"It's hitting bed crisis time, and I just don't know where I can physically fit any more severely ill children on my ward. Still, listen, sorry to unload on you; how was your day at the ice cream factory?"
The mood of a story or scene is the net effect of many different elements: the dialogue between the characters, the soundtrack, and the use of light and color in the background, to name a few. Artists will specifically select those elements that work together in unison to create the desired mood.
Or not. Some artists will introduce one element into a scene that completely rubs against the prevailing mood. However, rather than undermining the prevailing tone, this Mood Dissonance can make it stand out further. Rather than drowning each other out, the contrasting elements resonate against one another.
Of course, that's when it's done well. When Mood Dissonance is done poorly, the varying elements simply cancel each other out, rendering the final product a confusing mess, or worse
This can also occur unintentionally in shows with cutesy eyecatches or opening or ending themes when they are left unchanged after dramatic elements.
Note that cases such as the page quote are very
common (and often done deliberately) in Real Life
, since people with jobs dealing with sickness and death are still human, and need to avert Darkness Induced Real Life Apathy
Inversions of Empathic Environment
are common. The Empathy Doll Shot
is a specific subtrope. Crap Saccharine World
is when the dissonance is an inherent part of the story's setting. Soundtrack Dissonance
and Lyrical Dissonance
are music-specific subtropes. See also Mood Whiplash
. A Happy Flashback
can be used to render a sad present scene more poignant.
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- CLANNAD's ending theme is a cute, soothing tune that also doubles as Nagisa's theme, which conflicts with the dramatic moments that several episodes end in. The second season proved to be far worse. Episode 16 ends with Nagisa dying after giving birth, a flashback over Tomoya's happy moments with her, and Tomoya wishing he had never gotten involved with her so that she might still be alive. With the words "I should have never met her", the screen fades to white, aaaaaaaand... cue the cheerful, bouncing ending theme (which showcases the whole cast, ending with Tomoya and Nagisa)!
- "Dango Daikazoku" could and could not be. While it seems to be cheery in contrast, it definitely highlights the main point of the show - family - as well as how happy things could be. Still, it's a stark contrast to the rest of the show.
- Definitely a case of YMMV. There are some who, beneath the surface cuteness, find the song to be oddly melancholic in tone, making it more Lyrical Dissonance rather than Mood Dissonance.
- Later episodes of Magical Project S suffer from a minor case of this.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Mood Dissonance becomes more prominent as the series ticks down to the Gainax Ending. Mind Rape? Why not add the Hallelujah Chorus? Kaworu's death? Add 'Ode to Joy!' Shinji strangling Asuka as the last remnants of his sanity are stripped away, not to mention every human being on Earth being turned into a liquid? Cue the light jazzy pop! Of course, it is Komm, süsser Tod so it isn't as Mood Dissonance as you first think it is.
- And then in the second Rebuild film, while Unit 01, controlled by the Dummy Plug system, is mutilating and disemboweling and eating Unit 03 — piloted by Asuka in this version — a bright and cheerful song about being best friends forever (this song) plays as everyone but Gendo is either too horrified to look away or all but openly weeping.
- Code Geass R2: In the last episode, Nunnally sobbing over Lelouch's dead body is set to the uplifting Continued Story and the rallying cheers of "ZERO! ZERO! ZERO!"
- In the middle of one of the most climactic scenes in Gunbuster, Noriko - alone in the cockpit of her giant robot - suddenly rips her shirt and bra open, exposing her breast. Now, this is one of the anime that the phrase "Gainaxing" was coined for, but still.
- Mind you, it made sense since it's a Motion Capture Mecha and she had to tear out its core — located roughly where the human heart would be — in order to activate the Jupiter Bomb. Still, the bare breast was probably unnecessary.
- Any time a thoroughly dramatic moment in Slayers is followed by a ridiculously peppy commercial bumper.
- Evolution-R managed to avert this: in the few thoroughly serious episodes, the eyecatch has a different, moodier music.
- The anime of Violinist of Hameln has one of the most inappropriate opening themes. The sequence is very light and upbeat with an uplifting song, while the anime itself is very dark and depressing. Not to be confused with the manga which is a comedic parody of shounen action fantasy.
- Bleach provides an excellent example of a cutesy ending theme left unchanged after dramatic elements. Skoop on Somebody's upbeat, peppy "Happy People", the closing Anime Theme Song during much of the Soul Society arc, seems incongruous when it follows a hard-hitting or violent episode—especially "Rukia's Nightmare", which explores the titular character's Dark and Troubled Past.
- Narutaru's ridiculously over-the-top cheery introduction can have this effect, given that inevitably it will only take a few seconds after it's ended for the anime to start recapping how the plot went Gone Horribly Wrong last episode.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei's plot so far: A depressed-to-the-point-of-attempting-melodramatic-suicide-on-a-daily-basis man becomes the homeroom teacher for a class filled to the brink with borderline psychopaths, social misfits and mental cases (except for that one girl who is normal), and he has offered a handful of the students to commit double suicide with him. Depressing? Not one bit, much thanks to the fact that it all gets so bizarre and fudged up with all the different and extreme personalities, you simply cannot take the show seriously. The fact that the show doesn't seem to take itself seriously, but provides so many forms of dissonance it's pretty much a Mind Screw on drugs, also helps.
- Prétear has a (possibly unintentional) one—the ending theme for the series is a very cute, bubbly song that shows Himeno wandering around wistfully in her bedroom clad in cute pajamas while the Leafe Knights and other supporting characters are shown framing the scene drawn as chibi angels. This theme stays throughout the show, even as the tone gets darker and darker. The last time this theme is used in the show, it's right after Sasame, having previously betrayed the Knights, jumps in front of an attack meant for Takako and dies in the process. Seeing Sasame die and then represented as a cute, flirtatious angel in the ending theme immediately after is jarring, if not a downright Tear Jerker.
- Tenchi Muyo!: One example that comes to mind of a sad ending going into an inappropriately cutesy closing song is episode 5, which ends with Kagato blowing up Ryu-Oh, seemingly killing off Tenchi, causing even Ryoko to start crying. Hey, look, Ryo-Ohki's planting carrots and flowers are dancing to a cheesy love song!
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The music of the song Soldiers of Sorrow in the 2nd movie has a very light-hearted, upbeat tune, which does make the song's message of the tragedy of war and man's unending folly/absurdity in glorifying it stand out further. The movie's earlier releases placed this music in the climactic battle. The seemingly-incompatible light intro amongst the
action slaughter can make the viewer take notice of the whole scene, and as the music and the battle progress they intertwine, becoming one profoundly emotional experience. The tune's upbeat element underscores the valiance of both sides, while at the same time its light merry-go-round-music aspect underscores the "here-they-go-again-killing-each-other-off" message. (One focus is the portrayal of Kai Shiden, where he shows his cemented resolve to see the war through due to a recent personal tragedy, and thus jumping into the carnage.) Later releases of the movie had Soldiers of Sorrow displaced by some action music, changing the feel of the moment. (It was then turned into the movie's closing music.)
- On the subject of the music, Victory Gundam is just as infamous in having peaceful, shiny music backing the bloodbath.
- Episode 8 of Paranoia Agent is probably one of the cutest, funniest and most light-hearted episodes in the entire series. It follows three people, one being a young girl, attempting to commit suicide. And, unwittingly, succeeding.
- A (probably) unintentional example of this can be found at the end of episode 9 of Nanatsuiro Drops. At the end of the episode Haru Tsuwabuki, the male lead, is turned into an inanimate doll "forever", but they decide they decide to use the same, upbeat ED theme they used to end the previous episodes with.
- Most of the Soul Eater episodes for which the peppy and cute 'Style' was the ED. The Kid Heroes not only fail to stop the bad guy, they fail in a very unpleasant fashion with some of the series' prime examples of Nightmare Fuel. Although the tune does allow for the adorable version with a young Maka and Crona. In contrast, the fourth ED 'Strength' is considerably darker than what the final episodes actually depict though it spoils the general setup.
- In Majokko Tsukune Chan, much of the humor involves cutesy characters reacting in inappropriately cheerful or blasé ways to horrible events.
- Hellsing Ultimate will randomly insert chibi-style animations into what is otherwise a very gory series, which is often very jarring.
- The Really Dead Montage of Setsuko's ghost/spirit/memory playing around the pond in Grave of the Fireflies is sad enough... but when that's accompanied by a lovely rendition of Home Sweet Home being played on the record-player of a family that had kept everything while the two children we'd been following had lost everything... It just makes that scene all the more poignant.
- In Digimon Tamers while Henry and Renamon were having a deep conversation about Rika leaving her, Calumon and Terriermon were laughing right between them.
- Pretty Cure All Stars DX 3 plays a cheery, upbeat theme for its end theme as we're treated to still scenes of twenty-one Precures crying over the loss of their Mascot Companions followed by clips of how they met. The post-script scene after the credits fixes that problem. While Smile Pretty Cure! kinda repeats the ending in its own continuity the trope is not present, as we get to hear Miyuki, Akane, Yayoi, Nao and Reika wave good bye to Candy and Pop... and once they're out of sight, the girls proceed to bawl their eyes out... and no cheery, upbeat theme during the whole scene to make a dissonance.
- In the opening credits of the second season of Ah! My Goddess, "Flights of Fancy," one part seems a little strange. There's a short clip of Belldandy being surrounded by darkness, and she has a pained look on her face as the mark on her forehead glows with dark energy...all the while the cheerful introductory song plays in the background. Uh...yay?
- In ROD the TV, Nenene does some rather conspicuous Gainaxing while being Mind Raped.
- The Joker lives and breaths this trope. He's a clown, something that's supposed to be lighthearted and happy, that does awful and horrible things to people in a way that's occasionally funny. One description that sums it up goes that when the Joker's written right, he should be terrifying, should make you laugh, then hate yourself for laughing at him.
- The Umbrella Academy uses the bright, clean style of Gabriel Ba, while the plot is a mix of dramatic confrontations, violence, and absurdist humor.
- The ending of Don Rosa's Scrooge McDuck story "The Old Castle's Other Secret or A Letter From Home": the last main panel contains several smaller panels around the edges, combining into a single scene with multiple viewpoints. Central is Scrooge reunited with his estranged sister and looking at the letter from his long-dead parents that confirms that, contrary to what he began to fear during the story, they were proud of him and trusted him. The other panels play into this theme and into the generally uplifting spirit of the goal of the adventure having been achieved and the villain defeated... except the last one, which features Donald frantically trying to fix the Holy Grail, which he accidentally broke earlier. When it works, the effect is basically to make the reader be moved to tears and laugh at that last panel at the same time.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfiction Jericho has a few of these. A lot it comes from the the narrator, Jericho, being a First-Person Smartass and also a Sociopathic Hero. During the dark scene in chapter 3, which had earlier had an Apocalyptic Log wherein a little girl watched her parents beaten up by agents of a Government Conspiracy, we get this little gem:
By the operating table was a little table with various tools: scalpels, an unused IV drip, a bottle of whiskey ( half full, because optimism was something I really needed right now), a full syringe of morphine, and a bottle of something called "laudanum".
- Then, during a conversation with the Baron of Sleepy Oaks, which was going all fine and dandy:
My mind was suddenly filled with the inexplicable
terribly attractive vision of the Baron being mauled by a pack of feral dogs—their leader being the three-headed one with all the medals pinned to its chest—which the baron tried to flee from, only to gallop straight into a crowd of rowdy stallions who proceeded to beat him to death with rubber chickens. All that clucking…
- The opening of Saving Private Ryan shows the D-Day invasion in horrific detail, with intense cinematography designed to give a "you are there" feeling. It's quite sickening. In the middle of all this, there's a brief moment in which a soldier's helmet is struck by a bullet and gets dented. He takes it off to look at it, with a puzzled expression on his face. A moment later, a bullet goes through his head, killing him. It's oddly hilarious, even though it has no right to be.
- In The Incredibles, partway through the movie, there is a montage in which Super Hero fashion designer notes the drawbacks to capes. The montage is of several superheroes and superheroines getting into quirky cape related accidents. The accidents are so hilarious that you don't dwell on the fact that they were fatal.
- In The Dark Knight the Joker's two funniest moments are when he makes a pencil disappear and when he has to fiddle a bit with his detonator to get a hospital to explode.
- Speaking of The Joker... in the online viral ad campaign for The Dark Knight you can find a site that's essentially the Gotham Times as defaced by the Joker- The Ha Ha Ha Times. It's wickedly funny in parts, and eerie in others, but it does not prepare you for what you get in the movie. Things that are benign when first read, or just another throwaway joke, get... rather disturbing in light of TDK's actual plot.
- Natural Born Killers presents a scene of domestic violence and child abuse in the style of a '50s sitcom, complete with a Laugh Track.
- The brief random Intermission scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
- The random jumprope scene in Big Buck Bunny.
- Stanley Kubrick loves this trope:
- : Book, stop making jokes as you die, gorramit.
- How about when after navigating a very difficult sequence with some deft maneuvers, Wash is impaled MID-SENTENCE? Puts a real damper on the "whew we got through that one!" feel.
- Much earlier in the movie, of course, as relationships and moods are imploding left and right, River hears the impossibly cheery Fruity Oaty Bar commercial, complete with kawaii-but-disturbing visuals, which triggers her Waif-Fu so hard that she maims or incapacitates nearly everybody in the bar. Including Jayne!
- In The Howling, Robert Picardo plays a lycanthropic Serial Killer who smiley-face stickers at the scenes of his crimes.
- Watchmen. The song "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen was already meant to be ironic and melancholy. The use of the word "Hallelujah" in contrast to the general mood of the song only emphasizes its mood, making it even more melancholy. Perfect for a sex scene! This was intentional, since Snyder thought the scene was already ridiculous.
- Likewise the opening scene of The Comedian's brutal murder with the romantic song "Unforgettable" playing in the background. This was also deliberate, as one theme of the story is the eroticism of violence and how, for The Comedian especially, masked heroes only felt alive when they're beating the hell out of somebody. The song is also symbolic of the murderer, Adrian Veidt having never forgotten how The Comedian was the only person to ever defeat him in combat. Veidt also considers himself unforgetable. In his defence, he's certainly anything but dull.
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Darth Vader has just been mutilated, is imprisoned in an awful suit for the rest of his life and has just discovered that he killed his wife, his entire motivation for his turn for evil which was directly responsible for his prior two predicaments. Of course it's the dramatic peak of the movie and possibly the franchise, the moment where the whiny hero Anakin Skywalker truly dies and Darth Vader rises as a force of evil. Wait, what? It's not? Then what.... Nooooooo!
- The Avengers (1998) has a scene where the Big Bad of the movie has a meeting with his henchmen; two of them indicate that they want out, and he promptly kills them. It would all be very serious if everyone in the scene was not dressed in a giant teddy bear costume.
- The entirety of Ed Wood is based on this trope. Despite Wood's movies constantly earning scorn from the audience and his increasingly pressing financial problems, the movie almost never stops being as upbeat and optimistic as a Rags to Riches story. Given everything the man's friends ever said about him, this is utterly appropriate as the man was an inveterate optimist who never failed to see the silver lining to any situation.
- Towards the end of the film adaptation of Matilda, Miss Trunchbull is having her Villainous Breakdown and collapses in Matilda's classroom. The students cautiously advance on her as she awakens and immediately grabs one student to be thrown out the window. Matilda immediately uses her powers to open the window and helps him fly around a bit, making him laugh as light music plays in the background before bringing him back to crash into Miss Trunchbull and continue her breakdown/Humiliation Conga.
- When Harry Met Sally: The "Mr. Zero" scene is a hilarious description of a — divorce.
- In the film La Femme Nikita, about fifteen minutes in there's a scene where the junkie Nikita is turning her life around in the secret government agency, complete with bouncy, uplifting music. The problem is this is about ten minutes after watching her blow a cop's head off. Too Soon.
- In Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee, several sad scenes are punctuated with bizarre bits of humor. For example, the narrator states that "the train took a swan dive into the Allegheny River" while describing the train wreck that killed the protagonist's parents.
- The Strugatsky Brothers often used this trope. In Hard to Be a God, for example, most dialogs are humorous, and witty. The story, about a man trying to study a medieval society and becoming less and less civilized himself, until his girlfriend's death sends him into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, where he kills hundreds of people, is tragic and scary. Even more sad is "The Burden of Evil", which however also contains plenty of humorous and funny moments.
- The ending of Jude the Obscure. Jude is dying, not yet thirty, abandoned by the woman he loves, after having lost all three of his children. Meanwhile, his amoral wife Arabella is out having fun -even going back out after she finds him dead because she can't be bothered. In fact, the whole of Christminster (Oxford), which represents all that Jude aspired to, seems to be celebrating while he dies. Ouch.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows : J.K. Rowling seems to be fond of this trope. More than one serious scene ends with one jarring note of humor. For instance, Harry is shocked at the realization that Umbridge has the Locket and accidentally lights Mundungus's eyebrows on fire, which are then quickly doused by Hermione.
- Stephen King likes to employ Squicky moments in the middle of dramatic scenes. For example, in an early scene in the beginning of the second book in The Dark Tower, Roland is badly injured by a "Lobstrosity (essentially a carnivorous lobster the size of an alligator)." Having just lost a toe and two fingers—including his right trigger finger—one of his first thoughts is at least he jerks off with his left hand.
- Swiss writer Robert Walser's short story Kleist in Thun is, for the most part, an excruciatingly sad account of the title character's mental breakdown, but in the last few lines of the story, Kleist gets into a carriage with his sister who's come to look after him; although the story is in the third person it's been presented entirely from Kleist's point of view, but as the previously invisible narrator starts to describe the carriage journey he suddenly breaks off with the comment "On and on it goes, well well, what a journey it is" and starts to talk cheerfully if inconsequentially about the place where the story is set and what it's like and the fact that there was a beer festival there, "I think three or four years ago." Those are the last words in the story. The effect is as if Kleist is so far gone that he just doesn't matter; it works on most readers like horror itself.
- Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin is written in a light-hearted, witty style, with a lot of jokes, but the story itself is pretty depressing.
Live Action TV
- "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People is certainly a catchy, even relaxing song with a music video seemingly designed to appeal to hipster kids. Of course, with lyrics like "All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, outrun my gun," it appears to be sending the exact opposite message.
- "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" by She and Him sounds like a pleasant melody without watching the video, but the light red blood and the scooby-doo like spooky graphics are a very good showing of mood Dissonance. The music video
- Regina Spektor, "That Time". "Hey, remember that time when you OD'd?" "Hey, remember that other time when you OD'ed for the second time?"
- The New Order song True Faith is about the singer's struggle with a drug addiction ("I used to think that the day would never come that my life would depend on the Morning Sun"), but the video features dancers jumping around in colorful inflatable suits.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's "I Remember Larry". Happy lively song that sounds like it's a cheerful rememberence of someone? Check. All the lines about all the horrible things Larry did to the singer? Check. Final verse about the singer's subsequent kidnapping, murder, and leaving in a forest of Larry? Check. Funny as hell? Definitely.
- A lot of his songs go for this effect, everything from One of those days
The Bank called me up and told me I'm overdrawn
Some freaks are burning crosses out on my front lawn.
- To I Was Only Kidding which starts out as a crooning love ballad until the singer says he's only kidding prompting a shift to a much crazier melody where Weird Al basically lists all the ways their relationship has been a lie.
- Not to mention Good Old Days, which is a nice and sweet song about young memories - of savagely beating a store owner before burning down his shop and abandoning a high school sweetheart in the desert after shaving her bald, to Generic Blues which the singer weighs the choices of suicide, or just going bowling instead.
- Bohemian Polka is another Weird Al candidate for mood dissonance. It's not only a Speedy Techno Remake of the original, but it also comes with zany sound effects. Now, the original lyrics tell of a young man destined to be stoned to death, because he supposedly shot another man.
- Since You've Been Gone summarizes all the strange feelings he is going through after the breakup (like chewing on tin foil), until the last line states, "I feel almost as bad as I did when you were still here."
- Take a typical lighthearted Christmas party song, with upbeat syncopated rhythms, jingle bells, jammin' barry sax, and final chorus key-change. Then add in some explosions, air raid sirens, and cheery lyrics about the imminent nuclear holocaust. It's Christmas at Ground Zero!
What a crazy fluke, we're gonna get nuked on this jolly holiday!
- Pretty much any uptempo song by Wednesday 13 or any of the bands he fronts (Murderdolls, Wednesday 13, Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13, Manic Spider Trash, Gunfire 76, or Bourbon Crow) will be one of these. Expect plenty of upbeat songs about graverobbing, necrophilia, cold-blooded murder, obnoxious drug addiction, and cross-dressing. Sometimes all at once.
- The song Blue by The Birthday Massacre whiplashes between light, airy verses with upbeat keyboard accompaniment and a much heavier chorus with dark lyrics sung in something approaching a growl. It's jarring, creepy, and highly effective. The music video follows the same idea, with added Mind Screw and horror.
- Kylie Minogue "Better the devil you know" appears to be a catchy pop song about an abused wife/girlfriend.
- The Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". A cheerfully, peppy number. About a psychotic serial killer.
- Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising," another cheerful song about a not-so-cheery topic:
Hope you are quite prepared to die...
Don't go around tonight
Well, it's bound to take your life
- Much of the music by The Cure, especially around the "Head on the Door" and "Kiss Me" albums, falls into this. Major key pop-songs with jangly guitars and upbeat keyboards, with lyrics about loneliness, isolation, drugs and heartbreak.
- 1999 by Prince. The world ends today, wheeee! Par-tay!
- Fuck You by Cee Lo Green is a very upbeat Earworm. However the song is a bitter rant against the singer's ex and her new boyfriend.
- Lily Allen seems fond of this. In particular, "LDN" is the most obvious.
There was a little old lady who was walking down the road, she was struggling with bags from Tesco.
There were people from the city having lunch in the park, I believe that is called al fresco,
When a kid came along to offer a hand, but before she had time to accept it,
Hits her over the head, doesn't care if she's dead, cos he's got all her jewelry and wallet.
- Fuck Buttons' "The Lisbon Maru" is an interesting take, if only for the name. Listening to it, it sounds like a hopeful soldier's march. The Lisbon Maru was a World War II Japanese ship filled with English POWs. Which the United States Navy sunk, not knowing the cargo (The Japanese didn't bother placing markings signifying it was carrying POWs).
- Hadestown features "When The Chips Are Down," a very fatalistic song set to a very catchy, jaunty tune.
- Microdisney made this their trademark. The cheerful sounding Town To Town starts with the lines "Got a peaceful feeling, I've found a reason, for taking life less seriously" and yet the bridge contains the line "Help reap the dead harvest".
- There is also Dear Rosemary which is a charming acoustic song which starts off with sweet lines about friendship and love and then catches you off guard with the line "They want to build a land fit for heroes to starve to death in".
- High And Dry with its synth-tastic 80s sound has serious mood dissonance: "Why'd you have to leave me for some Albanian gambler on the Beirut train. When I finished laughing, I celebrated with a glass of paint". To sum up this upbeat catchy song is about somebody whose lover has left them and now he's gone mad and is trying to commit suicide by drinking paint.
- Ed Sheeran's song Small Bump.
- Tom Lehrer's "Irish Ballad" a cheerful little ditty about a girl who slaughters her entire family in various gruesome ways. In fact the song is a take on the fact that a lot of Irish music is like that.
- His "My Home Town" is a acheerful, nostalgic tune about the singer's home town...and all the sociopaths that inhabit it.
- As Gustav Mahler's cantata "Das klagende Lied" approaches its tragic dramatic climax and the chorus sings of horrible things, the offstage band continues to play upbeat festive music. This is foreshadowed in that music's first appearance, which is briefly interrupted by a Scare Chord and angry violins.
- Seanan McGuire's "The Black Death" is a cheery, bouncy educational song about the transmission, history, and symptoms of one of the most devastating plagues in human history.
- Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sun is Burning" has a serene and almost cute melody and theme, singing about happy days in the park. Until the fourth verse, when you realize the song is about nukes. The peaceful tune never changes, even through the verses about death.
Now the sun has come to Earth,
Shrouded in a mushroom cloud of death.
Death comes in a blinding flash
of hellish heat, and leaves a smear of ash.
- Another one of their songs, "Silent Night/7 o'Clock News" has a very bleak and distressing news report of 1960s events in the background, gradually increasing in volume as the song goes on. The news report contains stories such as failed Civil Rights bills and protests, serial murders, and politicians commenting on a crippling lack of patriotism. Juxtaposed next to Silent Night.
- Dungeons & Dragons: One of the greatest modules from the early days, "I6: Castle Ravenloft", is a spooky gothic tribute to Dracula and various classic horror tropes, fondly remembered by generations of players who got their characters killed there. It's also got a basement full of crypts with horrible puns carved on them.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The somewhat lighthearted and fun-to-sing-along-with Sondheim songs somehow make you feel like murdering people with barber razors seems like what should normally happen, and you find yourself happy that he kills the Judge in the end. The song that actually introduces the cannibalism is a light waltz full of silly puns.
- The theatre of Bertolt Brecht is essentially based on this trope- he used Mood Dissonance to provoke the audience into thinking about the play, instead of simply absorbing it. Ideally, you're meant to laugh at it, then realise what you're laughing at and stare at it for a second, disgusted. Possibly the most popular example is his swingin' jazz tune Mack The Knife, a hilariously catchy song about a murderous thug.
- In the third act of La Bohème, both main couples sing a quartet ("Dunque è propio finita!") as they each break up. Mimì and Rodolfo's sweet, sad I Want My Beloved to Be Happy split is juxtaposed with Marcello and Musetta humorously Volleying Insults at one another.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: At act II Scene VI, Cyrano heart is broken when Roxane confesses him that she is in love with Christian. Then the Duenna interrupts Cyrano and Roxane telling him she has eaten all the pies Cyrano give them. He comically sends her to read poems and closes the door in her face. The last four acts of this play have funny things and tragic things happening one after the other.
- In The Lion King, the stage "Simba's exile", of course, takes place right after Scar has killed Mufasa and led Simba to believe it was his fault, and the stage music is a medly of all the somber themes from the movie, but they still use Young Simba's standard smiling sprite, and we still hear him say "cool!" when he grabs a bug.
- Call of Duty 4 features a "shooting gallery" level, "Death from Above", in which the player controls the armaments of a AC-130 Spectre gunship and uses them in support of allies on the ground. The dissonance is in the calm, almost light-hearted banter of the crewmembers; when you send enemies flying with a shot from the 105 mm howitzer, they will exclaim things like "BOOM!", "I see lots of little pieces down there", "I see a guy running" and so on. This, of course, could very well be Truth in Television.
- It pretty much is Truth in Television; operators of weapons systems like this, particularly aircraft, are often very emotionally detached from what they're seeing, to the point where they do not have the typical human psychological aversion to killing that troops on the front line experience. That's why it is significantly easier to kill enemy troops with artillery or air power - the soldiers operating these weapons are neither in much physical danger of retaliation nor do they really see their targets face-to-face and can thus carry out their missions with an almost disturbing level of calm.
- Also, the potential for retaliation against that gunship was minimal, at least from the infantry armed with RPG's. Soldiers, even those in the safer battlefield positions, tend to become a lot less calm when there is a possibility, even the smallest chance, of a bigger fish coming along. Unlike a tank crew, these guys would probably have been safe from just about anything the Ultra-Nationalists holding the area could have used on them.
- It's true. You cannot die in that mission, and you can't fail unless you accidentally open fire on a civilian, one specific building you're told not to destroy, or the friendly soldiers you're supporting.
- After blowing up a truck full of enemy soldiers all the gunner has to say is "Shit, must have been a full tank of gas on that one".
- At the end of the credits for Call of Duty: World at War, a number of real soldiers who fought in World War 2 are named, and thanked with fairly emotional words for their service and their help in crafting the game. Aaaaand then you transition into Nazi Zombies...
- And again in Call of Duty: Black Ops, with the credits rolling over the sight of a massive US Navy armada coming to save the day, shifting to yet another allusion to the Kennedy assassination that all but states outright that the player character is the one who did it, ending with a somber quote from Kennedy himself about not looking solely to the past, which then shifts into the hilarious "Five" cutscene before you're shooting zombies in the Pentagon's inner sanctum.
- EarthBound is a fun, bouncy, delightfully absurd game. EarthBound's final boss is the embodiment of lost innocence, an indescribable dimension of horror ruled by a tragic monster who eats prayer.
This extends to the entirety of Mother 3. On one hand, it's colorful, creative and hilarious. On the other hand, there aren't enough people left on earth to maintain the human species for more than a few generations. Not to mention all the murder, death, and suicide. Y'know, for kids!
- During the Gainax Ending of Metal Gear Solid 2, the Colonel... changes. His dialogue begins to vary from parental admonishments to childish fantasies to quotes from earlier games to dadaist nonsense, and it's funny; Raiden's nudity is also funny. But it only serves to rub in that you are helpless, alone and betrayed and it's going to get worse from here on, providing one of the creepiest segments in any game ever made. "GODDAMMIT stop calling me! You're creeping me out!" Made all the worse by the fact that you have to answer the incessant (and repetitive) codec calls in order to advance the game.
- GLaDOS in Portal, like the Colonel, combines breezy corporate spin with raging psychosis and bitter passive-aggression. Once again, she becomes a deeply, deeply terrifying character because her dialogue is so funny.
- Super Cosplay War Ultra : This fanmade fighting game features a character named Kay, who looks like she's straight out of Super Monkey Ball. Her attacks are (mostly) based on Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- Sega Rally Championship has what is quite possibly the most cheerful standard Game Over around.
- Very deliberate throughout Cannon Fodder, particularly when your oh-so-cute soldiers (the trope namers for War Has Never Been So Much Fun) bleed to death in agony. It's an attempt to avert Do Not Do This Cool Thing.
- World of Warcraft: Blizzard's trailer for the "Wrath of the Lich King" expansion exploited this with the chilling precision for which they are known. The voiceover is of Terenis Menethil speaking, as if to his son, Arthas:
"My son, the day you were born, the very forests of Lordaeron whispered the name Arthas. My child, I watched with pride as you grew into a weapon of righteousness. Remember, our line has always ruled with wisdom and strength. And I know you will show restraint when exercising your great power. But the truest victory, my son, is stirring the hearts of your people. I tell you this, for when my days have come to an end, you shall be King."
- The accompanying video depicts Arthas, as The Lich King, waking and rising from The Frozen Throne in Northrend, drawing his sword Frostmourne and shattering the ice with it to raise his most powerful minion, the skeletal dragon Sindragosa, and empowering his Scourge army in preparation of leading them forth to destroy all of Azeroth.
- In Star Control 2, the Orz are colorful, parrotfish-like Starfish Aliens with an annoyingly silly theme music, speak in engrish, and are generally friendly and helpful to the player. Oh, and they also come from a different plane, which the Androsynth discovered right before going mad and being completely wiped out in mysterious circumstances. The effect is suitably creepy — try talking to them for a while without feeling your brain melt out of your ears.
- Both of the DS Drawn to Life games have this. In the first one, you're busy rescuing the Raposa and sending them back to town while getting pages of the Book of Life so that you can draw stuff they need (well, they may not need beach balls, but they send you to get them anyway). Then, Wilfre kills the Mayor, and the Hero kills him in return. In the second one, it gets worse. Wilfre is resurrected through being a symbiote on Heather, the half-shadow Raposa. The plot? Wilfre steals the color from various worlds, and it's up to the Hero and his friends to get them back. Along the way, Jowee makes a new friend with a Raposa named Sock. Near the end, it's revealed that Sock was Wilfre in disguise. When you finally go to confront Wilfre and restore color to the land, you learn that restoring color would cause the worlds to die. After Wilfre is defeated anyway, everything fades away, even the Creator (the Raposa version of God, and essentially you), the last thing being Heather, whose voice gets jumbled. Then, it turns out that the Raposa world is a dream of Mike, a human in the games who was turned into a Raposa, and Heather was his sister. Mike's family was in a car crash that killed his parents, put half of Heather's face in bandages, and put Mike into a coma. And you thought these were happy little pepper-uppers.
- Final Fantasy VI is generally considered one of the darker games in the series—for example, absolutely every character has either been kidnapped, enslaved, abandoned, lost family members, lost lovers, lost the rest of their kind or their country prior to the start of the game at most and all before the Wham Episode, wherein the villain destroys civilization and blasts the world back centuries, and then spends a year idly blasting what remains because he feels like it. After this point the game takes pains to impress you with the real tearjerkers of the game, because clearly things were not bad enough. And yet...the game has some of the most hilarious moments of the entire series, usually right after — or hell, even during — the soul-killingly depressing ones. Here's an example: A silly, witty character is hopping around like a flea while giving orders to gods and demanding to know why their smiting isn't up to snuff, gosh dang it! To the right! The right! That scene happens during the Wham Episode. The one doing the ordering is the sadistic, psychopathic Monster Clown villain, and what he is directing the smiting at was once his emperor and conqueror of the world, but is now a broken and bleeding old man crawling on the ground. After the smiting connects, the villain kicks him in the ribs, tosses off a oneliner, then heaves his still-conscious body off to fall miles to his ultimate death. There are many scenes like that, where the general reaction is a combination of grief, horror...and laughing.
- So we have Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, one of the games of the series in which a ton of the really bad shit happens, right? So we come to the end of the Trauma Conga Line for our three protagonists and what plays? None other than "Hikari"/"Simple and Clean" by Utada Hikaru. It felt really awkward to hear it this time around.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword features a scene where Ghirahim has finally kidnapped Zelda, is about to use her soul to revive Demise, and has summoned a massive army of monsters to hold Link back while the ritual is in progress. In the midst of all this, he performs an extraordinarily goofy, giddy dance◊ around the unconscious Zelda, presumably from excitement over the prospect that his master will finally be revived. Granted, this is all perfectly in character for Ghirahim, but the context of the whole scene makes it stick out like a sore thumb compared to all the other times he has acted so crazily.
- FinalFantasyXIII-2 has Chocolina, who was designed cheerful in order to contrast with the Darker and Edgier mood of the game.
- However even Chocolina becomes depressed in the worst timelines, or after the most depressing plot events. It really shows how dark the whole game can seem when you compare some of her later appearances with her first few.
- Final Fantasy X-2: During the battle with Bahamut at the end of Chapter 2, the cutscene preceding the battle, and the Sad Battle Music during the actual fight really hits the player with how painful the fight is for Yuna. The fact that anyone using the Songstress Dressphere will still chirp up with their usual "Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na!" when the Sing commands are used doesn't. This is exacerbated by the fact that all of the other Dresspheres' usual quirky lines are muted.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, Antimony is in the middle of a bright, sunlit field when her Emotionless Girl facade breaks and she starts bawling her eyes out. Later, Kat's poignant goodbye to Alistair ends with her smiling dazedly and exclaiming, "How could I cry after a week like that?"
- Perry Bible Fellowship: Much of its Black Comedy is juxtaposed with cute, "innocent" artwork with situations ranging from adult to utterly horrifying. Even within a single strip, nice safe idealised artwork can become infected with realism: deliberate visual Mood Whiplash.
- pictures for sad children sometimes veers into this too. Okay, it's more like a harpin turn.
- In this Sluggy Freelance strip, Oasis's series of dramatic flashbacks is broken up by a shot of "My Love" (Torg) going, "mmmmmmm, pork rinds." Whether this ruins the mood, provides a pleasant break from the mood, or enhances the mood (since the man she's compelled to love is so disinterested in her), is up to you.
- In Breakfast of the Gods, after Cap'n Crunch dies and floats up to heaven, greeted by none other than the Quaker Oats Man. Really sad and touching, but the sight of the friggin' Quaker Oats man as God...
- This page from Spacetrawler had me staring slack-jawed for several seconds from the suddenness of the mood shift.
- Ctrl+Alt+Del: The death of Embla is supposed to be a moving event, as she's the only other intelligent robot on earth and Zeke's only equal. It's tarnished due to Ethan acting like his usual "lolrandom" childish self, being insensitive by attempting to dump Embla's body in a recycling bin, and selfishly blaming his alcoholism on Zeke leaving. It's further warped when you realize Ethan is acting more emotional over Zeke, a robot who loved insulting him and blackmailed him into creating his mate, than his own
unborn stillborn child.
- Boxer Hockey: Young Rittz and Skip are having an intense discussion about whether they should stay friends (idealistic Rittz is appauled at Skip's shoplifting while Skip is clearly doing it to survive and each is the other's only friend) while Rittz is holding his dad's hand at his mother's burial service. Skip agrees to be good [beat] and snatches someone's wallet on the sly.
- Homestuck: Andrew Hussie is pretty much a master of this technique, using it to jarring perfection.
- Right after End of Act 4, when dream-Jade has died, what's the first thing we see? Her stuffed corpse, in the same manner as her grandfather's, in a disarmingly cheerful pose.
- Also, immediately after the Jade: Enter flash, the next page shows Bro, dead by his own sword. It is a tragic and terrifying Worf Effect moment. Of course, the very next page shows us Jack putting on his shades and gloves. It is simultaneously hilarious and disturbing. You don't want to laugh at it, but you have to.
- Darths & Droids frequently accomplishes this with the contrast between what the characters are doing within the game and what their players are talking about outside the game. Taken to the extremes in #607, in which Anakin is Force-choking Padmé and exclaiming My God, What Have I Done? while, out of character, Annie is pronouncing her love for Jim for roleplaying the scene so effectively.
- In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn is fighting his way through a horde of shadow wights to destroy a rat-king. It is a gruesome page. The only words on that page? The 23rd Psalm—and it is Bad Ass.
- The Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black uses this a lot, often switching from comedy to tragedy very quickly. The use of this trope is especially pronounced in the very last scene of the last episode of season one: Everyone except Chapman is having a great time at the Christmas pageant, inmates and guards all together. Even Doggett, who gets to perform in the pageant, is happy. Chapman meanwhile, is totally alone and friendless, and goes outside in the snow, where Doggett follows her to kill her. The switch from the warmth and happiness of the pageant to Chapman fighting for life alone in the cold Winter darkness is very jarring, and very effective.
- Mulan: You'd never have guessed that such a happy, cheerful Disney Acid Sequence could end in such a way.
"We were too busy being outrageously horny to notice the smoky red sky of decimation in the distance."
- Courage the Cowardly Dog plays this for laughs. On one hand we have terrifying imagery, disturbing villains, and eerie music. On the other we have two oblivious old people and a Funny Animal doing wild takes. The result is hilarious. At least until Eustace and Muriel start freaking out.
- The Simpsons: Lampshaded. Marge, Bart, and Lisa pay two hostages takers for Homer's release via cable car (which was Homer's idea), and the music in their cable car was making the situation lighter, so Bart changed it to be more dramatic.
- With it's upbeat, J-Pop-ish theme tune, Teen Titans sometimes suffered from this after a dramatic opening sequence.
- Example from Apprentice: Part 1. Robin wakes from a disturbing nightmare about Slade, in a cold sweat, to find Cyborg telling him that they've been contacted by the aforementioned villain. Seconds later: When there's trouble you know who to call...
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Meapless in Seattle", the Meaps' song definitely counts; the Ridiculously Cute Critters with a Tastes Like Diabetes planet sing:
We we we we (whee!)
Are going to war (We're going to war!)
We're going to war (We're going to war!)
We we we we (whee!)
Are going to war (We're going to war!)
We're going to war (We're going to war!)
De- de- de- de- de- de- de-
Destroy our enemies!
La- la- la- la- la- la- la-
Let's bring them to their knees!
We we we we (whee!)
Are going to war (We're going to war!)
We're going to war (We're going to war!)
We we we we (whee!)
Are going to war (We're going to war!)
We're going to war (We're going to war!)
- Hondo Ohnaka of Star Wars: The Clone Wars lives and breaths this trope. He almost never drops his jovial, snarking demeanor, including when being threatened by Sith Lords.
- His main reason for disliking the Sith is that they cannot be negotiated with in a business sense, not, say, that they're evil.
- He even asks, after he's about to ransom Anakin and Obi-Wan along with Dooku to the Republic, if they can "go back to being friends" when this is all over.
- The ending of the Moral Orel episode "Repression" has Orel proclaiming "Everything's Fine!" then walking off into a sunset with an Andy Griffith-esque theme . . . right after Principal Fakey has thrown out his wife, thinking she's been unfaithful (which he was).
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
- In "Party of One", Pinkie Pie starts growing increasingly suspicious of her friends avoiding her; for her, not being liked would be the worst thing imaginable. She being a character that can't even sneeze without comedy, it's played for comedy — but gets increasingly disturbing with the growing element of her outward anger and inner pain (and the others' distress over how they can't just put her at her ease about it yet because they're hiding something). In the climax, falsely convinced she has solid evidence her friends want to disown her, Pinkie suffers a full-fledged psychotic break and starts holding a party alone with inanimate objects, with the surreal scene depicting her mental state vividly. At this point, the elements of the scene are so mixed that it's not even clear whether the dominant mood should be considered funny and even cute, or sad and disturbing as heck. (If Black Comedy were a mood, it would be easy to answer this.)
- In "The Return of Harmony, Part 2", Twilight Sparkle slips past the Despair Event Horizon after the Elements of Harmony fail to work on Discord and her corrupted friends leave in a huff after a big argument. She sadly walks back to the Ponyville library, her head hung low... while a cotton-candy Personal Raincloud rains on her, silly things like dancing buffalo and an upside-down rain of pies happen all around her, and Discord shows up to mock her failure.
- In "It's About Time" when Twilight Sparkle meets her future self, she suggests the reason for her scar and her eye patch are the result of an "epic pony war". Given what these creatures are capable of in universe such a thing would be nasty, but just try and say the phrase "epic pony war" out loud without smirking.