A sure way to veer a story into Mind Screw
territory is to deliver a Wham Episode
, then say "just kidding, none of that happened". Possibly the undone events were hallucinated by one character, or occurred in an alternate timeline, or the narrator was just pushing your buttons.
A common calling card of the Unreliable Narrator
. Can overlap with All Just a Dream
, but that trope does not fully include this one. Compare Daydream Surprise
and Once More with Clarity
. If one of the listeners forces this you could be entering Derailed Fairy Tale
Reveal Trope! Beware of spoilers!
- Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects keeps backpedaling and changing his narrative at Kujan's prompting. The end of the film reveals the whole story was probably made up on the fly, but you knew that already, right?
- In George of the Jungle, the narrator tells us that Ursula told the fact that she no longer wants to marry Lyle to her parents, "who took it extremely well." We then see a scene showing exactly that. Then the narrator says, "Just kidding!", and Ursula's mother is shown screaming in a horrified manner.
- At the very end of Mean Girls, the narrator talks about "knowing how to deal" with anyone who would disturb her newly-found peace. We then see the three "Junior Plastics" hit by a bus, just as the Alpha Bitch was earlier in the film. Then we see the same shot but with the girls hurriedly stepping back from the speeding bus instead, and the narrator says "just kidding!".
- At one point in the third Captain Underpants book, The Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (and the Subsequent Assault of the Equally Evil Lunchroom Zombie Nerds), the author tells about the three main characters falling to their death from a UFO after an attempted escape. The first sentence on the next page? "Just kidding."
- This happens a few times in House of Leaves, to the point where one narrator makes up an entire chapter and then laughs at the reader for believing it.
- Goosebumps does this frequently to achieve a Cat Scare:
- In "Why I'm Afraid Of Bees", chapter 19 ends with Gary in bee form being eaten by a dragonfly. The first page of chapter 20 reveals that it was just his imagination.
- In "The Headless Ghost", chapter 1 ends with a huge animal chewing off Duane's head. Chapter 2 starts by stating that the creature didn't really bite of his head, and it was really Stephanie in her costume.
- Redshirts ends with the narrator declaring that the ship was destroyed killing everyone on board. The very last chapter is the narrator declaring that this was a joke and the characters were all fine.
- How I Met Your Mother:
- Future Ted (the Narrator) tells his kids that a stripper he vaguely met once is their mum. They react ("WHAT!?!?!?"), he then says "Just Kidding".
- Future Ted also messes up a story about his 30th birthday. It's near the end of the series and as he messes the story up he keeps correcting himself. He (finally) remembers, says 'Oh, wait, this is what actually happened' - then remembers it's the wrong story, actually happening a year later and another at an unrevealed time in the future (but Future Ted's past). Not only does this remind the viewer that, hey, it was twenty years ago - Ted's memory's not perfect - but it also makes them want to keep watching (what's with the goat? and when will Lily be pregnant?) as they've only been shown some random stuff and want to know that story.
- A variant can occur in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. The majority of the game uses a How We Got Here framing device, with Guybrush explaining everything to Elaine; if the player lets Guybrush die during the acid pit sequence, Elaine calls him out on the obvious contradiction, and Guybrush is forced to backtrack and explain how it really went.
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is framed as a tale the Prince is telling. If you die, he says something to the effect of "No, wait, that's not what happened," then the game reverts to the last save point.
- In Tex Murphy: Overseer, the game is a prequel framed by Tex telling his date about his first case. Whenever the player 'dies' in the game Tex will quickly mumble something about "no wait, that's not right" and the game will pick up at an earlier point in the game allowing the player to replay the section.
- Happens at least twice in Dragon Age II, when Varric lapses too far into the Tall Tale genre and Cassandra interrupts him to start over again and tell the real story.
- Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is full of these. Even the very first Showdown at High Noon turns out to be an example of this.
- In Homestuck, stand-in narrator Doc Scratch, after telling of Jack Noir finding and slaying all the trolls in one fell swoop, explains: "What sort of story would this be, with our Knight and Seer made to stay cadavers? Certainly not one the alpha timeline would allow. And not one she'd allow either." This reveals that the events he'd just told the reader were actually an alternate timeline that Terezi foresaw and averted.
- The Simpsons:
- After a story about Lisa's brain being used to power a supercomputer, Carl says "that never, uh, happened, did it Homer?" Homer says, "Yes, but now I have to leave on a totally unrelated matter."
- In the second part of "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" Kent Brockman, in universe as news anchor but out of universe as a recap, reports on Mr. Burns being shot.
At 3:00 p.m. Friday, local autocrat C. Montgomery Burns was shot following a tense confrontation at town hall. Burns was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was then transferred to a better hospital where doctors upgraded his condition to "alive."
- In another episode Homer is telling a flashback story of when Maggie was born; when Homer finds out that Marge is pregnant his head explodes. We then find out that Bart had been narrating that part.
Homer: Oh, you're pregnant! That means we're gonna have to have a baby. All our financial plans are ruined! We're doomed! Doomed, I tells ya!
[He lets out a scream as his head swells like a balloon and then pops. Cut to the present]
Marge Simpson: Bart, let your father tell the story!
Bart: Okay, but I know funny.
[The flashback continues for a moment with Homer headless; after Marge reminds him that he had a head, his head pops back up.]
- Later in the same episode Homer tells of an idea he had to make more people come to the bowling ally - shoot a rifle in the air while shouting "Bowling here!"