When a character is treating a certain scene as pure entertainment, they will often be shown eating popcorn or other stereotypical movie-theater food. Where they get it from is a mystery. Usually the scene will be something like a fight or a private conversation between lovers, that generally isn't intended for anyone's amusement (at least not in-universe). Almost inevitably, the character will be too fixated on the entertainment to actually look at what he's eating.
This is always used for humor; it often indicates that the character in question is callous enough that they are deriving amusement from someone's anguish or anger rather than offering to help. It may also indicate that the character in question has no stake in the outcome. Sometimes the character becomes an Audience Surrogate, giving an in-universe voice to the audience's feelings towards the scene.
A lesser version is the mere comment "Oh, I've got to see this/hear this one." or "This is gonna be good." There's also the "selling tickets" version, a variation of which would be to play bookie and take bets. Often combinations of these variations are seen, sometimes turning said event into a circus. In extreme cases, bleachers or other seating arrangements and other arena like accouterments are often pulled out of Hammer Space to add to the ridiculousness of the situation (which promptly disappear after the event). The "sexy" version is when two women are going at it, and a male observer(s) appear as the eager audience.
This is ubiquitous enough that "*eats popcorn*◊" and similar remarks are a common response to Internet flamewars.
Compare and contrast Long Speech Tea Time (where the audience has a Spot of Tea or something because they're bored) and The Snack Is More Interesting (where someone is involved, but acts strangely unconcerned). Come to Gawk is often an element. If the situation is in really bad taste, the spectator is probably a Nightmare Fetishist.
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In an ad for Progressive Insurance, the two guys from the competition break into the Progressive Store Mission: Impossible style to steal the Progressive Price Gun. Flo and her sidekick are watching all this on security cameras, while eating snacks. The sidekick wonders if they should call the police while Flo says "Nah, this is just getting good."
Anime & Manga
During the climactic battle near the end of the first half of Slayers Revolution, Xellos can be seen on the sidelines eating popcorn.
Mahou Sensei Negima! has a large-scale version happen during the Battle of Mahora: Evangeline and the Principal spend the entire time sitting on the sidelines and watching while drinking sake. The Principal did attempt to intervene when things got really serious, but Eva stopped him.
That one scene in Noir(you know, the one where Kirika uses popcorn to detect the current squad of mooks...) is quite possibly a tribute, or parody, or something of this phenomenon, if not outright breaking the fourth wall.
In an episode of Ninin Ga Shinobuden, resident tsundere Miyabi is talking to a boy on the way home from school. Meanwhile, Shinobu, Onsokumaru and several ninja are watching in the bushes eating various snacks.
Although it's obvious someone is watching each duel, Nanami's last duel hangs lampshade on it. While Nanami and Utena duel, Touga (who otherwise had a reason to be part of the duel) slips away and joins Akio on the viewing platform. And they give exposition. Lounging on a bed.
During the last duel, the Student Council has nothing they can do. They idle around the Student Council balcony, dropping vague symbolism, backstory, and ultimately cooking potatoes over a campfire, while they await the outcome.
One example is when Ryōga is trying to build up the courage to kiss Akari. Ranma proceeds to sit right next to them while munching on potato chips. Ryōga is not pleased.
Nabiki seems to be made of the "selling tickets/taking bets" varieties complete with Abacus. If an honor duel match is scheduled to happen some time, you can bet she'll either be selling tickets or perhaps has even turned the event into a complete spectacle.
In Soul Eater during a duel, Soul and Black☆Star get distracted when they start having a moment. When Kid asks if he can shoot them now, Liz tells him not to since it's just getting good.
Ironically, once the ball gets rolling, he calls out Madara for just watching the Jyuubi rampage instead of putting their plan into motion right away. Madara dismisses him as just too impatient.
Before Tobi, this was Zetsu's only job...until we found out what he's really there for...
In the Tenchi Muyo! episode, Here Comes Jurai!, Funaho, Lady Musaki, Ryoko, Ayeka, Washu, Sasami, and Ryo-Ohki, while watching the duel between Tenchi and Seiryo, play this trope out, complete with a Spot of Tea.
In the Pokémon episode "Hold The Phione", Team Rocket and the heroes stop their fight and watch the drama in the brief Pikachu/Buneary/Phione Love Triangle. Once it is resolved, Team Rocket almost lets Phione leave before they snap out of it and resume their attack.
Megumi:I understand now! The reason so many customers are here is because they want to watch Onimaru battle people, one by one. To the customers, this is some kind of spectacular event.
Siege: Storming Asgard, a lead-up profile special for the Marvel event, mentions a potential battle between Ares (of the Dark Avengers) and Tyr (Asgardian war god). The note from the compiler of the profiles? "Check on our stocks of popcorn in case this happens."
In the JLA vs. the Crime Syndicate of Amerika arc of JLA, the Justice League's evil counterparts from a Mirror Universe (the Crime Syndicate of Amerika) end up in the "good" universe while the Justice League takes on the Void Hound, a mechanical creature easily capable of destroying planets. True to form, instead of helping out, they relax in comfortable chairs provided by the Power Ring (the alternate universe's Green Lantern) and eat popcorn... also provided by the Power Ring. As he says, "It's kind of tasteless, but hey, it's lo-cal."
In the John Byrne run of The Fantastic Four, a weakened Galactus lands in New York and attempts to eat the Earth's lifeforce. The FF, The Avengers, and Doctor Strange join forces against him. Spider-Man is about to join the fray when Daredevil stops him, saying the two of them would only get in the way. Spider-Man accepts this but says that he wishes he had some popcorn.
Scrooge: I wonder what will be more potent? Gladstone's luck, or Donald's eternal tendency towards self-destruction? One thing is certain! This should be a good show! Pass the lemonade!
In Gotham Knights #9, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake (Nightwing and Robin, respectively) have this conversation. A later panel shows that they actually followed through on it.
Tim: Did you see that? We don't even have our costumes here — what're we gonna do?! Dick: What are we gonna do? Batman is fighting Hugo Strange on the roof of Wayne Enterprises. We're gonna get popcorn!
With the Justice League, whenever someone is stupid enough to dismiss the threat of Batman because he's just a Badass Normal, the rest of the team often will step back and enjoy the show as The Dark Knight proves why he's a charter member.
In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog Issues #178-179, thanks to some mounting tensions, Sonic and Tails end up trading blows in the middle of a prison cell block. Naturally, the prisoners, who are members of Sonic's Rogues Gallery, watch with sadistic joy, with Mogul and Bean even taking bets on who will win.
When Dilbert attempts to clone his boss, and mentions that it will cause pain, his coworkers immediately appear to watch, with Wally eating popcorn.
Dogbert once becomes a driver's ed instructor and shows a student videos of horrific car crashes to supposedly scare him into learning to drive safely. The kid watches it while eating popcorn and responds, "Really? This is supposed to shock people?"
Dogbert: I'll be following your car in a helicopter.
Zits has a Sunday cartoon that had the family arguing about Jeremy holding up a departure sans dialogue. The last panel showed some neighbors watching and sharing popcorn.
After Popeye beats Tinearo in a boxing match, the sailor takes his ex-opponent to Roughhouse's for lunch in an act of good sportsmanship. At the restaurant, is the fight's referee, Wimpy, and his presence causes Popeye to start talking about the match, getting Tinearo angry. A fight breaks out, and rather than call the cops, Roughhouse becomes a show barker and sells admission to see the fight- however, the 'audience' keeps getting too close to the action and ends up on the floor.
In the Tin Man fanfic series The Gulchverse, most of the Royal Guards (and Dawkins especially) treat most of the actions involving the princesses, Cain, Gulch, and any other bystanders as the ultimate entertainment. They literally had popcorn and sold tickets to a meeting where the aristocrats were to be informed that one of the princesses that they've been trying to court for political reasons is going to marry a commoner.
In the Harry Potter fanfic Fallen Angel, one line states: "If Bellatrix ever fell apart, people would just stand there and watch. Katherine would probably bring popcorn."
Hogyoku Ex Machina involves several characters watching parts of Ichigo's life via projections of his memories (which they had permission for) and with hidden security cameras (...which they did not). At one gathering, they comment on how entertaining his life is, some bring popcorn and Coke (Rukia told them it was a tradition), and everyone, even Ishida and Yamamoto, ends up treating it like a movie night.
On this blog, two bloggers roleplayed as Glee's Blaine and Cooper and answered questions that people submitted. One person asked what Blaine would do if Sebastian started hitting on Blaine's boyfriend, Kurt. Blaine's answer: "Get out of the firing line. Buy popcorn. Bring seats."
In Thanks Kyubey, Madoka wonders if she should turn into a Puella Magi to help the others out in their battle against Walpurgisnacht. Homura hands her popcorn and a soda and tells her to enjoy the show.
Invoked in Escapism: After Snake Eyes is captured by Cobra, the Joes hack the security cameras.
Stormshadow: Now, just wait. Unless someone wants to go make some popcorn.
Done a few times in The Somewhat Cracked Mind of Uchiha Itachi. Notable, Itachi specifically refers to this as this ("I'm in a pass-the-popcorn mood") and Chiyo, in chapter 42, did it only because Kankuro mentioned that Temari thought she was going to do it. It is hilarious.
Another noticable incident happens when Tobi crashes and attacks the Kage Council as all the Jinchuriki there are shoved into a barrier (they also tried to do this to Deidara, but he managed to slip out), which reduces them to having small talk - like which Bijuu they have, whether or not it's really Madara attacking - and Gaara scolding Shukaku for inappropriate humour.
Naruto: He thought Kankuro hitting the wall like that was funny, didn't he?
Kyuubi and later Shukaku tend to treat the events that surround their Jinchuriki as prime entertainment. Hey, if you were sealed in some kid, you take what you can to pass the time.
In the Kung Fu PandaFan Fic, Memoirs Of A Master, Shifu's wife, Yeying, insists on confronting the villainous creditor whom her Father was forced to betrove her to as a child. Shifu and her parents watch the ensuing fight in hiding and merrily take wagers at how quick she'll kick his and his goons' butts.
In the Horseshoes and Hand Grenades side story Month of Sundays, Damballa is eating through a 'never-ending box' of popcorn while he watches Mari, Miura and Yayoi fight off Haruto Souma, transformed into a large cloth doll with a 5-year-old mentality.
Families: Celestia helps herself to popcorn while watching OliveBranch realize that his plans against her are dissolving completely. This is an in-universe invocation of the trope, as Celestia is actually stated to hate the taste of popcorn but feels that it's the best way to get across the message of how badly Olive has screwed up.
Queen Of All Oni: Right and Hebi help themselves to some popcorn while watching Hak Foo Freak Out over the apparent uselessness of the Mini Khan he's now stuck commanding.
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride: just as the singing skeleton is about to explain just how Emily became the eponymous cadaver, General Bones-apart nudges Victor and says, "This is gonna be good."
Happy Feet features a verbal version: "Now, see, what he's doing is, he's pushing her away. Let's watch the fun."
In Mulan II, Mushu sits in a tree eating popcorn after Shang approaches Mulan to confront her about how she got the princesses to follow their hearts.
In Over the Hedge, at the end when an immensely powerful trap is triggered, some of the characters use the conflagration to heat up their microwave popcorn, which they then eat. They also roast marshmallows.
A Running Gag in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is those two sailors who are continuously placing bets on the outcome of various disputes — usually between Sinbad and Marina — throughout the film. ("Pay up, it's flat.")
In Balto, two of the sled dogs make bets and comments on Steele and Balto's fight...until it endangers the medicine they're transporting.
Films — Live-Action
In the movie Twister, Jo and Bill start bickering and unwittingly broadcasting their little argument over the team's two-way radio. One of the teams' other vehicles with two people in it (driver and passenger) are listening in and the passenger says to the driver, "I think they're getting better at this" to which the driver nods and says "mhm"
When Inara makes a video call to Mal in Serenity, the rest of the crew taps into the call and watches it with popcorn, complete with groaning and tossing it at the screen when they inevitably begin dancing around each other.
The chick-fight scene from Undercover Brother. The men sit on sofas and eat popcorn as the women fight.
In The Parole Officer, the title character is hiding in a nightclub's storeroom and witnesses a corrupt police officer committing murder. As he watches, he reaches for a bag of crisps and starts eating them as silently as he can. Justified as he is later revealed to be hypoglycemic.
In the Marx Brothers film Monkey Business, Groucho cheerfully stands between a gangster and his wife while they have a spat, clearly enjoying the show. He even referees the argument, letting the participants know when it's their turn to speak. When the wife gets a little too angry, Groucho hands the gangster a gun, saying "Here, big boy, you're going to need this more than I will."
In at least one other Marx Brothers movie, Groucho is seen selling popcorn and other treats to spectators during a dramatic confrontation scene.
The opening scene of Dogma has Matt Damon, as a fallen angel, convert a nun to atheism while Ben Affleck's character watches with a bag of popcorn — he actually brought it for the Hallmark Moments that inevitably come at an airport, but one show is as good as another.
During the final opera scenes in Repo! The Genetic Opera, Luigi Largo can be seen stealing someone's box of popcorn to enjoy the show. Of course, when Rotti announces Shilo is his heir, the popcorn goes flying to great comedic effect.
When Robin Hood woos Maid Marion in Men in Tights, the merry men set out some benches and gather to watch, and a couple of the villagers are eating popcorn, right off the cob, on a stick.
In The Dark Knight Rises, when Batman comes out of retirement and takes on Bane's thugs, an old cop says to his rookie partner, "Kid, you're in for a show tonight."
A more sadistic example in Pitch Black, where Riddick is seen casually drinking some liquor while watching another man get gunned down by a Zeke, who thought the innocent man was Riddick.
On at least one occasion in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Bartimaeus comments, "All I need is some popcorn," as he watches Nathaniel get himself in trouble.
Worf fulfills the "sell tickets" version in Peter David's novel Q-in-Law, when a Q-empowered Lwaxana Troi is beating unholy hell out of Q. (He deserved it.) Also, Lwaxana's manservant is enjoying his popcorn while watching her play handball with Q... as the ball.
A variation of this occurs in the Ciaphas Cain novels, where Cain mentions he has a couple of enemies that he "would sit back and roast caba nuts" while watching them be burned to death.
And also in another novel, where he makes a quiet remark akin to "Did anyone forget the caba nuts?" during a Mission Briefing.
The citizens of Ankh-Morpork tend to treat anything interesting happening in the street as a spectator sport, and Mr Dibbler will inevitably show up with his tray of "sausages" if it lasts long enough.
In Thud!, for perfectly logical reasons, Angua and Sally end up naked, covered in mud, and squaring up to fight each other, until Sally points out there's something missing: "A paying audience. We could make a fortune."
Lampshaded in The Dresden Files novel Turn Coat, where Murphy and Harry are interrogating Binder in the police station, and Harry is beating the crap out of Binder, while grizzled old police officer Rawlins is watching. Binder declares that what Harry is doing is illegal and it'll all be caught on tape, to which Rawlins cuts in over the intercom that they should wait a moment, as he's got popcorn cooking.
Rayford Steele and the surviving remnant of Petra in Glorious Appearing from the Left Behind series was like Praise The Lord And Pass The Popcorn while he was watching the Antichrist's armies getting decimated by Jesus Christ. In the Dramatic Audio presentation, he even mentions that all he needs is the popcorn.
Happens a couple times in the Prince Roger series. His bodyguard captain field-demotes Roger to 2nd Lieutenant and gives him a platoon, not so much because he needs a platoon commander as to play a joke on the flabbergasted platoon-sergeant. And the Unresolved Sexual Tension between Roger and Nimashet is so thick that, rather than act to stop it on the grounds that fraternization is against regs, the other troops start a betting pool.
In The Stone Prince, a sovereign gets a finger-shaking lecture from his consort while two others (who are technically their bodyguards) watch and comment.
In McAuslan, noble Lt. MacKenzie and his Communist platoon sergeant McCaw get into a political argument while their enlisted men cheer them on.
In the Felicia Sorceress of Katara novella "The Last Homely House of Honeypot Bruin" there is a scene where Felicia and Benja Bruin are watching an army of ghosts walk past. Benja is scared nearly to death, Felicia makes popcorn.
In the Red Dwarf episode "Thanks for the Memory", the crew are watching a surveillance recording of the four days erased from their memories. When Rimmer learns what Lister did during those four days, he is aghast:
Rimmer: How could you do this to me?! It's the most heartbreakingly tragic thing it's ever been my misfortune to witness!
The Junior Mint episode takes this farther than it may have ever gone before in Kramer's reactions to observing surgery. Before he even gets there he's worried about people telling him what happens, he complains to one of the surgeons who's blocking his view, and of course he brings in a box of Junior Mints and tries to get Jerry to take one, with predictably unfortunate results.
Similar occurrence in "The Mango" when George orders a chocolate milkshake and a slice of cake upon discovering that Elaine "faked" with Jerry.
A variation in one episode: J.D. and Dr. Cox get into an argument with Jordan nearby. Jordan grins and says, "Oh, I should leave," and then sits down to watch.
In an early episode, Elliot and Carla are squaring off to fight when The Todd runs up shouting "Ladies, ladies!" They pause, he sits down in a front row seat, then says "Continue." Epic grudge match ensues.
An episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun has everyone but Dick accidentally tapping into a neighbor's phone conversations about her souring love life, and starting to treat it as a soap opera. When they meet the woman, they react as if they were meeting an actor of a soap opera they enjoy, to her great confusion. Then Harry starting chatting with her, and without the fighting, Sally and Tommy complained that the show was boring.
In Eureka, Fargo hacks the cameras observing a contained environment experiment. The customers of Cafe' Diem treat it as a reality show, complete with water-cooler style discussion. That a lizard man is running loose in the environment is a "plot twist".
Rachel gives Ross permission to hit on Isabella Rosselini when she comes into the coffeehouse:
Monica: Rach, are you really gonna let him do this? Rachel: Honey, he's about to go hit on Isabella Rosselini. I'm just sorry we don't got popcorn.
In another episode, when Ross and Rachel are about to have a discussion, they ask Phoebe to leave. Phoebe says "Okay" then sits down right next to them, smiling eagerly. When the ensuing argument peters out to nothing, Phoebe gets annoyed: "That's it? You call that a fight! C'mon "We were on a break!" "No, we weren't!" What happened to you two?"
In the Doctor Who episode "The Unicorn And The Wasp" Donna can't stop munching on grapes and enjoying the hell out of the Doctor's and Agatha Christie's explanation of their solving of the murder mystery du jour.
Also, during The Sound of Drums, The Master and Lucy sit back, smirk and share sweets just as the President is about to make first contact;
Master: [turning to Lucy] Jelly baby?
The detectives on The Closer (justifiably) consider watching Chief Johnson in the interrogation room to be a spectator sport, often involving snacks (including popcorn) and witty commentary.
In an episode of Will and Grace, Grace discovers that she can hear her downstairs neighbors perfectly through the floor vent. She and Will spend the rest of the episode ignoring everything else so they can catch the soap-opera-like show (wife arguing with husband, cheating on him with his brother, etc.).
Mash: Margaret steals Hawkeye's and B.J.'s clothes while they are showering. The two are forced to walk back to their tent naked, wherein they find the nurses staked out, waiting for them (with popcorn).
Done hilariously in Power Rangers RPM. Ziggy and Dillon are both in prison, being interrogated, and the scene switches between the two. Dillon's is very serious — they think (justifiably) that he's a spy. Ziggy, meanwhile, is telling his life story (with diagrams on a dry-erase board). Each time they switch to Ziggy, there are more guards there listening. By the time he reaches the part where he accidentally went to school without any pants on (not a dream!), at least one guard has spontaneously produced a tub of popcorn.
An earlier example is from Power Rangers Time Force. Though in this one, Jen is lecturing three Rangers on some recent fights while said Rangers are secretly passing around a bowl of popcorn before Jen figures out what's going on.
Still earlier; in the Power Rangers Turbo episode "Bicycle Built for the Blues" Divatox makes microwave popcorn (apparently using Porto as a microwave; she took it out of his faceplate) before watching the Rangers fight the Monster of the Week. (Unfortunately for her, as is often the case, the plan doesn't work as she intended it too.)
In Corner Gas, after Lacey confronts Karen about having just borrowed her house to watch a scary movie in, Brent comments on how there should be some scary movie playing, Emma and Lacey, who already had popcorn because they were watching the movie, watch the standoff and eat some popcorn.
In an earlier episode Oscar and Emma are having another one of their arguments over who owns $90, with Brent and Wanda eating chips on the sidelines.
In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode where Hodges presents the "Lab Rats" board game, one scenario has himself committing an overly elaborate suicide on video. There is a scene with the whole lab and field team watching the video, eating popcorn, and cheering when the bullet hits.
Eliot is on a date (as part of a con) with Nate's ex-wife Maggie, and the rest of the team is watching via video surveillance. Sophie even has popcorn. Maggie makes a series of disparaging comments about Nate, then reveals that she knew he was watching all along.
Later in the same episode, Nate is munching what looks like popcorn while watching museum security work themselves into a lather over several false leads.
A Monkees episode has three band members robbing a bank after being tricked into thinking they're making a movie. When the police present them with the film from the surveillance cameras as evidence, they treat it as an actual movie, complete with being critical about their performance and popcorn.
Abed on Community not only does this (with Rasinettes), but even gives cues to the players so they know how to proceed cinematically.
In The IT Crowd episode "Something Happens", Moss is quite visibly seen eating popcorn while listening to Douglas's stories of how Spaceology works for him. Later, he brings out the popcorn when Roy discusses a problem with a masseuse.
The team members, Tony in particular, tend to treat any suspect interrogation as a show that they watch from behind the tinted glass — especially when done by Gibbs. Including one episode where Ziva is tasked to bring the popcorn, although she's late.
Abby is also seen sitting before the screen of her face-recognition software and watching it work with pop-corn and caffeinated drink.
Abby: That's the best part.
In the first season of How I Met Your Mother, Ted gets drunk and everyone tries to find out what the hell he did that night. Marshall gets so excited he has to go make popcorn.
An episode of Two and a Half Men involved Charlie meeting an ex-girlfriend of his who has since become a man and partway into the episode starts dating his mother. While there are various reactions to this news, Charlie's housekeeper Berta is unique in that she isn't squicked out at all, instead finding it all too hilarious.
In Century City, Lee May is researching a marriage contract, which her associate Darwin negotiated 8 years ago. His hair is ridiculous, he's enthusiastic, and he cares about the couple he's negotiating with. Cue the next scene being the entire law firm eating popcorn while watching the video.
When Lane challenges Pete to a fight in Mad Men, this is Roger's reaction.
"I know cooler heads should prevail, but am I the only one who wants to see this?"
An episode of Degrassi Junior High has Dwayne tell Joey that he's going to beat him up after school. Most of the students show up to watch the fight and even sell ice cream.
In the iCarly episode iStill Psycho, Freddy's mom goes into Mama Bear mode and fights the insane psycho fan Nora and her mother to save her son and his friends. While she's sword fighting them both at once, Sam just makes herself a hamburger and enjoys watching Mrs. Benson clean house.
Freddy: You made a hamburger?
Sam: Your mom's got this.
Freddy: *Shrugs and nods*
Game of Thrones Season 3 has an example that's played for horror; during the Red Wedding massacre, Lord Walder Frey eagerly watches every moment while quaffing wine, and generally looks thoroughly entertained by what he's seeing. He also pauses the massacre out of curiosity to see whether Robb Stark will make it back to his feet after being shot with crossbows and what he will do next, and empties another cup when Catelyn loses her mind with the trauma and cuts his own wife's throat.
Dani's Castle: While on the phone to Katelyn, Dani adds as she hangs up 'Ooh! And bring popcorn!'.
On Wings, Brian and Alex's romantic getaway is interrupted by a stranded Joe and Helen. When Brian and Alex begin to argue, the heretofore uncomfortable Joe nudges Helen and tells her, "Pay attention, this is getting good." As things worsen, he then tells her, "We should have brought popcorn."
One episode of Married... with Children has the entire Bundy clan gleefully watching a brawl next door that Al deliberately instigated, complete with binoculars, video camera and popcorn.
In the last episode of Series 4 of Not Going Out, Lee and Lucy wake up in bed together after getting drunk and believe they may have made a sex tape. When they sit down to watch the tape and find out just what happened, Lee has a bowl of popcorn.
I'm in the front row the front row with popcorn I get to see you see you close up.
Aesop Rock's "Gun For The Whole Family" makes frequent reference to simply sitting back idly while two sides of a conflict kill each other. Exactly how big those two sides are varies from verse to verse, but frequent references are made to viewing the whole spectacle, rooting for neither side in particular and, yes, doing so while eating popcorn. A small excerpt:
And I was overly engrossed from a very locked door with a couple Milk Duds and buckets of popcorn.
ESPN.com's humor section, Page 2, has taken a single comment made by Terrell Owens that seemed to reference this trope and put it through Memetic Mutation, culminating in a faux A Day In The Life article in which his meals all had something to do with either "pop" (Pop Rocks, for example) or "corn". (Surprisingly, the breakfast section of this omitted the cereal "Corn Pops".)
Some forums have a :popcorn: smilie. It is used almost exclusively in response to someone posting a controversial thread or by witnesses to an intense on-forum argument.
An animated GIF of Michael Jackson eating popcorn from Thriller often shows up in similar circumstances.
An animated GIF of The Joker from Batman: The Animated Series is often used too. It's from "The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne", where Hugo Strange is auctioning the secret of Batman's identity (on video tape) to Joker, Two-Face, and Penguin. There's a similar one from Justice League.
In one routine Dane Cook describes the joy he gets from watching loveless couples in public fight "about absolutely nothing." While watching a couple fight in the supermarket over jelly, he gets so excited he opens a box of Entenmann's cookies and begins eating them while he eavesdrops.
Many Shadowrun sourcebooks are framed as in-universe on-line documents, usually posted on a "site" called Shadowland, and as such are invariably annotated with discussions about the "main" text by and among various readers/site-members. In the third-edition sourcebook Cyberpirates, for instance, one such discussion degenerates into a lengthy argument (and finally a testosterone-induced challenge) between two posters; when site-admin Captain Chaos promptly disconnects them both so others can keep reading in peace, a third poster cries out "Hey, frag off, CC: I'm selling tickets to that show!"
Cyrano de Bergerac: They don't eat anything, but the audience of the Burgundy Theater is pretty excited to see Cyrano's exploits:
First, when Cyrano literally kicks a Bore's ass and engages in Volleying Insults with Viscount de Valvert, the play notes say:
(The people begin to go out, while Cyrano looks on with satisfaction. But the crowd soon stop on hearing the following scene, and remain where they are. The women, who, with their mantles on, are already standing up in the boxes, stop to listen, and finally reseat themselves.)
Later, there is a Sword Fight between Cyrano and Viscount de Valvert, the play notes said:
THE HOUSE:(in great excitement) Give room! Good sport! Make place! Fair play! No noise! (Tableau. A circle of curious spectators in the pit; the marquises and officers mingled with the common people; the pages climbing on each other's shoulders to see better. All the women standing up in the boxes. To the right, De Guiche and his retinue. Left, Le Bret, Ragueneau, Cyrano, etc.)
In Mass Effect 2, immediately after Shepard completes Miranda or Jack's loyalty mission (so that s/he's completed both), Joker informs Shepard that Miranda and Jack are about to come to blows in Miranda's office. "Take pictures!" Joker requests.
In Dragon Age II, near the end of chapter 2 Aveline and Isabela seem like they are about to come to blows, when Silly!Hawke arrives:
If the player is a mage and on friendly terms with Anders, he'll talk about how Hawke's the kind of leader the mages of Kirkwall need during Act 2. Snarky-Hawke's response is "Who said anything about leading? I was going to watch...with snacks."
Ragged John, a dwarf with no lack of subtlety to his character, offers to tell you about the time he and his friend fought off incrementally larger hordes of orcs. Naturally, you egg him on with this line:
Ragged John: Let me grab the popped corn kernels, sire.
Also, if you attack the shivarra boss Dalliah in the Arcatraz, her wrathguard "friend" Soccothrates says the following:
Soccothrates: Have you come to kill Dalliah? Can I watch?
In Bioshock Infinite, you'll find a bag of popcorn in one of the viewing rooms in the tower on Monument Island which show films of Elizabeth on what she does in the rooms she is imprisoned in.
Bernkastel and Lambdadelta are often seen eating popcorn in Umineko no Naku Koro ni, particularly in the core arcs. Subverted a few times by Lambdadelta, as she uses the popcorn to influence certain fights, despite having to stay neutral.
Questionable Content: Penelope reacts this way to Dora yelling at Faye for sleeping with Sven. Everyone in the strip tends to do this metaphorically when witnessing anyone else's drama. There isn't usually popcorn, but they do tend to be amused by it.
Averted: In this strip of Lego-based webcomic Shepherds Flight, James is seen to have left a room with a highly entertaining argument in it, in order to relax somewhere quieter.
In Schlock Mercenary, there is a live reality-TV show that involves insulting people's wardrobe. They pick Elf as their victim. Schlock, who is still onboard the ship, sees the leadup and tells the captain what is going on. Tagon's reaction? To run to the TV to watch, stating that he can't possibly get down there in time to solve the problem, so he might as well watch the fireworks.
In the "Poltergeist in the Piano" arc for Pibgorn, by Brooke McEldowney, Dru watches the confrontation between the Vampire and Mr Trudge (his minion) from a nearby tree branch, saying, "Buttered popcorn, I could really use some buttered popcorn."
In this strip from the World of Warcraft-based comic Dark Legacy Comics, we see this trope mentioned verbatim by one of the characters as they watch others fall from a great height due to a teleporter malfunction.
Keydar: Hey, that one almost got all his gear off.
In the Anniversary Brawl, Spoony gets That Chick With The Goggles to trade opponents so he fights Bennett the Sage while she fights The Nostalgia Chick. The guys fake fighting for a few seconds, then pull out cellphones and snap pictures of the (off-screen) Cat Fight.
Half of Sage's Ultimate Teacher review is him eating popcorn while showing random clips of the movie.
Oancitizen gains popcorn to eat out of nowhere whilst watching Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai as Oancitizen usually reviews Art House and Independent Cinema which Ghost Dog qualifies as but it has some very "popcorn flick" scenes in it too.
Happens in "Parasites Lost". When Zoidberg investigates Fry's bowels with a surgical camera, everybody goes into a side-room with a video-screen and two-way mirror and... eats popcorn.
Hermes: It's nauseating, mon! (takes another handful of popcorn)
Also, Bender remarks at Zoidberg's Supreme Court trial in "A Taste of Freedom" that "Court's kinda fun when it's not my ass on the line. Nachos?"
"Roswell that Ends Well" actually works the popcorn in as a plot point. Fry goes to microwave the popcorn for everyone to eat while they watch the supernova. The radiation from the microwave interacts with the radiation from the supernova and creates a time hole.
In "Stench and Stenchtability", a little girl named Tonya ends up having a "cute little heart attack". Unbeknownst to anyone but Bender, she's actually a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, so while everyone else is watching her being resuscitated with worried expressions, Bender's watching while leaning back in a chair and munching on a hotdog.
In "The Late Philip J. Fry", Fry, Bender and Prof. Farnsworth are stuck in a time machine that only goes forwards, so they decide to just sit back and watch the end of the universe while downing a few beers.
When Double-D and Eddy find Ed raiding another kid's fridge while sleepwalking. Double-D even asks, "Are you going to share those?"
And in a season 2 episode where they want to watch a movie marathon. Ed had snacks stuck to his leg. He tried to offer one to his friends, but their collective disgust was to be expected.
Ed: Snack for Double D? Edd: Stop, wait! I couldn't, not before Eddy. Ed: Snack for my guest! Eddy:(squints) It's hairy, Ed!
And of course, Eddy's memetic "Popcorn Fairy" line.
And in the season 5 finale, where Eddy is eating a series of hot dogs whilst watching a match between Double-D and Jimmy, eventually even throwing them at Jimmy. Johnny and Plank are watching and commenting on the scene at one point, with both of them wondering where Eddy gets all the hot dogs from.
In the "Arabian Desert Danger" episode of The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, the Hooded Claw eats popcorn while watching Penelope get wrapped up like a mummy.
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: Phil Ken Sebben, while watching Birdman being strapped into the electric chair, casually eats popcorn and even feeds a piece to his arm-candy ladyfriend. Though sort of justified in that Harvey's trial, imprisonment, and pending execution are all part of the set-up for his surprise party, though his in-prison marriage to Magilla Gorilla is not. But honestly, Phil would have had the popcorn at a real execution. That's who he is.
One episode has Peter about to explain (i.e. lie) to Lois about how he gave up their reservation at Cheezy Charlie's for Stewie's birthday party. Brian says, "Hang on a minute", leaves, returns with a chair, sits down to watch and then says, "These are always classic."
In another episode, Stewie goes upstairs to give Lois and Brian some privacy. He then returns to sit at the top of the stairs, watching through the bars of the bannister, munching snacks, and injecting comments like, "Oh, my God, no way!" and "Ooh, bitch, you got jacked, bitch!"
At one point in Justice League, the Joker eats popcorn, and offers a captive Batman some, while he waits for their headquarters to blow up. He does it again in "Wild Cards" — fitting, since he was broadcasting the episode's events as his own Show Within a Show.
Joker: There's a surprise hidden in your little clubhouse, and when your chums get there - KABLOOEY! Popcorn? Batman: ... Joker: Oh, well. More for me.
Maid of Honor has Diana and Bruce both ducking off to get ready for battle when terrorists abduct the princess of Kaznia from a charity benefit. Diana, however, seizes the initiative, and Bruce just sits back and picks at the catering while she trounces the terrorists single-handedly.
The Pixies have done it when their plans were succeeding and Timmy was miserable. However, considering their anti-fun natures, it came out weird.
HP: Hi Turner. Don't mind us. We're just here for the show. Sanderson: Your misery is like going to the movies for us. Want some popcorn? HP: It's unsalted and unbuttered, right? Sanderson: And unpopped.
Timmy:Look, a child in pain! Crocker: Where!? (Sits in a chair facing the direction Timmy pointed and starts eating popcorn.)
The Titans East manage to produce some hammerspace popcorn for Control Freak's rant in Teen Titans. In a later episode, Kid Flash eats a hoagie and a bag of potato chips (which he stole from Mammoth) while watching the Hive Five argue with each other. What makes it even better is that Kid Flash was in a cage at the time. While the Hive Five were arguing, he ran out of the cage to get the hoagie, and then got back into the cage so that he could watch the argument. And then did it again to get the bag of chips.
On an episode of Batman Beyond, Terry argues with his girlfriend. A couple of their friends eat snacks and watch.
South Park, in "Jared has Aides", Cartman covers for Butters (who was grounded but was forced to leave the house) and while there answering regular phone calls from Butters' parents (being able to convincingly imitate Butters), proceeding to insult Butters' parents. Eventually Butters returns just in time and Cartman leaves. After that he sets up a lawn chair and grabs a drink and some popcorn and sits on the front lawn as Butter's parents get home and storm in, so he can listen to them giving Butters a royal beatdown. And remarks that if he were older,he would "totally start jacking off right now."
The Shredder (1987 version) and Krang can be seen doing this in Turtles Forever, as they watch the 2003 Shredder wreaking havoc upon Manhattan with the Technodrome.
On Metalocalypse, the members of Dethklok attend Pickles's brother's wedding just for the inevitable moment where Pickles loses it and starts whaling on his loser mooch brother Seth.
Nathan: This is great. This is some good drama. Murderface: You can't pay for this. It's like an eclipse or something, it's just, you gotta be there.
Peter Puppy does this in an episode of the Earthworm Jim. "Better than pro wrestling!"
In episode "'Round Springfield", Homer has hot dogs while watching a surgery, and later a funeral. The hot dog man admits that he's following Homer around.
Hot Dog Vendor: Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs here! Homer: Woohoo! Marge: Are you following my husband around? Hot Dog Vendor: Lady, he's putting my kids through college!
In "Rosebud", Maggie doesn't want to give Bobo away, so Homer won't give the teddy bear back to Mr. Burns. He is later watched at work by three men. The first mentions they wanted to see the geek who valued the happiness of his children more than money. The second is disappointed his head isn't the size of a baseball. The third just eats his popcorn.
In G.I. Joe, when Cobra Commander's sillier-than-usual mechanical sea serpent scheme goes awry, Tomax, Xamot, Destro, and The Baroness are munching on fresh fruit and drinking milk as they are watching the whole ridiculous crisis on TV as they discuss how they are going to respond. They agree to hang back, let GI Joe and its related organizations hopefully exhaust themselves bringing the machine down, and then move in.
In the hour-long special for Total Drama Island Josh and Blaineley are eating popcorn while watching the Total Drama cast on their inherently deadly quest to beat the Total Drama Dirtbags' bus to Orpah's studio.
In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Music Day", everyone is accusing each other of farting and a food fight starts. Buster and Babs just sit back, share a bag of popcorn, and watch the hectic scene.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Mai watches an epidemic erupting in the city of Omashu and offers fireflakes to her dad (who is supposed to run the city).
Used in an episode of Chowder. While Mung gets chewed out for forgetting his wedding anniversary, Shnitzel sits down on a stool in the background with a bag of popcorn, enjoying the show. He even interjects with an "OOH! Radda!"
The Superhero Episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes has Jimmy, Beezy, and Heloise all having a fight over who gets to save Lucius from the monster beating him. The resulting conflict is so entertaining that Lucius and said monster stop fighting and enjoy it over popcorn.
Phineas and Ferb: In "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted", Baljeet munches popcorn while watching a propaganda film designed to brainwash kids into behaving themselves, and says "The book was so much better."
In "Applebuck Season", Rarity and Fluttershy nervously watch Applejack try to stop a stampeding herd of cows, but the happy-go-lucky Pinkie Pie just munches popcorn and says "This is the best rodeo show I've ever seen!"
In "The Cutie Pox", Spike eats popcorn as he watches Apple Bloom compulsively perform various talents (thanks to the eponymous "Cutie Pox").
In "Too Many Pinkie Pies", Spike grabs some popcorn and sits back to watch the Pinkie Pie clones try to watch paint dry. He ends up slumped over his stool, having eaten all his popcorn, before anything interesting happens.
In "Princess Twilight Sparkle, Part 2", Discord takes some popcorn while watching Twilight under the influence of a potion.
On a Very Special Episode of Clone High, Ponce de Leon dies in a tragic litter related accident. His best friend, JFK, falls apart during his speech at Ponce's funeral. It is so dramatic, the other attendees watch silently and intently, with Julius Caesar breaking out a bag of popcorn.
On the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien episode "Prisoner #775 Is Missing", as Rath is ranting at a ship that's flying away with him clinging to the underside:
Kevin:You know, Rath is the only alien that makes me want to get a box of popcorn, kick back, and just watch. Gwen: Kevin, this isn't the time for... okay, me too.
The Animals of Farthing Wood watch on as Fox and Vixen get chased by a fox hunting party. Adder remarks how exciting it is and Weasel tries to place bets on whether or not Vixen will get away.
Gunther from Kick Buttowski does this in Box Office Blitz... during the commercials before the movie even starts. Long before it even starts.
In the ReBoot episode "The TIFF", a group of binomes watch Bob and Dot having an argument, and one of them is eating popcorn.
Devil Smurf in The Smurfs episode "It's a Smurfy Life" is seen eating popcorn after watching Angel Smurf reveal to Handy what life in the Smurf Village would be like if he never existed.
In the episode "When Lightning Strikes" of Dragons: Riders of Berk, Tuffnut and Ruffnut eat nuts and watch as the entire village is being set ablaze by a lightning storm.
In the Garfield and Friends episode "Binky Goes Bad," Garfield munches on a bag of popcorn, slurps a soda, and even eats steak while Binky the Clown is on trial for grand theft.
During a hostage standoff at the bank in Bob's Burgers, Mr. Fischoder sets up a lawn chair on the sidewalk and watches the action with a drink on his hand.
During the height of the Rod Blagojevichnote then-governor of the state of Illinois hoopla, both Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow broke out the popcorn on their respective shows while airing clips of a press conference.
During the First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas, a number of people from the nearby towns brought picnic baskets to watch the battle. They started running once the Union soldiers ran right into them trying to escape the pursuing Confederates.
The tradition continues with bread sellers vending snacks to the Turks watching the Kurds battling with ISIS in Kobane.