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Mood-Swinger

"You know, I can't help but notice you seem a little at war with yourself here."
Flynn Rider, in response to the page image

A character whose personality isn't marked by any set mood, but by their tendency to swing between moods drastically. Sometimes (if the characters around them are lucky) there's some sort of warning of an impending mood swing — or at least a recognizable cause — but there may just as easily be no warning whatsoever.

Frequently this is combined with emotional lability, so they skip any emotion that isn't extreme. They're never just happy, they're the cheeriest Genki Girl in the world. They're never just sad; they're on the verge of suicide. They're never just angry; they're filled with Unstoppable Rage. And they can flip between any of them at a moment's notice. May very well be a one-person Four-Temperament Ensemble.

Though they may be referred to as "bipolar", their mood swings are generally much more abrupt and frequent than the periods of mania or depression associated with type I of real-life bipolar disorder. This can, however, be a facet of type II bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder.

This is a stereotypical trait of women who are currently menstruating or suffering from PMS. It is Truth in Television, and fairly common at that, but not typically as extreme as fiction portrays it to be nor as universal. Also, not every woman whose mood is affected by menstrual hormones will be susceptible to every mood; some get stuck swinging into one mood and temporarily become a Fragile Flower or acquire a Hair-Trigger Temper. Since the same hormones are involved, pregnant women are also known for being Mood Swingers.

The Mood Swinger as a Love Interest frequently fills the role of the Tsundere. This is also a common trait of The Caligula.

For even more extreme cases, see Hair-Trigger Temper, Split Personality, Jekyll & Hyde, Tsundere and Yandere. Not to be confused with Mood Whiplash, which is a trait of the storytelling, not an individual character.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Fan Fic 
  • Calvin and Hobbes III: Double Trouble gives us the Mood Swing Babbler, an alien from Planet Zok
  • Sollux is this in canon, but even more so in the fanadventure Be the Sea Dweller Lowblood. He and Karkat will get in a fight, one of them will apologize, the other won't accept, then the second one apologizes and the first one ignores him, they get into another fight, one of them will apologize but be rejected again, one will think about apologizing but change his mind, one will beat himself up over not apologizing sooner but then not go through with it, etc, etc, etc.
    Congratulations. Over the span of two minutes, you succeed in getting pissed at Karkat, forgiving him, and getting pissed at him again, despite the fact that you have neither spoken to him nor physically seen him for hours.
    This is not bipolarity. Bipolarity is a pendulum swinging back and forth, going tick-tock like the beat of a heart, sometimes slowing so that it will be days before the next tick, perigees before the next tock. Sometimes for a time, it freezes in the middle, and you can breathe easy and clear your head. The emotions are not nearly as neat and tidy as a pendulum, but the process, the process is.
    This is not bipolarity.
    This is insanity. Not the tick-tock of a pendulum but the tacktacktack of a pinball machine. The swings are jagged and irregular, not back and forth but lurching all over creation. You're lucky when you get to hold on to an emotion for more than a fleeting moment.
    You haven't been "bipolar" in sweeps. You miss being bipolar. It was better than this unidentifiable monstrosity.
    No it wasn't! Ha ha ha, what are you talking about? It was even MORE horrible compared to this! At least this way you're guaranteed to not have to put up with a bad mood very long.
    ... Except that you usually switch from one bad mood to another bad mood.
  • In Mega Man Reawakened, Tron Bonne has been like this since Arc 5 began—and it's revealed it's because she's pregnant.

    Film - Animated 
  • Boingo from Hoodwinked acts like this once he drops his Tastes Like Diabetes facade and starts acting like a supervillain. The commentary remarks that on one occasion they couldn't decide which take to use (maniacal, verge of tears, etc), so they just decided to string them all together to very good effect.
  • After escaping from the tower in which she's lived her whole life without leaving in Tangled, Rapunzel swerves wildly between unrestrained joy at being liberated and crushing guilt at breaking the promise she made to Mother Gothel to never leave the tower.
    [ecstatic] I can't believe I did this!
    [horrified] I can't believe I did this.
    [overjoyed] I can't believe I did this!
    [appalled] Mother would be so furious.
    [sitting by pond] But that's okay, I mean, what she doesn't know who't kill her, right?
    [sitting in cave] Oh my gosh. This would kill her!
    [running through leaves] This is sooo funnnn!!
    [leaning on tree] I am a horrible daughter. I'm going back!
    [rolling down hill] I am never going back!
    [facedown in meadow] I am a despicable human being.
    [swinging from tree] WOO-HOOOO!! Best! Day! Ever!
    [sitting by rock] *sobbing*
  • The song Let It Go in Frozen is emotionally deep and complicated, and during some of its most intricate moments Elsa wears many highly expressive faces that change nearly second by second.
  • Basil from The Great Mouse Detective certainly swings from manically happy to crushingly depressed and back to manically happy again quickly. Of course, this is because he's based on Sherlock Holmes, who was possibly bipolar, and definitely a massive cocaine addict. So either Basil could use a little lithium, or he's gotten into a bad, mouse-sized vial of seven per cent solution (an expected hazard of living under Holmes' floor).
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: Jack Skellington, particularly during his BSOD Song, "Poor Jack".
    • The Mayor of Halloweentown, to the point of literally having 2 different faces.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: King Candy is known to switch emotions wildly several times within the same sentence - from cheerful giggling, to flustered, to angry, to some more giggling. He can be making puns one second and furiously ordering around his guards in the next. Even when he briefly drops the King Candy image and shows himself as Turbo, he can't help but snap to gleeful conceit in-between his fury at his plans being unraveled.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Paul, later in Pain and Gain, due the effects of cocaine (as pointed out by the Fun with Subtitles). He zig-zags between cheerful, remorseful and stoic.
  • Multiple characters in The Room, but Johnny most obviously. He (in)famously goes from a tirade about how his "future wife" has falsely accused him of domestic abuse to being happy to see his best friend.
  • The titular character in Julien Donkey-Boy, being a Paranoid Schizophrenic. His eccentric Father (Played by Werner Herzog) also counts, both in a very disturbing manner.
  • Gary King in The World's End is this, quickly able to shift from sad and regretful, to serious, to excited and manic (his most common phase). This is an early hint that all is not right in his head, and he uses his tendencies to help mask some of his deceptions from his friends.

    Literature 
  • Vlad Tepes in Count and Countess, usually to scary degrees.
  • Tonker in Monstrous Regiment has only two moods: calm and berserk. The description used in the book is "has no middle gears."
  • Peter Pan: This is Tinker Bell's original characterization. J.M. Barrie explains that fairies are 'so small they only have room for one feeling at a time.'
    "Now, Tinker Bell was not all bad. At least, she was not all bad all the time."
    • Hell, Peter's like this at least as much. Having been raised by fairies may have something to do with it.
  • Less than halfway through the first novel, it's easy to see where theories of Sherlock Holmes being bipolar come from.
  • Edward Cullen of Twilight fame is a rather offputting example. He's portrayed as a tortured, yet romantic gentleman who has the utmost devotion to Bella...but only when she's submissive. However, when she puts up even the slightest resistance or actually voices complaints, he quickly goes from a "sensitive" boyfriend to a frothing, rageful lunatic bent on putting her in her place. In addition to his manipulative tendencies, it is because of this that he serves as the perfect candidate for a walking PSA and redflag archive on Domestic Abuse.

    Live Action TV 
  • Dick from 3rd Rock from the Sun: "I find you pompous, judgemental, and completely self-absorbed. Would you be my friend?"
    • Not really an example; that was more Dick relating to those qualities because he's the exact same way.
  • The wife of the man with the bazooka round in his chest in the bomb squad episode of Gray's Anatomy. She goes from uncontrollable screaming to uncontrollable tears to uncontrollable rage and then back to uncontrollable tears.
  • Kevin the Teenager from Harry Enfield and Chums is a nightmarish example.
  • Muppets Tonight director Nigel suffers from this, going from mellow to hysterical and back again at the drop of a hat. Though working with The Muppets can have that affect on people.
  • Sherlock's Jim Moriarty has, to say the least, a habit of doing this. "SORRY BOYS! I'M SOOOOOO CHANGEABLE!"
  • Tyres from Spaced does this frequently, with the camera angle often changing with his mood. Explained as a long-term side-effect of taking waaaaaaaaay too much ecstasy.
  • The Caesars depicts Caligula as one of these; Caligula even says that he uses this to his advantage so that people do not know whether a given act of flattery will please him or anger him, thereby keeping them afraid of him.
  • Cat in Victorious can go from happy to sad in under 4 sentences.
  • A pregnancy example from The Nanny. The combination of her pregnancy and her son moving away to college left Fran's emotions all over the place, pinballing around in seconds.
    Niles: I thought tonight for a celebratory dinner, I would make salmon.
    Fran: [Morose] Oh, no, those poor little salmons. They spend their whole life swimming upstream just to be poached for dinner?
    Niles: I was going to barbecue.
    Fran: [Chipper] Ooh, mesquite? With a teriyaki glaze? That would be perfect for Brighton's celebratory dinner. [Crying] my baby's leaving. [Angry] Who put their finger in the cake!?
    Everyone else: [Slightly Confused] You did.

    Music 
  • Relient K: Whoever the song "Mood Rings" was about: "First she's Jekyll and then she's Hyde... at least she makes a lovely pair", indeed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Malfeas in Exalted is known to be bipolar on a huge scale, but the real Mood-Swinger among the Yozis is Kimbery, whose affections change like the tides - as soon as she's disappointed by you at all, she goes loveloveloveloveloveSOMUCHHATE. Being in the second category is a death sentence; the first, a death sentence suspended until you inevitably enter category two.
  • One of possible monsters in Munchkin Card Game is a "bipolar bear" - he will attack you furiously or run away, depending on its current mood.

    Theatre 
  • Lucy from 13 has this dialogue with her boyfriend:
    Lucy: ...And don't forget to change your facebook status to in a relationship. That way our profiles will be linked together like little love handcuffs.
    Brett: (To Cassie, who is walking by) Oh hi Cassie.
    Lucy: Are you flirting with her?!
    Brett: No, I was just saying Hi.
    Lucy: So you're saying I'm fat?
    Brett: No.
    Lucy: Well, you never say anything about how amazing I look anymore.
    Brett: Lucy, you are driving me crazy.
    Lucy: See? Now that was sweet. And sweet makes me sweet. Got it?
    Brett: No.

    Video Games 
  • The Dance Dance Revolution announcer, or at least the one from DDR Hottest Party. He lavishes praise on you when you're doing well or even just okay, but the second your dance meter falls into the red he'll angrily demand that you stop sucking. Also, when you idle on the song menu he demonstrates all the patience of a spoiled six-year-old ("Bo-ring!").
  • Anders of Dragon Age II is stated in the Codex to suffer from manic and depressive phases as of Act III, due to the Sanity Slippage caused by his Demonic Possession. His dialogue throughout the game tends to reflect this, ranging from calm and caring, to snarky, to obsessively focused on his goals, to self-righteously grandiose, to self-loathing and miserable, to downright psycho, with alarming speed.
  • Due to programming, Cole Phelps from L.A. Noire. During interrogations, he'll typically ask a calm, polite question, and then if you select "Doubt" or "Lie", abruptly start screaming obscenities at the suspect, then return to normal for the next question.
  • Persona 3: While not as extreme as some of the others on the list, Yukari Takeba frequently goes through random moodswings through the course of the game. Said mood swings get worse in The Answer thanks to her grieving over the main character's death.
    • Perfectly understandable too, given the fact that, before the events of the game, she was (for the most part) a normal teenager.
  • Silver from Sonic the Hedgehog. When the player sees him, he's usually either moping around or being in-your-face and energetic. Given the pervasiveness and length of time between some of these episodes, it's possible that he's actually bipolar.
  • Naoto's Shadow is this in Persona 4, alternating between a Mad Scientist giving the real Naoto a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and a Fragile Flower bawling their eyes out.
  • Cyrus of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl is revealed in Platinum to be suppressing his uncontrollable moods, which he believes to be caused by the inherently flawed nature of human spirit. It's suggested by his former neighbors that he snapped under pressure as a child and never quite got the help he needed.
  • Wigglytuff in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers has this reputation (along with Hair-Trigger Temper), though at first it seems like its an Informed Attribute. After you fail to bring back a Perfect Apple however, he literally almost blows up the guild. Besides that, the aftermath of his Curb-Stomp Battle with Team Skull supports this.
  • In Psychonauts, you delve into the brain of a former actress to control her mood swings. Her mind is represented by a stage where can change the atmosphere from cheery to depressing with a switch.
  • Soul Series: Tira is either bloodthirsty-cheerful or bloodthirsty-angry. She can change semi-randomly during a fight.
    • In her second appearance this escalated from Bipolar, to actual split personalities and her fighting style changes depending the current mood/personality.
  • Arguably all characters in the Galactic Adventures expansion for SPORE, as players are only given 5 emotions to work with (happy, sad, angry, scared, and neutral which is just a different version of happy) when making dialogue portions for their user-created missions, and they're all expressed in the most exaggerated way possible without and transitions between them. This also makes certain character types such as the Deadpan Snarker and The Stoic very difficult to portray believably.
  • This is the main gimmick of Super Princess Peach: the heroine has four different moods that must be used in various ways. It didn't take long for people to mock the Unfortunate Implications of this.
  • The Happy Mask Salesman in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. There are literally no physical transitions between his extreme emotions.
  • Troy Baker's Joker veers into this in Batman: Arkham Origins: he can go from cracking jokes to his underlings, to shoving a guy out of a window, to raving about how much he loves the fruitcake.
  • Madison Li of Fallout 3 has a habit of changing her tone from hostile and antagonistic to calm within the same sentence.
  • Aerie in Baldur's Gate II wavers more or less arbitrarily between "scarred but functional" and "if I can't fly I might as well just kill myself".

    Visual Novels 
  • Arcueid from Tsukihime. Nothing too drastic though, unless you make her really angry.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • The 20 Questions-playing Akinator can switch between smug satisfaction and red-hot rage between one question and the next, if what he thought was a perfect guess is thrown off by an answer that doesn't fit the bill.
  • The Nostalgia Critic. All it takes is one bad move from a film and he'll go apeshit. Case in point?
    Critic: A BAT CREDIT CARD???????!!! I'LL KILL ALL OF YOU!
    *3 hours later*
    Critic: Sorry. I just get a little crazy when I see a BAT CREDIT CAR-!!!
    *12 hours later*
    Critic: ...RAPE MY CHILDHOOD YOU-
  • Played for Drama in Demo Reel with Tom Collins. During a phone call message to Donnie, he goes from jovially commenting that SWAG is pretty awesome, to full-blown-stalker threats telling Donnie to not even think about ignoring him.
  • Terry, the Bi Bi-polar Polar Bear.
    Terry: I just want you all to know that I don't care if you're a boy penguin or a girl penguin, I just... Aw, heck, I'm just gonna come right out and say it: I love you all to pieces!
    Penguin: Oh, thanks Terry. We all love yo—
    Terry: GO TO HELL!! *Runs off crying*

    Western Animation 
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters had Ickis, the Ugly Cute lead with serious issues. He could go from nervous stammering to bouncing off the walls to grossly inflated overconfidence and back in minutes. And that doesn't even get into his bouts of wide-eyed idealism and naivete...
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender : Katara is pretty much this trope to a T. Justified given she's a teenage girl who's had a lot to deal with over the last few years.
    • Also Prince Zuko. One minute, he's calm, focused, and disciplined. The next, exploding in a flurry of grunts, growls, and fireballs. Even as a good guy, his mood doesn't improve much until the end. This is why he cannot use Lightning Bending, which requires absolute control over one's emotions.
  • Lunch Lady from Danny Phantom who switches from kind, grandmotherly figure to full-blown "I'll KEEL you" mode at the drop of a hat. Her alternate future daughter picked up the habit as well.
  • The titular Invader Zim.
  • Heloise from Jimmy Two-Shoes tends to switch from Ax-Crazy Enfant Terrible mode, to sweet and innocent mode, to Deadpan Snarker mode, to flirtatiously lovable mode (around Jimmy), to pissed off mode and back again.
  • Doctor Drakken from Kim Possible seems to go from mood to mood like an acrobat does on swings.
    • In the episode "Emotion Sickness", Kim and Shego become Mood Swingers thanks to the Moodulators attached to them. Ron and Drakken end up being on the receiving end of all of their emotions.
  • Hexadecimal in ReBoot has her mood swings lampshaded - her face consists entirely of a theater mask, and she has to manually wave her hand across it to change its exaggerated expression.
  • Superjail! - The Warden.
    (sees dead bunny) "You... sick... bastard." (squishes dead bunny, merrily sends the bunny's kidnapper off in a rocket ship, and holds dead bunny up) "Heeey, little guy! Underneath all that precious fur..." (cuddles dead bunny mournfully) "All scared and all alone..." (pets dead bunny contentedly, starts singing) "If only~ they knew~ what it was like~ to be~ yyyyoooOOOOUUUU!" (rips dead bunny's skin off and gleefully wears it as a hat) "Jared, I want one of these for each and every inmate, not a moment to spare!"
  • Lola Bunny from The Looney Tunes Show has a tendency to have little control over her emotions, one moments she can be crying her eyes out and the next she's laughing her ass off. Being a Cloud Cuckoolander, it could be attributed to her never being entirely sure what's going on around her.
  • Ren from The Ren & Stimpy Show.
  • Made fun of in one episode of The Simpsons. Homer takes sleeping pills to sleep well through the night and Lisa reads off the side-effects, one which is Mood Swings. Cue Homer repeatedly saying "Mood Swings" in various moods.
  • Blitzwing the Triple-Changer from Transformers Animated, who switches rapidly between three personalities/moods: Icy (stoick and calculating), Hothead (enraged and Hot-Blooded), and Random (who is... well, Random).
    • In the original series Galvatron would switch moods at a drop of a hat. His moods seemed either insanely gleeful, terrified, sarcastic, calm or enraged. His moodiness is a symptom of his damaged metaprocessor (along with irrational behaviour).
  • Peg from Goof Troop can switch from being sweet and happy to terrifyingly angry in the same sentence, and effortlessly move back and forth between them. This usually occurs because she's addressing two parties at once, one she has a beef with and one she doesn't.

    Real Life 
  • Rapid cycling bipolar disorder (in which the characteristic mood swings take place in periods of days or even hours, rather than weeks as is more typical) somewhat resembles this trope, and as noted above most fictional characters with bipolar disorder are depicted this way despite it being comparatively rare.
  • One of the key symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder are rapid mood swings that can happen within hours. note  This trope is so much a core indicator of that disorder, in fact, that some propose to change its name to "Emotional (dys)regulation disorder" because the term "Borderline" is outdated and carries too much social stigma.
    • To be clear, the key difference between BPD and bipolar disorder is that mood swings in BPD are always a response to external stimuli (even if it is something as trivial as your pen being out of ink) while mood swings in bipolar disorder are spontaneous.
  • Some people with PTSD have mood swings as part of the hyperarousal aspect of the disorder.
  • Ivan the Terrible had mood swings as a side effect of the quicksilver he used to treat his pain, one bipolar episode had him beat his son to death in a fit of rage. He reacted with devestating sadness.


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Monstrosity Equals WeaknessCharacterization TropesMook-Face Turn
Missing Trailer SceneImageSource/Animated FilmsMoody Mount
Genius DitzMadness TropesNeat Freak
Misplaced SorrowCharacter Flaw IndexMotor Mouth
Mix-and-Match CrittersOlder Than DirtMother of a Thousand Young

alternative title(s): Mood Swinging
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