"But why—but why should any wish to kill me?" said Mowgli.
"Look at me," said Bagheera. And Mowgli looked at him steadily between the eyes. The big panther turned his head away in half a minute.
"That is why," he said, shifting his paw on the leaves. "Not even I can look thee between the eyes, and I was born among men, and I love thee, Little Brother. The others they hate thee because their eyes cannot meet thine; because thou art wise; because thou hast pulled out thorns from their feet—because thou art a man."
When a character is faced with a creature that should have him running away or cowering in fear — or which could at least finish him off with one bite — but instead beats it in an impromptu Staring Contest
Picture the scenario: The Hero
is cornered by the villain. The Sealed Evil in a Can
is about to be opened on the world, probably in the form of an Eldritch Abomination
. The villain is locking the hero in a Cool Gate
to Another Dimension
with no chance of return. The Gladiator Games
have commenced and it's one unarmed, wounded person against a whole pride of hungry lions. There's nothing anyone can do
. There's no backup, no escape, no Big Damn Heroes
. All is lost, the world is undone, the lions are going to eat good tonight, etc. he comes
And in the other corner, we see the hero, seconds away from complete and utter doom, standing resolutely with their eyes fixed directly on what's going to kill them. They stare straight ahead, unaffected, unafraid; at the hungry lions, at the Evil Overlord
, even at that hideous, inhuman thing
The seconds tick by. The forces of evil start to squirm a little bit. The lions don't move in for the kill. The villain stops his insane cackling. The Ultimate Evil
... hesitates. The hero, through sheer Badassery
, has intimidated something which had an infinitely superior advantage over them.
Where the situation goes from here depends. Perhaps the bad guy turns tail and runs away. Maybe the hero's staredown has distracted the villain long enough for The Cavalry
to arrive or the Big Damn Heroes
to show up. Or maybe the villain gets over it and kills the hero after all, but they — and the audience — will remember that they may have been killed, but they were never cowed
A sure sign of the character being Badass
. Overlaps with Death Glare
and is often portrayed as a Kubrick Stare
. If the hero goes out staring down and intimidating his killer, it's a good candidate for a Dying Moment of Awesome
Anime and Manga
- Teen Genius Light Yagami of Death Note stares down Rem, a God of Death. Mind you, the Death God is a nicer person than he is and through his manipulations he has turned her into an Unwitting Pawn.
- Son Goku from Dragon Ball Z often ends up staring down at hideous monsters such as Demon King Piccolo or Space Overlord Frieza.
- His Son Gohan inherits the same trait upon ascending into Super Saiyan 2 against Cell, and 7 years later pulls it off again against Majin Buu.
- On two occasions, the titular character of Naruto stared down the Kyuubi. The first time, Naruto was blackmailing it for chakra; the second time, he was telling it to stop nay-saying.
- This is how the Fairy Tail team, battered and barely able to stand, defeats a still fresh and well-rested Sting in the last day of the Magic Games: they stare him down until he realizes beating them like this wouldn't help him in the slightest and surrenders.
- The master of Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?, John Constantine the Hellblazer, does this when face-to-face with the most powerful beings in the universe, such as Satan and God. He stares them in the eye while puffing smoke from his cigarette. He even flips Satan a finger.
- Casanova Quinn is forced into a psychic staring contest with a hive mind of evil monks. Cass wins by having a mind full of spiders.◊
- After Thanos wiped out pretty much every hero in the Marvel Universe, Captain America remained the only one left standing. That doesn't stop Cap from getting right in The Mad Titan's face◊ and starting a fight that he knows he can't win, and inevitably meeting his death with dignity.
- Victor von Doom is intimidated by precisely nothing. For instance, when he faced the Overmind, an alien being with the telepathic strength of billions of aliens, and which had already mind-controlled Reed Richards, he looked it right in the eye and didn't back down. Or when the Purple Man helped him Take Over the World, then tried to threaten him. Doom took off his anti-mind control mask and looked Purple Man right in the eye.
- Doom may be hideously evil, but you gotta give the jerk props for his willpower. Dude kept his composure while being vivisected by the Beyonder.
- When Superman/Batman go to Apokolips to save Supergirl. Batman threatens to blow up Apokolips if Darkseid doesn't give up Kara. Even though the New God pummels him Batman still threatens him. Darkseid later concedes.
- This is how Mowgli defeats Shere Khan in The Jungle Book. Much is made of him being the one who can stare down the tiger and live.
- George C Scott in the 1980 horror movie, The Changeling, has the nerve to glare at the vengeful ghost of a murdered child and yell: "Joseph, you Goddamn son of a bitch! What is it you want?" It works temporarily.
- In Hannibal, Hannibal Lecter stares down a vicious Doberman and it curls up in the corner and whimpers.
- V'Ger of Star Trek The Motion Picture effortlessly destroys anything that affronts it—including a Klingon task force of three battlecruisers—on its way to Earth. Depending on the cut of the film you're watching, the energy field that V'Ger creates around itself has a diameter either greater than that of the solar system, or just greater than Earth's orbit around the sun. When it arrives at Earth, the machine casually prepares to obliterate the planet's biosphere. None of that stops Jim Kirk from playing chicken with V'Ger, and winning; making the leviathan stand down by threatening to not reveal who its creator is if it doesn't.
- Rango. This is how Rango finally earns the respect of Rattlesnake Jake, having been terrified of him on their first encounter.
- The Jungle Book (the book!).
- Aragorn does this to Sauron with the Palantír in The Lord of the Rings... sort of. He challenges Sauron by staring into the Palantír and has enough willpower to break away from Sauron's visions.
- The Dresden Files:
- Mouse, a dog, gets a few of these in. Two of the most impressive times are once to Leanansidhe, one of the most powerful fae in the series, and later to Nicodemus, a man with a literal Fallen Angel in his head. Justified: Mouse is a Temple Dog, and this is exactly what Temple Dogs are bred for.
- In Proven Guilty, Harry himself does this to Maeve, the Winter Lady. Since she can squish him like a bug, it's a moment of understated awesome for Harry. Though, he does mention in his First-Person Smartass narration that he's really just up against a shark, and trying to make himself look nice and inedible and praying that the shark doesn't take a couple bites just to test. Even better, he does this while calmly, quietly, tonelessly talking about how he killed Aurora, Maeve's peer and equal. He ends his little talk by holding a chair open for Maeve, and asking her to play nice, as he doesn't want a confrontation.
- In "Changes" Harry, suffering from a broken back, running out of time to save his child, and short on options, calls up Mab to accept her offer of becoming the Winter Knight. Of course Mab, being Mab, asks Harry why she should allow him to enter her service. Harry informs her in no uncertain terms that accepting her offer is the least evil of his options, and if need be, he will exploit his position as one of the few to know the whole secret of the Darkhallow, go curbstomp the Red Court, save his little girl, and come track down Mab for a nice chat as a newly-minted necromantic god.
Dresden: "If you don't want to do business, I'll go elsewhere. I could still call Lasciel's coin to me in a heartbeat - and Nicodemus and the Denarians would be more than happy to help me. I am also one of the only people alive who knows how to pull off Kemmler's Darkhallow. So if Nicky and the Nickelheads don't want to play, I can damned well get the power for myself - and the next time I call your name, I won't need to be nearly so polite."
- And in Cold Days, Harry stares down Mab, and threatens to have Demonreach imprison her. She actually seems to take the threat seriously.
- And in a reversal of the above, the villain of Watership Down grants his troops seconds for a vital getaway by confronting a dog. (Though he didn't just stare, he also fought, as the dog later turns up with bites and scratches, drawing a remark from a human observer that it "must have gone for something that put up a fight.")
- In Discworld, the Luggage successfully stared down a Basilisk. And Discworld Basilisks have supposedly-fatal stares. And the Luggage doesn't even have eyes.
- Rincewind repeatedly reflects on how creepy it is that the Luggage is clearly watching things without having any eyes.
- A big point is not made of it, but in Dinoverse the first time the kids are menaced by a Tyrannosaurus rex Janine just stares defiantly at it. Unlike the others, she can't fight or run.
- Gideon Jura, a Planeswalker from the Magic: The Gathering franchise, took up a staring contest with that universe's closest thing to Cthulu: Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. It happened at the end of the Battle of Fort Keff. Gideon, spotting the horizon darkening as if to herald the arrival of the great Emrakul, beckons the inhabitants of Fort Keff to flee. Gideon however remains to witness the Eldrazi first hand before Planeswalking away to Ravnica to seek help. This epic staredown is depicted in his first printing: Gideon Jura.
- In Mass Effect 3, this occurs near the end of the Leviathan DLC when Shepard comes face-to-face with the Leviathan itself.
- Librarians in Metro 2033 are on par with the vicious Demons, Moscow's apex predators, in terms of danger level, being tough-as-nails, rather fast, and surprisingly hard-hitters. Your best option is to stare them down until they lose interest (or get intimidated themselves) and leave, as Ulman tells you to. Otherwise, you're in for, if not death, at least a very hard fight.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link throws his Death Glare to the game's Bigger Bad Demise, who is the incarnation of all evil. Demise is impressed, as every single human he'd ever faced before had fled in terror from him. He recognizes Link's courage, admitting that he never expected that from a human.
- Some of the finds of the SCP Foundation can be dealt with in this manner. In particular, SCP-173 is rendered completely harmless as long as you're maintaining eye contact with it... don't blink.
- Hercules, when riding CERBERUS to meet Hades in the underworld.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Fluttershy (pictured above) has subdued a dragon (who was so large each of his eyes was around the same size as her body) and a cockatrice (whose gaze was turning her to stone as she did so, but who still gave up first) by staring them down and scolding them. Subverted (twice), however, when she tries to stare down Discord — he only pretends to be horrified to mock her.
- Towards the climax of the Cadmus arc of Justice League Unlimited, Prof. Hamilton stares down Superman, whom he (justifiably) expects to go on a tangent and try to take over the world at any moment.
- A more literal example would be in The Terror Beyond, where Hawkgirl, after she and Solomon Grundy are ensnared in the grip of Ichthultu, has this to say:
- Truth in Television: Very few animals can outstare a human (with the exception of fish and reptiles, which have transparent eyelids). You can try this yourself with your dog or cat. However, staring down a large animal is not always smart, because prolonged eye contact is an aggressive signal, and some critters (notably bears, rhinos, gorillas, and highly aggressive guard dogs) may take up the challenge and attack.
- That pride of hungry lions example? It's been done by people outnumbered by the lions 5 to 1. Felines prefer to catch their food unawares, avoiding a straight-up confrontation, and to a cat, the target of a stare equals "prey." So if you catch a feline stalking you and stare back, it tends to chicken out.