Some secret about Character A is mentioned, either by the character himself, or by somebody else. When queried, someone replies "You don't want to know. Just trust me on this." Or words to that effect. Whether we actually find out what it is varies - if we don't, it can turn into a Noodle Incident, and might be set up for one or more un-reveals. The characters who do know will usually try to avoid talking about it. More often than not, this phrase can just end up as Schmuck Bait.
In other cases, we do find out. If played for comedy, the secret will turn out to be relatively innocuous - or at least, not nearly as far-out as what the other characters - and probably the audience - have imagined it might be. If played for drama (as in horror movies) it'll turn out that the secret is, indeed, quite bad, and that the others would, in fact, have been better off not knowing. Either way, this may well end in someone frantically grabbing for the nearest container of Brain Bleach.
A Genre Savvy person can start to ask, and then conclude that no, they're better off not knowing. If curiosity gets the best of them, it will be followed with "I'm afraid to ask, but..."
And sometimes, it's just Too Much Information.
Other stock phrases include "I don't want to know, but at the same time, I really want to know...", "That means you do not want to know, trust me.", and "Don't Ask."
If said by a mentor, it is likely to be an Awful Truth. If they experience enough such events, leads to a character who has Seen It All.
Not to be confused with These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know... even if, in somecases there may be some overlap. However, it can be used to invoke Nothing Is Scarier.
See also Take Our Word for It, I Have My Ways.
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Jeff Foxworthy had a joke once involving his mother. "I don't want to know where you've been, what you've been doing, or who you were doing it with." Flipped on its head when his mom says, "Now where were you?"
Mal: Kaylee, find something for the doc to do. He don't need to be fussin' the whole time we're gone.
Kaylee: He and I can–
Mal: I don't want to know. Some things I really, really don't need to hear, little Kaylee.
Kaylee: I was gonna say 'we can finish up some repairs in the kitchen'. Why, what did you think I was gonna say?
Used for an extended gag in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, when Milo asks Audrey about the backstory of Gaetan 'Mole' Moliere, after having heard the backgrounds of the rest of the cast. She's just opened her mouth when Dr. Sweet delivers the page quote. Seeing as Moliere is a short, creepy French dude obsessed with soil and rock, not to mention an intense aversion to bathtime, he may be right.
In the sequel, Milo say that he thinks Moliere was raised by naked mole rats. Of course, given that it went Direct-to-Video...
In an issue of Disney Adventures, it was stated that he spent most of his childhood exploring in the sewers of Paris.
In Jurassic Park III, when Alan Grant discovers the missing kid has collected a jar of Tyrannosaur urine, the smell of which scares most dinosaurs away. How did he collect it? You don't wanna know.
Stanley: Hey, George, is something wrong? George: Stanley, you don't want to know. Stanley: (Scratches head in confusion) Then why'd I ask?
An exchange in Free Enterprise has an imaginary William Shatner talking with a young version of Robert, one of the main characters, during a fight he got into while wearing a TOS gold uniform. When prompted Young Robert reveals it was he that started the fight.
Young Robert: Well... it was something he said. William Shatner: What'd he say? Young Robert: You really don't want to know. William Shatner: I really do want to know! Young Robert: He said that Han Solo was cooler than Captain Kirk. [beat] William Shatner: Kick the little fucker's ass.
In Shallow Hal, Mauricio tells Hal he was born with a tail.
Hal: "I gotta see this." Mauricio: "Naw, naw, you don't wanna see this." Hal:: "No, I don't wanna, I gotta."
Flass: The bears, they go straight to the dealers. Falcone: And the rabbits go to the man in the narrows. Flass:: What's the difference? Falcone: Ignorance is bliss, my friend. Don't burden yourself with the secrets of scary people.
The Lion King has Simba, when questioned by Timon as to why he is depressed, stating "I'd rather not talk about it." It's technically a subversion as the audience had seen beforehand why he was depressed, as he had been led to think that he was responsible for his father, Mufasa's death.
David Lynch has always refused to ever talk about how they made the baby in Eraserhead because of this trope.
"I could say twelve words, and when I was done, the least you'd do is turn away and leave me alone forever." He could tell that she was speaking the truth, and the fact that she had the power to do this, to send him away, dismayed him. "Then don't say them."
Myn Donos: "I want to make you smile with something other than a wisecrack. I want to know who you really are." Her laugh, sudden and hard, startled him. "Oh, no, you don't."
In Starfighters of Adumar, a later entry in the X-Wing Series, Wedge's young guide falls for him and starts acting strangely.
Wedge: "Any of you understand that? Her mood swing?" Tycho: "I think I'd shoot myself before getting involved in this conversation." Hobbie: "Not one of my languages, Wedge." Wes: "I understood her, boss. But you don't want to know. Trust me on this." (Wedge insists, and Wes ends up giving a very accurate, very logical explanation to the girl's behavior. Then…) Wedge: "Wes, you were right. I did not want to know."
The Outcast of Redwall features a hare nicknamed Jodd. His full name results in this trope, and in the end we only hear part of it. According to the official website's "Ask Brian" feature, it's ""Wilthurio Longbarrow Sackfirth Toxophola Fedlric Fritillary Wilfrand Hurdleframe Longarrow Leawelt Pugnacio Cinnabar Hillwether Jodrellio".
Used in Thud! when Vimes asks about the worst of dwarven signs, the Summoning Dark, and is informs he does not want to know. When he asks again, he's told that no, he really doesn't. He starts to ask again before deciding that in fact that's correct, it's mystical stuff that he doesn't believe in, and drops it.
In Going Postal the ancient messenger golem Anghammarad recounts his motto:
Anghammarad: "Neither Deluge Nor Ice Storm Nor The Black Silence Of The Netherhells Shall Stay These Messengers About Their Sacred Business. Do Not Ask Us About Sabre-Tooth Tigers, Tar Pits, Big Green Things With Teeth Or The Goddess Czol." [...] Moist: "The goddess Czol?" Anghammarad: "Do Not Ask."
Similarly, the modern post office declares that neither sleet nor snow nor gloom of night shall stay these messengers about their business, with it's own "don't arsk us about" list. Mrs. Cake appears twice.
The Lemony Narrator does this to the reader in Thief of Time, when Famine talks about his love of salad cream sandwiches. A footnote advises readers from societies where the traditional condiment for salad is mayonnaise not to even ask.
Subverted and inverted early on in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy 1, when Arthur takes the precaution of asking Ford, "if I were to ask you where the hell we were, would I regret it?" Ford cuts to the chase and tells him where they are. Arthur was probably happier when he didn't know.
Used in a decidedly non-comedic fashion in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, when Shell Shocked Senior Camaris refuses to tell the protagonists about his mysterious past that led to a Heroic BSOD, on the grounds that it's too shameful. He does confess it twice, once to a priest and once to Prince Josua, and both emerge from the experience wishing they hadn't been told. At the end, it's revealed that he's Josua's father, and lived his life afterwards in misery over his weakness and the subsequent Death by Childbirth of the woman in question.
During a Doctor Who short story, a skeleton grabs the Tenth Doctor by the ankle as it claws its way out of the earth. The Doctor, not taking his eyes off Rose, asks if he should look. She shakes her head.
In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, Vortenhus is told that he does not want to know what a glyf - a Chaos tripwire-like thing, the sight of which can drive a man insane - is.
In The Dresden Files novel Death Masks, Dresden finds himself having a conversation with his friend Michael's teenage daughter Molly, after escaping a situation that left him with handcuffs danging from one wrist. During their talk, Molly produces an entire set of handcuff keyes and finds one that matches the cuffs he's wearing. When Harry asks how she got the keys, she tells him to ask himself if he really wants to know the answer to that question. Harry decides he doesn't.
Repeated with the medical pinwheel thing. Apparently they have recreational uses. Molly used to hang out with a weird crowd. Harry decides to not pursue that line of reasoning.
Harry tells a bunch of his friends this about the magical world. Eventually, he gives them the option to learn anyway and stand with him. They each take it.
In an episode of Blackadder the Third, a French torturer tells the soldier guarding Blackadder and Baldrick that he should leave, since what she is going to do will be so horrifying. He states his belief that he can stomach it, to the hag's increasingly frantic protests, until he asks for a description. She whispers to him, and of course he runs off about to vomit.
Also in Blackadder the Third, when Prince George describes what the Naughty Hellfire Club does to people who don't pay their dues:
Prince George: They pull your breeches down and push a large radish right up your— Blackadder: —yes! Yes! Yes! All right!...There's no need to hammer it home. Prince George: As a matter of fact, they do often have to— Blackadder: —No! NO!
On the Raquel Welch episode of The Muppet Show, Marvin Suggs reveals to Kermit that he has to replace his living musical instruments, the Muppaphones, when they go flat (like little pancakes). What happens to them then? Well...
At one point, he actually was the replacement...turns out that singing the Witch Doctor song when you've been told never to tell anyone is a bad idea.
Red Dwarf: Lister opens a secure door and doesn't want Kryten to see how: "Trust me, you don't want to know!". Kryten doesn't look, but of course, being a robot, he correctly guesses the logical answer: Lister used a severed hand from one of the dead crew on the palm print reader.
Kryten: Logically, sir, there is only one way you could possibly have opened that door. I feel quite nauseous. Where is it? Lister: Where's what? Kryten: Oh, sir!! You've got it in your jacket!!
Subverted in Thanks For The Memory. A drunken Rimmer wants to tell Lister how many times he's made love, to which Lister replies: "I don't wanna know! Trust me, You do not want to tell me!"
Rimmer does, of course, and the answer turns out to be embarrassing.
In Backwards, before they leave, Lister tells Rimmer that Cat has gone off into the bushes, then he realizes what this entails, and says, "We've got to stop him!" Cat comes back, hair sticking straight up, walking stiffly, horrified expression on his face, and simply says "Don't ask." (For those who don't recall the episode, they were on an alternate Earth where everything happened in reverse...)
Worf (in Sincerity Mode): "Things that would send cold chills down your spine, and wake you in the middle of the night. No, it is better that you do not know. Excuse me." *shambles away*
In "Sacrifice of Angels", O'Brien and Bashir have been quoting "The Charge of the Light Brigade" in the runup to a battle where they're seriously outnumbered. Garak, eventually, asks how it ends. O'Brien tells him he doesn't want to know...which pretty much answers the question.
Speaking of insectoids, on an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, Captain Archer is in VERY tense negotiations with the Xindi; his linguist Lt. Sato performs simultaneous translation — except at one point, where the insectoid goes on a long chittering rant, and Sato simply says "You don't want to know."
This is the second time she uses the line. In the pilot episode, a Klingon says something to Captain Archer, who takes it as a thank you. When Sato comments that she doesn't think they have a word for thank you, and Archer asks her what the Klingon did say, she responds with the line verbatim.
Used for comic effect in Black Books. Manny says that something bad happens to him at 88 degrees, and Bernard wants to know what, but Manny keeps repeating, "You don't want to know." Bernard at first tells Manny to stop saying that, because he wants to know even more if he's told he doesn't. Then he switches tactics, saying that Manny doesn't know WHY Bernard wants to know. To which Manny replies, "Oh, why's that?" And Bernard has made his point.
When a couple (Bob and June Wheeler, Bob played by Brent Spiner) came into Night Court who were well known for their outlandish bad luck (the squad car they were arrested in got hit by a bolt of lightning) mention that their granny died, Harry, Dan, and Christine give each other looks before Christine bursts out "Oh what the Hell someone has to ask! How did she die?" They reply that she died peacefully while sleeping... on the railroad tracks.
In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, after Leonard's mother and got drunk with Penny and kissed Sheldon, she apologises to Sheldon "about her behaviour" while Leonard is present. Leonard enquires about details, but his mother, Penny and Sheldon all answer that he doesn't want to know.
Northern Exposure — In "The Russian Flu," Dr. Fleischman asks Marilyn what's in a foul-smelling (but effective) Native American flu remedy. Her reply: "You don't wanna know."
Heroes season three demonstrates how not to do this: a character whose power is treated as a "you don't wanna know" situation turns out to be something pretty basic: your typical sonic scream thing, and not even (that we saw) to Black Bolt-esque mega-destructive levels.
Said power was originally intended to be terrakinesis, on par with the Big Bad of volume five, but was cut due to budget restraints at the time.
On the U.S. version of The Office, Dwight issues Jim a demerit for tardiness, then explains his made-up, incredibly convoluted warning system for policing the office that, as Jim points out, logically ends with Dwight submitting a disciplinary review to his immediate superior (Jim himself, the Assistant Regional Manager). Jim responds by demanding the review be on his desk by the end of the day, or Dwight will be issued a "full dissadulation." What is that? "You don't want to know."
In the episode "Mr. Monk and the Miracle", Monk tells Natalie that her getting gravy wouldn't have been necessary as the bums, their guests, make their own gravy. When Natalie asks how they do it, Monk simply responds with "You don't want to know..."
Similarly, in "Mr. Monk Is On The Run: Part 1", after Monk arrives back at Natalie's house with a strange overcoat, he said a homeless person gave it to him in exchange for something else in return. When questioned by Natalie about what that thing was that Monk had to do, Monk can only respond with "I'd rather not talk about it..."
Reese: Eight pounds of lye, heated to 300 degrees. Body will dissolve in three hours, give or take.
Finch: I will refrain from asking how you know that.
On an episode of The Facts Of Life, Blair somehow got a bottle of wine and the girls were planning on when to drink it. Jo decided she'd rather have beer instead. When asked how she'd get it, she just said, "I'll get some beer." Later, when asked how she got it, her reply was, "I got some beer."
In the episode of Friends where Chandler is trying to get the perfect engagement ring for Monica, it winds up getting bought and he's trying to get Phoebe to remember if the guy who picked it up mentioned where he was going. Phoebe mentions the name had something to do with "rainbow", but after some more thinking, it turns out to be some fancy French name that doesn't have anything to do with rainbows. When Chandler says he'd love to know how she managed to something get a rainbow out of that, Phoebe responds "No you wouldn't. You don't want to get in here," as she points to her head.
A comedic example occurs in Last Resort. In "Skeleton Crew" Shepard is forced to leave King behind on an underwater buoy. She is only able to return after he's run out of air, but he was able to stay alive by holding his breath. He reveals that he is still alive by tapping the buoy with Morse Code. He also includes a vulgar message to her, and she is merely told that she doesn't want to know what it means.
Leverage has an interesting version, when it was revealed that Elliot once worked for Damien Moreau. Parker starts to ask him about what he did for Moreau that he is so ashamed of, and he tells her "Don't ask. Because if you do ask, I'm going to tell you. So don't ask."
In one of the Dilbert compilation books, Scott Adams suggests that when calling in sick to work, the best thing to say is, "You don't want to know the details.".
Calvin's mom after he runs inside naked and screaming at a hailstorm; "I'll bet there's an explanation for this, and I'll bet I don't want to hear it."
In a Garfield strip, Garfield looks at the box of the cat food he's eating, and sees that it reads: "Ingredients: You're better off not knowing". He keeps on eating, thinking: "What you don't know can't hurt you, right?"
In another strip, when Jon and Garfield are at Irma's Diner:
Jon: What's the special today? Irma: You don't want to know. Jon: Gimme the special! Garfield: There's a gambler in the house!
Another one involving Irma:
Irma: Here's your egg, hon. Whatever you do, try not to think about where it came from. (Jon looks at it for a minute.) Jon: Have an egg, Garfield. Garfield: Too late, I already thought about it.
In a 2012 Sunday strip, Garfield takes a Snow-Cone container outside when it is snowing. The Snow then fills up in the container, until it reachers snow-cone-like levels, to Garfield's delight. Jon and Liz are watching the entire thing inside, leading to this exchange when Garfield is bringing the cherry syrup bucket:
Liz: Where'd he get the bucket of cherry syrup? Jon: Some things are better left unknown...
FoxTrot had Roger telling Andy this about how doped up she was from her allergy medication upon being asked after going off it.
In Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, Illidan uses this line on Malfurion.
Malfurion: They [Illidan's naga] had best return with good news. The very sight of them makes my stomach turn. Where did you ever find such loathsome creatures? Illidan: Believe me, brother: You don't want to know.
C8-42: "I'm afraid my owner became a bit too attached to me. Obsessed even. She...she tried to treat me as her dead husband. It was not healthy for her." Player: "Er... ALL the time?" C8-42: "You don't want to know..." Player: "Um... probably not..."
Washington: "Will someone please tell me what happened to Georgia?!"
York: "Dude, you don't wanna know." (flies off)
Wash: "I really do, though!"
In the Yu Yu Hakusho Abridged movie, after Yakumo warps everyone's voices into horrible representations of what they're supposed to sound like, Yusuke asks what Kurama sounds like and Kuwabara answers with this trope. Averted anyway since Kurama ends up speaking enough to say: "I HATE all of you."
In Part 15 of A Trickster's Tail, after the two of them have escaped the afterlife and Keith has related his adventure to Kickaha.
Keith: So... what happened to you? Kickaha: You don't want to know. Keith: WHAT? We're probably the only two people on this planet that can have this discussion, and you're telling me that I don't want to know? Kickaha: Look. You don't understand. You were there. You told me. You don't want to know.
Farnsworth: This is no ordinary honey. It's produced by vicious space bees. A single sting of their hideous neuro-toxin can cause instant death! Hermes (happily): And that's if you're not allergic! You don't wanna know what happens then. Oh no, no. God no! Farnsworth: Your insides will boil out of your eye sockets like a science fair volcano! Hermes (sobbing): I didn't want to know!
And you really don't want to know whose behind Slurm comes out of. Same episode, the same is said of where toothpaste comes from.
In Code Lyoko the school gym teacher Jim is very closemouthed about his past. Why he often mentions his previous careers, he usuallys says "I'd rather not talk about it" when pressed about them. This catchphrase was actually the title of an episode where he was the central character. (In that episode, he actually does talk about it.)
In one episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Grim gives Billy a gumball machine that yields a limitless amount of gum, but warns him never to swallow the gum. When asked what will happen if he does, Grim says, "Trust me, you don't wanna know. If I had skin, it would be crawling." Billy eventually ignores this warning, and we find out that swallowing the gun causes a "painful, embarrassing rash from another dimension".
In an earlier episode, Prowl, Bumblebee and Sari go on a camping trip, and the latter two bring all manner of gadgets. Prowl, unimpressed, asks Bee where he found room for all of it in his vehicle mode. "I'd...rather not say".
In an episode of Justice League, having just captured the assassin Deadshot who tried to kill Aquaman, several members of the League threaten him with physical violence, which he shrugs off. Batman then takes him aside and whispers something to him, he practically begs to tell everything he knows. When Wonder Woman asks Superman what was said (Supes, of course, possesses acute hearing) he tells her that she doesn't want to know. Made even better by the expression on his face. According to Kevin Conroy, the actor who played Batman, he said "I know where you live, Floyd".
Also, in the Forced Prize Fight episode "Grudge Match", Hawkgirl's reaction after being snapped out of mind control;
"I don't think I want to know." "We're all in a cage match fighting to the death." "Yeah, see?"
Speaking of Batman... In one Cross Over episode of Static Shock, Batman sends Static into a future time, where he meets both Terry McGinnis (aka Batman Beyond) and the aged Bruce Wayne, along with his future self. At the end of the episode, he returns to his own time and is about to reveal to Batman what his future is like, but Batman interrupts him, saying that he'd "rather not know".
In the Ben 10 episode "Ken 10" Ken rejects adding an alien called 'Toepick' to the Omnitrix, saying "He even grosses me out!". The pop-up edition plays this up by having the pop-up say "You don't want to know".
In Invader Zim'sCrapsack World, people inexplicably hand out meat on Valentine's Day. When Dib asks how this tradition got started, Ms. Bitters (who never had a problem telling the children disturbing truths before) simply replies that he doesn't want to know.
In The Real Ghostbusters, the episode 'Knock, Knock' has Egon look into the room that holds the door to Doomsday. When asks what he sees, he replies 'you don't want to know' in his usual calm, dull tone of voice.
In The Penguins of Madagascar there is a long running gag involving Skipper with this called the "Copenhagen/Denmark incident". It´s seems he is unable to set foot in Denmark for unknown circumstances after being declared that country´s Public Enemy Number One. When Private asked "What happened at Denmark?" (and any other character, even if they made the slightly commentary about this) he only gets the "You don´t wanna know/ask about that Private!!!" from Skipper. Partially reverted as the show goes on, with one episode explaining Hans the puffin to had framed him, and some details about the incident involving explosions and a high-speed chase, and another revealing it has something to do with open faced sandwiches (yeah...just don´t ask...)
In one Droopy cartoon that's a take-off of "The Three Little Pigs", Droopy is watching television with his two brothers in one scene; Zeke Wolf tries to grab them with a vacuum cleaner, only to grab the televison instead (and end up with it lodged in his stomach). Two scenes later, Droopy and his brothers are watching television again, and Droopy looks at the camera and says, "Now don't ask how we got the TV back..."
Kim Possible, in a scene involving a "gravy ghost" spelling words in the high-school cafeteria gravy;
Wade: I don't know what to tell you Kim. After watching the cafeteria security tape, I can't explain what happened either. Kim: Did you analyze the gravy sample? Wade: Yup. Monique: And? Wade: You don't want to know. [beat] Not till after graduation. [beat] From college. Monique: I say we trust him on the gravy.
Mr. Barkin: And don't let them tell you that they're supposed to have class outside! We put a stop to that after the jellyfish episode. Miss Go: Oh, that's so sweet! You took the class to the beach! Mr. Barkin: No beach. Just jellyfish... [shudders] Don't ask.
In the Strawberry Shortcake Berryfest Princess Movie, Blueberry Muffin walks in on Strawberry Shortcake doing a bunnyhop and sorting mixed nuts with Plum Pudding at Orange Blossom's general store and comments, "Do I wanna know?" A little while later, after reading a map has been added to Strawberry's tasks, Orange returns, also commenting, "Do I wanna know?" "That's what I said," Blueberry tells her.
In "Boast Busters", it turns out that the three story tallcelestial bear that attacked Ponyville at the climax was not an Ursa Major, but an Ursa Minor — a baby. When asked what a full-grown Ursa Major is like, Twilight gives this response, while the audience is shown a mildly hideous-looking star-bear big enough to be holding the Ursa Minor in its arms like a baby.
In The Simpsons episode "I Love Lisa," Ralph Wiggum has tickets to Krusty's anniversary show, and he invites Lisa. Bart really wants to go, and he suggests disguising himself as Lisa.
Lisa: But what if he wants to hold hands? Bart: I'm prepared to make that sacrifice. Lisa: What if he wants to kiss? Bart: I'm prepared to make that sacrifice. Lisa: What if he wants to— Bart: You don't want to know how far I'll go.
A Simpsons TV Episode guide also used this phrase on the subject of how Kang and Kodos could tell each other's genders.
Another episode had Bart rubbing his ear industriously and acting sick so that when Marge took his temperature (through his ear) it would come out to 103 F and he could stay home. She says the only way to be sure was to use the rectal thermometer. It still came out to 103. When Lisa asked, Bart says she doesn't want to know.
In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe episode, "The Origin of The Sorceress": Teela-na, the future Sorceress, gets this line from a young town who had been watching the villain of the day and a alien race argue over things.