It's a situation anyone who spends much time with other people has experienced: another person does something so strange or off-putting that you can't help but feel intensely uncomfortable. Perhaps a Cloudcuckoolander is on top of their weirdness game, or maybe the Nervous Wreck is nattering on and on about nothing significant, or perhaps you're stuck with someone who, while harmless, doesn't have a much of a concept of interpersonal boundaries.
So you're uncomfortable and want to get away, but you don't want to cause a scene, call the offender's attention to yourself, or make your situation worse. Sometimes, all you can do is Back Away Slowly until you're a more comfortable distance away.
The Backing Away Slowly trope occurs when a character slowly moves away from another character whose words or actions are making them feel awkward, embarrassed, or weirded out. They're not necessarily acting out of fear so much as trying to discreetly remove or distance themselves from an uncomfortable situation before it gets even more uncomfortable.
This trope sees the most use as a gag in comedies and cartoons, but it can also be used in serious moments as as well.
For instances where a person slowly backs away from a wild or aggressive animal, see Nice Kitty.... When a person enters a room, sees another person in a compromising position, and immediately closes the door again, that's Sorry to Interrupt. Contrast Walking Backwards, which is where a person backs right into a monster or trap.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami: This happens a few times after some of Ami's pronouncements, like responding to a protesting orc in "A New Home":
His eyes widened in surprise as he suddenly found himself isolated, surrounded by a ring of unsympathetic faces and expectant grins. His head darted left and right like that of a trapped animal looking for an escape route before he dropped to his knees. "I didn't mean to-"
- Quizzical: From Thweet Geniuth's "And the Winner Is..." Reprise:
Bon Bon turned to the nearest camerapony, held up her frying pan, and smiled. "The secret is to turn it on edge. You don't want to hit them with the flat; you want to chop like it's a cleaver. Puts 'em down every time."
Poor Bon Bon didn't get a close-up. The shot got wider and wider as the frightened camerpony [sic] backed away from her.
- Brother Bear: Kenai, who had just been turned into a bear, asks a pair of chipmunks how they can talk. The pair back away slowly partly because of this question and the fact that he's, well, a bear.
- In Horton Hears a Who!, Horton shouts, "I'm talking to the mayor!", but because the mayor is invisibly small and the bird he was next to is not the mayor, the bird is confused and slowly backs away.
- In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Friendship Games, during the archery contest, after Twilight finally hits the bullseye, Spike goes and congratulates her... in front of Sour Sweet, who's quite taken aback by the talking dog. She's then seen slowly slinking away in the background.
- The Force Awakens: In one scene, two Stormtroopers walks in on Kylo Ren having a fit and both slowly walk away.
- Independence Day: While Jimmy demonstrates to Steve how kneeling makes it easier to kiss a superior's butt, Steve's engagement ring for Jasmine falls out of his locker and Jimmy picks it up for him. Another airman walks in just in time to see what looks like Jimmy proposing to Steve and slowly backs away.
- A well-known example takes place in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as Brad and Janet back away from Dr. Frank N. Furter and his crew while they sing "The Time Warp".
- Ghostbusters: In the elevator, Egon activates Ray's proton pack and attempts to back himself and Peter away... but they're in a cramped elevator, so there's nowhere for them to go.
- In Cool Cat Saves the Kids, a man can be seen in the background leaving his house, before seeing a man dressed as a cat shouting at some kids about why Graffiti is wrong and backing away.
- In the Friends episode "TOW the Lesbian Wedding", everyone except Rachel, who was sitting down, does this when Phoebe claims that she was possessed by a massage client who died on the table.
- In the Lost episode "Sundown," The Temple is being attacked by the Smoke Monster. Sayid has just killed Dogen and Lennon and Ben comes in to say "Come on, I know a way out of here. There's still time." In response to this, Sayid smiles like a madman and says "Not for me." Ben then quietly backs out of the room without a word.
- Samantha Who?: In one episode, Samantha confronts the woman who tried to run her over, a Psycho Ex-Girlfriend of her then-current boyfriend. As she prepares to leave, she is told "You shouldn't turn your back on me again", to which Sam scoffs, fails to be fearless and instead backs slowly.
- A Running Gag in Seinfeld has characters reacting this way to New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner's Rambling Old Man Monologue, gradually backing out of his office door.
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: In "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Hotel", as the Tipton guests and staff fight with each other over a treasure hidden in the hotel, Arwin randomly shouts "DOGS HAVE CLEANER TONGUES THAN PEOPLE!", making everyone pause for a moment and take a step away from him.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): "Four O'Clock" features a woman doing this when she meets Oliver Crangle, the early 1960s incarnation of a right-wing conspiracy theorist.
- On an episode of Rescue 911 a man with a portable phone (late eighties) was second in line at the bank when the teller said "Please don't shoot! I just work here!" The man quietly backed out of there and called 911.
- On the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Conspiracy" Picard starts to do this when he realizes that Starfleet has been infiltrated by worm eating aliens. Riker shows up behind him and convinces hims to stay for dinner.
- Chipper & Sons Lumber Co..: Every date scene (save for the last one) ends with Tyke backing away uncomfortably from dinner with incompatible suitors his father keeps hooking him up with... while still glued to his chair.
- Dragon Age: Origins
- This is one of the player's options at finding Sten and the dog barking at each other.
- The player can also invoke this when Leliana first claims that she is acting on a vision from the Maker.
Warden: Right. I believe this is the part where I back away slowly.
- Final Fantasy XIV: Upon completing The Wanderer's Palace (Hard), the now-freed tonberries interrupt your victory cutscene to rush in and stab the defeated Mamool Ja boss that had been enslaving them. We don't see the act, but your character is visibly unnerved and one of your party members can be seen backing away slowly.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link's response to Darunia dancing to Saria's song is to back away slowly.
- Mass Effect:
- In Mass Effect 2, an unnamed quarrian can be seen doing this when Tali storms up to Admiral Shala'Raan demanding an explanation for why Tali wasn't told about her father's expected death.
- After EDI gains an android body in Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepard can talk to her on the bridge. After he/she inquires whether the new experience could be distracting, EDI says that she only forgets to recycle the ship's oxygen when she finds something truly interesting. The Commander gets a horrified look and slowly backs away.
EDI: That was a joke.
- In Quest for Glory I's EGA version, returning the Healer's ring results in her suddenly grabbing the hero from across a table and kissing him. To escape being kissed again, the hero has a unique animation with wide eyes, nervous grin, and hands up as he steps backward. Although about the same thing happens in the VGA version, the animation on it isn't quite as exaggerated.
- A notable asdfmovie fan submission New dog........? ends with two men growling at each other, with a third man awkwardly backing away. Strangely enough, once the video was adapted into an official asdf sketch, the third man was removed for some reason.
- Homestar Runner: At the end of "The Homestar Runner Goes For the Gold", after Strong Sad turns into Strong Glad and sprouts a pair of long, feminine legs, everyone else awkwardly backs away as he does a victory dance.
- Questionable Content: In 'Nothing Good Can Come', Martin demonstrates a textbook example of backing away slowly when asked to weigh in on a lover's quarrel between his ex-girlfriend and his current boss. The eyes really sell it.
- Loading Artist: "Dead End" features a couple of aliens in a spaceship who are lost. They consider asking a nearby planet (Earth) for directions, but after seeing they're currently in the middle of a nuclear war they put the ship in reverse and start backing up.
- This is how Dream starts the Manhunt in "Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters FINALE REMATCH."
- Auralnauts Star Wars: In "Attack of the Phantom Past", Darth Vader chews out his daughter Leia for not phoning him to let him know she was still alive (he thought she'd been killed when Laser Moon blew up). Boba Fett walks into the room shortly after Leia — then as the family argument gets awkward, he slowly walks backwards, the way he came.
- In the CollegeHumor short Furry Superheroes Are Super Gross - FURRY FORCE, the bad guys back away slowly as the cow girl (as in half girl-half cow) demonstrates some martial arts, resulting in some pretty extreme Gainaxing.
- The Spoony Experiment: At the end of the second part his review of Final Fantasy X, Spoony is singing "A Whole New World" when Dr. Insano walks in to tell him that Mechakara has stolen Neutro, sees him singing, and slowly backs away.
- In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Chase", when Aang tries to intercede between Katara and Toph's arguments:
Aang: Okay, you both need to calm down.
Katara: Both?! [turns on Aang in a rage] I'M COMPLETELY CALM!!!
Aang: I-I can see that. [quietly exits stage right]
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius:
- In Season 1 "Raise of the Oozy Scab", Jimmy, Carl, Sheen, and Cindy go underwater in a submarine to look for treasure. When they get lost, Sheen panics saying they don't have enough food and he's not going to eat Carl. Carl says he's not going to eat Sheen, but then retracts his statement saying maybe a bite, which freaks Sheen and Cindy out making them back away from him.
- In Season 2 "The Junkman Cometh", when Jimmy, Carl, Sheen, and Goddard sees a "Moonie Man", Carl ask what should they do. Sheen thinks the only three choices they have are crying, running, or having an embarrassing accident, Carl says he might do all three, making Jimmy, Sheen, and Goddard move away from him.
- Central Park: In Season 1 "Garbage Ballet", Owen tries to comfort Molly after her disastrous first kiss with Brendan, but Molly is too frustrated with what happened to be comfort. Owen backs away from Molly, but he assures her it's not her it's him.
- Dexter's Laboratory: At the end of "Dollhouse Drama", Dee Dee gets Mom to confront Dexter for accidentally breaking her Darbie doll. As they barge into his room, they see that Dexter (who had been having some major Sanity Slippage throughout the episode) has hooked Darbie to a medical device and he tells them to be quiet so she can "sleep", causing both to slowly walk out with disturbed expressions.
- In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Momma's Little Ed," Double D excuses himself from Ed's embrace this way after Ed insists that they move in together, be like brothers and "share the same bathroom." For added comedy, there's even the sound of a truck backing up in the background.
- The Fairly OddParents: In "That's Life!", Mrs. Turner wins a gardening contest and is awarded a prize tulip, which instantly wilts because "Everything I touch DIIIIIIES!" Everyone present takes a step back.
Mr. Turner: Oh, Dinkleburg! Care to give my wife a congratulatory hand touch?
- Invader Zim:
- In "Bolognius Maximus", Gaz backs away from Dib when he yells "Gaz! Taste me--I'M DELICIOUS!"
- In "Bestest Friend", Zim goes up to a kid and says he's looking to see if he's interested in being his friend. The kid says "I was born with webbed fish toes, like some kind of horrible fish boy. Wanna see?" and Zim quickly backs away with a disturbed look on his face.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Call of the Cutie", a recurring background character known as Time Turner slowly backs away from Apple Bloom when she gets a bit pushy while selling apples.
- Similarly, in "Party of One", Rainbow Dash has a similar reaction when she witnesses Pinkie Pie's Sanity Slippage while throwing a one-person birthday party.
- The Simpsons:
- In "Mr. Plow", Homer and the kids back away from an unhinged Adam West when he tries to do a campy 60s dance for them.
- In "The Principal and the Pauper", a man bursts in claiming to be the real Seymour Skinner at a celebration honoring the Skinner we know. As our Skinner confesses to being an impostor, Homer thinks to himself, "Keep looking shocked and move slowly towards the cake".
- Played Up to Eleven in "The Sweetest Apu", when Homer catches Apu having an affair at the Kwik-E-Mart and walks backward all the way to his house. The scene is repeated at the end, when Homer spies on Apu and Manjula having sex in their apartment and hops back home on his ladder.
- In the episode "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder," Homer goes into Lisa's room and offers to help with her homework, when Lisa says he can help her find words where "y is the vowel," Homer, not understanding what she said, backs out of her room.
- "The Great Money Caper," has this exchange:
Marge: What are you doing? Why are you frosting that old throw pillow?
Homer: I could ask you the very same question.
Marge: Uh, should I just back out of the room?
Homer: Would you?
[Marge backs out of the kitchen]
- In "Homer the Moe", Bart inexplicably begins digging a hole in the backyard. When Lisa asks him why, he claims he's making a hole for more digging, causing her to back away from him.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- Such a moment occurs in "Arrgh!".
Patrick: I'm so loyal, I haven't bathed in weeks!
SpongeBob: But we've only been gone a few hours.
Patrick: I know.
[SpongeBob slides away]
- In "Chocolate with Nuts", when SpongeBob and Patrick first meet the Chocolate Guy, they start backing away slowly as he gets more agitated, then start running when he chases after them.
- Such a moment occurs in "Arrgh!".
- Steven Universe: In "Lion 3: Straight to Video", Lars goes into the backroom to check on Steven and Sadie, only to find them staring at a TV filled with static. When they turn to him, tears in their eyes, Lars puts his hands up and slowly backs away into the shop.
- In "Beach Blanket Bogus" from Total Drama Action, when Beth offers Trent a friendship bracelet, he starts counting to nine while poking his head with the bracelet, which causes her to back away slowly. When she whispers to Lindsay that Trent is kinda weird, Lindsay mishears that Tyler is back in game and thinks she has a "dental block" instead of mental block, which also causes Beth to back away.