Q: Do you particularly enjoy being deliberately vague?
Sometimes you get the feeling that a series creator is having a little too
much fun messing with their audience's collective heads.
This is a creator who loves to mess around with their audience, keeping them hanging for as long as humanly possible. They'll hint, contradict themselves
, be deliberately vague
and occasionally outright mock the Epileptic Trees
offered... only to prove said Epileptic Trees right at the very moment the majority of the fandom gives up on them. It only really counts as a meta-trope though - all stories aim to keep their audience guessing, but this creator does so outside the story itself, be it in interviews, on a blog or at conventions. Shrug of God
is their language of choice.
There's a fine line to walk here. This tactic can create genuine suspense, since the creator is so unpredictable. Or it can annoy the fans, and make them feel like they're being unfairly toyed with by a superior being
, perhaps leading to cries of Small Name, Big Ego
. However, it can also be a reaction to Fan Dumb
: if the creator makes a concrete statement which is then ignored in favour of speculation, they might decide "screw it"
and play along.
The creator's pedigree can make this trope more or less effective - if you've sunk the ship
or eliminated main characters
before now, there's every chance you'll do it again... but then, if you make a habit of it, people will stop finding it suspenseful and simply give up on caring for your characters, knowing you're likely to Kill 'em All
or stick them with a Downer Ending
Tends to be most popular in webcomics, since they're one of the few remaining mediums that can genuinely be kept under wraps, spoiler-free.
is a specific variety of this trope, as is The Walrus Was Paul
. Differs from Shrug of God
since there is definitely a deliberate tactic being employed, and it isn't always in response to fans' questions - in fact, you get the feeling the the fans are being provoked
into asking questions. Compare Trolling Creator
, when this gets outright malicious.
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Anime and Manga
- An unofficial motto of the Bee Train fandom actually is "[Kouichi] Mashimo is a huge tease".
- Ken Akamatsu loves doing this, especially in Mahou Sensei Negima!. It's still impossible to tell it's a Harem Series, a subversion thereof, a Double Subversion, a parody, or whatever. Then there's the massive amount of Ship Tease in the story, much of which seems to exist solely to mess with the heads of the readers. Especially Negi/Asuna. Naturally Asuna seems to be Negi's aunt.
- The best/worst example: In one interview during the Magic World arc, he stated that Zazie's true form would be revealed in the final arc. Soon after, Zazie shows up in Mundus Magicus, creating an enormous stir among the fans, who believed that the end of the manga was imminent. Then shortly after that it turns out that it's actually her sister. There's no way he didn't plan that.
- After Negima ended 100 chapters too early, Akamatsu began teasing us with a sequel PROBABLY being on the way.
- The writers of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha are memetic for their Ship Tease with Nanoha and Fate. Despite their relationship sliding to the bleeding edge between subtext and text, there still hasn't been an official Word of God or onscreen kiss to seal the deal, and the fan question on their relationship is inevitably answered with the Shrug of God.
- Hi, Hideaki Anno, we're looking at you! Not only in the original series, Rebuild of Evangelion is practically one huge fan-tease in itself.
- This man is widely known for his Mastery of the Shrug of God, much to the fans' dismay.
- Oh, Hidekaz Himaruya. The whole Axis Powers Hetalia Christmas 2010 Event was proof of how he likes interacting with the Hetalia fandom, both in Japan and the West.
- And he did it again, for April Fools' Day 2011. And he regularly takes requests on his website for things people want him to sketch, even if such things are completely nonsensical and could never be considered canon.
- And it reached epic levels for Hetaween 2011 with his Fan Nickname becoming "Himapapatrollking" and many people becoming convinced that he was secretly watching their posts about the event with how he suddenly introduced new characters without warning, brought back One-Scene Wonder characters, and still found time to mercilessly tease fans by deliberately avoiding showing the face of said new characters.
- Eiichiro Oda of One Piece fame certainly has some interesting answers when fans ask him questions, just to screw around with them. Given Oda's sense of humor and the generally odd nature of the One Piece world, it's sometimes hard to tell when his answers are serious and when they're just jokes.
- Kunihiko Ikuhara and Revolutionary Girl Utena - see especially the car girl incident and Miki's Goddamn stopwatch.
- When asked if a particular plot point had some deeper meaning, the writer of Star Driver was quoted as saying "Everything is double—no, triple marinated with meaning!"
- Kenjiro Hata, writer of Hayate the Combat Butler seems to like messing with the audience on occasion. He'll hang lampshades, he'll poke the fourth wall and he'll have characters react in oddly savvy ways, but no method was more direct than the chapter entitled "This Is The Kind of Manga You Are Reading" where a chapter that had been built up for some time as a big pivot point for the series is instead interrupted by a maid calling the main character and refusing to let them move the plot forward due to her own fairly minor concerns until they give up and simply decide to hold their conversation later. Clearly, subtlety is for sissies. And don't worry, nobody went to Kenjiro Hata's house, rang the bell many times and demanded him to rewrite the chapter and do it right this time. Totally.
- The editors of DC Comics (notably their boss, Dan Didio) purposely misled fans that the 2005 Crisis Crossover series, Infinite Crisis, would get rid of the Darker and Edgier approach the company had taken with its characters in recent years. Writer Mark Waid himself said that was the point (though he got censored later). The story itself directly hints at this since the main characters were in fact trying to change reality back to its previous, nicer state (altered during Crisis on Infinite Earths); but it was all a Bait and Switch, as those same characters turn out to be responsible (both directly and indirectly) for all the tragic events, and the series ends in a bloody battle.
- Lying, teasing, trolling creator ThatPersonYouMightKnow is, naturally, fond of this in all of his works. Especially The Lion King Adventures.
- The author behind Renegade draws an inordinate amount of pleasure from toying with the readers, offering periodic bits of Word of God and copious amounts of shrugs. One of his favorite non-answers in the discussion thread on Spacebattles is to respond to someone's question or comment with a picture of David Xanatos with a smug grin on his face. The deliberate vagueness of the picture (Am I on the right track? Am I completely wrong? Does he know something I don't? GAAAAAAAAH!) just makes it worse.
- The authors of Game Theory are outright gleeful about dropping tantalizing hints about future plot threads, and answering questions in such a manner as to be technically truthful and utterly deceptive.
- This trope could apply to genre expectations as well as to fans of a series. If you look at the message board for any mystery, no matter how wild a twist it employs, there are always jaded fans who say "I saw the ending coming a mile away". A Perfect Getaway is written with great situational awareness regarding this tendency, and gives no indication as to which of three possible directions the film is going to go. Then it has multiple screenwriter characters, who lampshade the whole thing by discussing red herrings, while awash in them.
- For The Dark Knight Rises, promotional pictures showing Selina Kyle in costume with high-tech goggles, but without Catwoman's signature ears, caused some fan backlash. And then the film reveals that her goggles flip up to the headband and resemble cat ears.
Live Action TV
- Joss Whedon is notorious for this.
- Darlton. Their podcasts are infuriatingly hilarious.
- Russell T Davies traditionally drops random words from upcoming Doctor Who stories in his Doctor Who Magazine column, some of which could (he knows) spur on Epileptic Trees-type theories. (This apart from his outright lying about future stories)
- Most notably, "The Next Doctor". The title was revealed around the time David Tennant was confirmed to be leaving the show, and fandom began guessing who the next Doctor would be, with the production team treating it as if the episode would be introducing the new actor. As it turned out, the eponymous character wasn't the Doctor's next incarnation at all, the ruse being explained away halfway through the episode.
- The cliffhangers at the end of "Last of the Time Lords" the Titanic crashes through the wall of the TARDIS and "The Stolen Earth" the Doctor begins regenerating were both easily and effortlessly resolved within the first minute of the following episode, seemingly designed specifically to whip the audience into a frenzy in the meantime.
- Absolutely everything about the episode "The Doctor's Daughter", beginning with the title and ending with the... ending.
- Steven Moffat, in charge of Doctor Who and Sherlock, outright says he routinely lies about things, encourages people to give out fake spoilers, and is generally good at trolling the fandoms.
- From his Twitter: "Apparently I "confirmed" a romantic relationship between Sherlock and Irene Adler. Despite my 140 character limit can I be very clear that I"
- On the subject of the Sherlock series 2 cliffhanger: "We're going to be complete bastards about it."
- In late 2013, Paul McGann started making tweets about rumours he was going to be in the 50th aniversary episode of Doctor Who. He followed this up by suggesting, in the same way, that "Dame Tennant" wasn't. It may depend which anniversary episode he's talking about.
- Shane Brennan, the current showrunner over at NCIS, only seems to talk to the media if he wants to stir up shipping drama in the fandom.
- Dan Schneider became this when he joined the internet fandom a season into the airing of iCarly. He's heavily pushed his 2 current shows iCarly and Victorious online and they have some of the best tie-in websites of any media, television or otherwise. He become aware of fandom and the almost exclusive Shipping focus. He then turned what was a relatively non-explosive online community into a Sam/Freddie vs Carly/Freddie Ship War that rivalled anything Nick had ever seen including Kaatang/Zutara. The usual method was inserting lines into his blogs referencing whatever pairing was not the focus of the episode. Caused something of a backlash when the fans figured out what was happening.
- With the launch of new show Victorious he remained pretty low key on the teasing. Then the Jade/Tori fandom exploded. Now he can't stop teasing them.
- The creator of Wizards of Waverly Place, Todd J. Greenwald, is known to joke about the Justin/Alex pairing, recently stating that if he ever runs out of ideas, he'll do a whole season of Jalex-filled episodes.
- The writers for Exalted enjoy posting spoilers with all the interesting parts redacted just a little too much.
- Greg Farshtey, the main writer for BIONICLE, is technically not a Lying Creator, but he exploits Exact Words at every opportunity he can, and then turns around and points out "I never said that". This has eventually led to a highly suspicious fandom that picks apart everything he says for even the slightest hint of ambiguity.
- Oh Bungie, you've teased us with a reveal just made a few days ago. You teased us SINCE 2000! Actually, a whole bunch of them. And never trust a thing they say. They are not working on Halo 3. They are not working on another Halo game after Halo 3. Halo: Reach is definitely the last Halo game ever. Right.
- That last one was actually true (not including the Halo: CE Updated Re-release). There will be more Halo games, but they aren't made by Bungie.
- They've at least stopped teasing for the time being by announcing at E3 2011 that they planned on making a total of 10 Halo games, with the tenth being the Updated Re-release of Halo: CE.
- Hideo Kojima not only teases the audience, he openly mocks their pain. See the Metal Gear Solid entry in Fan Disservice for details.
- ZUN, creator of Touhou, is known by the fanbase as its biggest troll.
- He doesn't even bother to be subtle about it, either. When viewing a few people attempt to play Double Spoiler (Nintendo Hard even by Touhou standards) he openly mocks their pain. Addictive laugh, though.
- Valve is infamous for trolling their fans, particularly when there's a Team Fortress 2 update on the way.
- Going to ask Valve on whether or not episode 3 for Half-Life 2 (or Half-Life 3) will ever be produced? Expect answers of every kind that does not include a yes or no.
- Subverted/justified with the Pyro; they only teased us with details about his/her gender, nationality, and origin because they don't know either.
- Ryukishi07, author of the When They Cry mystery series, reportedly monitors online forums for popular fan theories so he can brutally smash them or set them up as gigantic red herrings in the next installment.
- To be fair when a theory that happens to be true becomes popular enough he will sometime make The Reveal earlier than planned, Like the fact that Kinzo was already dead during the series was originally planned to be revealed in Ep 5 but moved to Ep 4 because of how popular the theory was.
- Square Enix and the much anticipated Final Fantasy VII remake. SE loves to tease the idea of the remake only to debunk again and again.
- Final Fantasy Versus XIII is their latest game they love to do this for. Imposing questions about the game will elicit a response completely unrelated to Versus XIII.
The PlayStation Blog
: “When will we finally be able to play
Final Fantasy Versus XIII? You know, the game has been in development for eons. Do you have anything to share at this time? Anything!” Motomu Toriyama
: “First, please enjoy
XIII-2 while you wait for additional information.”
- With the announcement of its changing its title to Final Fantasy XV, that era (about 7 years) of hush-hush with occasional bits more of teasing in latter years has finally wound down. Until its release, though...
- Ed Boon, co-creator and current executive producer of the Mortal Kombat series, seems to be this if one checks his Twitter updates. For example, several fans wonder why the latest game (Mortal Kombat (2011)) doesn't include the purple ninja Rain (the game almost exclusively includes the characters from the original trilogy). One fan proclaims, "RAIN!!!!" on Boon's Twitter, requesting Rain to be added as DLC. Boon's reply? This. Klassic.
- Street Fighter IV producer Yoshinori Ono has been accused of trolling the fans. He personally declares it part of his job to troll.
- Suda51's old game The Silver Case has been in development for a remake for the DS for several years. Early 2010 he showed off the DS port on an internet livestream, proving that it works... but there's no release date.
- BioWare seems to be milking the fan reaction to the Gainax Ending of Mass Effect 3.
- Overkill Software enjoyed teasing their fans when they dropped subtle and vague hints leading towards a secret in PAYDAY: The Heist. Every time a question was asked, the creators replied with answers that were basically "No except yes" or "It is quite possible."
- Ever since Mojang found out about Minecraft's Urban Legend of Zelda Herobrine, every single update changelog has included a line stating "Removed Herobrine". Word of God on the topic consists mostly of flat out stating that there's no Herobrine and that the entries were deliberately put there to toy with the community but also includes a good bit of Suspiciously Specific Denial, refusal to comment, and declaration that everything you've heard is true (depending on who at Mojang you ask, what day it is, the current status of the tide, and wither or not Herobrine is currently behind them).
- The trailer reveal for Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. on the Wii-U and 3DS starts off showing what appears to be a Animal Crossing game until the letter the Villager drops is revealed to have the Smash Bros logo on the seal. The trailer then shows off the actual game.
- The reveal of the Wii Fit Trainer as a playable character was planned right from the start to be a big "WTF?" for the fans. Masahiro Sakurai has even stated, for the record, that they chose her to be in the game because no-one would expect or predict her to be in the game.
- Other notable teases include unveiling a Rayman trophy on a day Robin and Lucina would be announced, and a screenshot of a Mii Fighter wearing Meta Knight's mask the day before Meta Knight was confirmed.
- SuperBot Entertainment, the team behind PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale became (in)famous for this across the reveals leading up to the game's release, particularly lead game designer Omar "Stay Tuned" Kendall.
- The devs of Katawa Shoujo have said that at this point, they don't even know when they're teasing and when they're not. (For instance, their remark that the never-seen principal is a masked wrestler is both a joke, and canon, and it will continue to be canon until and unless he appears in the finished game and turns out not to be a masked wrestler - which he didn't, so he can be assumed to be a masked wrestler.)
- One thread on the KS forums discussed which, if any or all, of the five main girls were virgins before meeting Hisao (KS is an eroge, after all). After several people asked the devs about it, one of them logged onto the forum and posted a hilariously NSFW "answer" involving all five girls having lost their virginity to "gigantic space horse demons with twelve penises". Definitely trolling there. Another, possibly saner, dev has said that their Word of God means nothing, and that the only things to be confirmed as canon are in the VN itself; and just for the record, Lily was not a virgin and indeed says this to Hisao.