: "...unless you want everyone in the division to think you're...chicken?'' Old Marty
: "Nobody calls me chicken, Needles! NOBODY!"
Some heroes take so much pride in themselves that they just can't turn a challenge down. To do so would be an affront to their personal honor
. It would imply that they don't have the courage to go through with what would happen if they failed. Moreover, by showing that they lack the resolve to go through with the challenge implies that they think they'd lose. And by gosh, no hero of ours is going to be a loser!
Inevitably, though, a situation will arise that's so over-the-top that even the most headstrong character is going to think, "Maybe it isn't worth risking my life in a chainsaw-juggling contest just because I accidentally said that guy's hair looks like a mullet". It's here that only one thing has to be said to get the character to go through with the crazy scheme anyway.
"What are you? Chicken
Of course, this doesn't always end well. Often, insulting a character's courage can end up pushing the Berserk Button
, and the opposition will promptly get taken to the cleaners on whatever the bet was. Sometimes this is done deliberately thanks to a tricky mentor
to get the hero to do something he is unlikely to do for any other reason.
By contrast, things can go very badly if the villain is deliberately manipulating the hero into doing something stupid, using the hero's pride as a means of accomplishment. Expect a great deal of evil laughing
as this devious plot
Sometimes a character doesn't like to be called a Dirty Coward
because he actually is
one. This can go one of two ways: He might chicken out at the last minute and head for the hills, making him a Miles Gloriosus
. Or he might live up to his blustering and win the fight anyway, Becoming the Boast
The inverse trope is when the character puts up with being called a chicken because deep down they really aren't one
; that's The So-Called Coward
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Anime and Manga
- The Ikaris uses this to put the plot into motion. The gang finds Misato's beer stash and Asuka dares Shinji to drink. Then he dares her to try and out-drink him. By the end of it, the two are so blasted, they got married and forgot about it the next morning.
- A Future of Friendship, A History of Hate: This is how Fury Cross goads Rainbow Dash into fighting him in Episode 3. Notably, she doesn't really care about the specific insults, she just can't stand anyone disrespecting her or her reputation in any way.
Films — Animated
- Done in The Simpsons Movie where Homer gets Bart to skateboard nude across town as part of a dare.
- On Peter Pan, Captain Hook calls Peter a coward for flying away instead of fighting him man to man. Peter says "No one calls Pan a coward and lives" and gives his word to fight Hook without flying.
Films — Live-Action
- David from Animorphs has a huge complex about being seen as cowardly and weak, to the point of doing extremely stupid things to make himself look good. When he betrays the team, it's in part due to Blood Knight Rachel denouncing him as a coward.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Brienne uses this tactic to pretty much save Jaime Lannister's life after he loses his right hand. Jaime's pretty much hoping to die at that point, and doing everything he can to bring it about, until she accuses him of being too cowardly to live with what's happened. It actually works, because while people have been calling him a murderer and a traitor behind his back for decades, no one has ever called him a coward before — and he's not about to let them start now.
- Calling Snape a coward is an... ill-advised move, to put it lightly.
- This trope is constantly invoked in professional wrestling. No matter how much they have to lose or how unfavorable the stipulations, all wrestlers will accept any ridiculous challenge if their opponent attempts to brand them a coward. Faces will generally concede instantly if somebody calls them a chicken whilst heel wrestlers may need to have the same challenge put to them for three weeks in a row, but it never fails.
- William Shakespeare's Macbeth is suddenly having second thoughts halfway through his plot to kill King Duncan, who after all is a nice old man who's done Macbeth great honour. Lady Macbeth is having none of it and gives him a speech which essentially amounts to "What's the matter, Macbeth? You chicken?".
- World of Warcraft gives players the ability to make their characters emote in front of other players and NPCs. The most notable emote for this trope is aptly named "/chicken." The most notable race to use this trope effectively is the male goblin.
- "Hey, we've got a chicken over here! Buk buk buk buuuuuk!!!!"
- In Super Paper Mario, the usually cowardly Luigi is angered by Dimentio's statement that "the shag upon his lip will make a fine trophy", to which he responds "SHAG? This moustache is all LUIGI!". Battle ensues, and Luigi wins. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a Batman Gambit for Dimentio to implant him with a floro sprout so he could then effectively gain the Chaos Heart.
- When you meet Anne in Metal Max Returns:
Anne: Listen up you cowards! This kid here said that you looked dumber than a bucket of hammers! But I think he was being way too easy on you! I told him, the last time I saw this many sacks of shit, I was in a fertilizer factory!
Soldier A: What the hell did you say? You fuckers want your faces rearranged?
Anne: Hey, you're starting to catch on! A bunch of losers like you ought to be ashamed to call yourselves soldiers! Come on, let's get it on! I'm going to mop the floor with you and throw you out on your asses!
Soldier B: You bastards! You're going to regret that!
- Rumy of Fans challenges the General to one-on-one combat. The General is Genre Savvy enough to say "No" and order her Mooks to open fire instead, but after Rumy rips into her divine image with accusations of cowardice, she gives in rather than cause her side to doubt her.
- In Exiern any insult to Tiffany's pride requires retribution...whether it is a sword fight or holding a dressmaker at sword point until she makes Tiffany prettier and more feminine than the Alpha Bitch. For the record, Tiffany used to be a male barbarian.
- Homer Simpson from The Simpsons.
Chicken? Nobody calls me chicken without goading me into doing something stupid!
- Avatar The Last Airbender, "The Blind Bandit"
Toph: Sounds to me like you're scared!
The Boulder: The Boulder is over his conflicted feelings, and is now ready to bury you in a Rockalanche!
Toph: Whenever you're ready, the Pebble!
- A classic exchange between Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny in Looney Tunes:
Yosemite Sam: Now you ornery, no-good, long eared, varmint...
: Just a minute, doc. Them's fightin' words.
Yosemite Sam: Yeah, them's fightin' words!
(draws a line across the ground): I dare you to step across this line.
Yosemite Sam: I'm a-steppin'.
''(some variations involve multiple "lines", but they always result in Sam falling of a cliff/diving board/what have you)
- The Powerpuff Girls: In the Your Worst Nightmare episode, Blossom gets Buttercup to face her fear by teasing her about being afraid.
- El Tigre, in the episode Dia de Los Muertos. all the dead Riveras and Manny are in a saloon brawl, and three guys walk up.
Guy: Hey, I know why the Riveras are always fighting each other. They're all cowards, who are afraid to fight anyone else.
Riveras (in unison)
* furious dust-cloud of ass-kicking*
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Applebloom is attempting to actually call a chicken, and Scootaloo claims "that is not how you call a chicken!" When Scootaloo refuses to show her the right way to call a chicken...
Scootaloo: Am not!
Applebloom: Oh wait, now I know how to call a chicken. SCOOTALOOOO! SCOOT-SCOOTALOOOOOOO!
Scootaloo: That was so funny, I forgot to laugh!
Applebloom: You also forgot how to call chickens.
- The Fairly OddParents: Anti-Cosmo and Head Pixie once goaded Timmy into accepting a bet by impersonating chickens.
- "Shredder! Do you fear us?!"
- Family Guy did this in "Mr. Saturday Knight"
Black Knight: You see kids your father is nothing but a FIZZLE!
- From the Mr Bogus episode "Bogus To The Rescue":
[Every inanimate object in the bathroom starts laughing at Bogus.]
Bogus: Oh yeah?!? Bogus not chicken! Bogus not- [Promptly turns into a chicken and starts clucking like one.]
- Supposedly, in the Wild West calling someone a coward was one of four fighting words that you would only invoke if you were prepared to fight for your life. The other three were thief, cheater (especially when playing cards in a saloon), and liar.