Think of it as The Worf Barrage
for everyday technology's Non-Lethal Warfare
In real life, pepper spray is beyond
the point of agonizing. Pepper spray's main agent is capsaicin, which is in a lot of peppers and spices, which give it that familiar bite. However, while spices ranking a little over 10,000 on the Scoville Scale
can send a lot of people diving for milk jugs (or water bins, which actually don't work
), a lot of pepper sprays rank over five million
on the scale. Even worse, pepper spray is intentionally designed to be an inflammatory, which constricts the throat, prevents breathing, and provides one hell of a runny nose
In real life, a taser disrupts voluntary control of the muscles by constantly constricting and releasing them in a miniature spasm, and not only results in an incredibly painful blast but also instant incapacitation. It's almost impossible to fight off a taser's effects (much less any other attackers) when your muscles aren't even in your control.
Not so in fiction-land. These, along with other self-defense products, get a massive beating with the nerf bat — it just really wouldn't make for engaging storytelling
if the big dramatic evil guy could be easily taken down with something bought at common hardware stores, or if the hero just started flopping around at everyone's mercy. So, unfortunately, characters tend to be either "immune to it
" or "tough enough
" to shrug off the effects.
The instances where pepper spray or tasers are shown as being effective are often Played for Laughs
. Of course, playing it for laughs usually means that there must be no lasting injuries, basically treating pepper spray and tasers as Amusing Injuries
: It hurts like hell, and the recipient of the blast is incapacitated for as long as the plot requires
; but the viewers aren't going to see certain realistically possible repercussions like a visit to the hospital emergency room, or a Brick Joke
two episodes later where a character is still feeling the pain every time he gets up out of a chair.
Compare My Car Hates Me
and Cell Phones Are Useless
, for other times when technology fails for the sake of drama.
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Anime & Manga
- Bean Bandit from Gunsmith Cats collasped onto a table when he was hit with a taser ... and then got straight back up again. However, Bean is described as a 'gorilla in a flak jacket' - a taser had realistic effects on other characters.
- This isn't new to Bean. Riding Bean had Rally attempting to wake him up with a taser. It doesn't work.
- Averted in the main series; Rally gets tased by a kid suckered by some mobsters, and only escapes because of her Improbable Aiming Skills. And the next day, she's still shuddering from the effects.
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, the fight between Shion and Rika demonstrates both pepper spray and tasers being used to cause...momentary irritation, and not much else.
- In the "Battle for Mahora" arc of Mahou Sensei Negima!, Ku Fei is tased by a Chachamaru replica, only to shrug off the effects a few seconds later.
Live Action TV
- In an episode of CSI, a man was hit with some potent mace, yet kept running. Of course, the show does a 180 when he catches on fire after being tased, and of course dies.
- Averted in the Burn Notice episode "Comrades". Fiona manages to kidnap a tough member of The Mafiya after hitting him with a taser. Because he managed to grab hold of her just before she got him with the taser, she's just as incapacitated, although because she's Fiona, when she eventually is back on her feet she cracks a few jokes about how refreshing the experience was and how an electric jolt work wonders for clearing the mind.
- Used in Stargate SG-1, where the zat gun supposedly operates on principles similar to a taser but you can acquire some resistance to its effects if you get shot too many times.
- Wraith stunners on Stargate Atlantis work similarly. Humans who are taking the Wraith enzyme have increased resistance to them.
- Like Quagmire, Christopher Walken's SNL character The Continental has been sprayed so often he is no longer affected by pepper spray.
- In an episode of Highlander: The Series, Duncan MacLeod is hit with a taser. He is stopped for a few seconds before managing to cut the wires with his sword (that he had already drawn). Once it's stopped, he's able to resume going after the bad guy, although slowed down a bit.
- On Just Shoot Me!, Jack buys a taser to protect himself. Dennis' tough father tries it and finds it only tickles him. Jack thinks he bought a defective taser and tries it on Elliot. For some time afterwards, Elliot is a convulsing, incoherent mess, and right when he's supposed to meet Tyra Banks, who thinks he's some kind of weird pervert and hits him with her can of mace.
- On Shameless (US) hears a Scary Black Man claim that he can stay on his feet after being tasered. Frankly does not believe him (most likely because he has been tasered a fair bit himself) and bets him $10,000 that he will go down if Frank taseres him. The man is able to withstand the taser and Frank is forced to make a run for it since he has no money.
- 24 averted this a couple of times, and in fact it's one of the few things Jack Bauer can't just shake off.
- The original concept (and indeed an early stunt) for Jackass had Johnny Knoxville hit with pepper spray, a taser gun and an electric prod. He states that the pepper spray is by far the worst.
- Dilbert has the misfortune of being on the receiving end of an aversion of this trope when Dogbert shows how he plans to use pepper spray as an "external antidepressant". It's especially noticeable in the animated version, where Dilbert can be heard screaming in pain throughout the whole clip.
- A taser is a fairly common weapon in wrestling, which usually results in the victim spazzing out for a couple minutes before pushing himself back up like nothing happened. Case in point, Kevin Nash VS Goldberg.
- Averted by GURPS where pepper spray doesn't wear off until the victim goes somewhere and washes it off.
- d20 Modern, however, has pepper spray that incapacitates for less than a minute, and stun guns that a healthy, average adult has a 25% chance of resisting. Probably Competitive Balance, as the game's Almost Lethal Weapons are pretty cheap.
- In Mortal Kombat, Stryker's taser does minor damage and really only makes the opponent stumble back a bit. Though, frankly, when dealing with a cast who routinely shrug off missiles to the face, even that is pretty impressive.
- In City of Heroes, the Taser in the Devices powerset just has a short five-second stun. The Taser Darts temporary power gotten at level one are worse, doing possibly the worst damage in the game—but, hey, free power.
- SWAT 4 is a mixed bag. Tasers will result in 100% compliance, but all of your other potent less-than-lethal weapons (beanbag shotguns, pepper spray/paintballs, flashbangs, tear gas, sting grenades, and a mean left hook in the expansion) sometimes take multiple shots in order to get suspects to comply. How inappropriate/necessary/realistic this is is variant on your personal cynicism/optimism level.
- Toyed with in Golden Eye 1997, as the "Tazer Boy" acts as a close range rifle, capable of doing major damage and killing minor NPCs in a single (ranged) shot. This is not at all how a taser works, but it prevents it from being useless in a run-and-gun FPS.
- Pepper spray and tazers provide brief incapacitation in Saints Row 2, although the latter weapon is still lethal when applied directly to the face in a human shield execution.
- Averted in Star Ocean: The Second Story with Chisato's weapons: All of her equippable weapons are stun guns, but her application of said weapons comes in the form of Kamehame Hadoken.
- Within Deus Ex, one shot with the stun gun will only temporarily stun an opponent. A second (sometimes a third) is required to actually knock them unconscious. The pepper spray is even worse with the effect fading seconds later. The tranquilizer darts, on the other hand, can deliver Instant Sedation if aimed at the head.
- Averted in Human Revolution: one stun gun dart instantly renders unconscious any human enemy but one of the bosses, including augmented and heavily armored enemies that can survives dozens of gunshots. Even the bosses are temporarily disabled by it, as are security cameras, turrets, and robots the size of cars. With enough darts for the thing you can even defeat the bosses by just using the thing over and over again. It's quite a useful weapon even for someone not explicitly going for a Pacifist Run, though it may randomly kill some people (probably a bug, though maybe not considering how ridiculously powerful it would have to be).
- Inverted in the early Syphon Filter games. The taser is hilariously overpowered, causing people to catch fire if applied long enough.
- This trope has unfortunately given rise to numerous flame wars and debates as to whether tasers/pepper spray/etc are even effective for self defense. The fact that some companies willingly cut corners in the products order to save a little cash doesn't help.
- There seems to be a lot of confusion over this issue in regards to public use for self defense. One police constable or officer might have a problem with it but her colleagues see it as legal. Security personal might see it as legal, but not for use on their premises. Another officer might think it okay but be overruled by their sergeant.
- Cue all the clips from 'Real TV' or 'Cops' where someone gets maced and continues to go on a rampage. If you're sufficiently high on crystal meth or PCP, pain is something that happens after you come down from it.
- There's been at least one documented instance of someone getting up after being tased... twice.
- There's a YouTube video of a drunk guy getting zapped a whopping five times before staying down and letting the officer arrest him.
- Admittedly this can be because the persons nervous system is so thoroughly toasted by alcohol that his brain just doesn't realize how bad it is.
- A self defense instructor/former Marine on Discovery channel's Fight Science demonstrated how it is possible for an extremely well-trained individual to unplug a taser's pins from oneself while falling to the ground from the shock and get back up afterwards.
- Tasers also have to penetrate the skin to be effective, and any sort of body armour will render them useless; some cheaper models will even have trouble with a leather jacket.
- There are also individuals who can apparently shrug off tasers due to the simple fact that not every body acts exactly the same to electricity. It would still be a considerable discomfort, however.