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Change the Uncomfortable Subject
aka: Changing The Uncomfortable Subject

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"Screw this quandary with a fucking jackhammer. Let us just talk about whatever we were discussing before this shitstorm started flailing about the room."
The God-Emperor of Mankind, If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device

Some characters feel a current line of discussion is really inappropriate, and they make it clear they should move on to something else. Sometimes they say "moving on" or "I'd rather not talk about it", or just leap into another topic.

Reasons the current subject isn't working can vary. It may be too Squicky for the character's comfort, Too Soon, or even something like a Metaphorgotten line.

There's a hand gesture that shows up frequently in anime and manga that means basically this.

Compare Stunned Silence and Shutting Up Now. Contrast Digging Yourself Deeper (trying to talk your way out of an uncomfortable subject, and utterly failing).



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Saint Beast, Luca is the main instigator of this, knowing that relating mutinous sentiments is very dangerous under the tyrannical rule of Zeus. Pandora also tries to guide Judas away from defiance at the end of the prequel series, but Judas indicates that he's done silencing himself and intends to openly defy Zeus' rule.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The Emperor's New Groove: In the opening, Kuzco asks for a flashback to where the story began, but the flashback goes back too far:
    Kuzco: See, this is a little too far back. Ooh, look at me! That's me as a baby!
    [Baby Kuzco throws a fit on breaking his toy, only to cheer up when off-screen servants offer him several replacement toys]
    Kuzco: OK, moving on...
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, throughout the anniversary party, Felix tries to keep the peace between Ralph and the Nicelanders through avoidance and subject changing, but to no avail.
  • In Zootopia, after Nick Wilde opens up to Judy about a traumatic childhood event that shaped who he decided to be, he decides to change the subject to the traffic after Judy tries to physically comfort him, which he then realizes is a lead on their case.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ripley and Clemens both do this in Alien³.
    • Clemens asks Ripley several times why she is inspecting Newt's corpse and her reasons for wanting to cremate both her and Hicks's body, and her need to retrieve Bishop to check the flight data. Ripley continually deflects the question (one time by sleeping with Clemens) because he probably won't believe her.
    • Ripley asks Clemens several times how he came to Fury 161, but he deflects the question repeatedly. Eventually he does tell her — he was previously an inmate.
  • James Bond: The uncomfortable look on his face, slight shifting of posture, and invoking of this trope was a dead giveaway to any long-term, die-hard Bond fan. In The Spy Who Loved Me, he's initially amused and impressed as Agent XXX recites his dossier — until she mentions his late wife and he immediately ends the conversation. And in The World Is Not Enough:
    Elektra King: Have you ever lost a loved one, Mr. Bond?
    Bond: [pauses] M sent me because your life might be in danger.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Frasier: Frasier Crane does this a lot.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "The Ice Warriors":
    Jamie: You see how those lassies were dressed?
    Victoria: Yes, I did. And trust you to think of something like that.
    Jamie: What? Couldn't help thinking about it.
    Victoria: Well, I think it's disgusting, wearing that kind of thing.
    Jamie: [mocking] Oh, aye, so it is, so it is. You er, you don't see yourself dressed like that then?
    Victoria: Jamie!
    Jamie: Oh, I'm sorry; it was just an idea.
    Victoria: We will now change the subject, please.
  • On Seinfeld, George and Jerry do not like it when someone does this; they prefer to let conversations continue until they reach a natural end. There's a reason this show's the Trope Namer for Seinfeldian Conversation.
  • In The Vicar of Dibley, David constantly does this when the council meetings go off topic. "Moving on..."
  • Ross in Friends does this when other people have raised the subject. "The word you're looking for is 'Anyway...'"
  • Happens a couple of times in Criminal Minds
    • While the team was eating in a Chinese restaurant in "A Real Rain", they were talking about the case and then Elle asks to change the subject. Hotch asks if she's seeing anyone and then Elle begs for them to talk about the case again.
    • A case of Right Behind Me in "The Bittersweet Science".
      Garcia: [via webcam] Okay, Rossi, out with it. Is Hotch dating anyone?
      Rossi: [leans in to the webcam] I. Don't. Know.
      Reid: You know, statistically, widowed men start dating much faster than females, but Hotch is refuting the data. It's been two years and 19 days.
      Garcia: Venus has aligned with Mars, which means love is in the air and maybe we will have weekends off.
      Morgan: [sees Hotch and clears throat to warn Garcia]
      Garcia: What? Is he standing there? He's standing there, isn't he?
      Hotch: Hello, Garcia.
      Garcia: Hello. Someone talk about the case.
  • A hilarious version in one episode of The Big Bang Theory where Penny is desperately trying to break up an uncomfortable fight between Bernadette and Amy about their respective boyfriends' careers and sex lives by switching to a more comfortable subject: Brazilian waxes. It doesn't work.
  • Frank Reagan of Blue Bloods nearly always does this if asked to take sides in family arguments at the dinner table, bluntly shutting down others' queries for his opinion by complimenting the food or asking someone to pass him a dish.
  • On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it's a minor Running Gag for Sisko to change the subject whenever Dax mentions a Noodle Incident involving him and Curzon.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Roseanne:
    Jackie: How's the job, Becky?
    Becky: Why?
    Jackie: I'm changing the subject, Becky.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • The Dreadful:
    Liz: Where did that beam go, anyway?
    Kit: Let's not dwell on questions about how the Dreadful works!
  • Bicycle Boy: Poet quickly decides to talk about something else when Machk attempts to make conversation about his cyborg body.
  • In Captain SNES: The Game Masta, Relm and Celes do this after Terra mentions that she saw her parents conceiving her in a vicarious flashback.
  • In Girl Genius Gil quickly changes the subject and sends Wooster out of the room when Agatha asks about a rather steamy book titled Trelawney Thorpe, Spark of the Realm: In the Seraglio of the Iron Sheik and Wooster comments that he thinks it's one of Gil's favorites.
    Agatha: The Glass Dirigible. Interesting, but what about that Seraglio one—
    Gil: Um—Hey! What do you think of This?
  • In Godslave:
    Anpu: What happened to you? You've always been close with Asir's family, but this? If I had to guess... it had to with a woman.
    Sobek: ANYWAY...
  • Done in a Sequential Art story, when everyone is trying to decide what to do during a rainy day. Resident ubergeek Pip suggests a complicated tapletop RPG (Its rules only span three books!), but Kat shuts him down. Genius Ditz Scarlet suggests "Monopolop", but Art points out she cried last time they played because she was told to "Go Directly to Jail" (No-one told her what she did wrong...). So Art suggests Cards Against Humanity. They all set up to play, when Scarlet, looking at her cards, innocently asks "What's a Fleshlight?" They decide to play Monopolop instead.
  • Sleepless Domain:
    • When Outrageous Lime sees Undine and Heartful Punch together for the first time and gets told by HP that they're together, she remarks to HP "So that was your type." Heartful Punch responds by sweating bullets and asking if they could not talk about that, while Undine stands there completely missing the implication.
    • In chapter ten, when Heartful Punch is telling Undine about how her mother died, she remarks that the monster responsible was still in the room and attacked Starlight Spear, the Magical Girl on the scene who told HP the story later, with the implication that Starlight lost an arm in the process of defeating it. HP goes quiet at that point and when Undine expresses concern HP declares "Anyway!" and continues with her story.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: This is the response when a character with No Indoor Voice decides to start Publicly Discussing the Secret.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the very last scene of Kim Possible, Professor Dementor is taunting Dr. Drakken about his success at saving the world after failing miserably in his attempts to conquer it.
    Dementor: You must admit that it is exquisitely amusing.
    Drakken: Okay, Dementor, I'd really rather not talk about it.
    Dementor: But the irony! As a mad scientist, you have been a total failure your entire career!
    Drakken: New topic please!
The "new topic" turns out to be Dementor asking how Drakken's skin turned blue, which Drakken starts to explain just as the show ends.
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius episode "Brobot", Hugh Neutron asks "Who wants pie?" after his son starts to explain how he and Judy could conceive a sibling.
  • The Batman Beyond episode "Babel" begins with Bruce describing an incident from his days as Batman. When Terry notes that he would have been trapped with no way out if Robin hadn't shown up in time, Bruce changes the subject to the damaged Batsuit they're working on. At the end, Bruce asks Terry if he would have sacrified himself if he hadn't found another way to save Gotham City, and Terry uses the same ploy to dodge the question.
  • In one episode of Kaeloo, Kaeloo manages to drag Mr. Cat into going on a date with her, but he doesn't seem interested in talking to her and starts reading the news. Kaeloo asks him if she can talk to him, and when she asks about his family, he quickly changes the subject by loudly and rapidly reading an article from the newspaper.
  • The Looney Tunes Show has an episode in which Porky gets tickets for a baseball game. He invites Bugs and Daffy. Unfortunately, Daffy and Porky get into a fight over French Fries. Unwilling to lose a chance to go to the game, Bugs sends each a gift basket with a note that says they were right all along. While in line, Bugs and Daffy warmly talk about the gift basket. Bugs tries several times to change the subject but eventually they learn the truth. Porky furiously rips up the tickets, much to the chagrin of Bugs.

Alternative Title(s): Changing The Uncomfortable Subject


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