That isn't the only definition, though. It also (and I believe first) referred to last words that were so inspirational or significant that they became famous, or simply the last words of someone who was already famous. In the colloquial sense you're talking about, the character speaking them doesn't even have to die for their remark to be dubbed famous last words; it just has to tempt fate. Which is already another trope.
Sing a song of sickness
A socketful of eyes
A socketful of eyes
Maybe there could be a trope about last words the character says while they know they are dying and the other one where the last words are recurring and/or inspirational to the others. If anything, the Oh Crap! examples need to be removed. The "line, name in spoiler tags" format that examples have also make the trope prone to zero context examples. Slightly unrelated, but Any Last Words? sounds like it would be a stock phrase. I'm surprised we don't have it.
Something else I think needs considering; there seem to be a lot of immortal / Back from the Dead characters who have multiple last words listed. I'm not sure how strict / pedantic we're intending to be with this trope, but frankly, having multiple Famous Last Words for one character makes a bit of a mockery of the whole thing, since if a character is immortal or comes back to life then their 'last words' before dying by definition cease to be their last words once they come back to life.
If a character says important dying words and they come back, it's still important t the time.
A fair point, but see the above points raised concerning the large percentage of, frankly, utterly unimportant last words that clutter up these pages as well. Add that to a character who is immortal or keeps returning to life then dying again, and the whole concept just becomes a meaningless joke. Take, for example, Captain Jack Harkness in the "Whoniverse" page. He has multiple examples listed per episode in several cases. Now, I haven't watched every episode of Torchwood or Doctor Who that he's appeared in, but frankly I find it hard to believe that all of these examples count as meaningful, significant last words for the purpose of this trope. It makes the trope essentially meaningless, because the audience knows he's going to die and come back to life; most of those 'last words' have no significance or importance at all. At the very least, I think it needs to be a lot more clearly-defined and strictly applied concerning what actually constitutes an important set of last words for the purposes of this trope. Is it the last words a character ever says in the show before they die, conclusively never to return? The last words they say before any death? The last words they say before death, no matter how important, so long as they're thematically significant or important in some way?
edited 29th Aug '13 8:18:23 AM by DoctorNemesis
I think if a character is expected to stay dead, it should count, even if they wind up coming back. Captain Jack explicitly always comes back, so that would be pretty bad. Here's another one: Marvel Cinematic Universe. Every single death gets a "famous" last words, covering the full range from "inspirational dying quote," "incidental words that were the last thing they said on screen," and "random exclamation." Plus there's an entry for an AI that simply went offline for a bit, with no implication that it was "dead" so that's fun misuse.
Most of the misuse I noticed in my experience is in regards of characters who are revived, or simply don't really die despite initial beliefs of otherwise. Those really have to go.
There are two ways to live without thinking: Believing in everything you're told, and not believing in anything at all. Both are bad.
Then we'd have to cut "Fly, you fools." That would be a real shame. I think that counts, even if Gandalf does come back.
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I still think it would count if they (and the audience) didn't expect to come back. That said, I'm not sure if that would be the case for Gandalf. My bigger question is whether they have to know that they know their end is coming or not. The definition is... well, nothing is "clear" about it, but it definitely indicates that they know they're dying and are giving a last message. That'll determine a lot of misuse for me.
Let's just say Gandalf does die there... Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf the White could be considered a separate character (despite not really being one).
Also, does this trope count for one-shot guest characters? And I don't mean significant one-offs, but just the random characters who happen to die. Again using the Whoniverse page as an example, there are several entries that belong to characters I don't even remember; this tends to also overlap with the above discussion about insignificant/meaningless last words.
I probably wouldn't count background characters, no, unless they went memetic in some fashion.
edited 23rd Sep '13 10:06:30 AM by ShadowHog
Okay, so here's what we've got up for debate:
- The Name (phrase is most often used for Tempting Fate, and these words are not usually "famous")
- Do they need to know they're going to die or not?
- Do the words have to have significance? If so, what's the threshold for that? Alternatively, could they simply be memetic last words that the fandom remembers even if they're not significant in of themselves?
- Does it matter if the character comes back?
Bump. I still have no idea what to do with this.
Could we just... not have Death anymore?
- must become memes from fandom or In-Universe
- they can come back
Fair warning: I do reference spoilers semi-vaguely in this post as examples. 1. I think the name might be okay if we can clarify the guidelines for it. 2. Doesn't matter if the character knows they're going to die. I think what's at the center of this trope is the words themselves, not the awareness of the character. 3. In my opinion, this one is the crux of this trope. I think the threshold of significance ought be that they are either 1) significant callbacks or foreshadowing (ie in Doctor Who, the Face of Boe's "You are not alone"); 2) particularly emotional or memorable as determined by prevalence in the fandom (ie Angel "Please, Wesley, why can't I stay?"), or 3) remembered despite being mundane (ie Buffy "Your shirt-"). The problem, I think, has been that people are adding whatever the last words are for every single character and every single last line, even when it's a background character or a throwaway line. 4. Doesn't matter if the character comes back, as long as they think they're going to die (Capt. Jack again) or faking their death so others will believe it's their last words (ie Sherlock). Anyone agree, disagree?
Is it remembered In-Universe or by the audience? If the latter, it would be YMMV and just as easily clutter the trope again.
Like I've said a couple of times, I'm not sure we realistically can quantify "famous". Anything Any Character Said Before Dying is not much of a trope, but I honestly don't see any objectively-enforceable way of putting limits on it.
Maybe all that is needed is for the characters to remember it. It would show in ways like someone repeating it.
Or if it has some emotional or plot significance to the characters? I'd hate to limit it to lines that are later repeated, since that's a little narrower than this trope (at least how I interpret it). Earlier in the discussion, someone suggested Significant Last Words, if that might help filter out the pointless lines?
edited 15th Oct '13 6:50:48 PM by bwayrose7
Yeah, like that. It doesn't have to be repeating. Just any way that would show the characters remember them.
Exactly! Because something like "Thank you" for example is innocuous on its own but could count for this trope if it matters to a character. So how shall we go about rewording the description, if that's the direction we're trying?