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Conspicuous in the Crowd

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Nothing quite says "I know more than everyone" than walking slowly while everyone else is fleeing in terror. Or running while everyone else looks oblivious. Obliviously doing nothing says the opposite, but, y'know, still draws the audience's attention. Either way, this subtrope of Odd Reaction Out is for clearly showing, and not telling the audience who they should be paying attention to.

Characters who do this might be The Stoic, Conditioned to Accept Horror or an Action Survivor who's dealt with this sort of thing before. They might simply be complicit and showing Incriminating Indifference. In more interpersonal conflicts, they're often just the Straight Man or Team Mom, who knows the best way to act. They could simply be the Idiot Hero getting themselves in yet more trouble (Tropes Are Flexible) or trying to pull off a Secret Identity Change Trick. Often how someone Got Volunteered.

This can also be used In-Universe, if other characters notice the person in question's acting differently (or even outright invoked if they create something for them to react to).

Contrast Uniformity Exception, which uses visual cues to distinguish someone, Conforming OOC Moment, for when characters are going along with the crowd when they normally wouldn't, and Flashy Protagonists, Bland Extras where the protagonist stands out because their design is more interesting than less important characters. Compare Alone in a Crowd, which is more about the alienation someone feels in a group of strangers than how they're dealing with a situation affecting everyone, Strolling Through the Chaos, which is specifically a calm person in any chaotic situation (whether or not there's anyone around to compare them to), and Conspicuously Light Patch where someone or something stands out from the background due to how traditional animation works.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Delicious in Dungeon: When the dungeon lobby is attacked by a wave of monsters, Captain Mithrun deduces that the Lord of the Dungeon must be personally controlling them and looks for anyone who seems out of place. Sure enough, he's the one person in the crowd who isn't panicking.
  • Near the end of the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Ishikawa can be seen walking away while a crowd of people are running from his pachinko parlour, which he just bombed to ambush the soldiers who were hunting him. Played with in that this makes him stand out and get captured.
  • Done accidentally in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, due to transpacific Values Dissonance: One scene had a moustached background extra perform a Bicep-Polishing Gesture in response to Rossiu's New Era Speech. The Western fandom interpreted it as an "up yours" towards Rossiu (the only one in a crowd of people doing so) and named him Bruce Ironstaunch.
  • Invoked by Mikado in Durarara!!. He attempts to force Namie into turning herself in for trafficking people to be used as test subjects and her hand in Mika Harima's murder. Unsurprisingly, Namie laughs at him and refuses, only for Mikado to reveal the crowd around them is made up of Dollars by members by sending out a mass text which causes everyone's phones to start ringing, making Namie and her henchmen stand out as outsiders amongst them and forcing the woman to flee.
    Orders - Anyone not looking at their cell right now is an an enemy. Don't attack them. Just watch quietly.
  • One Piece: In "Jango's Dance Carnival", the Marines step into a pirate bar and intend to arrest anyone with a bounty. Most of the guests are trying to keep a low profile... except Jango, who's obliviously dancing like Michael Jackson on the bar desk, leaving him open to being pursued by the Marines.

     Film — Live Action 
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982). A member of Thulsa Doom's cult is Mugged for Disguise by Conan, so he can infiltrate his lair. Unfortunately Conan gives an amulet he stole from the Tower of the Serpent to a guard to establish his bona fides. Suspicious, the guard takes it to the Co-Dragons, and they easily locate Conan among the thousands of cult members simply because he's moving and acting differently from the fervent cultists.
  • Exploited in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Watson correctly identifies an assassin disguised as a diplomat by knocking a tray of champagne glasses out of a waiter's hand, reasoning that the man will be so focused on staying in character that the one thing he won't be able to do is give a spontaneous reaction to an unexpected occurrence. He's right, as the assassin is the only person in the room who doesn't turn around to see where the noise came from.
  • Towards the end of God Bless America, Frank (who is casing a TV studio where he plans to commit a shooting spree) is identified as a threat by a security guard because he is the only one in the crowd of fans going wild over the arriving celebrities who just stands there, perfectly still and expressionless.
  • Queen of the Damned: Lestat can pick out the enemy vampires at his rock concert because they stand stock-still, staring unblinkingly at the stage as the crowd dances around them. (The Black Cloaks are also a giveaway.)
  • Mean Girls: After Regina releases the pages of the Burn Book, all the other girls begin viciously fighting each other over the book's contents while Regina simply stands in the crowd watching the chaos, nobody aware that she wrote it all to begin with.
  • Ocean's Eleven: Danny Ocean attends a casino demolition headed by Terry Benedict, who owns the casinos Danny and his crew plan to rob. The entire crowd turns to watch the old building implode except for Danny, who keeps his eyes on Benedict (and on his ex-wife Tess at Benedict's side).
  • The Producers: The audience at opening night of Springtime for Hitler is sitting aghast during the opening number, their mouths hanging in shock. Only Franz Liebkind, the author, is clearly enjoying the show with a big grin on his face.
  • Strangers on a Train: As Guy Haines prepares for a tennis match, he notices a single man in the stands is staring at him, instead of watching the ball in the current match like everyone else is. He's unnerved when he recognizes him as the stranger who suggested Guy murder his father in exchange for murdering Guy's promiscuous wife.
  • In The Matrix, a simulation invokes this trope by featuring a woman in a red dress in a large crowd, who distracts Neo and allows Morpheus to make a point.

     Film — Animated 
  • Raya and the Last Dragon: As the Druun attack the Fang tribe, everyone is fleeing away from the palace. Everyone, that is, except for Raya, determinately marching up the stairs to engage Namaari in battle for killing Sisu.
  • Manny during the opening of Ice Age not only stands out because he's a woolly mammoth, towering over the other creatures, but he's also trundling against the flow of migrating creatures. One of them even gets snippy with Manny for "going the wrong way."
  • In Turning Red, Mei is able to pick out Abby in the 4*Town concert crowd because she's yelling in Korean and punching and kicking the air.

     Live Action Television 
  • The Boys (2019). In "Get Some", Homelander notices Billy Butcher staring at him at the racetrack, when everyone else is looking out onto the field for the impending superhero race between A-Train and Shockwave. He doesn't recognise Butcher at the time, but does remember this incident several episodes later when he's told the Boys are investigating the Seven.
  • House of Anubis: In the finale of season 3, the entire student body was turned into sinners during an assembly. Everyone proceeded to make chaos...except for Willow, who sat around looking confused and troubled. It turned out that she managed to avoid being turned through the sheer luck of finding KT's key, and she temporarily teamed up with Eddie and KT to save the day.
  • In Grange Hill: when Mr Keating is addressing the school about bicycle thefts, the camera pans over the pupils' faces, most of whom are looking attentively up at Mr Keating. One of the perpetrators, Madelin Tanner, tries to look away casually.
  • Doctor Who: Used in-universe by the Doctor
    • In "Deep Breath", the Doctor first notices the Half-Face Man because he's the only one not gawking at the spectacle of a T. Rex spontaneously combusting.
    • In "The Eleventh Hour", the Doctor speaks to Rory because while everyone else is staring at the dimmed sun, he's using his phone to take a picture of a man and a dog.
  • Lost: In the episode "The Other 48 Days" Ana Lucia suspects another survivor, Nathan, of being a spy sent by The Others as he was disappearing out into the jungle for long periods of time and having secretive behavior. Ana Lucia even goes as far as throwing Nathan in a pit for days because of her suspicions about his behavior. This turns out to be a red herring as it soon revealed that Goodwin was actually the spy.
  • Veronica Mars: Season 4 has Veronica's Establishing Character Moment occur during a bombing on the boardwalk. After the explosion, everybody runs in the opposite direction - except Veronica, who walks towards the danger.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In crowd scenes, Garak is often seen to one side. This hints at his shifty personality and mysterious past.
  • In the Firefly episode "Jaynestown", this happens twice in a short span of time.
    • The crew go into a local dive bar for the dirt poor workers of the Company Town, where they plan to meet their smuggling contact Kessler. Kessler doesn't show up, however, and instead Mal spots a suspiciously well-dressed man walking around and looking very out of place. Soon after the man approaches them and reveals that he was Kessler's boss, but the local "magistrate" learned that Kessler was part of a smuggling operation and had Kessler killed for it.
    • Shortly afterwards, when the local musician starts playing The Ballad of Jayne, the camera twice briefly lingers on a handsome local man who is a bit cleaner and better dressed than most of the other workers. He turns out to be a Mauve Shirt for the episode and in the climax, he ends up Taking the Bullet for Jayne.
  • In the Scorpion episode "A Cyclone", the team is able to quickly determine who blew up a server farm (which brought down all of the Internet service in L.A.) by checking the building's surveillance feed and noticing the one man who (on top of wearing dark glasses and a baseball cap) didn't react when the bomb went off.

     Video Games 
  • In the opening of Final Fantasy X, Auron, the game's resident stoic badass, can be seen calmly strolling through the streets while everyone else is running screaming. Accordingly, he knows exactly what's going on.
  • The VR game Panoptic has one player travel in a large crowd of identical NPCs, and another player hovering above to try and pick them out based on their movements.

     Web Comic 

     Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Used as a clue for the identity of the shooter in "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" When Mr. Burns interrupts the town meeting and asks who in attendance has the guts to stop his plan to block out the sun, all attendees can be seen glancing around to see if anyone is going to speak up, except for Maggie, who just gives Burns a Death Glare.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Baby-Doll," Batman pursues Baby-Doll, who has the body of a small child, through a carnival crowded with kids. Batman conspicuously lands on top of a stall, which causes all the kids to flock to him. Everyone except Baby-Doll, who now has no crowd to hide in.
  • Adventure Time: Subverted in "Ignition Point". Finn and Jake overhear a conversation between two Flame Kingdom residents planning to assassinate Flame King and try to weed them out by mimicking their behaviour during a stage show to see if anyone in the audience reacts. Finn and Jake see one member of the audience start acting suspiciously and continue in hopes that he'll crack. Unfortunately, Flame King thinks Finn and Jake are committing treason and orders them to be executed, with the nervous member of the audience not being acknowledged again but it turning out that the executioners are the real killers.

     Real Life 
  • The slogan "Bomb Disposal Expert: If you see me running, try to keep up!" and its variations invoke this by boiling down to "the person acting differently knows something you don't!".


Video Example(s):


Conspicuous in the Crowd

As Guy Haines prepares for a tennis match, he notices a single man in the stands is staring at him, instead of watching the ball in the current match like everyone else is. He's unnerved when he recognizes him as the stranger who suggested Guy murder his father in exchange for murdering Guy's promiscuous wife.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ConspicuousInTheCrowd

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