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 —
- Strange in Context —
- The fictional setting, characters, and narrative devices have to be at odds with the scene. In that regard, World Building moments, strange personalities, and a surreal story structure that can explain its origin are exempt from this trope. For instance, All Just a Dream 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).
- Never Goes Anywhere —
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.
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.
The Nostalgia Critic and The Nostalgia Chick have had to post supplementary videos on this topic, due to confusion on what does and does not count. One is that it is a moment, not a subplot or entire episode (For that we have Bizarro Episode). And they emphasized that it has to go against what is considered normal.
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:
- Bizarro Episode: An installment of a franchise is weird and out of place.
- Brick Joke: It comes out of nowhere, seems like it has no relevance at first (or only marginal relevance), disappears for awhile, 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.
- 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).
- 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). 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.
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 Comics
- 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...?"
- 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.
- 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.
- Dino Attack RPG has the scene where Trigger dies and ends up in a strange hotel run by a strange character known simply as "the owner" who may or may not be a pervert with blue hair and no pants. He then leads Trigger through a variety of places in the hotel, all occupied by characters who have died in the RPG and construction workers allegedly responsible for the Big Bang, before he realizes that for he temporarily has to share a room with his arch-rival Silencia Venemosa. Though part of the initial build-up had been used before (and was intended to be satirized here), this sequence was never mentioned again and is so strange even by the standards of the RPG that its status in canon isn't even 100% clear.
- There was also the part where some people became Toa from Bionicle, and others started using exo-suits. It became known as the "Bionicle meets Exo-Force RPG" and was never spoken of again, except in hushed whispers in dark street corners.
- The rather bizarre argument that used to be in the TV Tropes section of the The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You article. Note that this type of edit counts as Natter, and nowadays could get you an angry talking to from the mods or a suspension.
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- 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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