O.O.C. Is Serious Business


Chuck: Does this seem like a particularly awkward silence?
James: Dude, Miriam's not saying anything. It's the end times, man.

The title should be read as "Out-of-Character Is Serious Business."

Some characters have strong traits that they are known by. This is for when a character momentarily breaks away from their normal habits to make a point about the seriousness of the situation. Often causes the other characters to do a Double Take and mention why this event is Serious Business. When most or all of these OoC moments happen at once, you can be sure that the world is ending, or at least the Darkest Hour, leading characters to behave in ways they normally wouldn't, because they know they might not have another chance to do so.

It's also a pretty good indication the Godzilla Threshold has been crossed.

This is a trope for when a somewhat-Out of Character action is used to draw extra attention to the scene (similar to a Title Drop). It isn't Hidden Depths because it isn't telling us something about the character we didn't already know; it's similar to an Out-of-Character Moment in that this is specifically the usage of such a moment to draw attention to a scene. If they're doing this deliberately to make another character think something is amiss, see Out-of-Character Alert. Compare Let's Get Dangerous! and Weirder Than Usual.

A Super Trope of:

Often overlaps with:


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    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, as Calvin is lying sick in bed, his mom tells him she's going to call the doctor. She also adds that it's Saturday, so he won't miss school, and he responds with a weak, "I know." Since Calvin is a kid who is usually overjoyed at the thought of not going to school, always gets up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays, and despises visiting the doctor, his mother is convinced this is serious and races for the phone.
  • In an early For Better or for Worse. Michael complains of feeling sick, and when Elly tells him to go to bed, he says "okay" and goes right upstairs. She tucks him into bed, convinced that he's sick.
  • In the final week of dailies of U.S. Acres, Lovable Coward Wade achieves peace with the world... sending Orson, Roy, and Booker away screaming in terror.
  • Garfield:
    • In one strip, Garfield feels like being nice to everyone. Everyone is so freaked out that they have him tied in a straitjacket and committed.
      Garfield: People don't want nice...people want consistency.
    • Every Christmas, Jon's mother sends the titular cat a Homemade Sweater from Hell. But in one strip, the sweater is both tasteful and fits well on him. Jon immediately heads for the phone to call and check on her.
  • Whenever Charlie Brown breaks his Nice Guy attitude and gets genuinely angry at someone, he delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and/or a What the Hell, Hero? speech, and it's always a Crowning Moment of Awesome for him.

    Films — Animation 
  • Very notably in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, when Kenny takes off his hood to say goodbye after sacrificing himself to an eternity in Hell to Save the World, altering the past to avert a war.
  • Treasure Planet: When Silver stops trying to sweet-talk The Captain, you know he's serious. She does, too.
    Silver: You heard the boy! Get this blasted heap turned 'round!
  • In An Extremely Goofy Movie, Max is convinced that he wants to transfer schools after being defeated by his own dad at his best event, because there's "only room for one Goof." PJ is devastated at the news—temporarily relapsing to the insecure and worrisome personality he'd just broken out of— and Beret Girl tells Max that he can't admit defeat, but nothing helps... until Bobby, the Plucky Comic Relief, in a dead-serious, emotionally-charged tone, gives Max a Rousing Speech.
    • In the previous movie, Goofy is initially in catatonic shock when he discovers that Max had been manipulating him into going to Los Angeles, which gives way into legitimate anger when Max wastes a second chance to prove himself worthy of trust.
  • Frozen:
    • The difference between Anna, the Plucky Girl and Anna, the Princess. Notice her commanding tone when she demands her horse be brought to her after Elsa runs away. It shows just how important finding and helping her sister is to her.
    • Olaf displays this when he lights a fire to keep a freezing Anna alive. He drops his position as the comic relief (very briefly) to assure her that he knows full well what will happen to him, but that it's worth it for her.
      Anna: Olaf — you're melting!
      Olaf: ...Some people are worth melting for.
  • BIONICLE 3: Web of Shadows: Matau, Jerkass Plucky Comic Relief whose bickering drove team-leader Vakama to a Face–Heel Turn, gives a serious "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight speech to try to win him back, even dropping the Chutespeek slang he always talks in. Vakama first refuses to believe his sincerity, but eventually gives in and returns to the good side.
  • In Transformers: The Movie, Kup has Seen It All and uses any situation as an excuse to mention some previous adventure of his. When the Autobots see Unicron standing astride the entire planet of Cybertron, Hot Rod asks if this reminds him of yet another one of his war-stories. Kup's only response is a quiet, "Nope... Never seen anything like this before."
  • In Kung Fu Panda, Shifu, after learning that Po can be trained using his Big Eater tendencies, takes him through a series of exercises using food as a motivator, culminating in a long fight over a single dumpling. After Po bests him, he tosses the dumpling right back at Shifu and says, "I'm not hungry."
    • This is actually a very enjoyable example of one and counts as Character Development. Earlier, it has been established that Po binge-eats whenever he was upset (the second movie implying since the truama with his mother) and thus, his refusal of the dumpling is a sign of his growth in the belief in himself.
  • In The Lion King, Ed is usually seen giggling and grinning insanely. After Scar turns on the hyenas and is defeated by Simba, Ed is not laughing or grinning. He is visibly pissed. The menacing laugh he DOES let out before the hyenas gang up on Scar only seals the deal.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The View Askewniverse:
    • When Silent Bob speaks, you listen. Though this tendency begins to annoy Jay after a while. This tradition is itself subverted in Clerks II, when Bob's cue to speak arrives and he can't think of anything to say...
    • Lampshaded in Chasing Amy by Jay, who comments that Bob stays silent so often in order to make people pay attention whenever he does speak, and to make whatever he says sounds deeper because of that.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • Towards the end of The Curse of the Black Pearl, when Jack shoots Barbossa, Barbossa thinks Jack wasted his shot. Clever viewers can tell from Jack's cold, steely glare that this is not the case; it's the one time in the entire movie that he's not doing something eccentric.
    • Speaking of Jack acting OOC, it can be hard to tell what is and isn't out of character for a guy whose methods are so mercurial. The only certainty is that anything he does is (virtually) always with the ultimate goal of furthering his own interests.
      Elizabeth: Whose side is Jack on?
      Will: At the moment?
    • Jack gets one at the climax of At World's End after Jones stabs Will through the heart. Jack, who has his self-serving objective literally in the palm of his hand, goes from cruelly gloating over his imminent victory to looking mind-screwed by despair, almost to Heroic B.S.O.D. level. It's brief, but is big enough to see that his sacrifice afterward makes perfect sense without hefty foreshadowing.
    • In a deleted scene, Jack shows that even he has standards when he solemnly tells Beckett, who is asking about when Jack worked for the East India Trading Company but got on their bad side when he refused to transport slaves, that "People aren't cargo, mate" with none of his usual wackiness.
    • Jack's refusal to turn the ship around to go back for his hat early in Dead Man's Chest is a sign that he's very afraid of the Kraken. When he tells them to leave it behind, his crew looks at him as though he's grown a second head.
      • Jack giving the order to abandon ship when the Pearl is fighting her losing battle against the Kraken. It's well-established just how dearly Jack loves that ship (especially when the compass points back at it when he tries to flee the fight, prompting him to return for a Big Damn Heroes moment). Hearing him declare in a mournful voice when questioned by Gibbs that she's "just a ship" immediately drives home just how dire the situation is, and gets everyone moving.
  • Star Wars:
    • What would it take to get quiet, innocent, ancient little Yoda to pull out his lightsaber and suddenly become a living blender? Something really serious, that's what.
    • More pointedly, when the relentlessly optimistic and noble Luke gives in to despair (The Empire Strikes Back) or anger (Return of the Jedi), the entire galaxy hinges on it.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, when the Millennium Falcon finally manages to escape, the crew of the Executor visibly soil themselves in fear of Vader's wrath. The fact that Vader simply walks away surprises and shocks the crew.
    • In The Last Jedi, we finally see Luke Skywalker properly for the first time in 34 years - and he's a cynical, broken man who barely believes in the cause he used to champion. Though it's not without reason - in the previous film, The Force Awakens, we learned that when he tried to rebuild the Jedi Order after Vader's death, Luke's own nephew destroyed everything Luke had built, and went on to help grow the First Order from a mere remnant of the old Empire into a genuine threat against the New Republic. In this film, when Rey demonstrates similar power in a plea to get him to train her in the ways of the Force, he's not impressed - he's horrified.
    Luke: I've seen this raw strength only once before. It didn't scare me enough then. It does now.
  • In East is East, George is clearly shocked when even The Dutiful Son Maneer sides with the rest of the family against him.
  • In the final scene of Penn & Teller Get Killed, Teller (who has never spoken to this point), finally breaks his silence to ask what the hell is going on.
  • In Galaxy Quest, Classically Trained Extra Alexander Dane hates being known as a character from a sci-fi series, and hates his Catch Phrase even more. Every time he says it, he does so in a bored, half-assed monotone. At least, until Quellek, a Thermian who had idolized Dane's character in the show, is mortally wounded during the fight against the villains and bleeds to death telling him It Has Been an Honor. In response, Dane delivers his despised catchphrase with complete sincerity for the first time.
    Dane: By Grabthar's hammer... by the suns of Warvan... you shall be... avenged.
  • Running Scared (1986)
    • A humorous version can be found when the two main characters call for backup. They come out of the building without their pants (having had to give them to the Big Bad of the film), only to find that a huge number of cops — including the SWAT units — have shown up to help.
      Danny Costanzo: I said "one backup"! One!
      Cop: (trying not to laugh) You never called for backup before! We... (barely keeping from laughing) We thought that it was a riot...
    • There's another: When Danny Costanzo (Billy Crystal) soon-to-be-ex gets kidnapped by the Big Bad, Danny (who up until this point has not slowed down the wisecracks for a second) gets a call from the crook letting him know his girl's in trouble:
      Danny Costanzo: (in a dangerous, low tone) You hurt her, you'll never be dead enough.
  • Tiffany spends almost all of Hellbound: Hellraiser II as The Voiceless. Her only line, when first encountering Dr. Channard in cenobite form, is "Shit!".
  • In the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie It Takes Two (a rip-off of The Parent Trap), the girly girl of the Tomboy and Girly Girl duo is trying her first sloppy joe. After doing so, she claims it's her favorite, "for a durn good reason." After a beat, the camp counselor turns to the girl and asks "Did you just say 'durn?'" Then quickly checks the girl's temperature, clearly fearing an illness.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In the film of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry is running around looking for the diadem. Luna is trying to tell him he needs to ask a ghost, but Harry won't listen. Luna, usually the gentle Cloudcuckoolander, shouts "HARRY POTTER! YOU LISTEN TO ME RIGHT NOW!" Harry, suitably shocked, turns around and listens.
    • In the fifth movie, when Hermione observes that it's kind of exciting breaking the rules, Ron demands "Who are you and what have you done with Hermione Granger?"
  • In Sudden Impact, Harry is tipped off to a robbery in the coffee shop that is his usual haunt by the waitress breaking a years-long routine and dumping a large amount of sugar into his coffee.
  • Easy A:
    • Marianne is shown to never swear. She constantly uses euphemisms like "rhymes-with-witch", and other gosh-dang-it-to-heck-isms. But when she hears the rumor that Olive gave Marianne's boyfriend Micah chlamydia, Marianne completely loses it, and yells, even screams "That... that BITCH!"
    • Also, Marianne is shown to be a bit snide, condescending, and utterly dedicated to attempting to correct other's supposed sins, but she does it without being out-and-out confrontational. But after she snaps, she full on slaps Olive across the face. Which is most decidedly not a typical Christian value.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Watson deduces that something serious is going on from the fact that Mycroft is missing an appointment at the Diogenes Club, especially since his favorite dish, potted shrimp, is on the menu that night. Holmes stops his wisecracking during his first meeting with Moriarty once the latter reveals he killed Irene Adler and plans to do the same to Watson and Mary.
  • Unforgiven: When William Munny, who'd been sober for many years, starts downing that bottle of whiskey before going after Bill Daggett, you know things are about to get serious as a heart attack.
  • Serenity:
    • When the crew land on Haven and find that it's been razed, Mal loses it. After telling his crew to strap bodies to the front of the ship, threatening to kill any of his crew that gets in his way and shooting dead an Alliance soldier trying to surrender, the crew know that it's all just hit the fan.
    • Mal invokes this to prove to his crew that a call from Mal's love-hate-love interest is actually her being coerced by the villain to lure them in to a trap.
      Mal: Y'all were watching, I take it? (everyone sort of admits it) Did you see us fight?
      Kaylee: No...
      Mal: Trap.
  • Manderlay (the sequel to Lars Von Trier's Dogville) features a double-dose of this towards the end. After the freed slaves celebrate their first harvest, they discover that the money they worked so hard to get has been stolen — and it could have only been done with the help of one of the ex-slaves. Following a massive off-screen riot that gets two people killed, Grace finally arrives on the scene to ask questions: Wilhelm, the man usually relied upon to explain things, is too shell-shocked to speak of what happened. This leaves Mark holding the exsposition ball; for once, he doesn't bother dithering around with longwinded tangents, and provides a straightforward explanation.
  • Star Trek:
    • Most of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is Ham-to-Ham Combat between Kirk and Khan, each trying to outmaneuver the other into certain defeat amid shouting matches and grand gestures. It's Kirk's Little "No" that stands out.
    • Towards the end of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, when Spock's body is brought to Vulcan, his father Sarek asks High Priestess T'Lar for the Fal-Tor-Pan ritual to reunite Spock's katra with his body. T'Lar asks "Is this logical?" about Sarek's motives, to which he replies "My logic is uncertain where my son is concerned." To hear this pinnacle of Vulcan control wrestle with his emotions and admit that he cares more for his son than for doing the logical thing is stunning.
    • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country has a few:
      • A small, but powerful moment. After the Enterprise apparently fires on a Klingon battlecruiser carrying the Klingon Chancellor on a diplomatic mission, the battlecruiser recovers, rights itself, and prepares to retaliate on the unshielded Enterprise. Kirk watches this for a full ten seconds in silent, slacked-jawed horror. He doesn't raise shields, or order evasive maneuvers, or any of the other things that fans expect him to do; he just watches... and then he surrenders. This is the first time in the history of Star Trek that Kirk is ever seen to falter in the command chair, and it's terrifying.
      • Spock, the paragon of emotionless logic and reason, very angrily smacks a phaser from the hand of his protegé, Valeris, who had just been exposed as a conspirator in Gorkon's assassination. He later uses the Vulcan Mind Meld to try and pry the identities and plans of the conspirators, which ends up becoming, based on the reaction of the receiving party, dangerously close to Mind Rape.
    • Star Trek Into Darkness:
      • When Scotty resigns in protest of their mission to Qo'noS, he makes a last desperate appeal for Kirk to reconsider and calls him "Jim" instead of Captain.
      • Spock's reaction when Scotty calls him down to the reactor room. He doesn't even know what happened, only that something terrible has happened to Kirk. He rushes out of the bridge, forgetting to give the legally required order that someone takes command. And as he runs through the halls, there is sheer panic on his face. Which leads to his rage when Kirk dies.
    • In Star Trek Beyond, when the Enterprise is destroyed, McCoy and Spock crash land on a nearby planet, and Spock is severely injured. As they walk off looking for help, Spock begins openly and honestly discussing his feelings becuase he believes he isn't going to make it and doesn't care about controlling his emotions anymore. The crowning moment is when Spock loudly and genuinely bursts out laughing at one of McCoy's jokes, and McCoy stares at him with mixed shock and horror.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: Before this film, Professor X had never condoned the slaying of a Big Bad. The worst it ever got was when he reluctantly became an accessory to murder in X-Men: First Class; he had held Sebastian Shaw motionless with his telepathy while pleading with Erik not to kill the man. When Charles is in a Battle in the Center of the Mind with Apocalypse, he isn't strong enough to subdue the god-like mutant, so he implores Jean Grey to summon her Phoenix powers, knowing full well that she will annihilate his enemy. In the Alternate Timeline, Xavier is a touch more aggressive, and this marks a major change for his character going forwards.
  • In The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin opts out of his usual comedic persona in order to deliver a deadly serious speech condemning Nazism and praising humanity's virtues, aimed directly at the audience.
  • Scrooged: With each of the ghosts, Frank has a moment which causes him to break from his Deadpan Snarker attitude.
    • In the past, he cries when his mother wishes his childhood self a Merry Christmas.
    • In the present, he sees Herman, a homeless man who'd asked him for $2, frozen to death inside a storm drain, and goes ballistic.
      Frank: You moron! You jerk! Why didn't you stay at Claire's? She would have taken care of you! You would have eaten and been warm! You might be alive! You'd be a prettier color, I'll tell you that!
    • In the future, he sees his old flame Claire has become detached and cruel.
      Claire: I wasted years on pathetic little creatures like those. Finally, thank God, a friend said to me, "Scrape 'em off, Claire. If you want to save somebody, save yourself."
      Frank: (to Christmas Future) That was a lousy thing to do.
  • Optimus Prime's first spoken line in Transformers: Age of Extinction? Screaming "I'LL KILL YOU!" to a human, who's just tried to save his life. Later on, when he finds what the humans did (and are still doing) to Ratchet, he goes into an Unstoppable Rage, swearing to kill every human involved.
  • Beautifully understated example at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. After his rampage through the city under Scarlet Witch's hypnosis, Hulk refuses to return to the Avengers, abruptly ends his video call with Natasha and flees civilization for good. Note that he doesn't smash the panel or run off in a blind rage - he just calmly and gently flicks the switch. This is Hulk we're talking about, not Bruce Banner. He just seems completely traumatised and defeated at the realisation that he can never fully control his urges and live a normal, happy life.
  • In Kung Fu Hustle, after disposing of the Musical Assassin, the Landlady - who is the loudest and most temperamental person in the movie - wordlessly and calmly threatened Brother Sum with violence if the Axe Gang ever returned to Pig Sty Alley.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot is known for only saying one thing: "I am Groot". This makes it especially poignant when, mere moments before his Heroic Sacrifice to save Rocket and his new friends, he declares: "We...are Groot."
    • In the sequel, badass unflappable Dark Action Girl Nebula quietly panics and states "We have to get off this planet." upon finding a cave filled with the remains of hundreds of Ego's children.
  • In Kelly's Heroes, Oddball (aptly named) is a tank commander and sort-of proto-Beatnik who goes on about "positive vibes" and sits down for cheese and wine in the middle of a battle when his tank breaks down. The only truly serious moment he has in the whole film is when he's explaining to Kelly just how badly outmatched his tank is against the Tiger tanks.
  • Used to dramatic effect in Deadpool. Wade and Vanessa are both raunchy, snarky goofballs who rarely take anything seriously. When Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Vanessa's switch flips and she immediately takes charge of the situation, rapidly grilling the doctor for options and treatments. Wade, on the other hand, stops cracking wise:
    Wade Wilson: Vanessa's already working through Plans A, B, and C through Z. Me? I'm just trying to memorize the details of her face. Like I'm seeing it for the first time. Or the last.
  • In Downfall, when Speer confesses to Hitler that he never obeyed his order to destroy the country's infrastructure, you'd expect Hitler to start ranting and baying for his blood. Instead, he simply fires him and sends him on his way.

  • Is Anansi doing actual work? He's probably got some ulterior motive. You'd better watch that fish haul like a hawk, or he'll likely help himself to some of it.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Since wrestling announcers are supposed to be loud and talking all the time, it was always a pretty safe bet that when they went completely silent, it was a sign that someone was legitimately hurt (instead of when they kept talking, which showed it was part of the show). However, that's not quite as accurate now, since the people behind the scenes have caught on to this, and have started to use dead air when trying to sell a Kayfabe injury.
  • While announcers do use the "Owen Voice" as it is known by internet fans, they will make it very clear when a real injury or accident happens, by repeatedly dropping all pretenses of kayfabe and telling the audience that it is not part of the show. This was most recently seen during Jerry Lawler's heart attack during the show. He got drowsy, passed out, started snoring, then there was a silence for a while. While he was being attended to by EMTs, the crowd reacted to it, and Michael Cole tried to carry on commentary for a few minutes while the match went on. Then he went completely silent for the rest of the match. When they came back from commerical, he (in tears) related to the home audience that Jerry Lawler had a heart attack while at the desk and that it was not part of the show. All updates through out the rest of the show were prefaces with "this is not part of the show". Being pro wrestling, it eventually became part of the show when he returned after 10 weeks and top heels CM Punk and Paul Heyman made fun of it by having Paul fake a heart attack in the ring. This was followed up by every heel on commentary making some kind of joke about his heart attack.
  • John Cena is almost always above everything, just laughing off anything resembling a threat. Until The Wyatt Family came after him. Thus far the Wyatts have proven to be the only thing that can make Cena show actual fear.
  • Lance Storm is adamant that people use his Kayfabe last name (that being Storm), and most of his commentaries are signed as Lance Storm. However, when he is truly serious about certain things, like the deaths of Chris Benoit or Road Warrior Hawk, he has been known to sign off using his real name: Lance Evers.

  • MAD features the eternally grinning Alfred E. Neuman, whose Catch Phrase is "What, me worry?" Except once. Alfred's reaction to the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979: A look of terror on his face, and the comment, "Yes... me worry!"

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • In the New Testament, Jesus has a very serious OoC moment known as "the cleansing of the temple". While some people may argue that Jesus could never have acted out of character, there is no doubt that even (and especially) His friends and followers were shocked by what they saw. He was literally the poster boy for patience and forgiveness. But everybody has at least one thing that really burns them up and makes them want to break something/someone; for Jesus, it seems, it was taking advantage of poor and ignorant people in the name of God (the corruption in the Jewish church was along the same lines as the selling of indulgences in Martin Luther's time). When He saw what was going on, He just stood there, looking around and emanating so much anger that He didn't even have to raise His voice for everybody in the temple to know that Jesus meant serious business and they were in it deep. He flipped over a money-changer's table, and the priests and merchants ran for it. If you read the account carefully, you'll note that this wasn't a hot-blooded moment of rage. No, Jesus "made a whip out of cords" (John 2:15), which takes a good bit of time. Tranquil Fury with extreme deliberation. Not as OOC as one might think. Jesus' one true Berserk Button is hypocrisy, in any form.
      Jesus: It is written: "My house shall be a place of prayer." But you are turning it into a den of thieves.
    • Another example would be when Jesus curses the fig tree, causing it to wither and die. This is the only time that He is shown to use His gifts/talents/powers in a way that does not cause life and healing for the recipient (certain Apocrypha notwithstanding). Doubles as a moment of Oh, Crap!, because as God he could have used this power at any time to destroy anyone. Let that sink in...
    • One not for Jesus, but for another figure in his story, and which ties into real-life archaeological searches for historical evidence of the life and passion of the son of God. Remember the part where he was brought before Pontius Pilate, an extremely ruthless prefect, and Pilate, instead of his usual brutal routine, had the Jews choose between him and another prisoner on the occasion of the Passover? It just so happens that Jesus was brought before Pilate at an extremely delicate time for the Roman Empire, which had just executed Lucius Aelius Sejanus, once the most powerful man in the Empire apart from Caesar himself, on charges of treason against the Emperor Tiberius and was on the hunt for Sejanus's friends and allies; Pilate must've realized at the time that one wrong move and he himself could be next, so he handled Jesus's case with an uncharacteristically cautious approach.
  • There is even a saying about Buddha, the poster boy for patience, serenity, that goes like this : "Even the Buddha will get angry if slapped thrice in the face" for The Stoic finally snapping. Basically, the threshold is high, but if you are stupid enough to repeatedly annoy them, even a Saint is going to snap at you, and it's going to be Serious Business.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Gonzo the Great is such a Cloudcuckoolander that when he opts out of a Bar Mitzvah appearance in Muppets from Space, Kermit is quick to take notice.
    Kermit: You never miss the chance to shoot yourself out a cannon, is something wrong?
  • In Dinosaurs, Baby always hits Earl over the head and calls him "Not-The-Mama" instead of "Daddy". When he becomes seriously ill, he starts calling Earl "Daddy" and tells him he loves him. The family freaks out and get him cured as quickly as possible. Everyone is relieved when Baby hits Earl and calls him "Not-The-Mama" after he is cured.
  • In the Fraggle Rock episode "Marooned", perpetually paranoid Boober and energetic Red are Buried Alive in a cave-in; facing imminent death, Boober is calm and collected, while Red is a nervous wreck.
  • In the Sesame Street special, "Elmo Saves Christmas", Lightning the Reindeer takes Elmo to a Bad Future he created from his wish for it to be Christmas every day. In this bad future, The Count is so sick of celebrating an entire year's worth of Christmases, that he is even sick of counting them! Naturally, this sparks a shocked reaction from Elmo.

  • In Cabin Pressure, when the usually relentlessly cheery and overwhelmingly positive and optimistic Arthur tries to describe his father:
    Arthur: Oh, he’s, errr… He’s, errr… He’s, errr…
    Douglas: Good Lord, Martin, I think you’ve broken him.
    Arthur: No-no-no – it’s just that he’s, errr… He’s, errr…
    Douglas: I think… I think what we may be witnessing here is Arthur attempting to describe something with an adjective other than “brilliant”.
    Arthur: Yeah, no-no, I-I wouldn’t say he was br… I mean, obviously everyone’s br… [beat] No, he’s not brilliant. He’s, errr… He’s alright.
    Martin: God!
    Douglas: Yes.
    Martin: He must be awful!

  • Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig never missed a game ever since the day he filled in for Wally Pipp; not even injury stopped him from at least getting in an inning as a pinch hitter. So when he had his manager bench him for one game in 1939, it was a sign something was wrong, confirmed by an ALS diagnosis a short time later.
  • Former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver, Hines Ward, was notorious for always smiling on the field and sidelines. Dropped a pass (rare event for him), smile and shake it off. Hospitalize someone with a block? Smile and wave the medics over. When he lost a fumble in easy field goal range in the final minutes of a tied game against the Tennessee Titans by trying to stretch for extra yards, thereby costing the Steelers a sure chance to win the game in regulation, and allowing the Titans to take a knee and take the game to overtime, he was visibly pissed off with himself on the sidelines. The television commentators noted that he must have been really mad to stop smiling.
  • You knew Joe Theismann's career-ending injury was serious when every single player on both teams, including crazy tough, crazy fearless linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who actually made the hit, were SCREAMING for medical attention. It was.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A number of character-driven RPGs give characters compulsions to act in certain ways and require expending resources to ignore them, effectively making Out-of-Character a form of Heroic B.S.O.D.. For example, Exalted calls it "Limit Break"note  and forces the Solars to either take their greatest Virtue to extremes or invert it, Lunars to act animalistic and Sidereals to stubbornly force Fate into a path dependant on their caste. Similarly, Scion has Virtues (such as Loyalty, Duty, or Courage); every pantheon reveres four of them, and their Scions are expected to uphold them. If a Scion resists his or her Virtues too hard, they can explode into Virtue Extremities, causing the Scion to burst into extreme behavior; a Loyal Scion will throw herself into the line of fire for her friends even if they beg her not to, a Courageous Scion goes into an Unstoppable Rage, an Expressive Scion will quite literally bleed for his art, and so on.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Tyranids are such a threat to the galaxy that the Ultramarines, a chapter of Space Marines who religiously follow the Codex Astartes and take pride in fielding balanced, tactically-flexible forces, have started training cadres of Tyrannic War Veterans specializing in combating the menace that nearly devoured their homeworld.
    • Speaking of Tyranids, when the vast eternally hungry Hive Mind leaves a certain light-years wide area of space alone, it's probably for a good reason.
    • Factions that know the Orks well start getting very wary whenever the greenskins start to do anything that isn't either charging the closest enemy or getting ready to do so. Normally, it means they're about to try something unusual, unpredictable and dangerous. If you are terribly unlucky, it means they're getting clever. Millions tend to die when the orks try actual tactics because they're just not expected to do so, and it tends to be a sign that the Warboss in charge is getting dangerously competent from sheer volume of WAAAGH energy the troops are dispensing. The smarter they're acting, the bigger the horde, and the bigger the Warboss. Once, this got bad enough that they had actual diplomats, people farms and technology that started outpacing the Imperium and the Eldar, and the resulting war nearly destroyed Terra, and with it the Imperium.
  • On Mighty Thews: characters have what is called a "D20 trait", since each skill is assigned a dice value. By acting in concert with your D20 character trait, you earn a reroll token in a scene; but if you act opposite to it, you can roll a D20 for one skill roll, which means quite a bit when D12 is the largest available die.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Phoenix is always flustered or worried about his cases in some way. But sometimes, he stands perfectly still and and speaks calmly and with absolute confidence. When this happens, not only will he find the killer, but they'll probably be convicted of half a dozen other crimes too. The first time is in game one case four. After Phoenix clears his client of one murder, they admit to another. Naturally, he doesn't believe they did it. In the ensuing recess, Maya freaks out and then asks Phoenix why he's looking at a photograph. Phoenix's response? "I'm preparing our case."
    • At one point in 2-4 he actually manages to intimidate the judge, something usually reserved for the prosecution or certain witnesses.
    • In Case 1-3, Edgeworth starts to morph from being a jerkass to a Jerk with a Heart of Gold when he helps prevent Dee Vasquez from escaping the court by demanding she testify about after finding the body (which Phoenix hadn't thought to ask her). The only reason Phoenix can think of for why he did this was because he agreed that the evidence was compelling enough that Vasquez was the real murderer, but this was the first time that he put finding the true criminal above maintaining his perfect trial record, which had been shattered in the previous case.
    • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Klavier is typically laid-back in court, even when Apollo pokes holes in his arguments, and enjoys using Gratuitous German. When Vera Misham's testimony indicates that she was responsible for forging the page out of Magnifi's diary, which Klavier uncovered on a tip from his brother and got Phoenix disbarred, Klavier is visibly shocked, and calls her "Ms. Misham" rather than "Fraulein" or other variants thereof.

      Later, when Kristoph is on the stand, Klavier becomes much more hardcore in his prosecuting, blocking most of Apollo's arguments. Trucy speculates that he wants to impress his big brother.
    • In general, most of the witnesses will have a breakdown point where, if they're pretending to be sweet, naive, innocent, or any other personality type, they'll drop the act altogether. In the case of characters like April May or Dahlia Hawthorne, it can be pretty scary. In the case of Yanni Yogi, who completely drops the braindead routine he'd been using for the entire case, Maya even comments that he seems to be a different person entirely.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations, after she and Edgeworth almost get shot by Calisto Yew, Franziska's confident front fades and she is visibly frightened.
    • In case of characters like Edgeworth and Franziska, as well as any other aloof prosecutors, any moment during a trial when they suddenly act flustered or look dumbfounded (promptly changing to their most funny courtroom sprites) can be considered this. Sometimes lampshaded by Phoenix's inner monologue along the lines of "I wonder what happened to that calm composure he had earlier..." or "Edgeworth stuttering...? This is not like him at all" in 2-4, when Edgeworth was to announce that the next witness is a qualified assassin who is willing to testify through a tranceiver.
    • The beginning of case 4 in Dual Destinies has both Apollo and Blackquill acting weird. Apollo is wearing an eyepatch for some reason, but insists that he's fine and demands that the trial get started. The victim in this case is Apollo's close childhood friend, and the defendant is an acquaintance who Apollo trusts wouldn't hurt a fly. On top of that, he has more than a few reasons to believe his own co-worker and assistant in the case may have been the true culprit. Blackquill, who always wears shackles to court, usually breaks them when things start to get serious. In this case, not only he breaks them as soon as the trial begins, bue he decides to give the case's opening statement himself, a task he usually leaves to the Judge. He believes the defendant is the phantom, the one who committed the murder he took the fall for. The judge notices that there's something up with both of them.
    • During Case 5 in Spirit of Justice, an astute player will notice Phoenix doesn't seem to be acting quite right. He won't even look at Apollo, the current playable character, once he starts talking about the case, and he's acting unusually serious and evasive. If you didn't figure out by then that something was up, Phoenix's desperation in court should be a clue. While Phoenix isn't a stranger to desperate floundering, the last time he was so desperate that he made wild claims, a kidnapped Maya's life was in danger. And that's just what happened this time, too.
  • Katawa Shoujo
    • Lilly letting out something that sounds like a swear word? She's PISSED.
    • Similarly, the single time when Kenji calms down enough to speak reasonably and offer Hisao emotional support, you know it's gonna bring up a Tear Jerker.
    • In Emi's route, when Emi and Hisao meet after she throws Hisao out of her house, Rin becomes surprisingly direct and to-the-point.
    Rin: Hisao is kind of worried about you, Emi. I don't think he can decide, or maybe I don't believe him, but I think I'm going to go somewhere less awkward now.
    Hisao Narrates: I'm so surprised by Rin's being so suddenly forward about well, anything at all, that I merely watch her head through the door.
    • Hanako exploding at Hisao in her bad ending. She also tells him to "...Go away" when he tries to check on her in Lilly's route, surprising him.
    • In Lilly's route, Shizune, a typically blunt girl who has a rivalry with Lilly, responds to Hisao telling her that he's going out with Lilly by saying that it's his business who he dates, and she hopes they go well together, which Hisao implies is her not saying what's on her mind. She then is about to say something more, but has Misha not translate her signing, which makes Hisao wonder why Shizune would pull a punch or speak without forethought.
  • In Fate/stay night, in the Heaven's Feel route, it is the first cue for the player who went through Unlimited Blade Works and witnessed firsthand the insane determination Archer puts into accomplishing his goal, killing his younger unwitting self Shirou, that some VERY SERIOUS shit is about to hit the fan when Archer witnesses the damage done, and at the drop of a hat, postpones his personal vendetta with Shirou, to switch back into full Counter Guardian mode, and deal with the more pressing, in the end literally world-threatening, issue of the Shadow.
  • In Steins;Gate, Okabe only drops his Mad Scientist persona when things are at their most serious. When he Mental Time Travels a few days back to prevent Mayuri's death, the other characters pick up on his sudden sincerity and are appropriately worried, even if they don't know what's troubling him.
  • When Snake from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors opens his eyes, you know not to fuck with him.
    • When Carlos randomly hits on Akane then sexually assaults her, then goads Junpei into a fight despite spending the entire game as a wingman for the both of them you should take clear notice. He's acting for the cameras so that Zero doesn't notice he's telling them how to stop the injections from their bracelets.
  • This is used to solve a mystery in Fleuret Blanc. One subplot involves everyone coming down with food poisoning after eating Grams' cooking, including Le Neuvieme... except that he previously did nothing but express ire and disgust at Grams' concoctions, to the point that he goes out to town to buy all his food. If Grams' food was unhealthy, he should be the last person to display any symptoms. Of course, he's faking it, and he poisoned the food himself to make Grams look irresponsible, in the hopes that she would be removed from cooking duty.
  • SOON: The friendly Fang from the timeline where Atlas and Fang were fellow members of La Résistance seriously gives Atlas the creeps.

    Web Animation 
  • Zero Punctuation:
  • In Season 10 of Red vs. Blue:
    • In Episode 12 the Lazy Bum Grif, who usually tries to find time to nod off, can't.
      Grif: I never thought I'd say this, but I can't sleep.
    • In Episode 13, the pervert Tucker, who always finds a Double Entendre for anything said, doesn't say it.
      Tucker: Church, just because you want to get close to someone doesn't mean that you have to end up inside them!
      Church: ...Oh come on. Aren't you gonna say it?
      Tucker: No, because I'm pissed off!
    • After Church rages at the crew in Episode 18, Caboose leaves Epsilon-Church despite his prior Undying Loyalty, driving home just how crushed the Blood Gulch Crew is at that point. That said, he does get over it quickly enough, so it's probably more that he was upset that Epsilon-Church was alienating his friends than anything else.
    • In the same episode, who is the first to leave? Lazy Grif, who typically just goes along with whatever crazy scheme everyone else comes up with because it's too much work to disagree with them.
    • After Caboose, Simmons, Grif and Tucker escape from the canyon in Season 11, being forced to leave Sarge, Donut, Lopez and Wash at the mercy of their enemies, Tucker, well known for his behaviour, doesn't try and woo Vanessa Kimball, the leader of the New Republic.
    • In episode 6 of season 12, when Kimball has talk with Tucker, she ends their conversation by telling him he can drop by her office at any time. The thought of making a joke and/or hitting on her doesn't even seem to cross his mind. Instead he goes straight to Grif, Simmons and Caboose and tells them they're leaving because he doesn't want her, or anyone else, getting hurt on their personal mission.
  • Dreamscape: Whenever Keela loses her cool, or when Ahjeen loses his Nice Guy attitude.
  • RWBY: When Ruby first encounters Penny in Volume 2, she tries to find out where Penny's been all this time, but Penny acts like she has no idea who Ruby is. It turns out that Penny is being monitored, and she's afraid of getting Ruby into trouble if they're caught together.
    • In "No Safe Haven", Ren, usually the calm, patient and collected member of Team JNPR, acts enraged and reckless when fighting the Grimm that destroyed his hometown and killed his parents, something Jaune and Nora notice and show concern over.
    • In "Vault of the Spring Maiden", Ruby is visibly pissed off and begins barking orders to her friends and teammates before joining Yang to battle Emerald and Mercury. This is due to the fact that Emerald knocked her out, allowing Cinder to almost kill Weiss out of total and complete spite to Jaune. This is the same Ruby who, just moments earlier, begged Emerald and Raven to abandon Cinder to no avail.
  • Camp Camp:
    • In the season one finale, David of all people drops a Precision F-Strike and gives a completely serious speech in response to Max's attempts to get him to give up on the camp, letting know just how far he's gone.
    • In the episode "Cult Camp", David finally realizes that something is wrong with Daniel when a brainwashed Max declares his love for him.

    Web Comics 
  • Erfworld: Jack Snipe never, ever stops cracking jokes and speaking in riddles, even to Wanda. Except when she's just barely recovering consciousness after killing her own mount, plummeting hundreds of feet to the ground and just barely getting healed back from the brink of death. Once Wanda's back on her feet, though, Jack picks it right back up again.
  • Sinfest: Sweet, caring, smart, shy little boy. Fantastic Racism against Fuchsia.
    Criminy: Enough.
  • Skin Horse: Tip wears men's clothing.
  • Homestuck
    • Dave Strider is normally an unflappable badass, so when he stares at his blood-stained hands for ten minutes after throwing the corpse of an Alternate Timeline version of himself out of a window, the audience knows that the Cerebus Syndrome has kicked into high gear.
    • The trolls all have a characteristic quirk or two when it comes to communicating through their messaging system. When Gamzee's changed from "hOnK" to "honk HONK", signifying that he's now sober and completely Ax-Crazy, Karkat freaked out. (Along with the rest of the readers.)
      CG: OH MY GOD
    • Feferi and Eridan typically have very distinctive typing styles, but drop their quirks briefly to have a serious conversation about Feferi being Eridan's Morality Chain.
    • Vriska blushes and covers her mouth in embarrassment the one time she accidentally types nine exclamation marks in a row, instead of her trademark eight.
    • As of Act 6, you know something's up when Terezi, who is normally the resident Handicapped Badass and The Chessmaster who is obsessed with smelling and tasting everything as replacement for her missing eyesight, suddenly starts hiding her eyes behind her dragon hood and acts more withdrawn. It would seem that meeting the pre-scratch version of her ancestor made her feel more self-conscious, and some of her behavior could also be caused what is revealed sometime later that she and Gamzee are filling a black quadrant together, and at some point she had Aranea fix her eyes.
    • Later in Act 6, when Gamzee is staring with a blank expression at something, you know it's weird.
    • Dave again . . .
      DAVE: jade this is STUPID
      JADE: omg
      JADE: youve really spent way too much time alone with karkat havent you
      DAVE: ...
      DAVE: i need help :(
  • This Is the Worst Idea You've Ever Had!
    "Oh my God! She's letting him drive her car!"
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • When Torg starts to actually think (or simply stops acting silly), you know business has just got serious. Often coupled with Let's Get Dangerous!.
    • In "Oceans Unmoving", Honest Stu always tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth — no matter how awkward or dangerous the occasion or rhetorical the question. The one time he actually lies, and just for the fun of it too, is when he is dying, very nearly with his last words.
  • The Order of the Stick:
  • 8-Bit Theater: Black Mage takes a serious hit during the fight with Lich. When the thickheaded and childlike Fighter realizes he's not getting up, he starts becoming visibly scared and a whole lot less cheerful, begging the corpse to yell at him for being stupid. When Black Mage doesn't get up, he then proceeds attack Lich like it's the only thing in the world that matters. It's the only time in the entire comic that Fighter doesn't even think about heroics or niceties or even being polite, continuing to hit Lich until he's satisfied. Later, when Black Mage gains extreme evil power, Red Mage and Thief don't even consider fleeing, facing him down like actual heroes.
  • From Head Trip, Mal is an unapologetic Chaotic Neutral Comedic Sociopath. But when confronted with Twilight, she breaks down crying and begs a priest to come over and exorcise the book.
  • In an arc of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Mitzi McNinja gets cursed to slowly disintegrate into ash, like a mummy. After she gets far enough along, she has a talk with her son, Sean, and apologizes for the way she raised him. Leading to this exchange.
    Dan McNinja: (returning with a method to cure his wife) How is she?
    Sean: Well... She gave me the "I'm sorry I was a horrible mother" speech.
    Dan McNinja: DRIVE FASTER.
  • A subtle but effective one from Girl Genius; Airman Higgs is normally composed and nonchalant about everything, with an almost bored facial expression. Except when Zola runs Zeetha through with a sword. The next strip features a close up of his face, eyes open, and delivering a One-Liner with the slightest hint of the Jäger accent (something he'd never shown before). This comes moments before he punches someone across the room so fast that sequential art cannot capture it. The effect, whilst subtle, is rather frightening.
    Dupree: Are... Are you okay?
    Gil: No! Those bookbinders think they can come in here and just abduct people? After all the trouble I've gone to? I've obviously done too much talking and not enough damage! We're getting him back!
    Dupree: This is weird- You're still talking and I'm actually still listening.
  • In Freefall, Max Post calls Raibert, and is polite. Raibert asks what's wrong, as usually Max calls Raibert to rant at him.
    • Much later, during Florence's recovery from the secret base, she knows Sam was really worried about her when she finds out he was in the company of another person for more than twenty seconds and didn't take their wallet.
  • In Questionable Content, the normally-calm-and-passive Marten is furious after Dora flips out on him and Faye for thinking they were fooling aroundnote , which startles Faye.
  • Precocious:
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Captain Tagon is being briefed on an A.I. that was found in the massive space station where their mission is taking place. After Tagon is told the AI's name is translated to "Broken Wind", he asks if Ennesby made a "fart joke" before diving into the computer to fight the AI. When told he did not, Captain Tagon says, "We ARE in trouble".
    • Tagon himself falls under this every time he would reject the chance for (more) money. One time, it was simply his hatred for a certain Fat Bastard overpowering his greed (slashing the local reverend's hopes for any salvation of Tagon's soul when he learned of that), and the second time, his employer was getting incredibly annoying, by mercenary standards at least, with his restrictions imposed on the crew. Though he quickly snapped out of it, turning it into an extra profit opportunity (in the form of purchasing infinite Yell at the Captain rights), and lampshading it for good measure ("I don't know what came over me").
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Ysengrin is a Yes-Man who is wholly devoted to Coyote. When he learns that Coyote knew all along that the Court tricked Reynardine and imprisoned him and did nothing to help him he immediately calls him out on it, asking him how he could leave Reynardine trapped there. Especially notable since previous interactions between Ysengrin and Reynardine indicated that they were not particularly fond of each other.
  • In Slice of Life, when Pumpkin Cake passes up the chance to make mischief, her parents (and Pinkie Pie) can tell she's really upset.
  • In The Dragon Doctors, Aki is sweet, gentle, and lighthearted almost all the time ... but every once in a while, shows the iron faith and determination that underlies that gentleness.
    Speedball: Aki is full of love. Some of it is TOUGH love.
  • In Plume, usually snarky and emotional Corrick turns into a statue when forced to attack Vesper to protect Dom.
  • The Bedfellows: The one time Fatigue actually stands up for himself is in the strip "Board Meeting," when he calls out his bosses for doing nothing but patting themselves on the back (and other places) for their good work rather than make it even better.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent:
    • A mild form happens in Chapter 3. Emil and Lalli sort of bond over their shared hatred of the bed belts in the night train that they are riding. Later in the night, Lalli hands Emil his belt and tangles himself in his own right before sudden movement of the train projects anyone not strapped to their bed (read: Emil) out of it.
    • Sigrun may know when to back down from a fight, but she's also walked into troll nests and killed grosslings, considers a suicide mission to be a relaxing vacation, and through it all has been absolutely fearless. So the first time she's shown to be downright terrified, it's clear that the crew is in serious trouble.
    • Turned Up to Eleven the first time we see Lalli look completely terrified. Remember, this is the guy who spends his nights scouting the troll-infested Silent World at night when the monsters are most active without batting an eyelash regressing to a state of panicked flailing.

    Web Original 
  • Vixen of the DesuDesBrigade is very relaxed, informal and happy in most of her reviews, even in a lot of the shows that squick her out. Then came her Film Fox review of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, where she's in complete distress with no escape throughout and screams more than once.
  • As the endgame approached in Marble Hornets, many would notice that Totheark's videos became disturbingly coherent.
  • When The Nostalgia Critic doesn't express joy, anger or depression through swearing and instead goes for Gosh Dang It to Heck! ("holy smokes" is the usual), you know it's even more Serious Business than usual.
    • His Cuteness Proximity-overload review of Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird is probably the only episode with no swearing whatsoever.
    • After selling his soul in The Cat in the Hat, his Papa Wolf trait disappears and he spends the review being an abusive babysitter to Evilina.
    • In the Bum Review of The Avengers, Doug breaks character twice (pulling off Chester's trademark wool cap and wig) to give a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer and assure the viewers that yes, the movie is that awesome, and they really should go out and see it.
    • In-Universe example: When Bum reviewed The Dark Knight, Bum was completely serious. And in the end, instead of using his catchpharse "Change! You got change?!", he tells to viewer to keep the change.
    • How deranged is Bennett the Sage? When he had a crossover with Ask That Guy with the Glasses, his answers sent That Guy, who almost never shows visible signs of emotion, ended up curled in fetal position on the floor.
  • The Nostalgia Chick:
    • She never apologizes. So when she tells Nella that she's sorry for not including her in a review, you can see the manipulation coming a mile off.
    • More seriously, The Christmas Shoes was so awful about having the kid (whose mother was dying) being taught the values of earning money that she — a self-admitted Child Hater — ended up screaming at the adults for how monstrous they were acting.
  • Brad Jones has done this on several occasions when playing The Cinema Snob.
    • He starts his review of Caligula out of character claiming that it's his favorite movie and that it's going to be hard to "Snob" it.
    • During the film Elves, the main character's stepmother kills her cat. Brad (a well-known Kindhearted Cat Lover) snarls, "I'd kill her. I'd fucking kill her!" — without any of the Snob's usual tone.
    • At the end of his review of Goldengirl, Brad Jones went so far as to take off his glasses and unslick his hair before telling his viewers to seek out the film, just to make it clear he was serious.
    • The review of Gross Out starts with Brad almost begging his viewers not to watch the review. To put it in perspective, he didn't do this before the review of Pink Flamingos.
    • On a similar note: the moment when the protagonist of Rock: It's Your Decision reveals decidedly homophobic tendencies. Brad's previous cheery mockery vanishes instantly, as he coldly, calmly states: "Kid...go fuck yourself."
  • Sag from Movie Rehab took off his sunglasses in order to give Dr. Lester a huge reason you suck speech, which from his tone alone, seems to be quite genuine.
  • Burt from We're Alive usually can't resist an opportunity to quote from his favorite movies. But in chapter 23, he and Angel are trapped in a hospital room with zombies at the door and their only escape, a Bedsheet Ladder, broken. Burt yells for the other two characters, who got out, to leave them and run for the helicopter on the roof of the hospital by saying "Get to the chopper!" Angel asks if that was a quote from Predator. When Burt "What?...Oh, no, it was just a coincidence." Angel goes into Oh, Crap! mode.
  • In To Boldly Flee, amoral Nightmare Fetishist Dr. Tease is actually scared of what's going on.
  • The Spoony Experiment: Spoony gives off one in the middle of his Ultima IX review. His normal vitriol and hot-bloodedness fades away during the scene as he simply reminisces quietly to the audience on his history with the Ultima series and the value it had to him growing up... before throwing the cases of those individual games against a wall. The entire scene serves to illustrate not only how far the game itself had broken him, but arguably also the state of mind of Noah himself at the time.
  • Koden from DSBT InsaniT falling into despair whenever things go wrong.
  • The horror game Lets Player Markiplier usually tries to make a conscious effort to keep his language PG so when he starts swearing up a storm, you can bet he is either scared or frustrated.
  • Noob has the well-established fact that Arthéon is afraid of Game Masters. He does quite a few uncharacteristic things after reaching his Rage Breaking Point, but the act that ended up having most of his soon to be former guildmates as an audience was him asking for a Game Master so he could officially disband the guild.
  • Achievement Hunter's Gavin Free is a certified troll, doing things to screw over his fellow AH players for shits and giggles, but trying his damnedest not to out and out cheat. When Caleb was caught cheating and it's Gavin calling him out, you know that you dun goofed.
  • Mark Kermode is a avid hater of films in 3D and is more than willing to rip apart the technology, finding extremely gimmicky and is nothing more than a ploy for studios to make more money. Then Gravity came along and on his blog, he posted a video announcing that "Gravity is worth seeing in 3D". He then face-palmed for saying those words.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: The 300th episode, featuring Frank Miller's Holy Terror, has a moment where after about an hour of enraged screaming, Linkara drops his reviewer persona and speaks as his real self (Lewis Lovhaug) in order to calmly explain why the book is one of the worst he's ever read because it blatantly goes against everything he believes comic books should be.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • The Foundation very rarely actively attempts to kill supernatural entities, as they don't know what effect it might have. So SCP-682 must be a serious threat to warrant a file that begins with "SCP-682 must be destroyed as soon as possible."
    • The Foundation members are usually portrayed as Determinators who will go to any length to find a way to ensure that any entities that could pose a danger are safely contained. Except for SCP-2317, who they have explicitly given up on containing and what procedures they do have are merely to keep up morale.
    • SCP-682 ends up on the other end of this trope several times. It's an Omnicidal Maniac that tries to kill pretty much anything that gets left out in front of it. So something must be seriously, intrinsically wrong with SCP-173 (which it is too scared of to attack), SCP-053 (the only being it has ever acted legitimately friendly towards), and Dr. Alto Clef (whom it doesn't attack for some unknown reason).
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
    • Marneus Calgar, Glory Hound extraordinaire, not just from reading the fluff but from a previous scene playing the part of Monty Python's black knight during a battle. When we're shown his current whereabouts, we learn the man's undergoing serious depression, and absolutely hates his own beloved marines' Sue-like exploits. We don't know what's happening, but we do know something has to be, and it's serious.
    Calgar: Nothing is satisfying anymore...
    • The Emperor catches on to something odd being up with the Tau when the Custodian, who has been polite and quiet to the point of being a Yes-Man, and has put up with every last bit of his Grumpy Old Man ruler or his fellow Macho Camp custodes' antics without much fuss, starts flipping his shit when he's asked to talk about them.
  • Community radio host and narrator of Welcome to Night Vale, Cecil, is always pleasant and smooth in his delivery. When he's not? Something is very wrong, like his on-air breakdown when he thought Carlos had died, or the terror in his voice upon seeing the gorefest in Kevin's studio; or very serious, like the sheer venom with which he wished that rebel leader Tamika would find StrexCorp before they found her.
    • When Cecil refers to Steve Carlsberg as "Steve," and acknowledges his love for Abby and Janice, it's a sign how frightened he is by the Shadow People's invasion.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged:
    • Kirito is at best as Smug Super who usually dismisses other players' problems with sarcasm or insults. But when Lizbeth starts telling him about her former guild, it's close enough to Kirito's own traumatic past that he's soon begging her to stop talking.
    • In Episode 8, Kirito freaks out when Asuna invites him over to her place for dinner and greets him with a smile and pleasantries, since he's used to the harsher elements of her personality.
      Kirito: I was half-expecting a suspiciously soundproofed warehouse on the outskirts of town with a shallow grave out back, but somehow, this is more unsettling.
    • Godfree, The Roleplayer of the Knights of the Blood Oath, spends a whole episode speaking in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, but drops it while pleading for his life.
    • Kirito and Asuna typically respond to threats with mockery and sarcasm, but when Yulier threatens little Yui in their presence, Kirito goes dead silent, and Asuna tersely and coldly promises to kill Yulier's lover in reprisal if she so much as touches Yui. As a double-whammy, the two of them only adopted Yui in the first place as part of an attempt to encourage the other to "blink" first and call off their hasty marriage, so their reaction shows how much they've bonded with her.
    • During the finale of the Aincrad arc, when Kirito gives a subdued "World of Cardboard" Speech about being willing to give up his escapist fantasy in SAO in order to protect his friends, Asuna forgoes the usual sarcasm and mockery.
      Kirito: So, I guess this is the part where you make fun of me and call me a "big gay baby with a floppy vagina" or... something to that effect?
      Asuna: ...No. No, I'm not even going to ruin this. This is a huge step for you.
  • Hellsing Ultimate Abridged gives two examples in episode 8.
    • Anderson is normally irritated with Alucard for his myriad pedopriest jokes and miscellaneous anti-Catholic antics, but you know he's about to cross the Godzilla Threshold when he utters the words "I forgive you." in all seriousness.
    • Alucard normally pops a super-hard boner at the prospect of fighting Anderson, but Anderson daring to cross the Godzilla Threshold makes him angrily growl at Anderson as a note to his sudden erectile dysfunction.
  • GiIvaSunner was a collaborative YouTube channel that presents "high quality rips" of video game music that are actually Bait-and-Switch remixes (or other jokes), ostensibly ran by a single person who refutes any claims that his music is anything but ordinary. However, after an incident where a video that abruptly delved into genuinely terrifying subject matter was uploaded without consent from the rest of the group, one person dropped kayfabe entirely to apologize.
  • In Fallout Lore The Storyteller, the titular Storyteller never shuts up. Over the first 58 videos, he was never at a loss for words, prattling on about the history of one thing or another to anyone who will listen as well as many who would rather not. However, at the end of season 3 when Junior is killed and Tanner captured, he leaves to rescues them, alone with his droid. In. Complete. Silence.
  • Chris Stuckmann rarely blows his top during his movie reviews, but when a movie sorely pisses him off, he will make it known, such as in his opening for The Emoji Movie, where his monotone intro goes into Suddenly SHOUTING!.

    Real Life 
  • Stephen Colbert testified to Congress, in character, about the terrible and paradoxical treatment of illegal immigrants in the US. When asked why he felt that this issue, as opposed to others, was so important, he drops his act and speaks earnestly.
  • Similarly, Jon Stewart is normally just a guy out to crack jokes and make fun of everything, but when he stops being funny and starts taking things very seriously, people tend to notice. Stewart was able to generate enough social pressure to get a bill to subsidize healthcare for 9/11 first responders through Congress.
  • A soldier in World War II managed to invoke this trope unintentionally; he was well known for having a very poor grasp of punctuation, and once joked with his wife that if he ever sent her a perfectly punctuated letter, she should underline the first word of every sentence and it would reveal a coded message. When he was captured by the Nazis and put into a labour camp, he remembered the joke, and sent his wife a coded message hidden inside a well punctuated one. It worked, and his wife, with the help of the British government, managed to smuggle various items to him which he used to escape the camp.
  • Speaking more broadly, a sudden change in behavior can be a sign of mental illness. Or in some cases, a regular illness.
    • It may also be a sign of neurological or even vascular issues as well. A sudden unexplained personality change in a close friend or family member should be treated as serious and indicative of a possible medical emergency.
    • A sudden uptick in someone's mood after a long depression may be a sign that they're happy that their problems will soon be over. Because they're about to kill themselves. Similarly, the sudden giving away of prized possessions is considered a warning sign of suicidal ideation.
    • On the other hand, a sudden change in mood in someone diagnosed with major depression could actually be something more benign. Specifically, the person was misdiagnosed and actually has bipolar II disorder, which is frequently misdiagnosed as major depression, meaning the elevated mood is due to a hypomanic episode (which, due to being less severe than bipolar I's mania, is frequently mistaken for ordinary high-functioning behavior).
    • Parents often become concerned if their teenager son or daughter, who has been extremely rebellious and unruly for many years, suddenly becomes very nice, mindful and polite to everybody. Sometimes this may be justified, as it may be a sign that he or she has secretly joined a cult or other clandestine organization. Or that he or she is on drugs.
  • Hurricane Katrina caused a couple of these:
    • Before the hurricane hit New Orleans, the local National Weather Service office issued a bulletin. This is standard, but sentences like "PERSONS... PETS... AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK" and "WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS" are decidedly not. After the hurricane, authorities credited the bulletin with saving thousands of lives.
    • Broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper built his reputation on fair, even-handed, neutral coverage of even the worst tragedies in the modern era; he's broadcast from Sarajevo at the height of the Balkan civil war, Somalia in the middle of a famine, Baghdad as a war zone, and Sri Lanka immediately post-tsunami. Naturally, he was CNN's man-on-the-ground before, during, and after the storm, producing coverage that ultimately won him a Peabody Award. But this also meant that he was there, on the ground, in amongst the suffering, in the days immediately post-hurricane before federal relief efforts were organised — so when he spoke to Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu live on air, and she spent the time thanking the President and other politicians, apparently completely unaware of the horror her constituents were going through, Anderson was having none of it. The result was one of his most iconic television moments to date and spoke volumes about the harrowing situation in the Mississippi Delta at the time, and how much anger and despair the population was feeling.
      Anderson: Excuse me, Senator, I'm sorry for interrupting.... for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated. And when they hear politicians slap — you know, thanking one another, it... kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there's not enough facilities to take her up. Do you get the anger that is out here?
    • Fox News anchor Shep Smith is famous for being very calm and collected during serious breaking news (a mode his friend and admirer Rachel Maddow calls "Voice of God"). But the catastrophic failure of government assistance in the wake of a storm that obliterated the Gulf Coast of his home state of Mississippi and left thousands starving and dying in the streets finally broke him; his lost, almost plaintive despair on location was a sharp and unnerving highlight of the extent of the disaster. Alongside the aforementioned Anderson Cooper and his own colleague Giraldo Rivera, his heartfelt desperation for any sort of organized relief efforts is heavily credited with bringing national attention to the crisis.
  • Governor Chris Christie (a Republican) showed how seriously he took Hurricane Sandy when he praised Democrat Barack Obama and snubbed fellow Republican Mitt Romney (for whom he was a high-level spokesman) days before the election (as in, he basically told Romney to bite him, if not in so many words, at the implication that he'd use the hurricane for political purposes). He also later beat up on Republicans in Congress for declining to pass a pork-filled relief bill.
  • Usually, Walt Disney ended staff meetings with "See you later." During his final meeting with Marc Davis, in the middle of a terminal illness that would claim his life before the month was even halfway out, Disney left with these words: "Goodbye, Marc." That sent a signal to Marc that Disney didn't have very long to live.
    • Similarly, he left his last meeting with The Sherman Brothers by telling them "Keep up the good work, boys."
  • Similar to the Walt Disney example above, Abraham Lincoln's last words to his loyal bodyguard, William H. Crook, were the same. As Lincoln left for the theater (where he would be assassinated), he turned to Crook and despondently said, "Goodbye, Crook." According to Crook, this was the first time he said that; before, Lincoln had always said, "Good night, Crook." Crook later recalled:
    "It was the first time that he neglected to say 'Good Night' to me and it was the only time that he ever said 'Good-bye'. I thought of it at that moment and, a few hours later, when the news flashed over Washington that he had been shot, his last words were so burned into my being that they can never be forgotten."
  • At a Congressional Hearing in 1985, Dee Snider spoke out against the censorship of music, including his. While he was in his normal outfit, sleeveless shirt and denim trouser, but he didn't have his usual makeup on. This footage shows how he had to be taken serious.
  • Early 20th century American William Ellsworth Robinson took his stage persona of Chinese magician Chung Ling Soo to the point of never speaking English on stage and even talking to the press through an "interpreter". In 1918, the gun he used in his trademark bullet catch trick malfunctioned and Robinson was shot for real. He said in English "Oh my God. Something's happened. Lower the curtain", and died in a hospital the next day.
  • US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was a paraplegic, usually refused to let the full extent of his disability be known to the public. While the citizens were vaguely aware that he had polio, they were encouraged to think he was recovering from it, as he didn't use his wheelchair outside of the White House, wore leg braces, and made all his speeches while standing and leaning on the podium. But in March 1, 1945, he consented to be wheeled into the House chamber to address a joint session of Congress, and even referred to his leg braces at the start of the speech. Needless to say, his audience was shocked, and six weeks later he was dead.
  • During the 1941 Operation Barbarossa, Romanian writer Felix Aderca (Jew, Leftist and Avantgarde artist, three things which Hitler hated to his guts and they returned the favor said: "Whatever, and involuntarily in the first place, Hitler does to the entire Europe the great favor to open the doors of the great Soviet prison, in which 200 million people were suffocating themselves!" - July 22, 1941
  • Rick Mercer, like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert above, is usually satirical and cracking jokes on his show. However, once an episode he has a section called Rick's Rants, where he drops the jokes and speaks seriously on an important issue. His serious and sometimes truly outraged demeanour cues the viewer in to how seriously he believes in the topic at hand.
  • Steve Irwin was well known for treating dangerous (and often aggressive) animals with a Hagrid-like awe and cheerfulness. So when he referred to crossing a river near a group of hippos as one of the scariest moments of his career, it really sold how dangerous hippos are.
  • There was a story of a man named David's wife, Bonnie, on Diagnosis: Dead or Alive who was sick with a terminal illness that causes loss of motor functions and speech throwing her left arm around him, something that she hadn't done in a long time, and pulled him into something of a hug before passing away the next day.
  • Jim Henson never missed a taping of his segments on Sesame Street, so when he didn't show up one week in 1990, something was very wrong. Also, a Christian Scientist belief he picked up from his mother saw him stay away from hospitals, and Christian Science taught that medical treatment, discouraged under normal circumstances, was acceptable as a last resort (or, as Henson himself allegedly put it, "Maybe I'm dying."). The first trip Henson made to the hospital? It was also his last; he ended up going straight to the ICU with toxic shock syndrome, which would quickly destroy him.
  • In January 2016, while giving a speech about gun control, the usually calm/collected President Barack Obama was tearing up when he recalled the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, which stunned many people.
  • In political science, this is known as a Nixon goes to China moment, in which a politician takes a course of action that he or she normally would not take, and it's considering historic because they have a long enough history of consistency in the other direction. To provide context, Richard Nixon was a staunch opponent of communism throughout his political career, but he was the U.S. President who opened relations with Red China in 1972. At the time, such a meeting was considered quite out of character for both Nixon and Mao Zedong, given their very different worldviewsnote . However, Nixon could do it because he had such a long record of staunch anti-communism that it would not jeopardize his chances of reelection - a more moderate president trying this would have been torpedoed by accusations of being soft. Since then, the term Nixon goes to China has been used to refer to uncharacteristic courses of action by politicians given their previous history.
  • When Bo Diddley sang "Bo Diddley" on The Ed Sullivan Show instead of "Sixteen Tons" as he had been requested, Ed Sullivan, well-known as a champion for civil rights (particularly in the music department), responded rather impolitely and most unlike his usual behavior towards black people, according to Diddley, who nearly went physical on him for his rudeness.
    Ed Sullivan: You are the first black boy that ever double-crossed me!
  • A literal case of this came during a near-miss for Fatal Method Acting on the set of Doctor Who. During the filming of "Battlefield," there was a scene where Ace (Sophie Aldred) was trapped in a tank of water and had to bang on the glass. Unfortunately, the glass cracked and water began to leak, coming dangerously close to electrical equipment. Sylvester McCoy had seconds to warn the crew, but had to do it in a way that wouldn't be mistaken for The Doctor. He managed it with one word.
  • On the weekend of August 12, 2016, for the first time in the 34-year history of The McLaughlin Group, Dr. John McLaughlin, the moderator for the show's entire run up to that point, missed a taping due to illness, after a couple of weeks or so of reruns. He was dead the next Tuesday.
  • Albert Temple, creator of the webcomic Gene Catlow, suddenly stopped updating. As this hadn't happened in 17 years, it concerned friends and fans to the point that someone tracked down his address and got a friend in the area to check it out. Said friend didn't like what he saw and called the police. The police didn't like what they saw, forced their way into the house, and found Mr. Temple had passed away.
  • Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, steadfastly refused medical treatment for her advanced tuberculosis for months, saying she would not have any "poisoning doctor" near her. One day, she gasped to her sister Charlotte that she would see a doctor if Charlotte sent for one. Emily died about two hours later.
  • How serious a situation is the WannaCry Ransomware Crisis of 2017? Microsoft released patches for obsolete versions of its Windows operating system specifically to target the vulnerability that had allowed it to happen in the first place.
  • In the American War of Independence, General George Washington, typically a gentile and implacable "father to his men" type of leader, cursed at his subordinate Charles Lee after retreating when he had a chance to destroy the British army while on the move and perhaps end the war (in 1777!). This is covered in the musical Hamilton.
  • Marlon Brando, consummate method actor extraordinaire, felt like he'd been raped and manipulated following his experience with director Bernardo Bertolucci during the production of Last Tango in Paris, up to and including the infamous butter scene, the nature which caused a great deal of uproar long after the film was released.
  • The US restaurant chain Waffle House has a reputation for having excellent disaster preparedness plans (the bulk of their restaurants are in the South and Midwest, where hurricanes and tornadoes are major disaster threats), so much so that no less than the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a Waffle House Index as a gauge of the severity of a storm based on whether the local Waffle House is open.
    Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator: If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad. That's when you go to work.
  • Chick-Fil-A, known for being closed on Sundays, opened on Sunday, December 17, 2017, to service those passengers who had been stranded by a power crisis at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
  • The Jerry Springer Show is best known for its raucous audience and carnival barker type host, the shouts of "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" from animated people on their feet becoming part of America's pop-culture consciousness as the dregs of society make fools of themselves on stage. On one episode, a virulent neo-Nazi came on spouting his views, going so low as to insult Jerry Springer's grandmother, who was a Holocaust victim. Not only was the implacable Jerry, who dealt daily with the scum of humanity, clearly restraining himself from punching the man, but the entire time the neo-Nazi was on the stage, there was nothing but stone faced, arms folded, dead SILENCE from the crowd. The message was clear. This man was beneath the contempt of the audience of the Jerry Springer show.

Alternative Title(s): Out Of Character Is Serious Business