In real life, when a person has something private to say to somebody else, they tend to whisper it to them, to make it more difficult for the other person to hear.
In fiction, however, all dialogue is usually completely audible to the audience. That makes the few times when we don't
know exactly what a person is saying all the more intriguing. As a result, an artist will sometimes use a whisper to add an element of mystery or ambiguity to a series. For this and other reasons, this trope is usually implemented near the end of a work.
Sometimes used as an Unreveal
(when left ambiguous), other times as a Chekhov's Gun
. Other times it begins as an
unreveal, and becomes
a Chekhov's Gun
. This may also be used if one character needs to tell another something so obscene that the censors might be offended if it were spoken out loud.
Contrast Stage Whisper
, which is clearly audible to the audience but not other characters.
Anime and Manga
- In Code Geass, CC's true name.
- In "The Real Folk Blues, Part 1" of Cowboy Bebop, Julia whispers something at Spike. We don't find out what she said until the end of the next episode.
- Subverted in Digimon Tamers episode 14: "Grow Mon Grow". When Terriermon whispers to Henry, the words are actually intelligible to the audience before Henry repeats them aloud to Takato.
- Practically Once an Episode on Detective Conan, at the point where Conan figures out the crime and just wants confirmation before the big reveal.
- Bullseye in Punisher Max whispers something to Frank as they fight. Frank's reaction implies Bullseye was spot on in guessing what the last thing Frank's wife ever said to him was. It's revealed 5 issues later, but if you get a magnifying glass you can see Bullseye said "I want a divorce".
- In Y: The Last Man, Agent 355 whispers her real name to Yorick. It is never explicitly stated what the name is, though there are some hints that imply it was "Peace".
- In Spider-Man: One More Day Mary Jane agrees to Mephisto's terms for the Deal with the Devil but quietly whispers something to him before the deal is finalized. We find out what it was she said three years later (real time) in One Moment in Time.
- An interesting example, because fans magnified what she said...and it was DIFFERENT, from what it was in One Moment in Time. The two also had different authors.
- Near the end of Arbitrage, the main character whispers something to his daughter that we never hear. This was an improvisation by Richard Gere.
- Also, possibly referencing Lost in Translation (See below), in The Avengers, Scarlett Johansson whispers something to Jeremy Renner's character right before Loki is sent back from whence he came.
- Pepper also does this to Tony towards the beginning of The Avengers when motivating him to finish his "homework" quickly. Judging by the shocked, delighted look on his face and Coulson looking away in embarrassment, it was something quite dirty (though this scene also lent itself to some "Hail HYDRA" parodies a few years later).
- At the end of Lost in Translation, Bill Murray's character whispers something to Scarlett Johansson just before he leaves Toyko.
- In Donnie Darko, Donnie walks up to Roberto Sparrow and she stands on tiptoe to whisper, "Everything on this earth dies alone." Donnie's dad asks what she said and the scene cuts without revealing (until later). New viewers will almost always ask prior viewers what she said.
- Happens in the noir film Key Largo. Bacall's character, one of several people being held by the evil gangster in her own hotel, is being menaced by the gangster. He seems to actually notice for the first time how attractive she is, and so leans forward, bringing his lips to her ear... Cut to their silhouettes on the wall, his lips moving but with no words audible, background music rising—suddenly, she snaps, and slaps him across the face. We never know what was said, of course, but obviously it must have been horrible, and the viewer is basically free to set the perversion meter at just past their own tolerance level.
- In Not Another Teen Movie, Austin whispers into Janey's ear, causing Jake to launch into a hysterical confession. Austin then explains to Jake that what he actually whispered into Janie's ear was that Jake was about to launch into a hysterical confession, thus reaffirming everything he just whispered into her ear.
- In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country right after the bodies of Chancellor Gorkon's killers are found, Kirk takes Spock aside and they have an inaudible conversation. At the end Spock says, "Possible." It turned out to be an idea to lure the killers' killer out.
- In The Polar Express after Santa asks the main character what he wants for Christmas, he whispers his answer in his ear, one of the sleigh bells.
- Lolita. In the Stanley Kubrick film, Charlotte Haze whispers in Claire Quilty's ear regarding an evening they spent together (implied to be more romantic for her than Quilty, who like Humbert is a closet paedophile). In both this and the 1997 adaptation, Dolores whispers in Humbert's ear what she got up to with a boy at summer camp; in that case definitely implied to be sexual.
- In Ex Machina, Ava communicated something to Kyoko. We don't get to hear the exact words but it probably was something that prompted her to stab Nathan.
- In Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn, Lucky and Wess take a moment to speak privately to one another by using ordinary sound waves, conducted through their spacesuits, so there is no risk of being spied upon. The narrator never tells us what Lucky says, but it becomes clear it has to do with the elaborate deception that Lucky pulls on everyone except Wess later in the book.
- In Wolves of the Calla, we're never told exactly what the 19-word sentence told to Eddie by the old man was, but we get the gist of it by the book's climax.
- In the play (and later movie) The Shape of Things, Adam and Evelyn whisper to each other in bed. Later when he discovers she's been videoing him for a class project, that is the only part of their relationship that remains private. The play ends with him watching that section over and over.
- In Heavy Rain, Ann whispers the name of her son into Madison's ear. It's significant because her son happens to be the Origami Killer; the player doesn't learn his name for a few more scenes.
- Knights of the Old Republic: Saul Karath in his last moments, whispers The Reveal to Carth Onasi in this manner. Carth doesn't take it well.
- Made a very interesting one, as the Player character is there for the reveal...but too far away to hear! So, the player character is left in the dark as much as the player themselves.
- In Xenoblade An injured Dunban is seen whispering something about the Monado to Shulk after the battle of sword valley.
- Parodied in 8-Bit Theater after Red Mage gets the entire party thrown into an elvish prison. Another inmate agrees to give them information in exchange for some "dag". Thief's explanation is initially this, but Fighter immediately blows the secret out of the water, in case some readers didn't quite get it.
Thief: It's whisper, whisper, whisper...
Red Mage: Perhaps I could negotiate the terms of our agreement.
Black Mage: Ya think!
Fighter: Psst! What does "situational homosexuality" mean?
- In The Simpsons episode parodying 24, Skinner recruits Bart to spy on his behalf. Bart will only participate if Skinner will tell him a swear word he doesn't already know. Skinner whispers it to Bart (we never hear it).
Bart: Wow, that's a swear?
Skinner: Used as a noun, it is.