? Not to be confused with the Let's Play series of the same title.
—Union Captain, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
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- Captain Haddock doesn't need booze to fight capably, but can go Leeroy Jenkins when drunk.
- In "The Broken Ear", Tintin is framed as a revolutionary, sentenced to be Shot at Dawn and shares a bottle with the officer in charge to steady his nerves. Tintin gets so drunk he ends up shouting the praises of the revolution before the Firing Squad. He's rescued Just in Time by the revolutionaries who've just taken over; they are so impressed with Tintin's bravery he's promoted to aide-de-camp of the new generalissimo. Waking up the next day with no memory of what happened, Tintin is understandably confused.
- When Iron Man was going through the most severe stages of his alcoholism, he would sometimes drink before battle, stating that it helped his resolve. Obviously, this was seen as denial.
- In Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Byron Lewis requires increasingly large quantities of booze in order to keep adventuring, as his harness does painful things to his body, and the actual fighting wrecks his nerves. After getting investigated by the House Un-American Activities Commission and nearly getting killed by former teammate Hooded Justice, he finally reaches a breaking point, hangs up his tights, and goes off to rehab. Sadly, he never fully recovers.
- In the Katawa Shoujo fic Lilly Epilogue Family Matters, a subtler version of this is applied. Lilly has between two and three glasses of wine when her parents visit for dinner, and Hisao notices that she's more confident than usual in dealing with her father when he suggests that she return to Scotland. When her Berserk Button has been pressed by her father insulting her boyfriend Hisao and her best friend Hanako, she calls him out on it, and after he says he raised her better than to put words in his mouth, she angrily yells “YOU HARDLY RAISED ME AT ALL, YOU BASTARD!!”
- In A Spark Of Ice And Fire, Tyrion is drunk out of his ass when he meets a large clank made out of Gregor Clegane's armor, and he acts very non-chalant as he tells it how to find Gregor Clegane.
Films — Live-Action
- In Darling Lili, Bill and Lili discuss the perpetually drunk pilot T.C.:
Lili: Why does he drink?
Bill: Because he's afraid to fly.
Lili: Then why does he fly?
Bill: Because he likes to drink.
- In the film Detroit Rock City, the character Hawk enters an amateur competition at a male strip club in an attempt to win money to buy concert tickets. Because he has stuch horrible stage fright he drinks several cocktails before going on stage... and subsequently pukes all over the place.
- In the film version of Return of the King, Samwise Gamgee chugs an entire mug of ale before asking Rosie to dance with him.
- In The Dark Knight Alfred Pennyworth offers "liquid courage" to help Harvey Dent face the crowd in his own fundraising party.
- After the bar brawl in Serenity, Jayne was freaked out by River even in her confinement. He wouldn't have confronted her if he was sober, especially considering that was close to the mistake that almost got him thrown out of the airlock during the TV show.
- Jackboots on Whitehall. When The Vicar gets drunk and starts insulting the advancing German army, Winston Churchill orders the barrel to be rolled out.
Vicar: Come and fight me, my God against yours!Soldier: Sorry sir, he must have found his way back to the bottle.Churchill: Good man.Vicar: Sausage eating wankers! (echo) WANKERS! WANKERS! WANKERS!Churchill: Let us take example from the Church. Double the ale ration, two pints per man!
- In the book of The Wizard of Oz, the "courage" that the Cowardly Lion is given is in a liquid form, which fans of the book take as a Stealth Pun on the phrase "liquid courage".
- P. G. Wodehouse loves this trope. Several of his books feature timid young men having a slug of brandy or the like when nerving themselves up to propose to their dream girls. A particularly notable example is in Right Ho, Jeeves, when both Jeeves and Bertie separately spike Gussie Fink-Nottle's orange juice before he has to make a prize-giving speech at a local school, in part to help him get over stage fright, and in the hopes he'll have the courage to propose to Madeleine. They each intend to give him a little extra "courage" without his knowledge, but Gussie has also found a bottle of liquor on his own, and their combined efforts lead to Gussie showing up for his speech completely plastered. The result is one of the funniest speeches in the history of literature. The getting-married part doesn't work out as well.
- O. Henry's story "The Lost Blend" ends with a meek young man downing the last few ounces of the title drink, and finally finding the courage to sweep his beloved barmaid off her feet.
- Discworld. In Carpe Jugulum, Nanny Ogg tells Agnes that vampire hunters get roaring drunk before setting out, both to encourage themselves and to prevent Mind Control (if their own minds are muddled, the vampire can't control the person entirely). Leeroy Jenkins when drunk.
- The Smart Guy Matthew Berdishevsky in Pelagia and the Red Rooster (spin-off of the Erast Fandorin) is usually prim and proper to a fault, but when The Power of Love hits him, he starts drinking and suddenly goes all James Bond on the baddies.
- Flashman's eponymous "hero" is a self-admitted poltroon who would do everything he can to get out of fighting...so it's quite a shock, even to himself well after the fact, when he voluntarily leads the mission by Yakub Beg and his tribesmen to destroy the Russian supply fleet in Flashman at the Charge. Turns out to be the effect of the hashish with which the Silk One dosed him with beforehand, which at least temporarily turned him into a roaring berserker.
- Invoked in the old Jose Jimenez routine on The Steve Allen Show as performed by Bill Dana. The joke centered on the common use of 'blastoff' in spaceflight references.
Jose: I take a blast before I take off. Otherwise, I don't wanna go near that thing.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Gift," the gang pauses before the walk towards Glory's crazy tower of doom. Willow off-handedly comments that she could use a shot of courage right about now. Spike's hand appears from offscreen, offering her a flask. Willow thanks him, but says that she meant the real kind of courage. Spike does the equivalent of a shrug and takes a Quick Nip himself.
- Agatha Christie:
- In the 2004 adaptation of The Murder at the Vicarage, the character Sylvia Lester speaks of needing "Dutch courage" before telling Lettice Protheroe that she's the girl's mother. Mrs. Lester is depicted as a frequent drinker; she offers "a stiffener" from her own flask at a tea party, and she's often seen at a local hotel bar.
- In the 2006 adaptation of The Moving Finger, hard-drinking war veteran Jerry Burton (who also narrates the episode) speaks of needing "Dutch courage" at one point. His use of alcohol to cope with life after his wartime experiences jumpstarts the plot, since he crashes his motorcycle and goes to a small village to recuperate.
- Kaamelott. Bohort, a complete Dirty Coward, once got drunk and turned into an aggressive warmonger.
- The Big Bang Theory: Raj, who is unable to speak in the presence of a girl, becomes a regular Casanova after a few drinks. In this case it is more of a psychological thing, as it works when he has a non-alcoholic drink and doesn't realize it — when told, he clams up automatically.
- Jim Lahey in the later seasons of Trailer Park Boys is addicted to alcohol and frequently invokes this.
- On The 100, a Grounder takes a swig of moonshine before trying to cross a field being hit by sniper fire. That gives Octavia the idea to throw the moonshine into a fire, creating a smokescreen to hide them from the sniper while they dash across . . . but not before Octavia takes a swig herself.
- In the board game Red November, gnome sailors on a prototype submarine have to survive 60 minutes until they get rescued while the ship is struck by all kinds of disasters and a colossal Kraken is lurking outside. When a gnome wishes to enter a burning room, he has to either use a fire extinguisher or drink a bottle of vodka to brave the flames.
- In The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) the actor playing Romeo is about to drink the poison, kiss the actor (note: actor) playing Juliet, and die. He swigs, looks at the man lying down in front of him, pauses with disgust and indecision, then takes another swig of "poison" as if he needs it to deaden his senses for the kiss ahead.
- In the game Eternal Darkness, Edward Roivas keeps casks of the stuff in his basement, because it helps keep him calm when dealing with the cyclopean nightmare-city under his house. During gameplay he keeps a flask on him, and drinks from it when he needs to deal with the weird happenings, but doesn't have time to rationalize or analyze it like he normally would— which he knows would just drive him insane anyway. The player can acquire some of it, which is called "Liquid Courage" and restores Sanity.
- Used as a sort of Interface Screw in World of Warcraft: when drunk, mobs look lower level than they actually are.
- In Magic And Mayhem, the player has to recruit Arthur's knights to fight against the Big Bad. In the case of Kay, this involves finding a flask of wine to give him courage.
- Penny and Aggie: Stan discovers his father, visibly intoxicated, is out of work. The father claims he's been looking, but "needed a little liquid courage" so he could meet interviewers' eyes.
- Sandra on the Rocks: The title character (who originated in Ménage à 3) mostly drinks because she enjoys it, gets drunk, and then does outrageous and arguably stupidly brave things. Occasionally, though, she deliberately gets drunk for the sake of courage, before attempting things like dating highly attractive people or sexy dancing.
- Scary Go Round: Milford gets Carrot, a normally shy and timid teenage boy who's afraid of fights, liquored up and encourages him to ask Sarah out on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, Sarah prefers Ryan, who prefers her right back. Carrot interrupts a cuddly moment between them by punching Ryan in the face.
- The Simpsons:
- In one episode, an elderly cowboy actor drinks from a flask of whiskey when he realizes that he's going to be performing in front of a live audience for the first time in decades.
- A Treehouse of Horror Couch Gag which has all the couches and chairs of Springfield killing people, Moe chugs down a whole bottle of liquor before taking on his entire bar.
- Averted in another episode, "Days of Wine and D'oh'ses", where Barney thinks he needs beer in order to fly a helicopter to save the children, but Homer convinces him "You have to be sober for this".
- Subverted in Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron. As Dr. Bruttenholm is cornered by the vampire Erzsebet Ondrushko, he pulls out a hip flask and motions like he's going to take a drink. Ondrushko mocks him for needing alcohol to steady his nerves in his last moments. Bruttenholm responds by flinging the contents of the flask at her: it's full of holy water.
- Groundbreaking 1894 French cartoon Pauvre Pierrot involves Pierre the lover shyly giving Colombine a bouquet. He then returns, swigging from a bottle, and serenades her from outside. She ignores him.
- Used by the Soviet Army during WWII. "The Peoples' Commissar's 100 grams" were a shot of vodka given to every soldier before attack.
- Russian television presenter Anton Krasovsky spoke of doing this before outing himself as gay on television:
'"I can't say I'd been preparing for this. But just before the show, i.e. two hours before the fact, I had already known I would do this," he told Snob.ru. "I also had had some 300 grams of whiskey, a bit of Dutch courage," he added.
- Krasovsky was fired from the government-backed cable network that he had helped launch within hours of the broadcast.
- Titanic shipwreck:
- According to Walter Lord's A Night to Remember a senior chief steward aboard the Titanic helped launch a few lifeboats then decided he could use a glass or three and slipped down to his cabin where he downed most of a bottle finally going back up very well insulated. When the deck tilted too much to walk on he slipped outside the rail and walked on the side of the ship until he reached the stern where he stood while it went down like an elevator under him then paddled calmly off into the icy night to be picked up eventually by a boat.
- A cook managed to keep himself alive long enough to be rescued by chugging a flask of brandy as the ship went under. The cook is seen doing this on the sinking stern in the 1998 Titanic, although his survival is not depicted in the film.
- It is not uncommon for actors of all genders to have a fairly strong drink before a screen that involves getting naked on camera. When Allison Janney won an Emmy for a guest role in Masters Of Sex, she thanked a crew member who had given her a shot of bourbon before a sex scene.