The Monkey Morality Pose is a visual comedy trope frequently seen in film, television and animation.
It is based on the old idea of the three monkeys whose example good people should follow to live their lives: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil with hands over eyes, ears, and mouth, respectively. A fourth monkey, Do No Evil, keeps his hands in his lap — and since that could be interpreted a number of ways
, it may explain why the fourth monkey is not so well known. According to the Other Wiki
, the saying dates back back to Confucius
. When translated to Japanese, it becomes "Mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru" (literally, "Don't see, don't hear, don't say"). Since "-zaru" sounds like "saru" (which means "monkey") it became known as the Three Wise Monkeys.
Generally, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the trope has been used to convey people refusing to acknowledge things they should be acting on
, or as a shorthand for people reacting to something shocking
or horrifying as a type of Beatdown Discretion Shot, if you will.
Not to be confused with See No Evil, Hear No Evil
. May turn up in shows wherein Everything's Better with Monkeys
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Played with in an issue of Jason Aaron's run on The Punisher MAX, where Elektra walks into a mob meeting and slices some goombahs up. One loses his ears, the other his tongue, and the third his eyes, and they put their hands to where the wounds are.
- The Monkeys from "Banana Sunday" ARE the original Wise Monkeys.
- When Sun Wukong is born in a 4-panel comic abridged version of Journey to the West, several of the strips reference these monkeys.
Films — Animated
- In Rio, three monkeys do this after Nigel tosses their boss up and then catches him after he falls for a long distance.
- Shrek 2:
- In the Far Far Away Idol special, when the Three Blind Mice sang "I Can See Clearly Now", they tripped over each other, causing Shrek, Fiona, and Simon (in that order) to assume these poses◊. Specifically, Shrek covered his eyes, Fiona covered her mouth, and Simon, being Simon, put his fingers in his ears.
- In the movie itself, the Three Little Pigs assume the positions when they and the other fairy tale characters watch an episode of KNIGHTS and they see that the man they arrested is actually Shrek.
- In The Powerpuff Girls Movie, the titular girls are briefly seen in this pose when hiding from their problems on an asteroid. They try to ignore the screams of the Townsfolk, which their super-hearing allows them to hear through space (somehow).
Films — Live-Action
- In Planet of the Apes (1968), the ape judges briefly take this pose.
- The ads for Religulous showed the three monkeys dressed as a rabbi, a priest, and an imam.
- In Ultraviolet, three vampiric goons receive wounds causing them to adopt this pose before they collapse.
- In Robin Hood: Men in Tights when Robin of Loxley is about to be tortured in the beginning three other prisoners are shown assuming the poses.
- There is a short story (could be folklore, or not) which puts the three monkeys in a very different light. You see, the monkeys are living in a palace, and the first monkey witnessed the king brutally beating a slave for nothing. When he told the steward about what he saw, the steward threatened to glue the monkey's eyes with pitch, so the monkey decided he didn't really see anything. Etc.
- Ephraim Kishon had a little statuette of the monkeys in his apartment. He once commented that they reminded him of the UN whenever Israel was the topic.
- In one of his travel memoirs, P.J. O'Rourke once described visiting a souvenir shop in another country and seeing a sculpture the row of monkeys with the accompanying slogans below them, but with a fourth monkey with its hands firmly grabbing its crotch, and the slogan "FUCK NO EVIL".
Live Action TV
- In one episode, Prue, Piper, and Phoebe rescue three monkeys. Near the end, Phoebe reveals she's taught them to do this pose whenever she says the word "evil".
- A later episode has the three sisters cursed with this. One sister is struck blind, another deaf, and the third mute.
- Leading to an amusing moment where Piper does a Face Palm (covering her eyes), Paige covers her mouth in surprise, and Phoebe (deaf and uncertain what they're doing) assumes they're striking this pose and covers her ears. And Leo figures out right away what the problem is.
- Briefly referenced in a Halloween episode of NCIS. A trio of pranksters wearing monkey masks discover the corpse du jour at the beginning of the episode. They're listed in the credits as "See," "Speak," and "Hear."
- In one episode of Friends, when Ross announces he has to give up Marcel (his pet monkey), he, Chandler and Joey take this pose for a moment.
- In the Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior episode "See No Evil", the UnSub patterns their attacks after this. The first attack is an Eye Scream, the second Ear Ache, and the third Tongue Trauma.
- Whose Line Is It Anyway? has one game called "Animals", where the players attempt to act out a generic drama scene while behaving like predetermined animals - any game that has them acting like primates will end in this fashion.
- In one episode of Gilligan's Island, one of Gilligan's monkey friends terrorized the castaways with objects made of plastic explosives. At the end of the episode, thinking he had one left, Skipper, the Professor, and Gilligan did this just before he threw it. Fortunately, it turned out to be a regular plate.
- This is the logo for the production company of Sliders.
- In an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the villain of the week spray-painted these monkeys as part of his trail for the police.
- The Haven two-parter "See No Evil" and "Speak No Evil" has the Barrow family. They have monkey dolls in this pose, and their Trouble causes people to get their eyes, ears, and mouth sewn shut when they deliver bad news.
- There is an old MAD comic where the shadow shows what people really think/want. The comic where a man is being mugged shows the three passengers waiting at the nearby bus stop and not responding have shadows in this shape.
- Alfred E. Neuman strikes the pose on one cover of the magazine.
- In a full-page gag from the early 1970s, then-President Richard Nixon was shown in the "hear no evil" and "see no evil" poses, and then with his hands cupped around his open mouth with the caption "Well, two out of three ain't bad!"
- In Don Martin's Tarzan parody. Jane asks the monkeys who encouraged Tarzan to get plastered, after which they take this pose.
- Genesis indulges in this in their music video for Keep It Dark.
- System of a Down included this in their song ATWA.
- Very subtly referenced on the cover of Check Your Head by the Beastie Boys - MCA is wearing sunglasses, Mike D is covering his mouth, and Adrock is wearing a woolen cap.
- The back of the Mötley Crüe record Theatre Of Pain has a take on this, where the hands doing the covering are coming from behind them.
- The June 26, 2011 comic of Bizarro suggests that the monkeys that aren't able to perform one of the three tasks do the other two.
- Mr Boffo once had a set of "also-rans", which included things like "Step On No Evil" and "Swallow No Evil".
- As a gag item popular among doctors who treat sexually transmitted infections, there's sometimes a statue of a fourth monkey covering his crotch with the phrase "Spread no evil."
- The St. Clare Entertainment logo.
- The Virgins in Agnes de Mille's early comic ballet Three Virgins and a Devil strike this pose while the Devil is tempting them.
- In Ace Attorney Investigations 2, Sota Sarushiro (Simon Keyes) is given this motif when upset. This is actually Foreshadowing that Simon is a Chessmaster who have incited several murders, never directly killing anyone until the final case of the game. In other words, a monkey that neither sees, hears, speaks, or does any of the crimes he's responsible for.
- Three characters from Killer7 are based on (and named after) this trope. Iwazaru (who hangs from the ceiling in a gimp suit making "shush" hand sign) gives you important information, Mizaru (who wears bondage gear and covers her eyes) points out obstacles Kaede can remove, and Kikazaru (who wears all white, clings to walls and ceilings, and disappears when you draw near) indicates the presence of Soul Shells.
- The Pokémon Pansage, Pansear, and Panpour, as well as their evolutions actually all appear to be based off this trope, but backwards.
- Runescape does this. The three monkeys are actually found ingame, with the original names. There is a whole quest centered around them, even! A short version of the story is like this: Monkeys have once lived on the desert. The clash of two gods, Amascut, goddess of destruction, and Apmeken, goddess of friendship and sociability and monkeys, caused Apmeken to lose and lose her three senses - and so did the desert monkeys. Out of the stolen senses, three monsters were forged, and killed off the debilitated monkey population - except for Mizaru, Iwazaru, and Kikazaru, which escaped to a monkey island (no, not that one), by helping each other and filling out for their respective lackings. Also due to Apmeken's loss, people of the desert turned hostile and started wars. In the quest, the player establishes a new monkey colony on the desert and defeats those three monsters, restoring Apmeken's senses, and is spoken to by the goddess... and also does a lot of other funnier things. Talking to the three monkeys is a rather comedic routine if one can't talk back and one doesn't hear you.
- AdventureQuest spinoff site ebilgames.com has a variation with Zorbak, Twilly and Twig in this pose.
- Mario Party 9 has a bonus event on the DK board where you try and stop statues of Diddy in this pose to get bananas.
- A variation of this occurs with the three head shrines in the sequel Gretel and Hansel as one of the puzzles needed for Gretel to progress through the game. To activate them and get the remaining stone pieces to fit into the statues near the ravine, Gretel must commit an evil act related to the three senses in front of each head including: (1) killing a fawn with an arrow, (2) chanting Black Speech from a book of spells from the stickman's kitchen, and (3) carrying a screaming mandrake after watering it near the bridge. Doing so will cause the heads to cover their eyes, mouth and ears, opening their compartments and allowing Gretel to take the pieces.
- In the casual game Drawn: Trail of Shadows, one of the puzzles involves finding the missing eyes, ears and mouth from a trio of giant simian statues and setting these parts in place.
- In Grand Theft Auto V, the three protagonists do a variation of this trope when the incredibly corrupt government agent tell them the government is corrupt. Trevor double facepalms, Franklin covers his mouth with his fist, and Micheal puts his hands behind his head, covering his ears in the process.
- Team Fortress 2 promotional material "The Sound of Medicine", Pyro (covering it's eyes), Scout (covering his mouth), Heavy (covering his ears) and Soldier (covering his crotch) recreate the four poses.
- RWBY: In the dining hall, Nora throwing food for Yang to catch with her mouth escalates until Nora accidentally hits Weiss in the face with a custard pie. Team JNPR is shown with Ren covering his eyes, Pyrrha covering her mouth and Jaune covering one of his ears. Nora, meanwhile, points at Ren, passing the buck in a parody of the fourth monkey, 'Do no Evil'.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, there are three Chinese superheroes who claim to be the original Three Wise Monkeys. Don't ever ask them to assume this pose. You're only about the eightieth person to ask that day, and the joke has gotten old.
- Three famous Harman and Ising cartoons — "Good Little Monkeys," "Pipe Dreams," and "Art Gallery" — featured the three monkeys as statues come to life, trying to be good but always misbehaving. (And if you want an Ear Worm, just listen to their "Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, no!" song. Yikes!)
- The song is also almost impossible to decipher unless you know something about 1930s culture. Gay meant rakish, and jazz was bad (or worse... ethnic!):
Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, no!
We're the Goody-Goody Monkeys every place we go.
Never have we gone astray —
Being good's the only thing we know; so
Not a single wild oat will we sow!
We're so very very good, wouldn't be bad if we could —
Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, no!
- Danny Phantom has Sam, Tucker and Danny take the pose in "One of a Kind" while Samson the Purpleback Gorilla puts the beatdown on Skulker.
- One episode of Jackie Chan Adventures has Tohru, Jade, and Jackie being struck blind, deaf, and mute respectively by a giant statue of the three monkeys. Daolon Wong then teleports the statue to inflict an entire village with these, and at the end of the episode, he is cursed with receiving all three.
- My Life as a Teenage Robot: The title cards for three different episodes named after each line have a variation of Jenny striking the three poses.
- The Censor Monkeys from Disney's House of Mouse appear to be covering their eyes, ears, and mouths during all of their appearances, respectively.
- One Daria credits gag has the Three J's as monkeys making these poses.
- Ovide and the Gang has a trio of koalas who echo this—one of them wears headphones, one of them has dark sunglasses, and one of them is usually just covering their mouth.
- The old Porky Pig cartoon "Porky's Hero Agency" has Porky imagine himself as a hero-for-hire in mythical Ancient Greece, and taking on the Gorgon. At one point, the Gorgon petrifies some look-alikes of The Three Stooges, who proceed to adopt this pose, leading the Gorgon to quip "Guess I made monkeys outta them!"
- On Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko brings his car to a repair shop. The mechanics are all monkeys (a pun on "grease monkey," and three of them do this pose while laughing. Subverted in that they are laughing at Rocko for wanting to repair his old car and have it compete in a race against their muscle cars.
- In one episode of TaleSpin when Baloo and Louie were having a fight, Louie's monkey employees did this as a suggestion of how Louie should fight.
- Bob Dole once saw Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon together. Dole quipped, "That's hear no evil, see no evil, and evil."
- Romanian president Traian Băsescu featured himself in place of the monkey, as part of his electoral campaign.
- A disturbing example is this poster◊, directed at those involved in the Manhattan project, telling them to keep quiet about what was happening there.