Yeah. All right, you primitive screwheads, listen up. See this? This...is my BOOMSTICK! It's a twelve gauge double barreled Remington, S-Mart's top-of-the-line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That's right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about $109.95. It's got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel and a hair trigger. That's right. Shop Smart. Shop S-Mart. YA GOT THAT!?
In a God Guise
or Time Travel
scenario, a modern person with some technological convenience uses it to try and impress the more primitive locals. Guns and cigarette lighters are common versions, with Polaroid cameras not far behind.
It's almost never played straight anymore
. If the time traveler gives
modern technology to the locals, it's Giving Radio to the Romans
. If it's done with contemporary music, it's A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll"
. If the natives buy it, a Cargo Cult
may spring up.
Named for a famous line in Army of Darkness
, the third Evil Dead
film, where the time-displaced zombie-fighting housewares stocker Ash is threatened by medieval peasants. He has a shotgun. Violent Hilarity Ensues
Nothing to do with an actual Boom Stick
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Anime & Manga
- An episode of Doraemon revolved around this: Nobita tried gathering a number of modern objects and using the time machine to travel back in time to the prehistoric age in order to invoke the trope and have the locals make him their king. However, being an idiot, the stuff he took either didn't work in that era (like a radio or a flashlight without batteries), or didn't cause any awe whatsoever (like a pack of playing cards). He ends up mistaken by a monkey and tied to a noose by some cave people looking suspiciously like his friends. To humiliate him even further, Doraemon shows up, chases away a mammoth with his ray gun and the cave people make him their king.
- The Staff of Destruction from The Familiar of Zero has elements of this, starting with its name. It's actually a rocket launcher, specifically the Vietnam-era M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon. Later, a fighter plane is mistaken for a dragon.
- In Those Who Hunt Elves, Ritsuko's tank and guns often get mistaken for sorcery by the inhabitants of the fantasy world.
- In the Strontium Dog "Max Bubba" story, Johnny and Bubba both use their blasters to impress the local Vikings. Johnny gets Wulf's village on his side by pointing out that if he wanted to kill them, he would have done so already.
- The Return of Bruce Wayne miniseries features an amnesiac Batman being mistaken for a sorceror when he uses his utility belt gadgets against some cavemen while stranded in the neolithic past.
- After The Avengers are seperated in a Medieval world, Tony Stark tries to scare off some enemies with a road flare. They are not impressed and beat him up.
- The Trope Namer, as mentioned above, is Army of Darkness. Ash holds his own pretty well in the pit as a one-armed slave in chains, but as soon as he gets hold of his chainsaw and aforementioned boomstick, the village is his.
- The Man Who Would Be King - rifles, masonic talismans and a lucky hit with an arrow convince the Kushians that Sean Connery is the reincarnation of the Demi-god Iskander (Alexander the Great)
- Parodied in Black Knight; Martin Lawrence, stranded in the Middle Ages, tries to impress the locals with his cigarette lighter, to which a bemused peasant merely responds "We have fire."
- Outlander is about a soldier from a highly technologically advanced planet who finds himself among the Vikings after crashing on Earth, pursued by a dragon-like alien. After a while he loses his gun, which is the only weapon that can harm the creature - or so he thinks. He later gets the idea to strip away pieces of his ship, made of a metal not found on Earth, and use it to make swords.
- Parodied/subverted by the movie version of George of the Jungle: Lyle Van de Groot, rich snob white guy, attempts to impress his native guides by offering them lighters and showing off his camera... even though his guides are clearly familiar with such things. The guides play along for a bit, and then burst out laughing at him, whereupon their translator makes it clear they're not only unimpressed, they know more about cameras than he does.
Kwame: He says that he likes your magic pictures...but he prefers the resolution of the Leica 35-millimeter transparencies. He also says that your lens is dirty, but he has the equipment to clean it for you.
- Going the other direction, Lyle later attempts to scare George off with a lighter shaped like a handgun. George, having never seen any kind of gun before, keeps charging. Then it turns out the gun is real (Lyle inadvertently grabbed a gun off a guide instead of his lighter, which shares the same shape and look as the gun.)
- In Muppet Treasure Island, the villain is effectively able to scare off the natives who have come to the rescue with one single shot of his gun.
Spa'am: We see you have boom boom sticks. Bye Bye!
- Played straight in the original Stargate when O'Neil(l) gives a native a cigarette lighter.
- One has to wonder what Picard was thinking in Star Trek: Insurrection when he continues to try and explain things like holograms to the Ba'ku even after they reveal they're just as knowledgeable and technologically capable as he is, if not more.
- They're able to fix Data's positronic brain, something almost no one in the Federation knows how to do, given that its creator is dead.
- In the remake of Land of the Lost, Will tries to scare off some ape-like beings with his lighter, only for them to casually snatch it from him.
- In Hocus Pocus Max fools the Sanderson sisters by claiming to be a wizard, at which point he uses a lighter to set off the fire-sprinklers, calling down the "black rain of death." Being from the past, they are unfamiliar with 20th century technology. There is a lot of this played for laughs in this movie, including believing firemen are witch hunters (with axes to chop the wood to burn us), and riding a vacuum cleaner when one of their brooms is stolen.
- The witches eventually catch on. When they're lured into a furnace by a cassette tape player with a language lesson (they think the protagonists are talking) and almost burned alive, the head witch comes out, obviously annoyed, and starts quoting the tape.
- In Oz: The Great and Powerful, Oscar uses his talent as a Stage Magician and knowledge of gunpowder to convince everyone he has great power. Fitting since the film is directed by Army of Darkness director Sam Raimi, who does not deny the similarities.
- Buster Keaton does this by accident in The Navigator. When he strolls up out of the water wearing his old-timey diving suit, the cannibals on the beach who are about to eat his girlfriend flee in terror.
- Played straight in all of Larry Niven's Ringworld books. Justified in that the explorer's third millennium technology truly IS godlike by the standards of most of the subsistence level natives. Subverted in that at first they frequently trip over the EXISTING religious dogma / cargo cult of the previous owners.
- The fifth The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novel, Mostly Harmless, does a Double Subversion of this trope. Arthur Dent, stranded with a primitive tribe after an accident, thinks about using this trope and/or Giving Radio to the Romans, but realizes that he really doesn't know enough to do anything that would impress them. Then he makes a sandwich. One Flash Forward later, and the village has given him the sacred position of sandwich maker, complete with an eager apprentice.
- They weren't even all that primitive, considering how good and variable steel they made his work knives of.
- The novel A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthurs Court involves a 19th century man sent back in time to King Arthur's court. He uses his modern knowledge to give Camelot new technology, debunk mystics and miracle workers, and become the most powerful man in the country.
- Played straight in H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, where the heroes are nearly killed by tribesmen in Darkest Africa before one of them demonstrates his magical ability to painlessly remove and replace his teeth.
- Haggard based the character, Captain Good, on explorer Joseph Thomson.
- Similar incidents happened during the US's "Indian Wars". So much so that one historian of the period, tongue not entirely in cheek, suggested that the US Government could have saved a lot of money and bloodshed by withdrawing the entire US Army out of the frontier, and sending a regiment of jugglers, conjurers, and contortionists in the Army's place.
- Played straight to the point of Deconstruction in Harry Turtledove's novel The Guns of the South, where a group of time travelers supply the Confederate army from the American Civil War with AK-47s. The novel deals with the social and economic results of this change in a surprisingly realistic fashion. What the time travellers didn't anticipate though, is the Army's interest in field rations and instant coffee.
- Also subverted in regards to dehydrated rations; the Confederates had similar ideas in the works, and the narration specifically notes that the time-traveler seems a little miffed that they aren't impressed by it.
- The Time Traveler does this with matches in The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. He's somewhat disappointed because he's in the far future and had hoped the natives would be the ones doing the impressing.
- In combining sci fi and fantasy, Warlock of Gramarye seems to play with this trope. The protagonist is from the future and encounters a "renaissance fairesque" planet some of whose residents have magical powers. Thus, he uses technology as magic, as is typical of the trope, but only because he is in a Magitek world.
- In a (currently nameless) book, two teens who travel to an Alternate Universe where the Roman Empire hasn't collapsed, but hasn't evolved technologically either. One of them is able to convince a Christian priest that he's telling the truth via his digital watch. They later help overthrow the Romans by passing on the technology of longbows, which can be made and understood more easily than more advanced weapons.
- This trope sets up Your Mother was a Neanderthal, part of the Time Warp Trio series of children's books. The trio get it into their heads that if they travel as far back in time as possible and impress the natives with their modern equipment (including a Swiss Army knife, a thermometer, and a deck of cards), they will be worshipped as magical beings and have a much more comfortable adventure than their previous ones (in each of which they have come close to grisly death at least twice). Since time travel never goes well for these kids, they discover upon their arrival in the time of the cavemen that all of their modern possessions, even their clothes, have disappeared. This is never adequately explained; the idea is that the materials for these items did not exist at the time that they travelled to, but that still leaves the question of why their stuff didn't disappear when they travelled to King Arthur's court in the first book of the series.
- Deconstructed by Poul Anderson's story "The Man Who Came Early", in which an American soldier sent back in time to medieval Iceland, and, after finding out that all of his engineering knowledge impresses no one and is useless without infrastructure, gets in a blood feud and becomes an outlaw, finally dying after his gun runs out of bullets.
- At first, the time-transplanted West Virginians in the 1632 novels hold a technological edge over their enemies due to having modern weaponry, modern vehicles, electrical power, and three hundred and sixty-eight years of scientific advances. However, since "less advanced technologically" does not mean stupid, as the series goes on their edge gets smaller and smaller and smaller, to the point that the Seventeenth Century French army is eventually able to field a better rifle than the Americans can regularly produce. One of their first concerns is how to "scale down" their production facilities for everything, since they realize that without modern infrastructure to support them, they can't keep them up.
- Part of the narrative of Gary Crew's 1991 novel Strange Objects is a fictitious diary discovered in the present day, written by a real life Dutchman named Jan Pelgrom, who became marooned on the west coast of Australia in 1629 with another man named Wouter Loos. In the diary, Pelgrom tells of hunting with Aborigines and his attempt to impress them with his blunderbuss. He misses his target, scaring the game away, after which one of the Aborigines grabs the gun and smashes it on a rock.
- A story in Asimov's Science Fiction Adventure Magazine featured a man named Taylor hunting in Scandinavia who got sent back in time. He finds a tribe before he freezes to death, but at first they don't trust him because they're fighting "giants" (who are only a bit over six feet tall), and Taylor is closer to the giants' height than he is to theirs. Eventually, he passes a test by using the butt of his pistol to crack open a nut (the tribesmen all carry hammers with them for the purpose; the giants just pick up a handy rock), and the tribesmen, who can't say his name properly and render it as something like "tay'or," accept him. At the climactic fight he uses his pistol to kill a bunch of the invaders, and is then drawn back to the present as he hears one of the tribesmen saying "His hammer smashed them! Killed them! And came back to his hand!". When he gets back to modern times, he has his pistol engraved: Mjollnir.
- Gwyneth of The Ruby Red Trilogy decides to take her mobile to the past and tries to impress Lord Brompton and Rakoczy. They don't really believe that she is from the future, though they are shocked when she takes a picture.
- David Langford's "sub-Belloc verse" A Tale of the Jungle parodies it, with an unfortunate explorer captured by a Cannibal Tribe, who first realises his matches are spoiled and then (with a footnoted acknowledgement of King Solomon's Mines) thinks of the false teeth trick, before remembering he doesn't have false teeth.
- Used a lot in the Tennis Shoes Adventures series, usually with flashlights, matches, or CD players. Often, this prevents the characters from being killed outright and merely has them captured.
Live Action TV
- Played straight in Star Trek: The Original Series when an amnesiac Kirk is revered as a mystic due to using resuscitation techniques to revive a "dead" woman.
- In Blackadder: Back and Forth: Thrown back in time and forced to either impress Queen Elizabeth or be executed, Blackadder pulls out his wallet, flashing a credit card and telling Elizabeth of a magical device that can allow you to purchase anything in the whole world. Elizabeth, unimpressed, says that they already have such things: they're called "markets". As he is accosted by palace guards, he drops a roll of breath mints. Elizabeth tastes a mint, and, declaring it "the tastiest thing in the history of the world", lets him go.
- Doctor Who: several examples. In "The War Games", the Second Doctor proves he's from the future by demonstrating the use of the Sonic Screwdriver (on actual screws, for once).
- River Song does it too. In "The Pandorica Opens" she vaporises a piece of furniture to gain the Tribune’s respect.
- It's more in the nature of open intimidation than superstitious awe; in fact she explicitly compares herself to the Roman's superiority to primitive tribesmen.
- In an early episode of Stargate SG-1, O'Neill manages to strike a deal with a Mongol
-like-descended tribe leader to trade a captured Carter for one of his handguns. They team leaves as the camp triumphantly cheers on their leader, shooting in the air with his new, potent weapon. O'Neill then nonchalantly quips that they should get a move on before the clip runs out.
- And perhaps somewhat subverted in a much later episode when O'Neil's team delivers several crates filled with modern firearms to help supply a group of rebel Jaffa they're allied with. The Jaffa, more used to the flashy energy weapons they'd been trained with by the Goa'uld they'd previously served, are quite skeptical of the value of the Earth-made weapons. O'Neill has to convince them that they're worth using by having Carter (wielding a FN[Fabrique Nationale] P-90) do a side-by-side comparison with a Jaffa marksman wielding a staff weapon at the shooting range. The staff weapon blows a flaming chunk out of the target log, while the P-90 saws it in half. O'Neill points out that staff weapons are designed to invoke this trope by being big, flashy, and terrifying, whereas a P-90 is designed to kill things very efficiently.
- Played straight in the seventh season episode Enemy Mine when Daniel gives a lighter to the Unas leader as a thank you gift for not slaughtering the humans. Earlier in the same episode Daniel had given him a chocolate brownie.
- In another episode, a human slaver who sells Unas has captured the team and develops a liking for firearms, as they inflict more pain to the Unas than staff weapons. He kills a slave Unas by emptying the entire clip and then says that the drawback of the weapon appears to be that it overheats quickly (obviously, he doesn't understand the concept of ammunition). After a beat, he produces the clips for the weapon and shows that he has figured out how to reload it.
- In the pilot episode of Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard shows two Athosian kids his nightvision goggles. They immediately ask if they can keep it.
- Subverted a short time later: Sheppard takes out his lighter to light a torch, only to have Teyla take out some sort of infrared laser and light the torch herself. An amused Teyla then comments "We mastered fire a long time ago..."
- Later, the team is introduced to a village of farmers called the Genii. Sheppard offers to trade with them for food. As payment, he offers to give them C4 to quickly get rid of trees to clear more areas for farming. The Genii are interested in C4... as detonators for their nuclear weapons in order to destroy Wraith hive-ships. As it turns out, they have vast underground bunkers with a 50's era society, with the farmers on the surface as a facade.
- Happens several times in Sir Arthur Conan Doyles The Lost World. Though in one episode, Marguerite tries to scare off a man by pulling out her gun, but since he's never seen one before he keeps advancing. She has to actually demonstrate its power to get him to back off.
- On an episode of The West Wing, Michael O'Keefe guest stars as a reporter who has just returned from an extensive amount of time overseas, and considers being a member of the White House Press Corps a step down. At one point, he tells a story about how he used his lighter and PDA to convince a primitive South American tribe that he was a god.
- In the widely hated episode "Beer Bad" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander scares a quartet of arrogant college kids cum cavemen with his lighter. "Fire angry!"
- In an episode of The Adventures of Superman, several people get sent to the time of the cavemen. A mobster quickly gets the cavemen to obey him with his lighter and gun and sets them against the others. Superman puts a stop to it by demonstrating he is more powerful (making a bigger fire with his heat vision, punching through a boulder, etc).
- MacGyver: In "Good Knight, MacGyver", Mac convinces King Arthur's court that he is a powerful wizard by lighting a match.
- In the PS2 game Shadow Of Destiny the main character is transported back to the middle ages and manages to scare away the locals with his lighter.
- Another option the main character is given is to threaten the locals with trapping them inside of his magic box - a cell phone with someone else's picture as the wallpaper.
- Stuck on a backwater planet in Star Ocean: The Second Story, space cadet Claude unthinkingly uses his laser pistol to dispatch a monster threatening a local girl. Worse, it turns out the natives have a prophecy about a "hero from the skies" bearing a "Sword of Light". Eventually the gun's battery runs out, and he's forced to make do with an actual sword.
- In this gem from Nobody Scores!, we are reminded that cell phones are only a tiny node of a larger system.
- This strip from Partially Clips showcases a unique subversion of the concept.
- In Sluggy Freelance, Zoe is launched back in time and is imprisoned because she is thought to be spy. But she is given her "strange club" (shotgun) and saves the stupid king with it "She can call down the thunder to smite tie unrighteous!". Incidentally this plotline starts with a joke referring to evil dead.
- A nude magazine is also used to persuade the very very hard-to-persuade hermit.
- Erfworld is something of a subversion, as it features a strategy game geek who gets summoned into a game world. His knowledge of exploiting game mechanics to great effect might have changed the course of the war were it not for his superior, Lord Stanley.
- Adventures In Aaron's Room parodies the Trope Namer here.◊ Note the filename: comic 4 frame 11. 411.
- EJ Spurrell's Engines of Creation features many scenes in which modern conveniences are introduced to a medieval society.
- Similar to, but earlier than, the Pinky and the Brain example below ... one episode features Darkwing Duck being kidnapped by a primitive tribe of Bigfoots in present-day Washington (OK, the 'Pacific Northwest'). Darkwing and his daughter, once the truth of the situation (it involves volcanoes and people-sacrificing) is explained, try this. Honker tries a flashlight, but finds the effect ruined by the natives' Klieg lights. They try to invoke an eclipse via a rogue airship from earlier. The natives say they can't see the eclipse since the airship's in the way. In the end, they get away in their airplane... since the natives' own business jet suffers a breakdown on the runway.
- Johnny Bravo: In "Good Knight Johnny", Johnny wanders into a renaissance fair and believing he has traveled back in time attempts to impress the locals with future technology by scribbling on a piece of paper with a ball-point pen chanting "Worship Me!, Worship Me!" Needless to say no one is impressed.
- Spoofed in an episode of Pinky and the Brain. Brain tries to claim an island for his own by impressing the natives with a lighter ("I can make fire from a tiny box") and a mirror ("I can steal your soul, and put it in this piece of glass"). The fairly savvy natives are unimpressed ("So what?" "Big deal." "Let's eat 'em"). Pinky, on the other hand, could make bubbles with his spit, and the natives are impressed.
- Subverted on The Venture Bros., with this exchange:
Dr. Venture (holding a flashlight and sitting on Brock's shoulders): Bow before me, you ignorant savages! I am your mighty four-armed god, and I make light from one of my slightly smaller hands!
Ignorant Savage: That's just a flashlight. Get 'em!
- Dave the Barbarian: In "Ned Frischman: Man of Tomorrow" the nerdy Ned travels back in time to impress natives with the power of a garage door opener. However, since there are no garage doors to open it doesn't produce the effect he desired. Played straight later on when Ned brings back video games which everyone soon becomes addicted to.
- He also invents the sitcom. Though it is eventually made obsolete when the heroes invent reality programming.
- In a time-traveling episode of Transformers G1, Starscream brews up some gunpowder to intimidate and conquer a medieval region when the robots run out of energy for their blasters. Played with in that a local alchemist who sides with the Autobots already knows how to make gunpowder, he just thinks of it as "dragon's bane".
- The Looney Tunes Show: In "Peel of Fortune", Daffy attempts to impress a group of cavemen with the miracle of toilet paper. It doesn't work.
- With wars often involving previously unexplored jungles, this trope gets invoked quite often. Natives have been discovered worshipping weaponry, babbling into discarded radios and even making runways in the hopes of summoning the powers the Americans displayed to them.
- Aztec and Inca accounts of the Conquest describe the Spaniards as capable of summoning thunder.
- Not to mention those strange creatures they were riding, and the nigh-impenetrable (for their weapons) armor they wore.