Misused: Freak Out

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1 KarjamP3rd Jun 2014 10:39:21 AM from South Africa , Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
The imaginative Christian Asperger
I started a YKTTW discussion about mental breakdowns in general. Someone pointed to me that we already have it, and it's called "Freak Out!".

I initially believed him and discarded the thread, among a few other things, but then I've read the description carefully:

It's actually about a sudden, usually permanent personality change resulting from certain circumstances that could cause breakdowns.

Looking at some of the examples, I see he's not the only one who confused that trope for a more normal "breakdown" - there's a lot of misuse alongside a lot of genuine examples.

Obligatory examples check:

  • Sasuke in Naruto has a massive one after finding out that Itachi killed their parents among many others, as well as when he gets put under Mind Rape. Arguably experienced a very controlled version when Madara revealed the cause of the Uchiha massacre, leading to Sasuke's new life goal.
    • Gaara suffered this twice in his life. The first time was when Yashamaru crushed all of Gaara's hopes and tried to kill him resulting in the homicidal maniac we all have vivid nightmares about. The second was when he saw his own blood after Sasuke injured him.
    • Naruto had one when he thought Sasuke had been killed by Haku, and an even worse one when he saw Pain, the man who had murdered his beloved mentor and blown up his village, stab Hinata with a giant spike just after she confessed her feelings. The Freak Out was of such proportions that it allowed him to skip immediately to the six-tail form and left his will to continue so battered he nearly knowingly released the Kyuubi.
      • And before that, he'd gone into his four-tailed form when Orochimaru goaded him to breaking point.
  • Outlaw Star: Being shot in the shoulder by Gene, sends Harry over the edge, well even more so than before. Also, anything involving Melfina has this effect on him as well.
  • Nina in Code Geass puts the "psycho" back in Psycho Lesbian after the "Euphinator" incident late in the first season. When she sees how many people her FLEIJA warhead killed in R2, she makes a similar but slightly less appalling face.
    • Then there's Suzaku after Euphemia's death and Lelouch when he kills his father the first time.
  • Keiichi from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has a truly epic one in Tatarigoroshi-hen. He spends the majority of the arc having one of the most surreal experiences this side of David Lynch. When he finds out that he never killed Satoko's uncle, and he's been having paranoid delusions, he goes batshit crazy and tears up Satoko's house with a hatchet looking for him.
  • Paranoia Agent:
    • Although we don't see it onscreen, Maniwa presumably has one of these after being fired, as the next time we see him he's gone from a reasonably open-minded good cop archetype to a delusional homeless person who believes he is a Super Hero.
  • Smoothly and successfully executed in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX in the case of Kaiser Ryo's transformation to "Hell Kaiser."
  • Kai's first Face–Heel Turn in Beyblade was the result of a Freak Out.
  • A few Face Heel Turns in later episodes of Mai-HiME came about via Freak Outs. Getting stabbed in the eye or being rejected by a potential suitor can do that to a person.
Skipping rest of Animé section, as there's too many:
  • Rorschach from Watchmen, despite coming from an absuive background, seemed to have a good head on his shoulders until he investigated the disappearance of a girl who turned out to have been murdered and cannibalized by her attacker. He then went Rambo-like insane and never went back.
    • Notice that in flashbacks set before his Freak Out, Rorschach has a normal speech bubble. After the Freak Out, his speech bubble is more scrawly. That's how cuckoo he has become.
  • The Joker is a firm believer in this trope, once saying that all it takes to separate the sane from maniacs such as himself is "one bad day." The Killing Joke storyline features him trying to give Commissioner Gordon his Bad Day
  • Franchise/Batman:
    • Virtually every member of his rogues gallery can have their defining transformation into villainy traced back to a single traumatizing event. Acid in the face, mutations, murdered parents, rescued parents, murdered spouse, etc.
  • When Green Lantern Hal Jordan suddenly lost his marbles and became the universe-destroying maniac Parallax in the 1990's, after his home city was destroyed by a supervillain. Years later, it was later retconned that Hal was merely possessed by a giant yellow ancient embodiment-of-fear bug monster, and not evil after all. Um, sure, okay.
  • Hank Pym, of The Avengers, had a period where he thought he was someone else, and apparently went full on mad scientist, to the point of setting killer robots on a major city just so he could destroy them to look good. He eventually recovered, and how much this gets played up depends on the writer. Some have him as having become fairly well adjusted, others have him just a medication bottle away from another psychotic episode. And then there's Secret Invasion.
  • Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker's turn. Yeah, there was the thing with the Tusken Raiders, and his obsession with saving Padme Amidala but the actual turn happens when Mace Windu tries to execute Emperor Palpatine. After Anakin chops off his arm, Windu gets blown out the window by Palpatine's lightning. This is apparently Anakin's Despair Event Horizon, as he's completely a different person, from Good Is Not Nice, to a mass-murderer, even when it comes to children. Justified in two ways: he knew that once he turned on Mace Windu, he had gone too far and would never be accepted back into the Jedi Order. At that point, allying himself to Palpatine was the only thing he felt he could do and it's firmly established in Star Wars canon that Evil Feels Good and it also corrupts your mind. Once you allow just a taste of the The Dark Side, you start Jumping Off the Slippery Slope like it was going out of style.
  • Mousy secretary Selina Kyle from Batman Returns, after almost being killed by her boss Max Shreck for knowing too much about a power plant that will ultimately hurt Gotham City, is in a very bad way. After being revived by her cat Miss Kitty and all of her feline friends, Selina returns to her apartment, repeating the words she said the last time she was there in a Creepy Monotone, and just manages to hold herself together until an ad on her answering machine that mentions "a candlelight staff meeting for two" with her boss proves to be the final straw that pushes Selina over the edge and drives her to trash her apartment and become the dark and dangerous Catwoman.
  • The Descent. A year after being in a car crash that killed her husband and daughter [which itself caused a Freak Out] Sarah goes on a caving trip with her friends. Then they get trapped down there. Then monsters arrive. Then she ends up alone and hiding about two feet from a group of monsters eating one of the other girls. Her long due full blown Freak Out occurs when she grants her best friend's I Cannot Self-Terminate request, and she becomes a killing machine unable to feel emotions except for hate and bloodlust. By the end, she's so crazy that she murders one of her other friends, then hallucinates that either her daughter or her murdered friend is right beside her, depending which version of the ending you're watching. Interestingly, Juno waffles back and forth on this trope. Alone, she starts down the same path as Sarah on the bloodlusty killing machine bit, but this stops once she finds two of the other girls. They die - bloodlusty killing machine time. Sarah meets up with her, and for a minute Juno is normal again, but Sarah herself being a bloodlusty killing machine causes Juno to follow suit again before being murdered herself. But not the mention of the Freak Out! caused by the car accident.
  • Harvey Dent suffers one of these after losing half his face in every version, but it's especially pronounced in The Dark Knight, where he spends two thirds of the film as the "White Knight" before losing half of his face to a bomb planted by the Joker and it's hinted that he sustained brain damage in the accident. The Breaking Speech afterwards exagerated it since he had lost his girlfriend Rachel in the same Sadistic Choice that led to his own scarring...
  • In Thor, Loki has an unstated but quite evident one after learning that he is a Jotun. He then goes from mean-spirited trickery to ruin his brother's reputation to trying to kill him in order to protect a self-loathing rife genocidal scheme against using all of Jotunheim destroy Jotunheim.
  • Ralphie from A Christmas Story. He had a bad enough day after failing to win over his teacher with his Red Rider BB Gun essay, but then he had his glasses busted by Scut Farkus. Rather than run away, as he did many times before, Ralphie snaps and starts beating the snot out of Farkus.
  • The title character of Carrie has a similar freak out to Ralphie, but the results are far more destructive: rather than simply beat the snot out of the bullies who poured pigs blood on her in front of the class, she burns the school down with everyone locked inside. This wasn't the first time she was bullied, but it was this moment that finally sent her over the edge.

  • ''Naruto:
    • Poor, poor Obito. Survived from being crushed with boulder, he ends up watching Rin die in Kakashi's arms. Both of them are his best friends. No wonder he snapped... and that's how Madara/Tobi was born.
  • School Days: Sekai, after Kotonoha and Makoto make out in front of her, and Kotonoha after she is raped by Makoto's best friend and then dumped by Makoto.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni:
    • Except he really did kill Satoko's uncle. He only believes that he's still alive because Satoko told him that he was, not realizing that Satoko is approaching a mental breakdown of her own. The one who has a true Freak Out is Satoko herself, when she thinks Keiichi killed Rika. She ends up pushing him off a bridge. Other than confusing mental breakdowns for what this trope's supposed to be about, it seems to be this trope, but I don't know whenever she becomes psychopathic over this or something just by this scene alone.
  • This trope was perfected by the anime Paranoia Agent, where the entire theme of the show was about nervous breakdowns. Whenever the show had a Freak Out, it would get deep inside the head of the victim, and about half the episodes ended with The Reveal that the victim had badly misunderstood the traumatic event. Don't know the specific nature of the freak outs to know better.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. Shinji from episode 19 to the end of the series, The Movie included. Also Asuka in episode 22 and after her Mind Rape, Ritsuko, Misato, and everyone else.
Skipping rest of Animé:
  • Batman is the poster comic of Freak Outs, with most Rogues' minds breaking at some point, creating the other selves which drive Batman's duality theme close to home.
  • Scarlet Witch. And when she snapped, the entire Marvelverse suffered. I don't know the nature of her "snapping" to determine whenever it's really an example or not.
  • In Bitter Leaves and Blossoms Bright, Isra has a delayed and subtle one after her first (and very messy) kill. When Altair tells her It Gets Easier she holds on to him shaking and as it sinks in.
  • Harry Osborn, Norman Osborn, Eddie Brock, and Doc Ock have this happen in the Spider-Man movies. As well as Peter after he finds his uncle dead on the ground, and anytime a villain kidnaps Mary Jane and threatens to kill her.
  • Lon Chaney Sr. has a truly impressive one in the film The Unknown (1927). He plays Alonzo, a criminal fugitive who's hidden out at a circus disguised as an armless knife-thrower (he has his arms, but also a distinctive and identifiable hand deformity); Nanon (Crawford), the circus owner's daughter, has a distaste for being touched by men due to some past trauma and becomes friendly with him. As his love for her grows, he takes the next step and has both his arms amputated— just in time for her to get over it thanks to the circus' handsome strong man... (Probably also qualifies as a Villainous Breakdown, given how quickly things get worse.)
  • The infamous 'He's gonna pop' scene in The Matrix.
  • In the Dexter series of novels, it is revealed that Dexter and his brother had their freak out early on, when they saw their mom killed with a chainsaw and were hiding partially submerged in blood for hours. Clearly this was a defining event for both of their lives. I don't know if this is what made Dexter a sociopath, so...

Sort of
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
    • As this is a series known almost famously for its levels of Break the Cutie, several of the main characters go through one of these at least once, in at least one arc. Keiichi, then Shion, then Satoko and Keiichi, then Rena in the Atonement Arc, mirroring Keiichi's first, it gets to the point where we learn that even Takano Miyo, the cause of Rika's repeated deaths, actually had one or more of these as a child, preluding the entire series and showing the reason for her villainous tendencies. It explains Takno Miyo's personality change, but not the others.

  • Black Cat: Creed. Any time that Train is involved or even mentioned, or if someone gets in the way. If he goes through it multiple times, then his personality must be seriously messed up.
  • Death Note: Light Yagami towards the end of the anime, as well as after L's funeral (where he crawls on top of L's grave and screams at it), and after talking to L for the first time and learning his name. More a case of a combination of both With Great Power Comes Great Insanity and Villainous Breakdown.
    • Also in the Grand Finale, Teru Mikami freaks out when he sees his god, Light, get arrested by Near, and starts makes crazy faces that outcrazy Nina's face above. In the anime, he even stabs himself in the heart with his pen and spews a fountain of blood until he dies. Seems more to be a lapse into insanity to me and not a personality change. IE, a breakdown.
    • Touta Matsuda also has one when he sees Light trying to write Near's name in a hidden death note and shoots his hand, goes into a rage and shoots him some more, and tries to deliver the killing blow but he is stopped. To a person who hadn't read Death Note, he seems to be going into a Villainous Breakdown, not change personality.
  • Eureka Seven: While brutally mutilating an enemy LFO in Episode 20, Renton hallucinates a blob that reflects his own face. If this subsequent scream doesn't count as losing one's sanity, nothing will. It says "losing one's sanity". That sounds like a normal breakdown to me.
  • Kish from Tokyo Mew Mew gets this way when Ichigo rejects him, or when someone else threatens to come between him and Ichigo. He sure changes personality a lot.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni:
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • End of Evangelion does this masterfully with Third Impact. Poor Shinji completely loses his sanity. Losing sanity sounds more like a normal breakdown to me.
—->Shinji: (whimpering) I can't take it anymore, I can't take it anymore, I can't take it anymore...
  • Gimmy from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann when Jougan and Balinbou sacrifice themselves to save him and Darry. In the next episode, when Kittan and Yoko are about to engage the Anti-Spirals that are trying to push the Chouginga Dai-Gurren into the depths where it will be crushed by pressure, he's actually on the verge of following Darry's example from the previous episode and breaking down in tears. Sounds more like a Heroic B.S.O.D. to me.
  • Elfen Lied: Happens on numerous occasions to several characters. Most notable are Kouta after witnessing his sister and father being slaughtered in front of him by Lucy; happens again later on after he starts to remember bits and pieces of his traumatic past, and again when he sees Lucy slaughter people in front of him. Lucy during the event where a particularly nasty group of bullies Kick the Dog that she had come to care for and beat it to death, forcing her to watch. Mayu after running away from home because of her stepfather's sexual abuse and her mother's refusal to believe that her own daughter is being raped because she's jealous of her. Mayu gets another in the manga when she's about to get raped by The Unknown Man, which is directly related to the aforementioned abuse. ''First sentence said the words "numerous occasions". If that were true, then their personality would change often. Anyway, you can tell by the rest of the paragraph that they're either breakdowns or Heroic BSODs.
Skipping rest of Animé:
  • The Jokernote 
  • Happens to Nuke from the Squadron Supreme after his parents died from radiation poisoning. Then again, he was probably not too stable to begin with, given that his attempt to solve the problem was asking a teammate to find a cure for cancer... "Not to stable to begin with..."
  • X-23 naturally isn't normally prone to these, but even she has one (or at least, what passes as one for her) when she wakes up in a Weapon X facility after Kitty Pryde and the O5 find her wandering the streets of Miami in an amnesiac state following the events of Avengers Arena and having been tortured by Purifiers after that. She immediately panics and rampages through the place seeking a means of escape, before Teen!Scott manages to calm her with a Cool Down Hug. I think this example's taking the trope title too literally.
  • Spider-Man has had plenty, thanks to his "Parker luck." The most infamous example probably being Gwen Stacy's death. Sounds more like Heroic B.S.O.D. than this trope. Besides, if this trope were to happen often, he'd be unstable already.
  • Happens to Kerrun, the Raleka leader, at the end of her Villainous Breakdown in With Strings Attached. She wasn't too stable to begin with, and the seeds are sown when she first realizes that the four are not on her side, as she'd originally thought. What really sends her over the cliff is when John is seen flying over the warehouse, having lured hundreds of skahs there. She completely cracks, screaming that all the skahs are actually Idris and that the Raleka should kill them all, and John if he reappears. This has the unintended effect of getting all the Raleka guarding the warehouse to focus on the skahs, who after all are mobbing the outside of the warehouse, and not to keep an eye out for John and Ringo, who are lurking about trying to sneak into the warehouse via the roof. Still sounds like she's going through a Villainous Breakdown, albeit of a different kind.
  • Star Wars
    • In the [[Novelization]] Palpatine takes time after Windu's death to guide Anakin in a Sith technique that lets him separate from his emotions and calmly dissect them. Anakin uses it to crush his own fear, which has the bonus effect of turning him into The Sociopath. By the time he snaps out of it he's gone well past the Moral Event Horizon and killed or alienated everything worth turning back for. ''I don't see any sort of breakdowns here.
  • In Batman Begins while in prison, Falcone tries to blackmail Crane into allowing him a part in the upcoming fear toxin project. Crane instead gasses him with the fear toxin, causing him to have a screaming fit. freak outs in a more proper sense of the word (ie, involving "drugs") aren't this trope.
  • Ivan's manic episode in The Brothers Karamazov took its time in developing. You can see him start to go insane from very early on in the book. It becomes obvious to us when he starts to talk to the devil. But he finally has his Freak Out moment at Dmitri's trial, when he confesses that he killed his father through Smerdyakov, who has conveniently committed suicide which would sound ridiculous even to us if we didn't know it was the truth. When the people in the courtroom voice further doubt, Ivan loses it. Spectacularly. A normal breakdown, not this trope.
  • Done in Ender's Game when Ender decided that if the people who run the games won't be fair, then he won't play the game. Just sounds like depression to me.
    • Ender suffers an even worse freak-out at the end of the story when he realizes he's been tricked into committing mass genocide of an entire alien race. Heroic B.S.O.D..
  • In book 8 of The Pendragon Adventure, Bobby hears Twig say that they should go back to Ibara, which confuses him because he was on the territory of Ibara. This leads to him freaking out while asking why Twig said this. Ibara is the name of an island: the planet is Veelox, in the far future, and Bobby just realized how badly he's been played by the Big Bad. Heroic B.S.O.D..
  • Sgt. McCron from The Thin Red Line suffers a nervous breakdown after all his men die in battle. "Nervious breakdown."

Okay, stopped half way through, in the middle of literature, but I think you can see the point where I picked up a lot of misuse.

The trope's too mature for a rename or something, so perhaps we can redefine this trope into a general "freaking out" trope instead of what it currently is, although what'll happen to my YKTTW draft, I don't know, now. (Want to say to steal the name for the draft, but... tongue )

edited 3rd Jun '14 11:30:22 AM by KarjamP

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