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Armor-Piercing Response

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Sure wasn't expecting a blunt answer like that.

Fix-It Felix: You don't know what it's like to be rejected and treated like a criminal!
Wreck-It Ralph: Yes, I do. That's every day of my life.
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Someone is frustrated and makes a hard statement, or asks a question that, if not rhetorical, is not meant to have an obvious answer to it. It might even be intended as an Armor-Piercing Question. But somehow, the other person responds with an answer that is poignant and usually succinct. Such an answer will often invoke the sort of Stunned Silence the original question was intended to cause, just in the one who asked the question.

The response causes the questioner to drop their guard, not ready to face the reality of what was said. When there are other characters in the scene, expect them to be surprised as well.

Tends to also be a Wham Line. In some cases, the question and answer are brought up by the same person, as a one-two punch. In other cases, the repsonse may itself be phrased as a question, leading to an overlap with Armor-Piercing Question. May sometimes lead to a "Eureka!" Moment. Can be used alongside Blunt "Yes", Rhetorical Question Blunder, Brutal Honesty, Little "No", Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, and You Are Not Ready.

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Compare Wisdom from the Gutter for when it's the responder who's shocking (because they aren't considered a wise figure) rather than the response.


Examples:

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  • An old U.S. anti-drug PSA has a boy who is confronted by his father after his mother finds drug paraphernalia in his closet. His father asks him "Who taught you how to do this stuff?" and the kid replies "You, all right?! I learned it by watching you!" The father is stunned by this knowledge. Watch it here.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Black and White: In "Bent Twigs", an emotionally-abusive father, in the middle of a rant about all the things his son does that in his mind justify his behavior, asks rhetorically why his son spends so much time up on the roof of the apartment building in the snow instead of inside where it's warm and dry and he's got homework to do. He's stunned speechless by his son's reply: "It's you, Daddy. I'm hiding from you."
  • In the first arc of Gail Simone's Birds of Prey, Savant regards how he once tried to become a costumed vigilante and spent several weeks tracking down a group of arsonists. After finally catching them as they were escaping from one of their targets, he's confronted by Batman, who tells him to drop out of the game. When Savant attempted to take the high and mighty road saying he's the one who caught the criminals and asked Batman what kept him busy from arresting them instead, Batman stuns him by telling him that he was safely evacuating everyone from the burning building the arsonists torched. Unfortunately, this also led to Savant's self-realization about his own Lack of Empathy and subsequent decision he worked better as a criminal.
  • In Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood, Huntress, a.k.a. Helena Bertinelli, sneaks into the home of Don Santo Cassamento and confronts him at crossbow-point with a photograph of him in flagrante delicto with her mother. She demands to know what they were doing together. His reply devastates her:
    Huntress: Sit down, Don Cassamento. You raise an alarm, I'll kill you. Look at the photograph, please. Take a good look... and then tell me what you and Maria Bertinelli were doing in that hotel room together.
    Santo Cassamento: F.B.I. took this?
    Huntress: Answer the question.
    Santo Cassamento: Must've been the feds. Franco would've killed me if he'd known about it.
    Huntress: I said, answer—
    Santo Cassamento: Isn't it obvious? Your mother and I were conceiving you, Helena Rosa. Now put that crossbow down before you accidentally murder your father.
  • Invincible: Mark hits his father with one of these when the latter is trying to get him to see his side of things (by way of No-Holds-Barred Beatdown).
    Omni-Man: Think, Mark! Think!! The older we get, the slower we age! We will outlast every fragile being on the planet. You will live to see the end of this civilization! Everything and everyone you know will be gone! WHAT WILL YOU HAVE AFTER FIVE HUNDRED YEARS?!
    Mark: You, dad. I'd still have you.
  • In Eternals (2021), Thanos holds Thena’s lover Tolau hostage. When she comes to confront him, he mocks this "weakness". He doesn’t like her response much, though.
    Thena: Your love brought you to nearly destroy the universe, Thanos. You of all people should know that love is power.
  • At the climax of Joker, the titular character is engaged in the usual brawl with Batman. During this, he engages in a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and attempts to deconstruct Batman dressing up like a monster and inspiring fear. After going on about that, Joker asks why Batman leaves his chin uncovered, allowing a glimpse at the man beneath the suit and thus showing that despite the appearance, Batman isn't a monster. Batman responds, "To mock you." Joker immediately flips out. The response is made more powerful because this is Batman's only line in the whole story.
  • In Kingdom Come, Superman desperately tries to comprehend what happened to the world and to people's attitudes during his temporary retirement, until Batman breaks it down to him in the most blunt, Batman-like manner: "You quit." Superman is visibly shocked and disoriented by this answer for a while.
  • In Lex Luthor: Man of Steel (by the same writer and artist as Joker), something similar happens with Lex Luthor. After a typically complex scheme to undermine Superman and sow the seeds of distrust in the public towards him, Lex confronts Superman with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how Superman is too far removed from humanity to see the truth about what they're really like, and how for all his powers and abilities, he can't see into Luthor's soul and so will never understand him or what it is to be human. Unfortunately for Lex, he's not prepared for Superman to come back with just seven words that not only completely undermine his whole speech, but his confidence in his whole philosophy (and just like above this is the only line Superman has in the story):
    Superman: You're wrong. I can see your soul.
  • Marvel: NOW What?!: During Intervention, The Watcher gets help for his crippling addiction to breaking his race's Alien Non-Interference Clause. The other watchers spend the entire story making sure Uatu goes through with the intervention, and by the end, he is considered cured. But then Uatu, with a knowing grin on his face, thanks his brothers for interfering. Here We Go Again!
  • In The Sandman Death calls her brother Dream out on his treatment of his former lover Nada, simply because she rejected him (after their love affair had already destroyed her kingdom, mind you!). When Dream mutters sullenly that he would have made her a goddess, Death shoots back, "Maybe she didn't want to be a goddess, little brother. Did you ever consider that? Anyway, condemning her to an eternity in Hell, just because she turned you down...that's a really shitty thing to do." Her words wake Dream up to his being in the wrong here, so he decides to go to Hell to free Nada, which in turn sets so much in motion throughout the rest of the story...
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW), Shadow heatedly asks Sonic why he'd be willing to give the seemingly amnesiac Eggman a second chance, arguing that he could go back to trying to take over the world at any time and mentions the things he's done during the war. Sonic counters by bringing up all the things Shadow did before his Heel–Face Turn, pointing out that if he could be redeemed, the same can be said for Eggman. This gets Shadow to calm down.
  • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye: When Megatron freaks out and demands to be sent back in time to stop Brainstorm from erasing him from existence, Perceptor tells him Rodimus' team is already on it. When Megatron starts listing Rodders' many flaws and questioning why he should put his faith in him, Ultra Magnus retaliates with:
    Magnus: You were happy to leave this to Rodimus when you thought it was Prime's life on the line.
    Megatron: What? Don't be clever. It makes you look stupid. God, now I'm starting to sound like him.
  • Watchmen
    • At the climax of the story, Nite-Owl and Rorschach confront Ozymandias and ask him when he was planning on implementing his deranged plan to kill millions in New York City. Ozymandias calmly tells them that he already did it when he saw them approaching his base.
      Adrian Veidt: I'm not a Republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago.
    • Later, Ozymandias gets this from Dr. Manhattan; when he asks the doc if he did the right thing and all worked out in the end, Manhattan's answer leaves him visibly shaken.
      Doctor Manhattan: "In the end"? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.
    • Similar to the Kingdom Come example, when Dan and Rorschach are reminiscing about their time as crime-fighting partners:
      Dan: Those were great times, Rorschach. Great times. Whatever happened to them?
      Rorschach: You quit.
    • Also at the beginning of the book, Edward Blake, known as The Comedian delivers a rather long-winded one to Dr. Manhattan. For context, The Comedian had callously dismissed a Vietnamese woman he'd gotten pregnant, resulting in her slashing his face with a bottle and him shooting her dead in retaliation. The Comedian then notices how Dr. Manhattan, who did nothing besides weakly protest against the murder, is sliding away from his own humanity:
      Blake: Yeah. Yeah, that's right. Pregnant woman. Gunned her down. Bang. And y'know what? You watched me. You coulda changed the gun into steam or the bullets into mercury or the bottle into snowflakes! You coulda teleported either of us to goddam Australia... but you didn't lift a finger. You really don't give a damn about human beings. I've watched you. You never cared about whatsername, Janey Slater even before you ditched her. Soon you won't be interested in Sally Jupiter's little gal, either. You're driftin' outta touch, Doc. You're turning into a flake. God help us all.
  • In one X-Men story, the Avengers arrive in Australia to arrest Cyclops, whose advocacy for mutant rights is rapidly increasing, for the supposed murder of Charles Xavier. Cyclops delivers a furious speech about the way mutants are treated, saying that he is no longer going to stand by as the police harass them (especially when their powers first emerge) and other heroes fail to help. When the Avengers make excuses and question Cyclops's methods, Eva Bell, a teenager and newly-awakened mutant, speaks up:
    Eva Bell: My name is Eva Bell. This is my house. I'm—yeah, I'm a mutant. He's—Cyclops is telling the truth. The minute I got my powers, the police...they tried to arrest me at gunpoint.
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    Comic Strips 
  • In The Boondocks, after Huey's efforts at social justice report go nowhere, leaving him depressed, his grandfather gives one to him. Huey's still upset but has to admit that his grandfather has a point.
    Huey: I got a right to be hostile, man! My people's been persecuted!
    Grandpa: (walking by) And I suppose you'll find justice in making yourself miserable.
    [Beat Panel]
    Huey: (sullenly thinking) I hate wisdom.
  • In Dykes to Watch Out For #452, Conservative lesbian student Cynthia relates her problems with her homophobic parents to her professor, Ginger. Ginger tries to end this conversation by saying "Oh. Jeez. Well, uh ... maybe you should talk to someone." Cynthia's response is, "I thought I was."

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turner Features' Cats Don't Dance, after the fiasco on the set of "Li'l Ark Angel," Sawyer pointedly asks Danny, "Why do you insist on making a fool of yourself?" This is followed by a look expectant of an answer. Danny gives one: "I just want to do the thing I love. Doesn't everyone?" This response takes the wind out of Sawyer's scolding, reminding her of why she herself came to Hollywood.
  • In Frozen, Elsa's refusal to bless Anna and Hans' marriage leads to this exchange, in which Anna lets out her frustration over Elsa shutting her out for years without explanation:
    Elsa: Anna, what do you know about true love?
    Anna: More than you! All you know is how to shut people out!
    [Elsa is visibly shocked]
    • The exchange ends when after Anna asks an Armor-Piercing Question, "What are you so afraid of?", Elsa snaps and shoots ice spikes at her, revealing the secret ice powers she had been trying to hide and control.
  • In Hercules, after Hades tricks Hercules into giving up his Super Strength for 24 hours, Meg and Pegasus track down Phil, who’s still mad at Herc for lashing out at him earlier, to try to talk sense into him. What finally snaps Phil out of his anger is when Meg lets him know just how much danger Herc is in.
    Meg: Look, I know what I did was wrong, but this isn't about me, it's about him. If you don't help him now, Phil, he'll die!
    (Phil freezes in horror)
  • Astrid does this twice in rapid succession when talking to Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon:
    Hiccup: Why is this so important to you all of a sudden?
    Astrid: Because I want to remember what you say, right now.
    ——
    Hiccup: Three hundred years, and I'm the first Viking who wouldn't kill a dragon!
    Astrid: First to ride one, though.
  • Ice Age: Continental Drift: While held prisoner by the herd, Shira argues with Diego over the differences between the two of them, and Diego pulls this line on her:
    Shira: Gutt has my back! I'm his first mate.
    Diego: Really? Cause I don't see Gutt sending out any search parties for you.
  • The Lion King (1994): During Simba and Nala's argument, this particular line from Nala renders Simba silent for a moment and then he just starts lashing out at her:
  • After Kovu's exile in the second half of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Simba tells Kiara that just as Kovu was chosen to follow in Scar's pawprints, he's following in his own father's, to which Kiara tearfully responds, "You will never be Mufasa!"; Simba is visibly shocked to hear that.
  • The Lion King 1½:
    • Max and the colony are angry with Timon for not alerting them to the hyenas’ attack and nearly getting Max killed, and Timon tries to smooth things over.
      Timon: I'm sure we’re all gonna laugh about this some day, trust me!
      Max: I did trust you.
    • After learning from Nala that Simba is on his way back to the Pridelands to take them back from Scar, Timon obstinately refuses to join in the effort due to feeling betrayed that Simba would choose to abandon their idyllic lifestyle to "run off to be "his highness" and unwilling to leave the paradise he spent so long searching for. This leads to Timon getting into an argument with Pumbaa over the prospect of having to leave their home and lifestyle to help their friend, concluding with Pumbaa calling him out on his selfishness.
      Timon: [Simba] needs us? [Angrily] Well then he shouldn't have left us! If he wants to run off to be "his highness" well, I say, don't let the branches hit you on the way out! Leave Hakuna Matata to someone who appreciates it!
      Pumbaa: But, Timon... it's not really Hakuna Matata without Simba.
      Timon: What's gotten into you? Not Hakuna Matata? That's crazy talk. Crazy talk, I tell ya! Nothing's changed here! We had Hakuna Matata before Simba, and we've still got it now!
      Pumbaa: We gotta go help our friend, Timon!
      Timon: Et tu, Pumbaa? You're just gonna walk away, give up on all this? What happened to "friends stick together to the end"? Huh? Huh? Huh?
      Pumbaa: I was about to ask you the same thing.
  • In Recess: School's Out, after TJ and Principal Prickley are captured by Benedict’s men, TJ’s friends go to his older sister, Becky, to get help. However, she's still mad at TJ for blackmailing her into driving him around, and yells at them to give her one good reason why she should help him. That’s when a dead serious Mikey responds with this:
    Mikey: Because he's your little brother, and he needs you.
  • Wolfwalkers: When Bill is trying to explain to his daughter that he's only strict with her because he fears for her safety.
    Bill: I won't be here to protect you forever. I'm so afraid that one day, you'll end up in a cage.
    Robyn: But I already am in a cage!
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, the main character, Ralph, comes from a video game where he plays the role of the villain. Despite being actually a pretty decent person, the other inhabitants of the game are scared of Ralph and don't let him go inside the apartment — the only exception is the game's hero, Fix-It Felix, who seems unaware of Ralph's plight. This situation ultimately results in Ralph being so fed up with it all that he goes on a quest to find a medal as proof that he can be a hero too. When Fix-It Felix decides to try to find him, the resulting chain of events ends up getting his affections rejected by a woman he falls in love with and being thrown in jail. When Ralph finally arrives to rescue him, Felix complains to Ralph about what it was like to be treated as a criminal, only for Ralph to state that it was like that for him every day. Then Felix realizes the nature of the game. He's always the hero who saves the day and gets all the praise. It just never occurred to him that Ralph is literally a Punch-Clock Villain. It's his job to be the bad guy. He apologizes for being so inconsiderate, and they grow closer as friends as a result.

    Films — Live Action 
  • (500) Days of Summer: When near the end of the movie Summer and Tom meet in the park and they discuss how after saying to Tom that she didn't believe in love during all their relationship she married another man quite soon after breaking up with Tom she says "I just... I just woke up one day and I knew." "Knew what?" asks Tom and her reply is "What I was never sure of with you." While this was not meant as a put-down and afterward Tom sincerely wishes her to be happy it still feels quite brutal.
  • In Annie (2014), Ms. Hannigan asks Lou why he keeps treating her so well when she treats him so poorly. Lou's response is that under her angry, cynical exterior, she's still a Nice Girl. This causes her to take part in the Heroic BSoD song "Who Am I".
  • Bagdad Cafe: When Brenda comes upon Jasmin playing with her children, she angrily asks why doesn't she find her own children to play with? Jasmin responds sadly, "I do not have any". This is the exact moment Brenda looks at Jasmin with sympathy and their friendship begins.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has a couple, firstly from Lex Luthor to Superman, as part of his Breaking Speech and revealing he's holding Martha Kent hostage.
    Lex Luthor: I think you will fight, fight, fight for that special lady in your life.
    Superman: She's safe on the ground. How about you?
    Lex Luthor: Close, but I was not talking about Lois. No. Every boy's special lady... is his mother.
    • There's also one from Lois Lane to Batman, breaking the Dark Knight out of his Unstoppable Rage and finally allowing Bruce to see Clark as more than just a potential alien threat.
      Batman: Martha... Why did you say that name?
      Lois Lane: It's his mother's name.
  • In the theatrical cut of Daredevil, Matt is talking to Father Everett at confessional after going Vigilante Man on a mob boss who was accused of rape, and whom Matt feels got Off on a Technicality (he was the lawyer for the prosecution on that case). At one point, Matt asks Everett a theoretically rhetorical question, and the priest's answer is enough to lead Matt to take an entirely different outlook on what he is doing:
    Matt: Is justice a sin?
    Everett: Vengeance is!
  • Deewaar: When Vijay brings up his material wealth to disparage Ravi's choices in life, Ravi simply replies: "I have mother".
  • The film version of Divergent adds in a scene where Tris lets slip to Four that she's not going to pass the final test after Al's suicide.
    Four: Why do you say that?
    (beat)
    Tris: You know why.
    (Four nods, confirming he knows she's a Divergent)
    Tris: And as soon as all the others find out, they're gonna kill me.
    Four: I am not going to let that happen.
  • Downhill Racer: Paul is an Olympic-caliber downhill skier, but his father, a taciturn chicken farmer, is not at all impressed with Paul chasing sports glory. Dad points out that Paul isn't getting paid (Olympic amateurism rules) then asks what Paul's doing it for. Paul says that he'll be famous and "I'll be a champion." His father's contemptuous response: "World's full of 'em."
  • Played for Laughs in Galaxy Quest, as Sir Alexander Dane is refusing to debase himself by appearing at another convention.
    Nesmith: You will go out there.
    Dane: I won't and nothing you say will make me.
    Nesmith: The Show Must Go On.
    Dane: ...Damn you.
  • Godzilla:
    Ogata: Then you have a responsibility no man has ever faced. You have your fear, which might become reality, and then you have Godzilla, which is reality.
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): It's implied in the film and outright confirmed in the novelization that Emma Russell calling her ex-husband Mark out on running away from his problems is an APR for Mark — he knows full well that it was him refusing to face up to his son's death in a healthy manner that broke the surviving Russells apart and left Mark living alone in a cabin with the wolves. After a silent pause, Mark in turn hits Emma with an equally-effective Armor-Piercing Response:
    Mark: This won't bring [our son] back to us.
  • Good Will Hunting: Towards the end, when the title character is wondering what's wrong, his psychologist Sean Maguire tells him "It's not your fault." Repeating it a dozen times rapidly brings the main character to his knees.
    • This is also the answer to the question Sean asked during the class Lambeau interrupted earlier. Why is it important for the patient to trust the therapist? Because otherwise the therapist can't tell the patient what they need to hear and don't want to hear.
  • In My Country: At one point, Anna comforts a particularly brutal Secret Police official and asks how he could think what he did was right. He replies "Ask your brother."
  • The last line of dialogue in Judgment at Nuremberg. It comes after war crimes trial judge Dan Haywood visits Tragic Villain and former Nazi judge Ernst Janning in his cell. Janning, who'd undergone a Heel Realization late in the trial, admitting that he unjustly sentenced a Jew named Feldenstein to death for the crime of sleeping with a 16-year-old girl, tries to justify himself and practically begs Haywood for a measure of forgiveness.
    Janning: Those people, those millions of people. I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it.
    Haywood: (with sorrow) Herr Janning...it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.
  • In Mike Leigh's film Life Is Sweet, Nicola, a young woman with bulimia, spends the entire film bitterly lashing out at her family and calling them "Fascist!", "Capitalist!" etc. After her boyfriend dumps her, she becomes even more isolated and angry until her mother Wendy finally confronts her and asks her why she never gets involved in all the political causes she claims to believe in. After spending the entire film in a tense stand-off, Nicola and Wendy have a massive row in which Wendy confronts Nicola with things like her ingratitude towards her dad for working in a job he hates (industrial chef) to support his family, and the fact that everyone is worried about her. Nicola, who is emotionally imploding, asks her mother why they're so worried about her if they hate her so much. Cue the bombshell:
    Wendy: We don't hate you! We bloody love you, you stupid girl!
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man 2, Fury meets Tony to encourage him to finish Howard's life's work, but Tony thinks his father never loved him.
    Fury: That's not true.
    Tony: Well, clearly you know my dad better than I did.
    Fury: As a matter of fact, I did. He was one of the founding members of SHIELD.
    Tony: What?
    • In Captain America: Civil War, Tony gets one of these when Steve tries to explain why he won't abandon Bucky despite the fact that he killed Iron Man's parents.
    Steve: Tony, he didn't know what he was doing... He's my friend.
    Tony: So was I.
    • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, after the Big Bad has spent the movie trying to kill the Guardians along with the universe itself, Star-Lord is keeping the Big Bad distracted while Rocket and Groot put a bomb in his brain. Realizing he's bitten off way more than he expected and scared for his life for once, he tries to reason with Peter.
    Ego the Living Planet: If you kill me, you'll be just like everyone else!
    • A silent one in Spider-Man: Homecoming. When Iron-Man lectures Peter on the repercussions of what could've happened at the ferry if he hadn't gotten involved, Peter angrily responds that if Tony cared so much, he would be there in person (Tony had previously rescued him via remote-controlled Iron-Man armor). Cue the Iron-Man armor opening up and a rather pissed-off Tony stepping out.
    • Avengers: Infinity War contains another Peter and Tony example, but with the roles reversed. When Tony finds out Peter stowed away on the spaceship with him, the former is furious and refusing to hear the latter's excuses, until Peter finds the response that catches Tony flat-footed:
    Peter: You can't be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man if there's no neighborhood.
  • In The Matrix Revolutions, near the end of the Final Battle, Neo's answer to Smith's "Why do you persist?" rant is simply "Because I choose to." Cue Smith's Villainous Breakdown.
  • In the Short Film Modesta, the title character is reading the League of Liberated Women's list of demands for husbands. At hearing the third one, that men must help care and educate children, the bar owner is dismissive.
Bar Owner: Even change and wash diapers? (laughing)
Modesta: And why not? Didn't someone put diapers on you when you were little? (everybody laughs).
  • In the 2017 remake of Murder on The Orient Express, after The Summation, Poirot is by himself when he is approached by Pilar and he asks her about where her conscience lies after the titular murder. The answer: "With Daisy Armstrong." It's heavily implied that this conversation is a big part of Poirot's actions in the final scene.
  • Red Dawn (1984): When the Wolverines start executing captured enemies, along with a traitor in their own group, they begin having second thoughts about it and this exchange happens:
    Matt: What's the difference, Jed? Tell me, what's the difference between us and them?
    Jed: Because... WE LIVE HERE! (shoots soldier)
  • In the film Savage Messiah, which is about the ridiculously sadistic cult leader Roch Theriault, he asks the social worker who's investigating him (and who is, incidentally, immune to his charisma and parlor tricks) what she's doing in this remote part of Canada. As he happens to be on the run from the law, she promptly responds, "Not because I was breaking the conditions of my parole."
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy: LeBron James spent the film trying to rope his son into basketball against his wishes, not showing interest in his computer skills. He ends up transplanting this into the Looney Tunes, forcing them to play basketball the traditional way even as the final game is essentially a basketball version of Calvin Ball. Needless to say, at halftime, the Tune Squad runs short of about 1,000 points, which leads to an argument between them and James when he starts accusing them of not playing the game seriously. When he questions what they've been doing the whole game since he's trying to save his son and coach them simultaneously, Lola and Bugs then admit to him that the Tunes were only trying to play the game just like him and it's just not working. This makes him undergo a big Jerkass Realization about how he's been treating them (and by extension his own son) and finally let the Tunes "go looney" for the second half.
  • V for Vendetta generally has V being an articulate anti-hero, able to justify his actions in a way that causes Evey to consider her own worldview. But as the climax approaches and she goes through her own personal revelations (with V's help), she gains insight into what compelled him to start his one-man fight against Sutler and his government. Once she realizes this, she manages to hit him back with something that causes him to pause.
    Evey Hammond: You were in the cell next to her. That's what it's all about... you're getting back at them for what they did to her... and to you.
    V: What was done to me created me. It's a basic principle of the Universe that every action will create an equal and opposing reaction.
    Evey Hammond: Is that how you see it? Like an equation?
    V: What was done to me was monstrous.
    Evey Hammond: And they created a monster.
    V: (Silent, looking away almost with shame.)
  • X-Men: First Class has Charles Xavier (Professor X) use the absolute worst justification of a military's actions to Holocaust survivor Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto).
    Charles: Erik, you said yourself we're the better men. This is the time to prove it. There are thousands of men on those ships. They're just following orders.
    Erik: I've been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past has Erik and Raven arguing with each other about whether to join forces. Raven just wants to kill Dr. Trask and stop his experiments on mutants, whereas Erik wants to declare war on the humans.
    Erik: Killing one man isn't enough.
    Raven: It never was for you.
  • I, Robot - Spooner interrogates Sonny the robot, who claims he can feel emotions, and even dream. A vehement robot-hater, Spooner breaks into a seething diatribe, but is silenced with a worthy retort:
    Spooner: People can dream. Even dogs can dream. You're a machine, an imitation. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a masterpiece of art?
    Sonny: Can you?
  • First Man After Neil Armstrong injures himself training for the lunar landing, he's asked by superiors if it's worth the cost in lives. Neil, remembering the slew of dead astronauts left in the wake of the moon landing attempt, snaps that it's a little late to be asking that question.

    Literature 
  • Atlas Shrugged: From the very first line, people are asking, "Who is John Galt?" as a memetic shorthand for a question or a problem that no one can answer, so why bother with the effort of trying? The man is Shrouded in Myth with multiple fantastical possible answers to the question proposed, all of which are Metaphorically True. John Galt finally reveals himself to the world by hijacking a radio broadcast from the US President, delivering a speech over several hours detailing the moral failings of the predominant altruist philosophy and announcing that he has been responsible for the collapse of society by convincing the globe's prime movers to go on strike while proposing that if the people listening wished to survive, they would need to realize the philosophic principles necessary to do so, i.e Objectivism.
    "Are you beginning to see who is John Galt? I am the man who has earned the thing you did not fight for, the thing you have renounced, betrayed, corrupted, yet were unable fully to destroy and are now hiding as your guilty secret, spending your life in apologies to every professional cannibal, lest it be discovered that somewhere within you, you still long to say what I am now saying to the hearing of the whole of mankind: I am proud of my own value and of the fact that I wish to live."
  • At the end of The Dagger and the Coin series, the heroes are trying, and failing, to negotiate a peaceful end to the war between Antea and Elassae, believing that, although Antea had committed terrible crimes against the Elassans, letting the Elassans take revenge would just start a Cycle of Revenge. The Elassan commander, however, is having none of it, and understandably wants revenge, and doesn't see why the war should end just because the Anteans are now losing. Finally, however, the young Antean king, Aster, who was innocent of his country's crimes (the regent and the spider priests were the real culprits, and Aster did not have any actual power), speaks up and takes full responsibility, saying that it was his fault because he was not strong enough to stop it. He concludes by saying "If the [Elassans] feel that there has to be more blood, say so. You can kill as many of us as you need to make it right. Give me a number, and I'll bring them to you. I only ask that you start with me....I'm sorry that I wasn't strong enough to stop this sooner." At this, the Elassan commander can only bring himself to say "Well...shit." And that was the end of the war.
  • Edgedancer (a novella of The Stormlight Archive): At the climax, when Lift says the Third Ideal out loud, Nale thinks she's babbling incoherently and asks "What?" She tells him what she just realized — "You were trying to prevent the Desolation! Look behind you! Deny what you are seeing!", and when he does look, he dives headfirst into Villainous Breakdown.
  • The first chapter of The Hearts We Sold ends with the Daemon delivering one to Dee. Dee accuses him of going for "low-hanging fruit" by hanging around outside a hospital, where desperate people can be more easily talked into a Deal with the Devil. The Daemon coolly informs her that she must be one of those desperate people, as the only humans that can recognize daemons for what they are are the ones who are already interested in a deal.
  • Project Tau: Kata does this once to Chatton. Even Dennison is impressed.
    Chatton: "'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain'. Exodus, chapter twenty, verse seven."
    Kata: (looking pointedly at a badly beaten Tau) "'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. Luke, chapter six, verse thirty-one."
  • Rise of the Elgen: While Michael is verbally taking Hatch apart to the electric children, one of them says Hatch is like their father and wouldn't hurt them, to which Michael brings up Tanner, who wound up imprisoned, tortured, and scheduled for execution after he couldn't take what Hatch demanded of him anymore. Tara dismisses Tanner as a screw-up, whereupon Michael retorts that they'd better hope none of them ever falls short by Hatch's standards. They can't respond to this.
  • In "The Surgeon", the first book in the Rizzoli & Isles series, Detective Jane Rizzoli blasts her partner Thomas Moore for beginning a relationship with the main victim/witness in their case. Ostensibly, this is because it's grossly unprofessional, if not outright forbidden for a cop to get involved with a victim/witness, but in truth, Rizzoli hates the other woman for being beautiful when she herself isn't and is herself in love with Moore and hurt and angry that he's never given her a second look. When she offers a crude opinion of their relationship, "You've fallen for the same thing every guy falls for. Tits and ass.", an angry Moore not only blasts her for hating the woman for something she has no control over, he fires back by asking, "What guy is going to like you when even you don't like yourself?" thus indicating that it's her unattractive personality that repels men, not her plain looks.
  • Perhaps the biggest Moment of Awesome in Sarum goes to Captain Wilson's wife Nellie, who upon her return to Salisbury is immediately accused by Holier Than Thou Abigail Mason of being a harlot. Not only does the Captain denounce Abigail by asking the crowd, "And who's this pasty-faced scold?", but Nellie — quickly sizing up the situation, in which Abigail and her brother-in-law have been watching her spouse Peter Mason being executed for heresy — declares the Armor-Piercing Response, before the entire town:
    "Why, 'tis Abigail Mason who's just burned her husband so she can get another."
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Arianne is convinced that her father Doran wants to replace her as his heir, and instead name her brother Quentin. She presses Doran on where her brother has gone.
    Her father plucked up a cyvasse piece. "I must know how you learned that Quentyn was abroad. Your brother went with Cletus Yronwood, Maester Kedry, and three of Lord Yronwood's best young knights on a long and perilous voyage, with an uncertain welcome at its end. He has gone to bring us back our heart's desire."
    She narrowed her eyes. "What is our heart's desire?"
    "Vengeance." His voice was soft, as if he were afraid that someone might be listening. "Justice." Prince Doran pressed the onyx dragon into her palm with his swollen, gouty fingers, and whispered, "Fire and blood."
  • The Witchlands:
    • Underplayed in the first book; after Aeduen attacks Leopold, the latter replies with "You aren't the demon your father wants you to be", stopping Aeduen in his tracks for a few moments.
    • In the second book, after Merik and Cam have an argument, he sneers that the only reason she's stressed out is that she's hiding the fact that she's a girl. She replies with "Did you really think this was about that?! (...) You see only what you want to see!"

    Music and Music Videos 
  • In Nandemo Iukoto Wo Kiite Kureru Akane-Chan, Yukari's trust in her Yes-Woman friend Akane is shattered when Akane delivers this in response to Yukari's Sore Loser rant: (translated)
    Yukari: I'll send them all to hell to repent 5 quadrillion times! So, what do you think, Akane-chan?!
    (Beat.)
    Akane: Sounds stupid.
    Yukari: EEEEEEEHHHHHHHH?? EEEEEEEHHHHHHHH?? EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE...
    Akane: Why don't you quit this game?

    Radio 
  • Played for Laughs in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when the great computer Deep Thought, after 7.5 million years of intense computation, declares that the Answer to the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is "42," making the questioners realize that they never bothered to properly formulate what the Question actually was.

    Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • Jesus is just as adept at this as he is with the Armor-Piercing Question. In one well-known (and oft-misquoted) example, the Pharisees try to trap him by asking "Should we pay taxes to Caesar?" (If he says no, they've got him for insubordination to the Romans; if he says yes, it weakens his standing among his followers by supporting the Roman occupation.) He asks whose image is on the coin, to which they, of course, answer Caesar. He then calls them on their hypocrisy with the famous response: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." The Pharisees, being religious scholars, certainly would have caught the reference to the book of Genesis, in which man was created in God's image.
    • On another occasion, a woman accused of adultery is dragged before him, and her accusers challenge him on whether she should be stoned, hoping to catch him out whether he agreed or disagreed. His response: "Let he who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her," calling out their hypocrisy. All of them leave in shame, and the woman is saved and pardoned by Jesus.
    • In another story, Jesus chats with a Samaritan woman and asks her to share some of the water she has drawn from a well. He tells her to go home to get her husband, and she replies "I have no husband"—and Jesus quickly answers back that she spoke the truth, because she's been married five times, so according to Jewish law (which the Samaritans admittedly didn't follow), the woman doesn't have a husband. The Samaritan woman is stunned that Jesus knew everything about her, then rushes back to her village to tell her friends and neighbors about Him. They all gather to hear Him preach, which has lead some scholars to call the unnamed Samaritan woman the first evangelist and apostle, since she spread the Word of God before anyone else did.
    • In an Old Testament example, King David (who already has many wives and concubines) lusts after the married Bathsheba and sends her husband Uriah into battle knowing he'll be killed so he can take her for his own. God then sends the prophet Nathan to tell David a parable about a rich man who owned many animals and a poor man who owned just one ewe that he loved dearly; when the rich man had company for a feast, he stole and slaughtered that lone sheep rather than choose one of his own livestock. David, not catching the parallel, demands that Nathan reveal the identity of that cruel man, as such selfishness should be punished with death. Nathan then drops the response: "You are the man!" Though David repents, God still kills his and Bathsheba's newborn child as payment for his sin.

    Theater 
  • 1776: As John Adams is trying to explain the need for a declaration of their separation from Great Britain, one of the other members of Congress asks what its purpose would be. Thomas Jefferson gets up and says, "To place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent." Congress is silent for several seconds after that.
  • Dear Evan Hansen: After Heidi finds out about Evan's occasional visits to the Murphys instead of Jared's, Evan yells to Heidi that he thinks he's nothing more than a burden to her life. She ends up going ballistic, arguing that he is the only and one good thing in her life, and sarcastically apologizes for not doing her best for him. Evan then venomously remarks that it's not his fault that other people can. This leads into "Good for You", as Heidi ends up being in bitter acceptance of Evan choosing the Murphy family over her.
  • In Hooters, Ricky and Ronda are stuck outside on the beach after Ricky's attempts to seduce Ronda's friend Cheryl backfire and she ends up bedding his friend Clint instead. Irritated by the whole thing, Ricky takes out his frustrations on Ronda, and after finding out that she dropped out of college, decides to badger her to learn why, until she finally screams at him that her father had a stroke. That shuts him up for a few minutes.
  • In A Little Night Music, Cool Old Lady and Deadpan Snarker extraordinaire Madame Armfeldt spends pretty much the entire musical decrying the whole idea of love, marriage, and relationships, arguing that it's all a ruse that distracts people from achieving wealth and status. Towards the end of the play, she asks her granddaughter Fredrika a question about why people still bother pursuing love: "Will you tell me what it's all for?" After a moment, Fredrika replies that while love is incredibly messy and painful, "it must be worth it," because "it's all there is, isn't it?" She goes on, remarking that believing in something greater makes life worth living: "I know it's often discouraging, and to hope for something too much is childish...because what you want so rarely happens..." This stuns the usually quick-snarking Madame Armfeldt into silence, and makes her confess that while she's acquired huge sums and a massive house full of expensive things, she still remembers the first boy who ever cared for her and might have missed out on something truly valuable in her denial of love.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc's fourth case, Byakuya is visibly shaken by his own being wrong about the culprit, and he demands to know how Makoto was able to solve the case when he couldn't. Kyoko steps in to answer.
    Kyoko: You still haven't realized? We don't all act according to calculations and cost-benefit diagrams. That's what makes us so complicated. That's what you don't understand, and that's why you couldn't solve this case.
    Byakuya: Gh-!
    Kyoko: See? Didn't I tell you? When you dismiss other people's feelings, it'll always come back to bite you in the end.
  • Hosonaga in The Great Ace Attorney, unknowingly does one to Susato. For context, Ryunosuke is under suspicion of his best friend Kazuma's murder, and Susato is convinced Ryunosuke is guilty, but Ryunosuke is determined to find the truth and clear his name. Even if he was talking to Ryunosuke, it still had visible effect on her.
    Hosonaga: I have a second copy of the report. If it might be useful, you're welcome to have it.
    Ryunosuke: Really? Are you sure?
    Hosonaga: Yes, it's fine. I trust you.
    Susato: ...!
  • In Heart of the Woods, long-time best friends Tara and Madison have a falling out when Madison announces her decision to step down as manager for Tara's channel Taranormal after their trip to Eysenfeld. After Madison realizes that this time, the supernatural phenomena they're pursuing is real, but Tara ends up giving her the cold shoulder. As Tara rants to Morgan about her frustration with Madison, and that she's not sure she can trust Madison to stick it out with Taranormal long-term, Morgan cuts Tara off by loudly saying her name, and calls her out on freezing Maddie out, leaving Tara speechless.
    Tara: Holy shit. What the hell was that? She just shot through my bullshit like some kinda forest-dwelling therapist. How am I supposed to respond to that? All I can do is sit back down on the bed and let it wash over me.
  • Katawa Shoujo: Rin answers a question from Hisao, leading him to realise something worrying about himself:
    Hisao: Remember that sketch you made of me? How you said I looked grim and gloomy or something? I'd like to know what you meant by that.
    Rin: Well, you see... We've known each other for two weeks and I've haven't seen you smile even once.

    Web Animation 
  • In the season one finale of Camp Camp, David does this in reply to Max's Breaking Speech. When Max demands to know why David doesn't just stop caring about Camp Campbell when literally everyone else couldn't care less, David gives a short speech that culminates in this line.
    David: You're right.
    Max: ...What?
    David: Times have changed, whether I like it or not. The campers don't care, Gwen doesn't care, even the founder of this place has better things to do. That's why I'll never stop trying. Because somebody fucking has to.
  • In episode 3 of HFIL, Freeza sputters that no one would believe Cell if he told them Freeza was killed by Vegeta's son. Cell asks why they wouldn't believe him; after all, Freeza does. Freeza doesn't have a response.
  • In the Season 12 finale of Red vs. Blue, it looks like Felix has Tucker dead for rights and decides to give a long and drawn out speech on how he and his cohorts had been playing them for fools and why he's better than them, culminating in this:
    Felix: If I'm stronger than you and if I'm faster than you, then I can kill you. And that's better than anything money can buy.
    Tucker: (coughs harshly) I dunno man, I think I'd rather be rich than a fucking nut job. What do you think, Church?
    Church: (appears) Yeah, this guy's got no idea what he's talking about.
    Felix: What the— What the fuck is that...!?
    Tucker: Oh, this is Church. He's the AI that helps me run my equipment.
    Felix: What equipment!?
    Tucker: My helmet cam.
    • Later in that same arc, the question "What is Felix afraid of?" comes up several times. In the second to last episode, Locus finally gets his answer, which prompts a Heel–Face Turn.
    Santa: Ignorant creature. Your partner is afraid of you.
  • In the RWBY episode "Cordially Invited", Weiss reunites with her mother Willow, but it is far from a pleasant reunion. Willow realizes her daughter won't be around for long due to her investigating the recent fiasco. Seconds later, Weiss tells Willow of her predicament with Whitley, prompting Willow to say, "You left him alone, with us."

    Webcomics 
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, "I Told You That Story so I Could Tell You This One", Benjamin Franklin meets Beeman (in Purgatory) and, referring to his obvious Batman style, jokingly asks "Who killed your parents?" Beeman answers: "I don't know. They never caught the guy."
  • In Cucumber Quest, Cucumber and Almond get into an argument about an earlier confrontation with the Nightmare Knight that almost ended in disaster.
    Almond: You're blaming me?
    Cucumber: No—
    Almond: You're saying it's my fault he attacked us? Is THAT it?!
    Cucumber: Almond, calm down—
    Almond: Shut up! I guess EVERYTHING is just MY fault, huh?!
    Cucumber: Yeah. I guess so. If you hadn't treated this like a game back when we had the chance to prevent it, we wouldn't even be here at all, so, yeah. I guess it is your fault.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Adrian Raven's mother brushes off most of his angry criticism toward her behavior, but when he responds to her justifying Revenge by Proxy on werewolves over one killing his father by calmly stating "Father would hate what you've become", Pandora immediately falls silent and leaves a moment later, realizing that everything her son criticized her for is right.
  • Full Frontal Nerdity: The main cast's D&D characters are stuck in the past, and are trying to argue that their timeline should be allowed to continue existing...only to be rather hamstrung by their "murder-hobo" playstyle.
    Nelson's Character: But what price is worth losing everyone we knew?
    NPC: Name one person from your own time you care about.
    Shawn: He's got us there.
  • In Girl Genius this little argument between father and son:
    Klaus: Do you know that every single woman I've ever known who had the Spark has tried to kill me? They're dangerous!
    Gil: Father — maybe it's you.
    Klaus: [long beat] No...no, I don't think so...
  • In I Will Survive, Judy gets pregnant with Nick's child and wants an abortion, a decision Nick refuses to accept. Among other things, Judy believes that the pregnancy will negatively impact her police career. Judy is taken aback, then slaps Nick so hard that she leaves claw marks on his cheek.
    Judy: You know who I am! You know what's at stake for me since we first met! And you know full well that I did everything for my career!
    Nick: Yes, I do know. It seems like you could even kill our baby for your career.
  • The Order of the Stick: In strip 1210, Redcloak, a Knight Templar goblin out to right the injustices against the goblin race, asks Durkon how many goblin lives he has ended — after just rejecting Durkon's deal that Durkon had framed as saving the goblins as a people, not to mention long after the siege of Azure City, where thousands of them died for his plan. Durkon answers "Na as many as ye." Notably, the only response Redcloak has to this is the most indignant snarl he has ever had, and trying to find meagre joy in killing Durkon painfully.
  • Paranatural: Ed snaps Johnny like a twig.
    Johnny: I haven't [bullied you]? But you're a nerd!
    Ed: Yeah, but the fun outgoing kind with lots of friends. You mostly go after the nerds who're less popular because they're awkward or sensitive or whatever. I assume 'cause they give you big reactions without many repercussions and you crave that attention plus the admiration of your bully friends.
  • Played for Laughs in Peanuts Untold. Lila allows herself to get drafted to Charlie Brown's baseball team to help him, and then Snoopy puts them both (off-screen) through some Training from Hell that leaves them both lying on the ground tired. Lila then asks why Charlie Brown doesn't have a normal dog like everyone else, and he replies that she should be the one telling him that because she owned Snoopy first.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
    Human: "Decaf coffee? That's pointless!"
    Decaf coffee: "Imagine being a human and calling something else pointless."
    Human: [cries]
  • Mostly Played for Laughs but this happens in this Schlock Mercenary comic :
    The Captain is grilling his ship's AI for disobeying a direct order and taking actions on his own "because it was the right thing to do"
    Captain Tagon: The right thing to do at the time? You're acting like I'm paying you to think!
    Ennesby: Technically, you don't pay me. And technically, most of what I do is "think".
    Tagon: I...rrr...umm.
    Ennesby: And when you get down to it, I'm better at it than you are.
  • In Unsounded Quigley's long, despairing, self-loathing rant about how much he resented his wife and son and how happy he felt when he turned her in for subversive activity is undercut by seven words from Duane, which reveal there's nothing exceptional about the flaws Quigley has defined himself by.
    Quigley: That brief peace was the best thing I've ever felt in this world. I've been searching for it since. Isn't that awful? Isn't that the worst...the worst thing you've ever heard?
    Duane: I would have done the same thing.

    Web Original 
  • According to Bosnian Ape Society, Enzo Ferrari once went on a tirade of insults to Henry Ford for trying to trick him into an one-sided deal but was left baffled when Henry simply replied "ok, but who asked?" To get back at him, Enzo developed a Who Asked Radar for over 20 years and mounted it atop a Lancia Abarth 037, the absolute pinnacle of two-wheel drive design, to end this horrifying enigma of idiotic and unoriginal remarks once and for all (the radar was successful in the original video, but a reupload retconned it into Henry just asserting that no, nobody ever asked).
  • In Jacksepticeye's Pants On Fire video, Felix, administering Jack's lie detector test, asks Jack if he thinks he's a better Youtuber than him. Jack responds 'no', which is flagged as a lie. Before shoving a cream pie in Jack's face as punishment for lying, Felix decides to interrogate him first:
    Felix: Oh wow, what is it? What, you think 'cause you have green hair, you're better than me?
    Jack: (deadpan) I didn't turn off the comments [on my Youtube videos].
    (Felix stares at the camera in stunned disbelief for a couple seconds before wordlessly shoving the pie into Jack's face)
  • In Lovely Little Losers, when Peter tells Costa that he slept with Jaquie, hoping to get himself kicked out of Doctor Faustus, Costa's response disarms him, both figuratively and literally.
    Costa: I forgive you.
  • In Team Four Star's video "My Hero Academia Season 1 in 5 Minutes", Midoriya asks Bakugo why he hates him, and gets an unexpectedly self-aware answer.
    Midoriya: Bakugo, why do you hate me?!
    Bakugo: Because the only concepts of justice and success I have are based on strength! And any challenge to that ideology feels like an attack on me! So when someone I perceive as weak competes with me, my first instinct is to crush the life out of them so I can reassure my own world view!
    Midoriya: H-Holy... wow, I... Do you want to... talk about it?
    Bakugo: STOP BEING A CUCK! (blasts Midoriya)
  • StacheBros: In the Mario Kart episode of "Luigi Time!!!", when Luigi tries to talk Mario out of committing suicide:
    Mario: Life means nothing if I don't have a brother!
    Luigi: You do have a brother! I'm right here!
    Mario: But do you care?! DO YOU CARE?!
    Luigi: Mario, if I didn't care, would I be here?
    Mario: What's that supposed to-
    Luigi: Peach needs you! The kingdom needs you! I need you.
    Mario: Wha...what? Luigi?
    Luigi: Get down, Mario. It's time to go.
    Mario: But I...I... [sigh]
  • In Worm, Interlude 27b consists entirely of four words, spoken by Scion to break Eidolon's will to fight or even to live. The question that had been burning in Eidolon's mind was "What are the Endbringers and why do they exist?" The four-word answer that completely shattered his mind and will is "You needed worthy opponents".


 
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Alternative Title(s): Armour Piercing Response

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"But I already am in a cage!"

When Bill soberly explains to Robyn that he does what the Lord Protector commands because he's afraid. Since he won't always be around to protect her, he admits that he's afraid Robyn will end up in a cage because of her constant defiance. Her raw response shows Bill just how unhappy she is.

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