"Everything you know is wrong. Black is white, up is down and short is long."
"And everything you thought was just so important doesn't matter.
The Mind Screw
is basically something that relies so heavily on symbolism
, or maybe just failed so extremely in an attempt at regular old coherency, that the immediate response afterwards is "What the heck was that
These works practically beg
for fans to invent their own improbable theories
about Epileptic Trees
There are several criteria for a Mind Screw
, and a Mind Screw
will usually fit a few of them:
- The work looks weird due to symbolism or just general surrealism.
- The symbolism is used heavily and never explained.
- Things happen, but the work never explains how they are connected.
- The Reveal is left out.
- Things happen without a cause, even in context. Especially in context.
- Several plot developments are obscured.
- The work is non-chronological.
- A few random scenes (such as vignettes or non-sequiturs) are added in, breaking up the narrative.
- The story has No Ending.
- The Reveal is vague, or contradicts the rest of the story.
- There are several surprises, and the story only makes sense when you have them all.
While some fans can make arguments over what the symbolism means, and what everything represents, many mind screws will pad themselves with meaningless sequences
to make the audience work even harder. Arguments over which sequences are significant are common. Don't expect the writer to be very helpful.
And if the show has supplemental materials
, don't expect them to be much help either. (If, by some miracle, they are
helpful, you've got yourself a Mind Screwdriver
.) The more decipherable symbolism tends to focus on the perceptions people have of one another. And puberty.
. Japanese and South Korean creators live, eat, and breathe this trope, particularly in the horror and psychological drama genres; and Asian audiences seem to thrive on this type of oblique, enigmatic ambiguity. David Lynch is hugely popular in Japan for this reason
Note that the screwing is not the kind that involves romantic candlelight, long walks on the beach and the throes of passion. Unless you're into that.
Not to be confused with Mind Rape
, no matter how the audience feels, nor with the Mind Game Ship
, nor Mental Affair
, which is a literal
Distinct from an In-Joke
, which is designed to make sense to a portion of the audience.
When trying to get the creators to explain just what the heck is going on
, expect some form of Shrug of God
Examples listed are works that are either intended to provoke this reaction or have provoked this reaction in a large spectrum of the audience, but one troper's Mind Screw
is another troper's Fridge Brilliance
include Gainax Ending
, Dada Ad
, Alien Geometries
. The Ending Changes Everything
is an ending that does not rely on overt symbolism for its confusing nature, but has much the same effect on viewers. When this is funny, it's Surreal Humor
. When frightening, it's Surreal Horror
Compare with True Art Is Incomprehensible
, What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?
Contrast with Mind Screwdriver
, where the Mind Screw
elements get rationalized/explained.
Examples are sorted in the following subpages: