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Broken-Window Warning

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When it comes to intimidating someone, a common method is to break a window. The message a smashed windowpane sends is clear: someone doesn't want you in their town, and if you don't pack your stuff and go, something more precious than a window might get broken next.

Although the broken window on its own is often enough of an Implied Death Threat to get the point across, a common variation is to throw a rock, brick or other heavy object with a message tied to it in order to spell things out more explicitly. Or, in another variation that's Played for Laughs, a completely mundane and non-threatening message.

See also Enter Stage Window, which can include throwing rocks at someone's window to get their attention in a non-threatening way, Broken Glass Penalty, when a window is broken by accident during a sports game, Destination Defenestration, when a person get thrown out a window, and Super Window Jump, when a person throws themselves through a window.

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Not to be confused with a sign warning people to watch for shards of glass around a recently broken window. Or an error message on a Windows computer. Contrast Defiant Stone Throw.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Arby's restaurant has frozen burgers thrown into their restaurant with the note tied to them. The workers in Arby's are not terribly threatened.

    Audio Plays 
  • Vivian Stanshall's LP version of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End includes the following scene:
    There was a terrific crash and a brick smashed through the window. About the brick was wrapped a note, which read simply: (Irish accent) "Hello, now. Oi'm yer new neighbour."
    Henry was plainly delighted. "He seems a decent enough egg. At least he didn't have the impertinence to present himself at the front door."

    Comic Books 
  • Happens in Tintin: King Ottokar's Sceptre, with a note reading, "For the last time: mind your own business!" From the implication that this is not the first time, Tintin starts to realize who he's up against.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): A brick with a message tied to it gets thrown through the Kapatelis' front window by some of the stooges taken in by G. Gordon Godfrey's anti hero rants.
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    Comic Strips 
  • One Dilbert strip had one of Dilbert's (now) ex-girlfriends describe how much she didn't enjoy their first and only date by writing a multi-page document on the subject, wrapping each page around a different rock, and throwing each rock through a different window.
  • The Far Side had a strip with a pair of cats standing next to a broken window and a brick on the floor, reading the attached note: "Arf arf arf arf arf!"
  • Garfield: Jon once got a brick through the window with the less-than-threatening message of "You seem boring". Garfield notes they should send the writer a thank you brick.

    Fan Works 
  • Shortly before Chrysalis Visits The Hague is set, Judge Mullan's window gets smashed by a hefty battery wrapped in a note reading, "Paardenneuker."note 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In After the Thin Man, a stone with a note attached flies through the Charles' kitchen window. Hilarity Ensues when their dog Asta grabs the note in his jaws and is pursued through the house.
  • Parodied in the Mel Brooks movie High Anxiety. The main character, the new head of a mental asylum, receives a rock to the window with a message - a friendly welcome note from the psycho ward.
  • In Home Alone 2, when Kevin sees that the toy store is being robbed, he breaks the window in order to set off the alarm. He attaches a note to the brick explaining his actions to the owner.
  • Remember the Titans features this in classic "brick through the window" form.
  • In Footloose, Ren tries to start a movement to repeal his town's "no dancing" law... and late at night, he gets a brick through a window of his home for his troubles.
  • In The Hunt (2012), Lucas gets a brick thrown into his kitchen window, supposedly by Theo, whose daughter Lucas allegedly molested.
  • In The Hound of the Baskervilles, a rock with a threatening note tied to it is tossed through Sir Henry's carriage as it drives into London, warning him to stay away from Baskerville Hall or face madness and death.
  • In Mississippi Burning, the Klan sends a message to the two FBI agents by shooting a hole into the window of their apartment. Same happens later to Lester.
  • Frankenstein Created Woman: After Frankenstein ignores an angry mob pounding on his door, they get his attention by throwing a cobblestone through the window.
  • In Lust for Gold, Walz threatens to shoot anyone who follows him out of the saloon. The saloon keeper says he's bluffing, only for two warning shots to shatter his window.

    Literature 
  • Discworld:
    • In Small Gods, the barman at the Ephebian taverna doesn't like the philosophers to discuss religion, since it leads to lightning bolts coming through the roof with notes wrapped round them.
    • The Golem Trust are victims of a brick through the window in Going Postal, but Adora Belle just picks it up and files it under B.
    • In Making Money, Moist discovers a letter from the late Topsy Lavish warning him the Assassin's Guild will go after him if he allows anything bad to happen to her dog (and current head of the bank) Mr. Fusspot. Right on cue, a "warning shot" in the form of an Arrowgram from the Assassin's Guild crashes through the window of his office.
  • The Dresden Files Dresden Files: The short story "Day Off" has Darth Wannabe throw a smoke bomb into Harry's basement via window. Unfortunately, Harry kind of had some bigger problems at the time...
  • Girl Waits With Gun draws on this trope for a lot of its source material. Being the (mostly) true story of three sisters harassed by local criminals, a lot of the "brick-mail" letters still exist in official records.
  • Safehold: In A Mighty Fortress, Merlin chooses to deliver important information on the activities of agents of the Corrupt Church in Corisande to Sir Koryn Gahrvai via an envelope tied to a rock tossed by one of Owl's remote's through his study window.
  • In Jodi Picoult's Salem Falls, a Molotov cocktail is thrown through the main character's window after it becomes common knowledge that he was previously convicted of rape. It's discovered before it can cause too much damage, and it is implied that it was poorly made and intended to send a message rather than cause real damage.
  • In Sarah Caudwell's The Sybil in Her Grave, someone throws a rock through Daphne's window to scare her away. The kicker is that Daphne threw it herself, to make herself look sympathetic and persecuted.
  • Young Sherlock Holmes: When Matty is kidnapped in Red Leech, the kidnappers throw a large rock with a note tied to it through Crowe's window. The note says that if Crowe leaves them alone for three months, Matty will be released unharmed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cannon: In "Devil's Playground", the bikers throw a rock through the window of the diner where Cannon is holed up with his prisoner, accompanied by a yelled demand to release the prisoner.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Sorrow Songs", the gypsies throw a brick through the window of the Ballarat Courier after editor Edward Tyneman is accused of Nadia's murder.
  • The Drew Carey Show: In the "Drew and the Singles Union" episode, some angry employees throw a Dilbert doll through Drew's window in a nod to the similarities between the two.
    Kate: [reads attached note] Next time, it's life size!
  • Endeavour: In "Cartouche", racist thugs attempt to throw a brick through the window of a community centre helping migrant families, but it bounces off the toughened glass.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Early in season 2, Joel is dismayed to learn his parents get their loans from loan sharks. The sharks' way of telling Moishe that it's time to collect is that they send some guys to break in and bust up some windows.
  • Motive: In "Bad Blonde", the killer throws a half-brick through the windscreen of the Victim of the Week's classic car not long before the murder, in an attempt to dissuade him from pursuing his investigation.
  • Outsourced: In the pilot, one of the disgruntled employees whose job was outsourced throws a brick with an attached message through the window.
    Todd: "You bastard"?
    Jerry: [cheerfully] That's for me. [places it on a pile of similar bricks]
  • Police Squad!:
    • An inversion: a window with a note attached is thrown into the rock garden. Later that same episode, the same criminal throws a rock with a note attached—except the note is a mime, who acts out the message.
    • In another episode, the neighborhood protection racket tries to send a message to the owner of a key store (actually Frank Drebin working undercover) by perforating the place with machine guns... and then throwing a rock through the window. Naturally, Drebin focuses on the rock and fails to notice the machine-gun fire. He later asks the forensics lab to find out where the rock came from, and gets a geology lesson in response. Later on Drebin confronts the mook who threw the rock, who starts giving the exact same geology lesson.
  • Vera: In "Broken Promise", the father of the Victim of the Week gets a rock thrown through his window with a note tied to it that reads "YOUR BOY'S DEAD HA HA".
  • Will & Grace: Parodied. Will and Jack start renting a place together, and one of their new neighbors throws a brick through their (open) window. It's actually a loaf of homemade banana bread, with a note giving them a warm welcome to the neighborhood. (The locals are thrilled to have two gay men move in, since if a gay district springs up, property values would increase).
  • The Wire: Randy gets a Molotov Cocktail through his window for talking to the police.
  • Amen. A brick is thrown the church window while everyone is rehearsing for a live broadcast if his. Attached is a death threat against Reverend Gregory from a local gang (he's been helping the police arrest their members).

    Theatre 
  • Cabaret has a subplot in which a Jewish man and his landlady fall in love in just-pre-Nazi Germany. She faces public disapproval for the relationship, which escalates to the point that somebody throws a brick through her window.
  • Happens in the play Sheik, Rattle and Roll, leading to the following joke:
    "It's a brick. With a note tied to it."
    "What does it say?"
    "'Mustafa Abdul. Window Repairer'."
  • In The Bat, a stone is thrown through a window with a vaguely worded threatening note tied on with string.
  • In Margin for Error, an angry mob throws a brick through a window at the Consul, narrowly missing him as he raises a toast to a bust of Adolf Hitler.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Mika route of Shining Song Starnova, a disgruntled, violent fan throws a rock through Mika's apartment window in the middle of the night, complete with an attached note instructing her to kill herself. This incident convinces Mika’s producer to put her and the other members of Starnova up at a hotel for their protection.

    Web Animation 
  • Nabi the cat gets a rock through his window at the end of There she is!! Step 3, then several more rocks during the course of the dark and dramatic Step 4.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In "A Glitch is a Glitch", Ice King's idea of "e-mailing" a virus to Finn and Jake is throwing a cinder block with a 3.5" floppy disk taped to it through the window of their treehouse.
    Jake: Hey Finn, did you order a brick?
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, it's not a rock, but one of the poisoned Joker Fish that comes through the window of a predicted victim's home.
  • In The Simpsons:
    • In "Bart of War", Ralph (with a note attached) is thrown through the Simpsons' window; he announces "I'm a brick!"
    • On another occasion, instead of a brick with a note, a ringing telephone is thrown through a window.
    • In "Moe'N'a Lisa", Mow throws a brick with a note through the Simpsons' window after Homer forgets his birthday.
    • Parodied in "The War of Art", where after the Simpsons refuse to give back a valuable painting they bought from the the Van Houtens, a rock gets thrown through the window telling them to give the painting back, followed by rock with another note telling they have the right to keep the money. Soon, dozens of rocks have been thrown through the window and the Simpsons are sorting out the notes supporting and threatening them.
    Marge: We don't even get this many Christmas cards!
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Timmy gets toy chattering teeth attached to bricks thrown through his window by the mean dentist, "Dr. Bender".
  • Parodied in Cow and Chicken: the Red Guy uses bricks, each engraved with a single word (or sometimes two short words), to send a long message to the eponymous characters' house, with each brick tossed nailing Chicken in the head. Naturally, the house is a mess afterwards. It's pretty evident that Red isn't throwing bricks to catch the household's attention as much as he's sadistic and likes tossing bricks through people's windows.
  • In Rankin-Bass' adaptation of The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, the villains, a group of troll-like monsters called Awgwas, throw a rock through a window of Santa's workshop tied to a note that reads "If you make one more toy, we're coming for you." Santa is undeterred.
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven", after the town discovers that Brian is an atheist, not only does a rock get thrown through the window, but a CAR as well.
      Brian: I thought he who is without sin can cast the first Prius.
    • Double Subverted in "The Simpsons Guy", when a brick gets thrown through the window when feminists are outside protesting Peter's misogynist comic.
      Peter: Hey, it's that brick I ordered. (another brick gets thrown) Uh-oh, I didn't order that brick.
  • In the The Amazing World of Gumball episode, "The Club", when Gumball and his family are having dinner, the members of the Reject Club send a brick with a DVD with their message about taking revenge to Gumball tied to it through the dining room window.
    Richard: At least it landed in the vegetables. [the brick falls on the cake and squishes it] Aaaah! The cake!
  • In Brickleberry episode "Miss National Park", a rock gets thrown through the ranger station window. It says "You're a dead man, fatso." Woody thinks it's for Connie.
  • Rocko's Modern Life: In "Junk Junkies", Rocko learns he has to pay back his tab at a pizza joint, and at one point they throw a pizza through his kitchen window with a threatening note taped to it.
  • A slight variant occurs in the The Legend of Zelda episode, "The Moblins Are Revolting". While Link is starting to tell Zelda about what happened earlier, a rock flies through a nearby windowless archway. It instead smashes a pitcher on a bookcase shelf right after he says, "Then from a window, I hear this crash-" ("Goodness! You certainly tell a realistic story!" -Zelda) The note is from Ganon's army of creatures (not just the moblins), who revolted against their master and decided to try and take over the castle themselves.

Alternative Title(s): Window Pain

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