A Non Sequitur is a bit or line of dialogue that is intentionally out of place, usually designed to elicit a comedic reaction. They have no actual bearing on the plot, although they are staples of characters who are part of their own little world like the Cloudcuckoolander or The Ditz.
Springboarding from there, we find the Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, or BLAM (an appropriate term in and of itself, as they tend to show up with all the subtlety of a shotgun blast). This is a very bizarre scene in an otherwise normal story that veers off into the surreal or strange. Upon exiting that scene, the plot continues on like it never happened.
There are three precise criteria for measuring a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
- Appears out of nowhere —
- The plot comes to a halt as the scene takes its spot in the running time. There can't be any Foreshadowing, and it's not the natural outcome of anything in the plot or setting. Falling into a trap while Storming the Castle is expected; falling into a giant talking sandwich is not.
- Does not make sense in context —
- The fictional setting, characters, and narrative devices have to be at odds with the scene. In that regard, Worldbuilding moments, strange personalities, and a surreal story structure that can explain its origin are exempt from this trope. For instance, All Just a Dream usually gives a good reason, as using the trope tends to go hand-in-hand with the surreal (although for some genres and franchises, using the scenario of All Just A Dream itself may qualify).
- Has no impact on the story whatsoever —
- Most scenes have components that are relevant to future scenes and the overall plot, following The Law of Conservation of Detail. Not so for a BLAM, which will be swept under the rug and forgotten as quickly as possible; removing it would not create any Plot Holes. A scene that does impact the plot, despite fitting the other two criteria, would be a Deus ex Machina, not this trope. Compare Wacky Wayside Tribe.
Simply being random, strange, or inconsequential to the story is not enough. All three criteria have to be met. If a scene is considered "borderline", it is likely not an example. BLAMs are often Level Breakers as well. Usually, this is done just because. Additionally, it has to be a moment - if there can be a BLAM in it, then it can't be considered a BLAM (we already have Bizarro Episode for installments that don't make sense as a whole).
The Trope Namer is All Dogs Go to Heaven, and the Trope Codifier is The Nostalgia Chick and The Nostalgia Critic from their review of FernGully while commenting on another example. In the trope naming scene (in a movie that mostly deals with talking dogs, the afterlife, and mafia undertones, somewhat strange itself), a big-lipped, Cajun-accented, bone-through-the-nose alligator takes a liking to the main character Charlie and forces him to sing a duet "Let's Make Music Together". While the alligator goes on to have a role in the plot later on, Charlie is noticeably very confused over the whole song.
Context and the nature of the situation matters immensely in comparison to the sliding scale of realism used by the story in question. This trope can be objectively observed but because of the dissonance between the audience and the characters (the audience doesn't live in the exact same world, so what is strange to the audience might be commonplace for the characters) this often ends up as a debatable topic. Even the trope namer has been subject to debate.
Adding to the controversy is the fact that, in certain circumstances at least, belief in this trope could be considered an example of the Perfect Solution Fallacy; defined in this case as excessive pedantry about adherence to the Law of Conservation of Detail . Aside from anything else, there are works where irrelevant or obfuscating details are actually important; pare down the details too much in a murder mystery, for instance, and you risk making the plot obvious from the outset. Being excessively paranoid about avoiding this trope or conserving detail also potentially puts constraints on creativity in general terms, as well, as any given story might need to deviate to develop the characters, setting, background and other contextual elements that might not strictly move the narrative forward or be utilized as a Chekhov's Gun.
Compare these other tropes and consider whether an example would better fit there:
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: A rap segment with no plot relevance begins without warning, with rappers often appearing out of the blue to sing.
- Bizarro Episode: An installment of a franchise is weird and out of place.
- Brick Joke: It comes out of nowhere, seems like it has little to no relevance at first, disappears for a while, then comes back like a boomerang later on at some random point and becomes relevant, even if only to a very minor plot element. If it does so more than once, it becomes a Running Gag.
- Cutaway Gag: A throwaway joke that has a framing device of a character reminiscing of an unrelated past story/flashback or an Imagine Spot or a What If? scenario.
- Disney Acid Sequence: A surreal visual and musical scene that may or may not have plot relevance; because of the occasional lack of relevance there tends to be overlap. Is usually just a chance for animators to show off.
- Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: A sudden boss encounter, in video games, that has nothing to do with the plot.
- Diabolus ex Nihilo: The equivalent of this outside video games.
- Gratuitous Rape: A rape scene comes out of nowhere.
- Gainax Ending: A similarly bizarre Mind Screw ends up being the resolution to the plot.
- How Unscientific!: A moment that breaks Genre Consistency, but may or may not break consistency of tone.
- Non Sequitur: A line of dialogue that doesn't follow the regular or normal conversation.
- Non Sequitur, *Thud*: A line of dialogue spoken by a character just before they go unconscious (or sometimes when waking up from a dream).
- Sex Starts, Story Stops: A random sex scene between two characters that comes out of nowhere and contributes nothing to the plot.
- Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss: Two women kiss, it contributes nothing to the plot or conflict, and neither woman questions their sexuality or mention the kiss again afterwards.
- That Reminds Me of a Song: When a character suddenly starts singing a song that has no plot relevance.
Also compare What Happened to the Mouse?, Aborted Arc, Makes Just as Much Sense in Context, and Flash Mob (a Real Life BLAM). Author Appeal is one possible reason for the BLAM. If the BLAM is used to sell products, it may be a Product-Promotion Parade. If it's inappropriate in nature, it might be a Censor Decoy that failed to do its job. If it's an ongoing plot and not just a one-off scene, it's Trapped by Mountain Lions. If an entire work runs on this, you have a Random Events Plot.
Often confused with an Arcadian Interlude. Also has nothing to with KaBlam! or Boom, Headshot!. For actual alligators, see Never Smile at a Crocodile.
A certain amount of Fridge Logic suggests that, at least in a film aimed at young children, a BLAM can provide an opportunity for a washroom break without missing much of the main action. See the Honest Trailer for Aladdin as an example. "Time to pee, nothing to see..."
Remember, Tropes Are Not Bad, as many of these types of scenes can be well-remembered and enjoyed, if not fully explained.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Interactive Fiction
- Live-Action TV
- Professional Wrestling
- Puppet Shows
- Tabletop Games
- Theme Parks
- Video Games
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- You would think that it's impossible for anything as short as a TV ad to have a BLAM, but this ad for Herman Cain (at the time a candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination for President) proves us all wrong. It features Cain's Chief of Staff Mark Block talking about what Cain hopes to achieve by running...and then, towards the very end, out of nowhere, a shot of him randomly taking a drag off his cigarette. Combined with the closing shot of Cain slowly turning to the camera and slooooooowly smiling, the ad quickly went viral.
- Nintendo occasionally has these during their quirky Nintendo Directs:
- Their E3 2012 had a random shot of Satoru Iwata staring contemplatively at a banana bunch he was holding before setting it down and introducing a reel of upcoming games.
- During their November 13, 2013 Nintendo Direct, the first shot of Reggie Fils-Aime's office is of his giant stuffed Mii head resting in a chair. The camera then pans over to the real Reggie off to the side as he begins his preview of upcoming games. The Mii head has no connection to the games being shown and is never seen again in the Nintendo Direct.
- GEICO commercials seem to be using this as a running gag as of "Did you know that...?"
- A Progressive commercial has Flo delivering her usual spiel — which gets interrupted by a "halftime show", which is Smash Mouth performing a few seconds of "All Star". The people that Flo is talking to have no idea what the hell just happened.
- In the Simple Samosa episode "Mayor Gaayab", the Garam Garam News reporter announces that the job of Chatpata Nagar's mayor is open again before going into Royal Falooda's house to snatch the title for herself. The scene then cuts to a town citizen who is selling "real mayor chairs" before cutting back to the Mayor's house again, where a whole bunch of people are fighting over who should assume the role of political leader. The "real mayor chairs" scene only lasts for a few seconds, it only has a flimsy connection to the episode's plot without actually doing anything to advance it, and the chair store never appears again after that, nor is it mentioned or referenced in any capacity.
- Stitch & Ai has two such moments, both involving new powers Stitch has in this show separate from the metamorphosis program; he's never shown these abilities before (not even in the Stitch! anime) and they never show up again after that they're used, making their sudden introductions completely pointless padding:
- In one scene in the episode "Tell the World", Ai "interviews" the shishi for her video. When she admonishes Stitch for standing on top of one of the lion statues by saying that there are only two lions not three, he suddenly sprouts quills (that look much like his back spines) on top of his head and below his chin pretending to be a scary lion. He then retracts the quills after Ai simply tells him that he's not scary.
- In "The Phoenix", while Stitch, Ai, and her cousin Bao are using a hang glider to reach the phoenix and the shrine after the alien hunters in the episode levitate the shrine's grounds, Stitch decides to climb on top of the glider and jump off like a BASE jumper, suddenly growing a membrane in freefall to allow him to glide through the air. There's no rhyme or reason for this ability either other than he simply wanted to have some fun, and it also begs the question as to why he never used this ability before in the original Western continuity when he fell from great heights back then.
- In the Norse Mythology tale of "The Death of Baldur", there is a part where the Æsir are gathered at the funeral pyre of the recently-killed Baldur, when a dwarf shows up. The dwarf, named Litr, casually strolls in when Thor notices him and punts him into the funeral pyre. The tale then resumes as normal and the dwarf is never mentioned again.
- In The Kalevala, Väinämöinen and the others are burrowing into a mountain to find The Sampo, when they come across a bunch of snakes drinking beer. Väinämöinen is infuriated for some reason and curses all snakes so that they can never drink beer again. This is never mentioned again.
- From the Book of Exodus, there is "Zipporah at the Inn" - a three-sentence-long episode which happens right in the middle of the narrative just after God has commissioned Moses to free His people from Egypt. Suddenly, one night God tries to kill Moses. However, Moses' wife Zipporah quickly circumcises their son, declaring, "Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me," and God leaves them alone. The narrative then picks up again as if nothing had happened, baffling scholars ever since. note
- The introduction of the first episode of the Cool Kids Table Harry Potter-themed game Hogwarts: The New Class gets waylaid by the players trying to pick characters to play in GoldenEye (1997), and which cheat codes are active, all thanks to a stray comment from Jake describing a four-way split-screen as reminiscent of the game.
- An in-universe one occurs in The Fallen Gods thanks to the Wild Magic Table. No one really expected to Tuatha to try and cast fireball and instead summon a full-sized unicorn.
- Yes, even something as short as a Vanity Plate can have a BLAM in it, as showcased by the logo for Behaviour Communications, the short lived film division of future Dead by Daylight and Fallout Shelter devs Behaviour Interactive. While the erecting of a lowercase "b" statue near a rollercoaster seems to be the main focus, the logo starts with what appears to be black and white stock footage from an old monster flick of a women screaming bloody murder at the sight of the rollercoaster. With nothing about said rollercoaster looking particularly ominous, the addition of the Screaming Woman was a rather odd choice.
- FreedomToons: In "Debunkers vs. G*n Control Nonsense" the video they're analyzing ends with a message bashing the electoral college. The Debunkers are dumbfounded as to what the point of that statement was, as the video they were analyzing was about gun control, and the electoral college was never mentioned beforehand, so it had no relevance to the rest of the video.
- Battle for Dream Island has plenty.
- Yellow Face's commercials and Blocky's Funny Doings International are both out of nowhere, with the (partial) exception of the Box of Paper Slips. note
- In The Hero of Time, there's Link's journey out of the Lost Woods. He gets briefly lost and takes a nap, only for a random guard to steal his sword while Link sleeps. Link wakes up before this can happen and ties the guard up, implying in their conversation that the guard is one of a few who swore to protect the forest and forces the guard to tell him how to get out of the woods. This scene, including the fact that Link left someone tied up in a dangerous forest, is completely forgotten after Link leaves. What makes it even odder is besides being a reference to the Lost Woods of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, none of it is a reference to any Zelda canon, so it isn't even there for the sake of a Shout-Out.
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