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No Mere Windmill

"Ah yes, 'Reapers'. The immortal race of sentient starships allegedly waiting in dark space. We have dismissed that claim."

A Windmill Political is a threat that doesn't exist, but some people believe it does or pretend that it does. There are lots of windmills, lots of people who (honestly or dishonestly) Cry Wolf. With so much nuttery and dishonesty going on, how is one to accept a real but really strange threat to be real?

Some threats are easy to mistake for windmills, but they turn out to be real threats.

There are four ways that this can come into play:
  • Straight: The threat turns out to be exactly as foretold.
  • Metaphorical: The claims about the threat were not literally true, but they described a real threat, although in a metaphorical way.
  • From Bad to Worse: The outrageous claims turn out to be modest: The guy accused of fighting a windmill had actually not yet understood the full magnitude of the real threat ó it is worse than the dismissed warnings indicated.
  • Deliberately Invoked: The people whom the supposed Windmill Crusader is trying to warn either are the threat themselves or are an even worse threat, and are (understandably) deliberately playing down the threat and/or dismissing the crusader as crazy in order to deflect attention away from themselves.

For something to be No Mere Windmill, it must first be dismissed as a windmill. Thus, the trope is often closely related to Only Sane Man, Ignored Expert, Doomsayer, Cassandra Truth, and/or You Have to Believe Me. Depending on context, it may become a case of either The Cuckoolander Was Right or Strawman Has a Point. It may also become a case of Accidental Truth if someone invents a Windmill Crusade that just happens to resemble a genuine threat.

In many cases, it is also related to The Conspiracy and Devil in Plain Sight.

Contrast Elephant in the Living Room, where people actually do know that the problem is not a windmill, and Weirdness Censor, where "nothing to see here" becomes a Windmill Political in itself.

Just as with the supertrope Windmill Political: No contemporary Real Life examples please, and no history examples except ones surrounded by a really thick consensus.

Not to be confused with G Gundam, which includes a Humongous Mecha that disguises itself as a windmill, but is completely non-threatening.

The presence of a work in this list means a hidden threat has become real. Odds are good that Here there be spoilers

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Chick Tracts: In this setting, Hell is a literal truth and the Devil is actively hovering over the Earth trying to siphon away as many souls as he can. Only the kewl superpowers that come with being a Christian can save you now. (That and Lil'Suzy.) In spite of fundamentalist Christianity being Captain Obvious truth in this setting, many still mistake the Devil for a mere windmill. These people invariably find out that he is indeed not.
  • Jor-El: "Gentlemen, Krypton is doomed!"
  • Type D example: The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror story "Immigration of the Body Snatchers" (obviously a send-up of the sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers) has Homer trying to warn the authorities in an insane asylum in which he's been confined that "pod people" from outer space are taking over the bodies of everyone in Springfield, including Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and Marge. Everyone refuses to believe him except for psychiatrist Dr. Marvin Monroe, who finally admits that the threat is true...but that it's nothing to worry about, because he is actually a three-eyed spy from the planet Venus (his doctor's headgear has been concealing his third eye) who has come to lead an invasion against both the pod people and Earthlings. Then one of the police officers who had arrested Homer suddenly strips off his skin to reveal that "he" is actually two Martians who have anticipated the Venusians' plot and are here to foil them. Then another policeman strips off his skin and exposes himself as "a robot ghost clone from the future" who is there to assassinate everybody. And so on, and so forth...
    • Sounds like a play on the classic Twilight Zone episode Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?
  • In Empowered, the Superhomies make the mistake of ignoring Thugboy's warnings about Willy Pete, and go after him expecting an easy win and a quick PR boost. Turns out that if anything, Willy Pete was worse than Thugboy knew. He incinerated the squad sent to bring him in instantly before they even knew he was there, with only a single survivor escaping, and it just gets worse from there.

    Film 
  • In The Day After Tomorrow, the bad weather is only bad weather. Itís only bad weather, itíll get better soon... or not. This is a Type C, where the main character gets ridiculed for a prognosis that is far less lethal than the situation they are really about to face.
  • In WarGames, thereís nothing wrong with the computer. Nope. Itís just a hacker. Itís all his fault. And since this disaster couldnít have been caused by some random kid, he must have been working with the Russians. No, it was the computer all along: A dangerous case of Garbage In Garbage Out, ascending towards The Computer Is Your Friend. This is a Type B case of Not Merely A Windmill: The main character knows what Joshua is up to, but nobody believes him.
  • In Defendor, the hero appears to be a lunatic going up against an imaginary supervillain called "Captain Industry". Defendor may or may not actually believe this, but in either case the "Captains of Industry" is actually a metaphor for the very real threat of drug lords — the very villains whom Defendor has been fighting all along. This makes it a Type A example.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, we are introduced to a crazy woman who is obviously a paranoid schizophrenic. She even believes that evil robots from the future are out to get her, imagine that. To the great surprise of everyone except the audience, it eventually turns out that the robots are real and Sarah is completely sane (although traumatized). She knows exactly what a terminator really is, a straight Type B of this trope.
  • The 1971 George C. Scott film They Might Be Giants (after which the band you're probably more familiar with is named) bases its conflict on this trope. The protagonist believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes, and is trying to convince his psychiatrist that not only is his claim true, but Moriarty is also at large in the city. Since the ending cuts out at the last second, it's open to interpretation whether they finally meet and confront Moriarty, or are run over by a train.
  • In RED, this is pretty much Boggs' signature trope. Not long into the film, he's convinced they're being followed by a helicopter, and he pulls over a random middle-aged woman at the terminal and threatens her with a gun (the woman is terrified, and completely unarmed). He's just a paranoid kook, right? However, that same helicopter shows up later and snipes at them, killing their informant, and the woman shows up with a rocket launcher.
    • Also mentioned in Boggs's background. He was convinced that the government was experimenting on him.
  • In Iron Sky, the flying saucer space Nazis are very real, but when a certain hobo try to warn people about the threat they all just think he's crazy.
  • In Twelve Monkeys, an understandable instance occurs. Windmill Crusader James Cole has to try and prevent the near-extinction of mankind by lethal virus; however, the reason nobody listens to his warnings is because he claims to be from the future, and even Cole himself begins to question if people are right about him being insane.

    Literature 
  • In the fifth novel of Harry Potter (as well as the end of the fourth), people cling to the belief that Voldemort cannot have returned. Thus they let the dark lord grow in power undisturbed, while they accuse Harry of being a Windmill Crusader and Dumbledore of being a Manipulative Bastard using this Windmill Political for some shadowy political game.
  • The Dragonriders in the early Dragonriders of Pern novels are widely considered to be a useless political relic that no longer serves any functional purpose. Thus, when Weyrleader F'lar starts warning them that the flesh-eating alien spores called Thread are about to start falling again, everyone laughs at him. Naturally, he's right.
  • The Guardians of Selfhood in Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained have been claiming that an alien known as the Starflyer has infiltrated the human Commonwealth and is manipulating it to its own ends for a few hundred years. Most people dismissed the story as a convenient excuse for their acts of terrorism, until a deadly alien invasion. Suddenly the Guardians' claims start lining up with reality and a few people take them seriously. Turns out they are right.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire the Night's Watch is mostly seen as a joke, since while they do defend the realm from wildling raiders, that's not really a job that requires a 900 foot wall of ice, multiple fortresses, and lifelong dedication forswearing all lands and family to do. Their real purpose is defending the realm from the White Walkers, zombifying ice people, but hardly anyone believes in them anymore. They're real, and waking up.
  • In The Unfinished Tales and other peripheral sources, Saruman attempted to make Gandalf's insistence that the Necromancer of Mirkwood was, in fact, Sauron reestablishing his power a Windmill Crusade. Saruman very well knew that Gandalf was correct, but wanted the One Ring for himself and was stalling for time to try and find it first. It was only when he believed Sauron was too close to recovering the Ring that he dropped the charade and acknowledged the Necromancer was No Mere Windmill. This is shown quite nicely during the council scene at Rivendell in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
  • A couple of books into the Codex Alera, the main characters are aware that the Vord are building footholds in the country in preparation for a massive invasion, but most of Alera's leadership is convinced they are a minor concern beside the many, many other races trying to kill them on their particular iteration of a Death World. In the next book they learn that the Vord have utterly consumed the next continent and Alera is the last civilisation standing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Degrassi The Next Generation Zombie Apocalypse Halloween Special has a Type C with the genetically modified food in the cafeteria from season 2. Emma just thought they were trying to poison the kids, but it turns out it's a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Buffy's mother doesn't believe in vampires. Buffy stopped trying to explain the very real threat of vampires after her mother had her put in a mental hospital for believing such silly "delusions". But in this setting, the vampires are very real.
    • Buffy's roommate from the first episode of season four is in fact a demon despite everyone but Buffy saying that Buffy is just being neurotic.
  • The BBC TV series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a man with a placard reading "The End of the World is Nigh" is among those seen panicking in the street when the Vogons arrive.
  • The Goodies, with Tim wearing an "the end is nigh" placard and it's just an advertising gimmick for his chestnut stall. Of course, the world gets blown up "in an unprecedented show of international military cooperation" shortly thereafter.
  • The pilot episode of Don Quick (which isn't listed in the Wikepedia entry) had a crashingly literal version of this. Visiting peaceable hippies who live inside clouds of toxic bubbles which protect them from their warlike neighbours, Don Quick dismisses their fears of the "giants" that appear on their doorstep: it's OK, they're only windmills! Actually, they're giant fans that blow the bubbles away and leave the hippies defenceless.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Another Type D example from a Far Side strip: A seemingly crazed man is standing on a soapbox on a bustling street corner, screaming to the pedestrians all around him that "[T]he vampires are everywhere! Listen to me! Everyone must beware! Vampires!" Everyone just ignores him...and with good reason, because two workingmen walking by carrying a large mirror betray that nobody on the streets except for the mad prophet is casting a reflection, meaning that they all are vampires!

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the "Ice Age" block of Magic: The Gathering, Sorine Relicbane was branded a heretic in Soldev — a city that caters to artificers — for his outspoken opinion that unearthing the artifacts of ancient times and making new ones was a bad idea. Then the Phyrexian war machines reactivated by an evil cult and the out of control steam beasts created by Arcum Dagsson demolished Soldev. The flavor text of both versions of Soldevi Heretic show Arcum realizing that Sorine was right all along, and that Sorine himself wasn't happy about it.
  • The existence of Ork kommandoes (orks that use stealth instead of Attack! Attack! Attack!, huge guns, and shouting) (not that they don't use them) has long been denied by higher echelons of Imperial Guard, choosing instead to execute the guardsmen who claim to have seen them for incompetence and treason.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect 2: The oft-repeated page quote comes from the Citadel Council, as they dismiss Shepard's claims that the Reapers are real, that they were responsible for the events of the first game, and that they are on the warpath. Only in the third game is Shepard finally vindicated, as the Reaper fleet attacks Earth.
    • Based on the official evidence shown to the council, the alternative explanation of a well known ruthless racist having found an ancient abandoned spaceship and convinced a group of aliens that he is an agent of their gods to attack human colonies appears far more plausible. And far less terrifying. Despite the official story being "Geth Attack", it's clear that some elements of council space and beyond did believe the Reaper threat to exist and unofficial steps were taken to prepare against it.
    • This trope is amusingly averted in the case of Legion if he survives the Suicide Mission to report the Reaper threat to his people. Much to Shepard's envy.
    Shepard: So the geth believed your proof that the Reapers were coming back?
    Legion: Of course.
    Shepard: That must have been nice.
  • Full Metal Panic! protagonist, Sōsuke Sagara in Super Robot Wars games is most of time treated as Wrong Genre Savvy Windmill Crusader who sees danger at every corner. Sometimes however, he turns out to be right. Like in Super Robot Wars Judgment when he informs Yurika that suspicious person has appeared - that suspicious person turns out to be Tekkaman Blade character, Balzac.
  • Bioshock Infinite has a straight example in both the E3 demo and the finished game. Near the beginning if the demo you hear a town cryer warning that the Vox Populi are dangerous terrorists who want to plunder everything you have and murder you. Just as you're assuming that you've seen this old clichť before —it's obviously a trumped-up threat by the demonstrably evil establishment and the Vox Populi are really noble freedom fighters— you run into one of the Vox Populi spokesmen, who loudly proclaims that his group wants to plunder everything you have and murder you. In the game proper, there's far more build-up to the expected reveal that Vox are good guys, and the game even lets you believe they really are for a while. Then they turn on you, and you realize that they're actually bloodthirsty radicals looking to wipe out everyone in Columbia, not just the Founders.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

    History 
  • Most people believed that the warnings about the Nazi Party was a Windmill Political. (It didn't help that World War I era propaganda exaggerated Germany's crimes.) People read Hitler's Mein Kampf and didn't believe he was serious. We all know how it turned out in the end. This is also true for Winston Churchill's conviction that peace with the Nazis was impossible. Neville Chamberlain famously did not believe him and started negotiations with Hitler in an effort to preserve peace in Europe, and look at the reputation —and results— it got him.
  • Remember when Ron Paul and Peter Schiff were warning everyone about the housing bubble, and that it would eventually collapse and take the entire financial sector with it, and everyone thought they were crazy?


Nixon MaskPolitics TropesNon Answer
Hollywood SatanismThe War on Straw'Not Making This Up" Disclaimer
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alternative title(s): Not Merely A Windmill; Mistaken For Crazy
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