Most comedy is practically built around the Straight Man
as the Only Sane Employee
having to take heaps of abuse from other characters. This is most brutal when the other character is a well meaning but clueless Ditz
who doesn't realize the inconvenience or frustration they're causing.
Of course, our poor straight man takes it like a man rather than ask them to stop
... or maybe they do. After repeatedly and politely asking them to do things differently and/or tone it down, the ditz seems to get a clue... and then proceeds to make things worse
At which point the Straight Man, having manfully endured more punishment
than any sane person could endure, exasperatedly yells "Did You Think I Can't Feel?
", "Stop Helping Me!
", "Quit it!" or even "You're making things worse!". These words may seem tame, but they will cut the Ditz deeper than a dozen hurtful speeches
. They may well use a Precision F-Strike
with exactly what they think of the ditz, which would hurt anyone.
Her eyes will go wide
, and she'll run off crying. Any third parties witness to the event will give the Straight Man the third degree and put the blame for it squarely on their shoulders rather than the Idiot Houdini
. After a quick sermon or two, the Straight Man will find the Ditz, apologize and explain why they were so angry. And this time, the Ditz will
understand why what they were doing was so damn annoying or obstructive, and promise not to do it again. Heartwarming "Aww!" optional.
It's worth noting this trope is comparable to Kick the Dog
. Maybe it's because the Straight Man, being pretty high on the Good-Guy-O-Meter, doing this is being unusually cruel compared to their normal behavior.
It may also have to do with the Ditz being so innocent and vulnerable that acting verbally harsh towards them (not even abusive, just harsh) is comparable to kicking a dog.
Sometimes, instead of being chastised for the outburst, the Deadpan Snarker
or the Alpha Bitch
will give a
to the Straight Man for making the Ditz cry, giving him all the reason he needs to realize the error in his actions. Stories on the idealistic side
may even present a strange Double Standard
in this regard: it's fine for the Alpha Bitch
or Deadpan Snarker
to insult anyone, but the Nice Guy
character's slightest insult to another good guy is akin to a cardinal sin in terms of wrongness.
Compare Rant Inducing Slight
: a person takes all kinds of abuse without complaint, but finally snaps over something that normally wouldn't trigger such a reaction. Contrast Hero Harasses Helpers
, when the "obnoxious" person does actually help. See also Kick the Morality Pet
. If the hurt character becomes angry, it's Can't Take Criticism
Anime and Manga
- In Daily Lives of High School Boys, Yoshitake's sister tries to kill the main trio (including her own brother) after Hidenori points out to her (with no malicious intent) that she's always alone on Christmas. This includes a particularly brutal Release German Suplex on Tadakuni.
- The Sandman had an arc where Dream and Delirium try to find Destruction. Never easy company on the best times, Delirium wears thin on Dream's patience along with the general destruction (lowercase D) their quest was causing. Though he doesn't insult her, he basically tells her the whole quest was his idea of a lark, he didn't really want to find Destruction, and he's not going to help her look and anymore... all in a polite yet cold manner. Delirium knew her extreme ADHD made her odds of finding Destruction (her favorite sibling) alone next to nil, so she hides inside her realm crying and closes the portraits leading into it. Death gives Dream one of her most severe dressing-downs in the series and gets him to go apologize, which he does despite the risk Delirium could drive him permanently insane. It all turns out for the best, they reconcile.
- The Fifth Act has Sephiroth trying to goad Cloud into a fight, since he's been ignoring him since he showed up at ShinRa. So he makes fun of Cloud's passionless compliance by calling him a puppet. This causes Cloud to go ballistic and he attacks Sephiroth in rage, forcing Genesis and Angeal to break them up before they kill someone.
- In Due Date after suffering at Ethan's negligence and repulsiveness quite a bit, Peter tells him off (and not gently) for being a waste of space. He later apologizes and they reconcile, and resume their trip to see Peter's wife... but then Ethan reveals he actually did act maliciously by stealing Peter's wallet. Cue fireworks.
- In Jane Austen's Emma, after Emma makes fun of the poor Miss Bates in front of their whole social circle, Mr Knightley (rightly) tells her off. When she starts crying he feels sorry but, being the Nice Guy he is, explains to her that he told her the facts in her best interest as a friend and that he prefers her being angry at him over her not realizing her mistake.
- In Anathem, this happens at one moment between Erasmas and Ala, just before they decide to date.
- Vaarsuvius and Elan in The Order of the Stick have an exchange like this. Elan is annoying V by saying he was a wizard just like the elf (he was in a robe and gown with a beard glued on). When Vaarsuvius snaps at him, he runs off sad and crying. V is persuaded to go apologize to Elan, who did it, of all things, because he greatly admired Vaarsuvius. They made up and managed a pretty good working friendship afterward.
- Also worth mentioning is the contrast in how they view their respective classes. When V asks Elan how he'd respond if V made fun of bards, he says he'd probably laugh, because "we walk into dungeons and sing at people." Wizards, of course, take their jobs a bit more seriously.
- The Simpsons episode where Marge tries to join a country club has Marge arduously resew her Chanel dress each time she visits to appear to have a varied wardrobe. When Lisa comes in and starts bugging her with questions about the horses in the country club, Marge yells at her to be quiet. Lisa goes from happy bed bouncing to stunned, and leaves without saying a word. This, among other things, made Marge reconsider the importance she placed on joining.
- They do it again in the same episode when Lisa asks more questions about the new, expensive dress Marge buys to replace the old one. Finally, Marge snaps at Lisa again, who cowers and says "You look nice, is all." This, among many other things, makes Marge realize that her desire to get into this club is making her act like a terrible person.
- Otto has no qualms about being called a bum, but when Bart corrects him that Homer called him a sponge, he goes berserk.
- Played with in Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasss Song:
Superintendent Chalmers: You're fired.
Skinner: (Angrily), I'm sorry, did you just call me a liar?
Chalmers: No, I said you were fired.
: (Dejected) Oh. (Beat
) That's much worse.
- An episode of KaBlam!! had June teasing Henry in the begining, which made him leave the show. However, June starts to realize what she did and was even in tears for it. Henry found this out and came back.
- Corpse Bride has this when Emily finds out about Victoria, though the insult isn't that minor.
: Maybe in different circumstances, well, who knows? But we're much too different! I mean, you're dead!
Emily: Maybe you should have thought about that before you asked me to marry you.
Victor: Why can't you understand that this is a mistake, I would never marry you!
- From The Emperor's New Groove. What tips Yzma's loyal minion Kronk over the edge and causes his Heel-Face Turn? Was it constantly hounding him about how useless and incompetent he is? Nope. Forcing him to make horrific decisions? Nada. Calling him "a big stupid monkey named Kronk"? Not quite. All Yzma had to say was that she never liked his spinach puffs. Even Kronk's shoulder devil took offense at that one!
- Richard Nixon exploded at being called a "crook".
- This is a common amongst people with Social Anxiety Disorder.
- This is also a common result of injured narcissism.