It has been said that "a trope cannot be partially subverted any more than a woman can be a little bit pregnant". Then what do you call it when The Butler Did It, but "it" was eating the last cookie in the jar? Or when a powerful weapon glows so little you can't even notice it in good light?
You call it a Downplayed Trope.
A Downplayed Trope is when a trope is played to a much smaller extent than it usually is. In particularly extreme cases, the lack of extent to which the trope is played is Played for Laughs for the same reason as its antithesis, the Exaggerated Trope. The exact definition varies on a case-by-case basis, but the above works as a general rule. It's also why The Same But Less doesn't really make a new trope, since Tropes Are Flexible.
In case the introduction didn't tip you off, many cases of Not a Subversion fall into this trope's territory. Keep in mind when listing examples, downplaying does NOT mean that trope criteria can be ignored (see Speculative Troping) and that not all tropes can be downplayed.
A form of Playing with a Trope.
Contrast Exaggerated Trope.
- Yazan Gable of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam downplays the Ax-Crazy and Psycho for Hire tropes. Yazan is a dangerously insane, feral predator who joined the army just so he could get the chance to hurt people and has no empathy whatsoever for those around him. However, he's as rational as a person with that kind of motivation can be, enjoys the company of a few likeminded sociopaths (though he doesn't care at all when they die), follows the orders of those superiors he respects, and is generally portrayed as a brutal uncaring thug rather than the cackling madman that is typical of both tropes.
- Rei Kiriyama from 3-gatsu no Lion is downplayed example of The Eeyore. He spends much of his time and narration contemplating over his many issues and is prone to frequent emotional lows. However, he is not unreasonably depressed, and he is capable of showing other emotions for more than just a brief moment.
- Fairy Tail's Fairy Law is a downplayed, laser-guided Fantastic Nuke. They have the real thing in the Magitek Kill Sat Etherion, though.
- In Gaiking: Legend of Daiku Maryu, Gaiking's Puncher Grind attack is a downplayed Rocket Punch; it's not propelled, and it can't return to Gaiking after being fired. Daiya has to improvise by using the Zecter Hook technique to retrieve it from mid-air.
- Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Downplays Crazy Jealous Guy. Germany and Japan may have been intensely jealous of each other, but they didn't actively try to ban Italy from being with the other.
- Evangelion 303: Downplays Megaton Punch. In chapter 2 a very angry Asuka punches Shinji hard; but instead of putting him in orbit as usual in this trope, her punch just results in him stumbling backwards and his nose bleeding.
- The Matrix downplays Like a God to Me, where a guy calls Neo a "personal Jesus Christ", but in the context of being polite instead of amazed.
- Home Alone 2: Lost in New York downplays Punch-Clock Villain with the concierge played by Tim Curry. He's doing his job and is right that Kevin used his father's credit card illegally to book a room, but he's overly motivated in catching Kevin and it looks like he's doing it out of spite.
- Beverly Cleary's sister series Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby downplays Embarrassing Nickname. Beezus and Ramona, which was written in Beezus' perspective, mentions that she'd rather be called her real name "Beatrice", rather than "Beezus". But she never verbally complains about the nickname when her friends and family uses that, so one might assume that she's actually fine with it.
- Paddington Bear downplays the Bears Are Bad News trope; unlike most bears who appear in this trope, he is rather placid, friendly, polite and mild-mannered, but his naïveté and innocence about both British culture (being a recent immigrant to London from Darkest Peru) and human culture (being, well, a bear) mean that he tends to inadvertently cause trouble for people around him, albeit mainly of the "awkward social situations" nature rather than the "OMG this bear's gonna eat my leg" nature.
- The Mentalist: The butler was the driver for the socialite who did it, making him an accomplice. Said socialite arranged for the butler to go free if she confessed.
- Bones: The butler confessed to doing it, but it's pretty likely he's just taking the fall for his employers.
- Dickie Bennett downplays Evil Cripple. An injury from high school left him with a limp. It doesn't impair him overly much, and is only noticeable when characters call attention to it. At the same time, said limp is at the core of his anger with the world, and twenty years after receiving it, he still wants payback on the man who gave it to him.
- Johnny Crowder, conversely, downplays Obfuscating Disability. Johnny really is crippled. A shotgun blast to the stomach left him with a shuffling, painful walk, and it's much easier for him to use a wheelchair. What he is not however, is a full on paraplegic, which is what he pretends to be; if Johnny has to, he can walk.
- David Sarif of Deus Ex: Human Revolution fits this aspect of Corrupt Corporate Executive. He's not a bad guy per se, especially given the setting. He's shown to genuinely care about his employees, but he's also willing to cut some corners that would be difficult to explain in an investigation and to take "creative" interpretations of some of his employee contracts. That said, he's the nicest bigshot you'll meet in the setting and the only one not in cahoots with The Illuminati.
- Fina of Skies of Arcadia has a small version of a Cleavage Window (because it has a purpose other than Fanservice).
- In Bastion, you have a Short-Range Shotgun in the Scrap Musket, but those qualities can be downplayed by installing upgrades that tighten the spread and reduce the damage falloff at range. Or it can be further tuned in the other direction with an opposite upgrade that further widens the spread.
- In Tales of the Abyss, the resident Team Pet comes equipped with a downplayed Breath Weapon. He's too young to use it without an Amplifier Artifact, and even then it's too weak to be useful outside of puzzle solving.
- The Templar's Ancient Conspiracy status in Assassins Creed 4. The Templars are rich and powerful in the Carribean but not so much that the similarly rich and powerful English Navy and plantation owners can't ignore them at their leisure.
- Love Triangle is downplayed in Fire Emblem Awakening. Not only do Cordelia and Sumia never catfight over their "love interest" Chrom (Sumia is one of his potential wives, but Cordelia isn't... and yet Chrom's not mentioned in their support talks), but both women can end up with other men or as bachelorettes if the player so desires.
- The computer opponents generally in Pokémon, and those in the battle facilities in particular are noted for being such blatant cheaters with illegal movesets. Come the Battle Maison in Pokémon X and Y, however, and the opponents use Pokémon and movesets that are all legal. Only two instances of cheating - which aren't really blatant forms of cheating:
- Pokémon with unreleased hidden abilities - which were programmed in the first place, just not released to the general public, so it's different to tacking on a random ability just to gain an unfair advantage.
- Their Pokémon also sometimes hold items unavailable in X and Y - but they were all available/used in the previous generations of games - so that's not really cheating either.
- In the XCOM: Enemy Unknown expansion Enemy Within, dealing with humans terrorists and saboteurs known as EXALT involves a No-Gear Level... For the covert operative you send after them, who needs to be as inconspicuous as possible, and as such can only bring a handgun and two items with him/her, and is forced to go without armor (which includes Power Armor) or main weapon (a shotgun, an assault rifle or a Sniper Rifle, depending on class). The extraction team send to rescue him/her after his/her cover is blown is free to pack as much heat as a supernova though.
- Further downplayed if you equip your operative with a plasma pistol and a nanofiber vest. If they're the right class (say, Assault geared for close combat or a sniper with Gunskinger and Double Tap) they can mord than pull their own weight during the exfiltration.
- King Graham in King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! is a downplayed Empowered Badass Normal. The magical fruit he ate in the previous game not only cured him of his fatal illness, but also gave him strength far beyond what his advanced age should allow. However, his abilities are exactly as they were when the series began. This is no longer downplayed when he learns Iconomancy.
- Disgaea: Hour of Darkness downplays Forced Tutorial on a New Game+: you're still forced to do the tutorial, but it's really one very quick level that you'll most likely finish with just one move.
- Baldur's Gate downplays My Species Doth Protest Too Much with Viconia. Your regular MSDPTM drow is a Chaotic Good Eilistraee worshipper. Viconia, on the other hand, is a Neutral Evil cleric of Shar, but fell from grace with the drow society for invoking Even Evil Has Standards while she was an initiate for the much more evil Lolth. Still, she's an angel compared to your typical drow, especially those you meet in Shadows of Amn.
- Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn downplays Card-Carrying Villain with the Big Bad, Irenicus. He doesn't brag about being evil but knows that people views him as such so he doesn't bother denying it, enough to tell in your face that you "warrant no villain's exposition" from him.
- Futurama downplayed Implausible Deniability in Into the Wild Green Yonder, when the head of the robot mafia isn't denying his wife stole his lucky foot. He's just insisting they need more evidence when the evidence so far is conclusive.
- Transformers Prime downplayed Pink Means Feminine by making Arcee blue, with just pink touches.
- Similarly, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's Princess Celestia downplays Princesses Prefer Pink, as she only has a pink outline and pink strands in her hair; she is mostly white. Not that you'd know it, looking at the earliest toys based on her, which depicted her with a pink coat instead of a white one. Thankfully, with the arrival of Princess Cadance, a princess who really is pink, Celestia is now free to have the first toy that actually looks like her made years after her introduction.
- Gravity Falls:
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress is downplayed. When Dipper and Mabel run off a cliff, they fall down at a realistic speed, but instead of falling forward in an arc, they go straight forward, then down.
- The pair also downplay Half-Identical Twins: they're almost the exact same in terms of height, face and body type, but have different hair styles and outfits, as well as personalities. (Also, Mabel wears braces while Dipper has a birthmark hidden under his bangs.)