Follow TV Tropes


Elephant in the Living Room

Go To

Peter: The healthiest thing we can do is just ignore this and pretend it doesn't exist. Just like we do with the squid.
[zooms out to reveal a giant squid occupying most of the room, who angrily knocks the vase, cups, and cloth off the kitchen table]
Lois: Uh, earthquake?
Peter: Eh, truck going by.

The Elephant in the Living Room (or "in the Corner" or "on the Sofa") is a large topic or problem which, though obvious to everyone, is deliberately or conspicuously not discussed. In most cases, this is used to create comedic tension; for example, when a character has a Big Secret he must struggle to divert conversation away from. In stark contrast, some cases of the trope create a tragic vibe, with an Elephant so awful that nobody can bring themselves to raise the topic.

For cases where there is a subject within the series that simply cannot be questioned, or else the whole premise will fall apart, it's a case of why they don't Just Eat Gilligan. If a subject is addressed with some form of implausible explanation, that is most often a Hand Wave or A Wizard Did It; when the subject is simply never addressed at all, it is the Elephant in the Living Room.


In politics, this trope is known as a Third Rail Issue, after the third rail in a subway or light rail system which is held at high voltage to provide power to the trains that run on it (and hence would be unpleasant, if not suicidal, to touch). It refers to an issue which the electorate both feels strongly about, and is sharply divided on what to do about it; therefore, a compromise solution is unlikely to satisfy anyone and will just make everyone angry. As a result, no one attempts to do anything.

In Anime, this trope is known as a Pregnant Ranma Problem, based on the following anecdotal discussion between the author/artist of Ranma ½ and a random fan at a convention:

Random Fanboy: What would happen if Ranma got pregnant as a girl, then changed back to a boy?
Rumiko Takahashi: I don't think about that, and neither should you.

Which just about sums up 90% of these examples. Cheers!

Originated in an 1814 Ivan Krylov fable entitled "The Inquisitive Man", which tells of a man who goes to a museum and notices all sorts of tiny things, but fails to notice an elephant. Another common variant is the much more revolting "corpse at the dinner party."

If this is the result of time travel, see Caught in the Ripple.

See also Unusually Uninteresting Sight, The Disease That Shall Not Be Named, Ignore the Disability, Suspiciously Specific Denial, Talk About the Weather.


    open/close all folders 

  • One public awareness commercial has a man walking into an office accompanied by an elephant, with the nametag of "AIDS." Certainly a very effective message.
  • An ad shows a couple's living room and points out new things, whenever the curtain is pulled back. The third time this happens a huge fluff dinosaur is standing behind them — the announcer points to a small cactus on the coffee table.
  • A PSA about drinking and driving shows a party where the guests are drinking alcohol. One of the guests puts down his glass and grabs his car keys. The hosts ask him if he is OK to drive. He says that he is fine to drive, which triggers a large inflatable elephant to inflate in a manner similar to a car's air bag. The message is not to ignore drinking and driving like the proverbial elephant in the room.
  • An ad for an asthma inhaler has a guy mentioning how trying to breathe when you have asthma can feel like this, then the camera pans back to show an elephant sitting on his chest. And then it shows the person going about his/her activities with the elephant following. It isn't doing anything, it isn't bothering anyone, it is just THERE. (The idea being that the inhaler isn't a cure for asthma, but it makes it possible to live with it.)
  • A Doritos ad has an office worker with an elephant that keeps smacking his coworkers for trying to take some Doritos. At the end, one asks, "Are we gonna talk about this?" The worker simply replies "No."

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kaiju Girl Caramelise: The first time Rairi's face gets doused in front of Kuroe, she frantically reapplies her makeup and subsequently tries to act like Kuroe didn't just see her gorilla face. It isn't until she and Kuroe have a heart-to-heart at the makeup store about why the latter wants to look cute that she decides to directly acknowledge the situation.
  • One of Kousaka's major character traits in Genshiken is that he has absolutely no awareness that the elephant in the room is supposed to be hiding. As a result, he says what everyone's thinking without hesitation. A key example is when the rest of the club is unsure of whether Ohno and Tanaka are dating; as everyone else vacillates, he just yells, "Hey! Are you two going out?"
  • The big one from Ah! My Goddess, eventually brought up in a recent Light Novel for the series: what will happen to Keiichi and Belldandy's relationship as Keiichi grows old? Interestingly, Keiichi and Peorth did have a rather evasive conversation about it. Keiichi's biggest concern, to Peorth's surprise, was how it would hurt Belldandy.
  • Kanokon. The female lead is some 25+ times older than the male. That means, by the time he dies of old age, she'll only just have got out of adolescence. Yet no-one mentions it, ever. In the manga, Kouta does angst about it a bit.
  • In Cromartie High School, no one but Kamiyama and Hayashida seem to realize that Mechazawa is a robot, and even they never directly say it. This and the general weirdness is lampshaded in the last scene of the anime: Hayashida and Maeda ask Kamiyama what they're going to with their lives. Kamiyama then points out the window to Mechazawa, Freddie, his horse, and Gorilla, stating that's whatever the three of them might do doesn't interest him nearly as much as what those other guys might do.
  • In Case Closed, Conan's increasingly noticeable failure to act as a normal little boy arouses suspicions from just about everyone in the cast not privy to his secret, yet nobody really thinks of just sitting the kid down and asking him just how on earth does he know so much, rather preferring to harbor vague suspicions relatively forever.
  • Bleach:
    • It's revealed that Captain Komamura, whose face was concealed up to that point, has the head of a wolf. Some characters are surprised by it, but literally no one questions why he looks like that. It's (much) later revealed Komamura comes from a werewolf clan that was cursed for their ignorance a long time ago; the curse traps them in an animalistic form, and the further into ignorance they descend, the more animalistic they become. Full descent results in a member of the clan becoming a proper wolf.
    • In one filler arc, Ichigo indignantly demands to know how the members of two noble clans didn't figure out that the others were noble in spite of using their distinctive clan names. Rukia hastily convinces him to ignore the issue.
  • Code Geass: Villetta Nu is one of the people who informs the Black Knights about Geass. The Black Knights do not put her to task for her connections to Britannia or her secret tryst with Ohgi, who isn't questioned for the latter either, or threatening to gun down Kallen along with Lelouch on suspicion of being Geassed, or jumping to conclusions regarding Lelouch himself. (Then again, neither is the fact that Schneizel is the most notorious of the opposing royals, in the case of R2 19.)
  • Naruto
    • Kishimoto rarely, if ever, touches upon the largest example in the series: The subject of Child Soldiers. Late into the manga, though, there's some talking about it.
    • It wasn't until The Last: Naruto the Movie that Hinata's love confession to Naruto during the Pain arc was acknowledged. Granted, immediately after the Pain Arc, Naruto was faced with the issue of Sasuke being marked for death, and shortly afterward, the Fourth Shinobi World War broke out, so there wasn't much of a chance to sit down and talk with Hinata about it. In-series it took Naruto three years to mention the elephant in the bedroom. The reason given is that because of his background as an ostrasized orphan, Naruto has trouble understanding the different types of love. He thought that Hinata's confession was platonic for three years.
  • The anime of Oreimo doesn't touch upon the Brother–Sister Incest aspects of the series (past subtext), especially compared to the manga and light novel.
  • In Attack on Titan, during his Rousing Speech, Commander Pixis states the awful truth that everyone knows but refuses to talk about: that they are fed and alive today because thousands were sent to their deaths five years ago, after the fall of Wall Maria, to "reclaim lost territory from the Titans", simply because the land inside the two remaining walls couldn't support everyone. He goes even further and says all of them bear the weight of that sin and that things will get worse for humanity if Wall Rose falls as well. This harsh realization is what motivates everyone to stand their ground.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In the original series, Goku's nature was an open question among the cast. He was a strange boy with a tail who was exceptionally strong to the point several characters questioned whether he was human before eventually saying nothing more about it. It becomes a wonder why anyone was surprised when they learned that he was an alien. Then again, there are many strange things in this version of Earth.
    • At the end of Dragon Ball Z's Cell Saga, it's blatantly obvious that Krillin has developed feelings for Android 18; when he tries to use a wish to turn her and 17 human, only Gohan doesn't get why...but then he realizes it and just blurts out "Hey, you've got a crush on her, don't you?", prompting an exasperated Krillin to punch him in the head.

    Comic Books 
  • In Fables, the protagonists rarely talk about much of their pasts, even if it was full of abominable deeds. Which, considering they're all old-school Grimm storybook fables, can be extensive indeed. The in-story explanation is they were all given amnesty when they entered the mundane world. This doesn't keep them from being wary of each other, nor from falling back on old habits.
  • Despite the fact that Marvel Comics's version of New York City has been the site of multiple alien invasions, a demonic infestation, has suffered through every kind of cockamamie plot imaginable, and is routinely targeted by supervillains of every stripe, there has never been any sort of mass exodus or serious damage to the economy in spite of all the upheavals. (Probably because Damage Control repairs everything so efficiently.) When 9/11 rolled around, it portrayed The Kingpin, Magneto, and Doctor Doom as sincerely moved. Problem is, the Marvel Universe has had much worse. Magneto was actually killed in such an attack, on Genosha, which killed 16 million people. 9/11, by MU standards, was actually a low-impact event. Furthermore, while the Kingpin might be moved by love for his city, there is no real reason why Dr. Doom would care either way. All comics publishers were in a bind there, because with New York as the home of the Fantastic Four and The Avengers, or the X-Men in the same state, or Superman on Earth, it's hard to believe it could still happen, but would have been seen as disrespectful to ignore it. It gets worse. Juggernaut was seen there crying. Juggernaut, in the past, has actually knocked down one of the two buildings himself and laughed out loud about it.
  • The premise of X-Men is that there is a group of people born with random super powers who are the next step of human evolution. Society fears those mutants and their powers, and all mutants have to endure the Fantastic Racism. So what about the other superheroes of the Marvel Universe? How can mutant heroes be feared because of their powers while non-mutant heroes, such as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, be loved as celebrities? Why do the people fear Sunfire, a guy who can fly and light himself on fire, and love the Human Torch, another guy who can fly and light himself on fire? As a result, most adaptions of the X-Men to other media simply skip the Marvel Universe as a whole, and focus just on the parts of it related to the X-Men.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man's secret identity becomes an elephant in the room among Peter Parker's group of friends. Eventually lampshaded by Kenny "Kong" McFarlane:
    What, you want us to have some kind of secret code? "Oh, if only Spider-Man were here and could go after our friend!"
  • Similarly, Batman's home town of Gotham City never suffers from any long-term economic damage or loss of population, even though a number of psychopathic supervillains routinely use the city as a stage for their grisly "performances" (The Joker), a giant petri dish for their scientific experiments (The Scarecrow), or a base for their environmental crusades (Poison Ivy). Ignoring them, the city has long been a Wretched Hive of endemic police and civic corruption and mob activity, making it curious that anyone would willingly choose to live there. Although the population did take a permanent nosedive after Batman: No Man's Land and sections of the city were rendered uninhabitable, it was still a rather busy city.
    • In Shadowpact, it is implied that the ancient entity (who later takes the name "Dr. Gotham", after the city that's been built over him) sleeping beneath Gotham City for untold ages has been influencing the dark trend of everything in the city.
    • In Stormwatch, city-speaker Jack Hawksmoor has a tête-a-tete with the personification of Gotham, who is shown as a demented goblin/gargoyle.
    • Averted in The Question on the same topic. Hub City was so crime-filled that the honest citizens eventually evacuated the place and abandoned it to the gangs.
  • This issue is actually addressed in Astro City: people continue to live in the eponymous city in spite of the constant super-crime because of the sense of community fostered by having to work together to rebuild after battles. And because having a lot of superheroes around is cool.
  • Mini Marvels parodies this trope with Elephant Steve. He really hates this expression, by the way.
  • Judd Winick's Pedro and Me has a sequence where he compares living with cameras filming your every move to living with elephants. You just feel the need to point them out.
  • An old example is the way white people are overrepresented in The Golden Age of Comic Books. We the readers know that this is because that's how you made superheroes comics back then, but it's very strange how nobody in-story ever notices the lack of super-powered non-whites.
  • The "Homeschooling" arc of Runaways involves several elephants from the previous two arcs (Karolina's depression after losing Xavin, Nico's growing Machiavellian tendencies, Chase's bitterness over losing Gert, Victor's resentment at Nico for dumping him, and Klara's unresolved trauma issues) all suddenly colliding with each other when an ill-conceived party results in a terrible accident that leads to serious divisions in the team.
  • In Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Krok obsessively carries a small device that he insists is sending a signal to his old squad, whom he got separated from years ago. Except it's soon obvious that it's not doing so and the "missing squad" is actually dead, with Krok being delusional from the trauma. All of the Scavengers can see it plain as day, but they're terrified of broaching the subject and just try to pretend they don't notice, to increasingly poor effect. Misfire grows steadily more fed up with dancing around the issue, eventually forcing the others to confront it by ripping the device out of Krok's hand by force.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Alley Oop, the character Oscar Boom went straight so many decades ago that many current readers weren't aware that he started out as a crook, and that he had never gone to trial or served jail time for his crimes. Recent storylines have finally addressed this.
  • A literal one from The Far Side, in which a detective accuses the butler of goring and trampling the victim, ignoring the elephant in a trench coat next to him.
    • Another strip has the elephant hiding behind a fairly small piece of furniture while the homeowners search for him.
    • A similar strip features a wasp detective trying to figure out why there is a rock-shaped hole in the wasp nest that appears to have been punctured from inside the nest, somehow. Standing inside the nest is also a gigantic human child, whom everyone is ignoring (Larson apologies for the lameness of the joke in the strip's caption, saying "it was late and I was tired).
  • The 2015-01-25 daily illustration on Ma'ariv Online by Uri Fink (of Zbeng! fame) features one in a complex metaphor: Barack Obama is speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the former remarking, "...When you visit there's always an elephant in the room," struggling to take up some room for himself against the elephant with a large R on its back sitting there, looking at him smugly.
  • A The New Yorker panel featured an elephant lying on a psychologist's couch, complaining, "I'm right there in the room, and nobody notices me."
  • Parodied by Pearls Before Swine in one strip:
    Rat: You know, every time someone discusses these issues, they always like to conveniently avoid the elephant in the room.
    Goat: You mean Social Security?
    Rat: I mean the elephant in the room.
    Tiny (the elephant): I like to discuss issues, too.

    Fan Works 
  • The premise of Blackened Skies is that all of the students who committed murder in the three main games of Danganronpa are thrown into a new killing game together. Naturally, this proves to be a touchy subject; several of them strive to avoid touching on those issues or anything related to them as much as possible.
  • Many of the more poorly-written spin-offs of The Conversion Bureau paint the ponies up as being inherently morally superior to the "brutish humans" while ignoring the existence of the canonical Jerkasses like Trixie and Flim-Flam brothers, snooty and boorish Canterlot nobles, Rainbow Dash's Cloudsdale bullies, or straight up villainous tyrants like King Sombra, and the fact that even the Mane Cast have had moments of being bullies/jerks/selfish/insensitive as well. The existence of hostile Equestrian races, refuting the common conceit of Equestria-as-Mary Suetopia, is also often swept under the carpet.
  • In Darkness Burning, Elsa's family dances around the topic of her Interrupted Suicide for almost the entirety of the second chapter. This makes Anna's Wham Line of "You're the ones who made her ill. You're the reason she tried to kill herself." all the more effective.
  • In the Teen Titans story The Measure of a Titan, the Titans meet and take into protective custody a metahuman teen named David Foster. This usually would not be a bad thing, but it happens mere months after Terra's betrayal. They are too unwilling to even discuss her with David for him to get why everyone's always walking on eggshells, which the Big Bad uses for his own ends.
  • While there are tons of explained randomness in My Immortal that should at least raise some suspicion amidst rational people, Ebony doesn't find it the least bit strange that characters from the 80s know about future events. Granted, we do get some sort of explanation via Tom Satan/Bombodil/Andorson being actually future!Voldemort, but it is never explained why "Lucian" and "Samaro" know that their kids will be named Draco and "Vampire", or that they'll be friends/lovers, and Ebony still doesn't bring that up.
  • In Naruto: Rend, Naruto is this to his parents and little brother and sister Jiraiya and Tsunade what with him suddenly being "alive" again. Kushina and Minato feel guilt at Naruto's life and the fact that they never got a chance to repair their relationship in the prequel before Naruto died. Naruto later mentally notes that Tsunade and Jiraiya are completely unaware of the history and baggage between their parents and brother and must be perplexed at his hostility towards them.
  • In Chapter 21 of One Year, Yu Narukami thinks that this applies to some of his old friends' academic performance. While Yu, Sakura and Kenji are doing fairly well, Kaoru's grades are low enough that he's in danger of being dropped from the basketball team, while Hitomi's mediocre at best grades mean that she doesn't have much of a future apart from accepting her Arranged Marriage. Fittingly enough, one of his teachers asks a question about the "elephant in the room" question in that chapter, which also bears the name.
  • In Reverse: no one in any of the Hidden Villages wants to acknowledge that their abuse and isolation of their respective jinchuuriki is why so many of them run away with Kurama when he finds them. They refuse to acknowledge it, believing that Kurama is a kidnapper. They are forced to answer for it when Han and Roushi, two adult jinchuuriki publicly proclaim that they’re on Kurama’s side and fend off the trackers hunting him.
  • In The Sanctuary Telepath Helen and Janine still call each other sisters after a century, all the while pointedly ignoring that the connection between them was Janine's brother/Helen's ex-fiancé who turned into a serial killer. Of course this is a very comfortable arrangement for Janine as she knows much more than she lets on...
    • The trope turns up several other times in the story as the main characters are all very adept at not talking about things. In one scene, the Druitt siblings silently acknowledge James's mortality but keep silent as they can't do anything about it.
  • In The Stalking Zuko Series addresses the how the Gaang tried to leave Aang ignorant of the fact that he unintentionally violated his own Thou Shalt Not Kill beliefs by letting the Ocean Spirit possess him and drowned the invading fleet. Shot down when Arnook gleefully tells Aang of all he had killed by drowning.
  • In Son of the Desert Edward invites Roy and other military members who participated in the Ishval Massacre to a party full of Ishvalans. Interestingly, its the military members who are uncomfortable with the implications. The Ishvalans surprisingly don't care.
  • Tales of the Emperasque goes a long way with the Emperor reborn or his children not bringing up the fact that the Emperor is now worshiped as a god across millions of worlds, which was what he essentially banned. By the time they sit down to discuss the issue, the author literally calls it the elephant in the room.
  • Referenced in Tangled Up In You in one of Adrien's jokes: "I bought my friend an elephant for their room. They said thanks. (Beat) I said don’t mention it."
  • Hinata's Big, Screwed-Up Family in Team8. All of Team 8, the Third and Jiraiya know about it. Gai, Kakashi, Asuma and Iruka also seem to have an inkling. Not only can they not really talk about it publicly, but Hiashi has such powerful connections that he won't answer for his actions (something the Sandaime points out). They collectively decide to come up with plausible reasons for her not to be at her house or near her father.
    • To a lesser extent, Naruto and Gaara being jinchuuriki.
  • In This Bites!, when Vivi tries to use this metaphor to get the other Strawhats to address the floating island-turned-ship that Shiki floated out of, which even with a Devil Fruit is a grand feat, half of the crew say hello to Funkfreed (the sword that turns to an elephant) in deadpanned politeness.
  • In Ultra Fast Pony, the (pony) cast know about humans, but are afraid to directly mention them. It starts off rather subtle, with knowledge of humans merely implied by the characters not following the Hold Your Hippogriffs and Flintstone Theming that characterized the canon series. Then, in the episode "Purple Party Pooper", the issue accidentally gets brought to the forefront by Twilight and Rarity, who panic before agreeing to just pretend the conversation never happened.
    Twilight: You don't have time for that? You, of all people?
    Rarity: [gasp] You said "people"!
    Twilight: There's nothing wrong with "people". It's "human" we're not allowed to say.
    Rarity: You said "human"!
    Twilight: Oh no! Oh, wait, so did you!
  • In Wish Carefully, after the Death Eaters find the glaring flaws in their dream of a pureblood-only utopia ruled by Voldemort, no one wants to talk about how they are becoming too inbred, people are becoming magically weaker with each generation and that they're slowly dying off.

    Film — Animated 
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown features a literal example. Ellie is supposedly a possum. Who's 10 feet tall and weighs 7 tons. And has huge tusks. And is otherwise basically a mammoth. Her "brothers" Crash and Eddie, actual possums at that, don't seem to find this odd, except for her lacking the ability to sneak around. Ellie herself is in complete denial about possibly being a mammoth, in spite of Manny, Sid and Diego trying to convince her otherwise, and still tries to hide, even though no tree can hold her and no bush can cover her.
  • Incredibles 2: Violet asks her parents if they're going to talk about "the elephant in the room," meaning the fact they were all arrested earlier in the day.
  • Kung Fu Panda: The question of why a panda has a goose for a father is completely ignored by all of the characters. Roger Ebert initially speculated that in this universe, it may be normal for members of one species to give birth to another — but this was shot down when Kung Fu Panda 2 turned the reason why Po was adopted into a major plot point. Po's adopted status was already implied in the first movie, but the second movie reveals that his adopted father never wanted to bring up the subject because he was afraid Po would leave him to search for his true parents.
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part does the same joke as Zootopia with a visual elephant, who's a butler.
  • A painful example in Spookley the Square Pumpkin: Absolutely nobody mentions the fact that pumpkins are basically butchered on Halloween, which is said to be a holiday for pumpkins. It's really mostly just bad writing.
  • Zootopia: Since this is a World of Funny Animals, it twists the trope into a Literal Metaphor as a joke. During the morning bullpen briefing, Chief Bogo announces that the first order of business is to "acknowledge the elephant in the room," with a stern face while scanning the room. Despite the ominous introduction, it turns out he's actually referring to an elephant officer in the room and wishes her a happy birthday.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • There's a subplot in Freaks in which Roscoe the clown, who is engaged to Daisy Hilton, is introduced to the fiance of Daisy's sister, Violet, and the line "You must come over and visit us some time," is used. At no point does anyone explicitly mention the fact that Daisy and Violet are joined at the hip. The whole thing is going to be very awkward.
  • A literal and classic example appears in the play (and later film) Billy Roses Jumbo. Jimmy Durante's character is attempting to "sneak" an elephant out of his failing circus as the creditors close in. He and the elephant are of course promptly confronted by the sheriff and the repo squad:
    Sheriff: Hey! Where are you going with that elephant?
    Durante: (Pauses with the elephant looming directly behind him, looks left, looks right) Elephant? What elephant?
  • In A Simple Plan, starring Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton, hunting buddies find a crashed plane full of money. By the end of the movie, two out of the three are dead and the remaining one had to burn the money so he wouldn't be found. The ending narration mentions that he and his wife never mentioned the money again and tried to live a normal life, but the fear and greed and loss prevented them from ever being happy again.
  • The Party uses a literal example. The guests at a Hollywood party try to ignore the elephant brought home by the host's hippie daughter and her friends. This becomes harder when they give the elephant a bubble bath in the pools spread throughout the house.
  • Beautifully played in Nicole Kidman's The Others (2001). Throughout the movie there is the palpable sense that something has happened in the house and that everyone knows something that they're not talking about - but what it is remains a mystery to each character and to the audience until the conclusion.
  • The page image is a Banksy piece, featured in his documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.
  • In Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Champ declares his love for Ron whilst the news team is in the car. Extreme awkwardness ensues as Ron and Brian concentrate very hard on ignoring him.
  • Yogi Bear. Like Scooby-Doo, almost everyone knows Yogi and Booboo are talking bears but no one cares that much. Well, the movie does imply that in-universe there is a species of bear that talks (albeit a very rare one).
  • Defied in 22 Jump Street regarding how Schmidt slept with the Captain's daughter in college.
    "Now gentlemen, we're not gonna sit here..." *Puts handgun on the table, directed towards Schmidt* "...and pretend there's not a big-ass elephant in the living room."

  • In the original Arthur Adventure book series, personally written & illustrated by Marc Brown, both the Tibble Twins and Mrs. Tibble are humans. It's never remarked upon and no one finds it strange. Of course, this was changed in the animated series.
  • The old variation in which the elephant-in-the-living-room analogy is used in reference to the obviousness of drug addiction/alcoholism is addressed in two different books of The Dark Tower. In one Stephen King says that the reaction loved ones of the addiction have upon discovering the elephant (addiction) was there is usually, "Oh, I'm sorry, was that an elephant? It was there when I moved in! I always assumed it was part of the furniture!" In the other King makes the analogy: that the reason the addict himself/herself doesn't see the "elephant in the living room" is because this elephant isn't just any ordinary elephant; it is like The Shadow in that it has the hypnotic super-ability to cloud men's minds so as to appear invisible to them.
  • The Douglas Adams novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency features a man at a university with a very long nose. He never speaks, and is never spoken to because people are too startled by the sight of his nose, and don't want to bring it up. He also constantly taps his fingers and makes other odd gestures, and nobody asks why due to their reluctance to speak to him. Finally one character ends up addressing him after accidentally knocking on his door. The man stops twitching and calmly announces that nobody has spoken to him in almost two decades (quoting the exact time to the second). Apparently all the gestures were him counting the seconds.
    • The sequel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul features the Norse god Thor. He complains to the female protagonist, Kate Schecter, that even though gods walk among humans, no one notices them.
      Thor: If I walk along one of your streets in this... world you have made for yourselves without us, then barely an eye will once flicker in my direction.
      Kate: Is this when you're wearing the helmet?
      Thor: Especially when I'm wearing the helmet!
  • In the Discworld novels, one of the Canting Crew is a beggar named Duck Man, for the very simple reason that he has a duck on his head. Most people don't mention the duck out of politeness, and those who do bring it up will be met with the response "What duck?" It's mentioned that he used to be quite normal "before everyone else started seeing ducks".
    • Another member of the Canting Crew is Altogether Andrews, who has several split personalities, none of which is named Andrews. This is never brought up.
    • To a lesser extent, Shawn Ogg's parentage is this. His father is publicly accepted to be Sobriety Ogg. The only problem with this idea is that Sobriety Ogg died some ten years before Shawn was born. Most people avoid the issue (probably out of fear of Nanny) and are quick to silence outsiders who try to mention it.
    • Death himself is visible to all inhabitants of the Discworld, but he is so frightening in his appearance that most people unconsciously choose not to notice anything strange about him to preserve their sanity, even when having a conversation with him.
    • Dwarves don't identify themselves as male or female and never even discuss in public that there are female dwarves. When the more progressive Ankh-Morpork dwarves start ignoring this taboo, it takes multiple books to avoid a civil war. It's mentioned that mating rituals among dwarves mostly involve attempting to surreptitiously verify what sex the other dwarf is.
    • There's also the Librarian of Unseen University, who is an orangutan due to a magical accident. People found it odd at first but now barely think about it. It's been said that if someone told the staff that there was an ape on campus they'd go ask the Librarian if he'd seen it.
    • It does come up with people outside the university - they have no idea how anyone can understand what the librarian is saying ("oook." vs "oook?"), and the wizards reply they've never had an issue.
  • In the Dragaera series, Dragaerans who are the offspring of two or more Houses are the objects of prejudice, pity, or mistrust by the vast majority of the Empire's nobility, who regard such inter-House miscegenation with contempt and disgust. Yet nobody ever mentions that Sethra Lavode is older than the Houses, so she's not a pureblooded member of any House.
    • Most contemporary people don't know how old she is; she's currently a somewhat mythical figure. And as the Houses antedate the bloodlines (they're mostly a recognition of the wildly varying species which were all engineered into biologically similar and interfertile Dragaerans), Sethra comes closer to being pureblooded than the current generations. Whether she shares a bloodline with House Dzur or one of the tribes which died out before the Empire is unclear; she herself simply doesn't seem to care (or seem willing to share; effectively the same thing).
  • Terry Kettering is the Trope Namer if not Trope Maker with his poem the "Elephant in the Room".
  • The Ernest Hemingway short story "Hills Like White Elephants" follows a couple talking at a train station, with the man attempting to convince the woman to have an abortion. The actual nature of the operation he's pressing, however, and the reason for it are conspicuously never mentioned.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Life, the Universe and Everything, uses this as a form of Invisibility Cloak, called the "Somebody Else's Problem Field", which relies on "people's natural predisposition not to see anything they don't want to, weren't expecting, or can't explain". This renders Slartibartfast's spaceship, which is described as resembling an Italian bistro with fins and engines, invisible to bystanders.
    • It's perfectly visible to whomever the "Somebody Else" in question is, however; in this case, it's Arthur Dent.
  • Hurog: In Dragon Bones the abusiveness of the recently deceased Lord Fenwick is never mentioned by the adults, the worst that others say about him was that he was something of a jerk. Neither is the fact that Fenwick and Duraugh are the only surviving of eight children, and that's because they were sent away to foster care. The protagonist, Ward, thinks about this, but no one says it. It remains unclear whether the other children died because the grandfather was abusive, too, or whether it's the family curse. Maybe both. Likewise, no one ever talks about the adultery that Fenwick and his father committed, the bastards are euphemistically called "cousins", although everyone knows what they really are. Ward has his blind spots, too - he complains that his mother was never able to protect him, but the fact that his beloved aunt Stala, who was a lot stronger, both mentally and physically, didn't protect him either, is not mentioned. And uncle Duraugh also gets off scot-free, even though he spent a lot of time on the Hurog estate, and acted like best buddies with his jerkass brother.
  • The In Death series: Roarke finds out in Divided in Death that the Homeland Security Organization was monitoring Richard Troy, Eve's father. They knew that she was with him, and that he was raping her, but they sat back and did nothing. Roarke tells Eve that he intends to hunt them down and make them pay for this. Eve wants him to leave it alone. So they try to ignore it and focus on other matters. Later, he brings it up, and Eve can only think "Here it was. The big glowing elephant in the room that she hoped to ignore. And it was trumpeting."
  • A more serious example can be found in Invisible Man, in which characters do their very best not to bring up the subject of race relations.
  • Everyone in The Kingkiller Chronicle conspicuously avoids the topic of how the Living Legend Kvothe ended up a powerless Broken Ace running an unsuccessful inn while he waits to die.
  • The presence of the Judeo-Christian God and His Son Jesus Christ are treated like this by the Only Light subsect in the Left Behind book Kingdom Come, when people in the Millennial Kingdom would have to be complete idiots to ever think They don't exist.
  • A fairly common interpretation of King Arthur's actions in Le Morte d'Arthur is that he knows that Lancelot is sleeping with Guinevere, or has at least heard the rumors, but refuses to address the issue because he knows the damage it will cause. The rest of the court seems similarly inclined, because even while they circulate rumors they never address the king with their suspicions. At least not until Agravain decides he wants more space in the room.
    • The Once and Future King is more explicit about King Arthur knowing about the affair but staying silent. There are some very good scenes with the three of them carefully not mentioning it.
    • The alternative theory (which the RSC theatrical adaptation implies) is that he's become so oblivious to Guinevere as a person he barely notices what she's doing most of the time.
    • Later in the final book, Arthur is actually said to be willing to forgive Lancelot for all of this, but Gawaine won't let him because Lancelot accidentally killed Gareth.
  • In Murderess, Hallwad and Aucasis never discuss the horrors Aucasis went through in the Dark Ones’ tunnels before her rescue.
  • In a brief scene in the first Percy Jackson and the Olympians book, the existence of the Judeo-Christian God is treated like this. All that Chiron is willing to say is that it's a "metaphysical" debate and that the existence of the Olympians is a "much smaller matter". The implication is that even the Olympians are just as clueless as mortals are regarding whether there is an all-powerful being above them or not.
    • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard is a bit braver by introducing Samirah al Abbas, who worships God over the Norse gods (as a Muslim, she views them as simply genies). However, the matter is still inconclusive since Sam basically veers into a Flat-Earth Atheist: she refuses to worship the gods despite fully understanding that they have godlike powers. When Magnus (a self-described atheist) asks her about this, Sam says that it reinforces her belief in God even more, as, unlike the Norse gods, He doesn't make Himself known to mortals and never try to interfere with their lives.
  • In Shades of Grey, the state of Chromatacia is governed by Munsell's Rules, which also specify what does and does not exist. If you see something with your own eyes, something that should not exist according to Munsell, then you just pretend you didn't see it. If you absolutely must refer to it (say, to warn others about speaking of it) then you call it "apocryphal". The town of East Carmine has an apocryphal man. He regularly steals food from others' houses in broad daylight, and no one will stop him for fear of breaking the rules by acknowledging his existence.
  • In Shaman Blues, the spirits following Gardiasz seem to have this status. They never speak, Witkacy has no idea who they are and why they're following the lord of the afterlife, and the one time he asked, his relations with Gardiasz soured permanently.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the incest between Cersei and Jaime is this trope after King Robert's death. Initially, it was known only to a few people who had spies or performed some research (Varys, Littlefinger, Renly, Stannis, and Jon Arryn). However, after the end of the first book where the Lannisters have performed a coup and killed Robert and Ned, Stannis sends letters all across Westeros with the news of incest. While the fact is known to even the Lannisters' allies, it's something that can't be discussed because the reveal of the incest would result in the whole reign of Joffrey (and later Tommen) being considered illegitimate and treasonous. So, people like Margaery will occasionally make a snide comment, but in whole the discussion is avoided lest the whole Lannister/Tyrell regime collapse. However, it's looking like that's going to happen anyway with Cersei's incompetence.
  • In The Spirit Thief, there are three rules the Shepherdess set down that all spirits must obey: don't look at the sky, don't ask about the stuff you see in the sky, and never, ever mention stars. By the fifth book, the elephant becomes so conspicuous, the Shaper Mountain goes "screw it" and explains everything to Slorn and Miranda.
  • Twilight: Stephenie Meyer invoked this when a fan asked why Bella never seemed to menstruate, then got pregnant with demon spawn after having sex once. Or if she did menstruate, why didn't her vampire boyfriend eat her? The author seemed to be disgusted by the entire idea, though some people still think the question was an excellent point.
    • The Official Illustrated Guide eventually explained in its FAQ that the blood from a woman's period isn't freshly oxygenated blood flowing from the heart, like blood from a cut would be, and thus doesn't elicit the same reaction.
    • It's also an in-universe elephant in the room - according to the same question, Bella apparently did have periods in the earlier books but was too embarrassed to ask about a vampire's reaction to it, while Edward was fully aware but too much of a gentleman to bring up the subject.
  • In Sharon Creech's The Wanderer, Sophie blocks out any and all notions that she is adopted and her biological parents are dead, even though everyone knows this to be the case.
  • In Watership Down, there's one rabbit warren that lives in uneasy peace with the human whose land they live on. Rather than chasing the rabbits away, the human leaves food out to make sure the rabbits are well-fed—and he occasionally sets a single trap out, then cooks the rabbit that gets caught. The rabbits, at some point in the past, decided this was an acceptable trade-off. So they live there, and they never talk about the traps.
  • Played for Drama in The World According to Garp; after the car accident, the reader gradually notices that while we know what happened to everyone else, no-one's mentioned Walt. It's eventually revealed that he died, and his parents are too distraught to talk about him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Not subverted, but occasionally addressed in Battlestar Galactica. While the remains of humanity are on the run after the destruction of their homes, and shower vitriol on the Cylons for it, no one talks about the reasons for the Cylons' hate of humanity. Only Commander Adama points out that, "We deserved what we got for enslaving our creations; we were terrible parents, do we deserve to survive?" (Paraphrased) The question is occasionally brought up to reinforce that humanity is not blameless in the show's Back Story, and needs to atone.
    • Adama actually directly asks Athena why the Cylons hate humanity so much in one episode. She replies that during Galactica's decommissioning speech during the pilot episode, Adama asked whether humanity deserved to survive. Then she adds "Maybe you don't."
    • In one episode, "The Captain's Hand", Roslin finally addressed an Elephant that had gone ignored for a while- whether or not humanity even could survive with their current rate of deaths vs. births. It turns out that Baltar had run the numbers long ago and knew exactly how long it would take for humans to go extinct (18 years), but apparently no one else was ready to deal with it.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sunnydale's vampire problem seems to be treated this way, as several episodes make it obvious that the Muggles know what's going on (especially after season three), they just try to ignore it and get on with their lives. This was made especially obvious during the prom episode: when giving out the various class superlatives, Jonathan announces that everyone knows there's something weird about the town but don't know what, only that Buffy is involved with it and seems to help stop it. As a result, the class gives her a special "Class Protector" award.
  • Charité at War plays in Nazi Germany, and several dissidents angrily call the passive supporters of the regime out on their willingness to turn a blind eye to the persecution and systematic murders of "undesirables". Protagonist Anni, reproached by her dissident brother Otto, insists that something so horrible would never be lawfully made possible, but later has to face that she knew early on and decided to condone it.
  • On The Closer, when Brenda and Fritz are house-hunting, they never, ever, ever come out and directly discuss the possibility of having kids. Fritz approaches the subject obliquely, musing aloud about whether they should consider the quality of schools near a potential home, and Brenda circumspectly points out the advantages of a house that's got a pool and other perks, but only one master bedroom.
  • Referenced in an episode of Criminal Minds where the DNA of a dead man was found at a crime scene.
    Rossi: Do we have parachutes on [the jet]?
    Reid: Standard-issue on all federal aircraft.
    Rossi: Then let's use one on the elephant in the room, get him out of here.
  • Nobody in Degrassi talks about the unusually high rate of horrible things that happen to its students. Despite the school shooting, stabbing, rape, attempted rape, STD outbreak, and umpteen teen pregnancies, which in the real world would make Degrassi the most infamous school in all of Canada (oooh!), everyone still thinks that it's a fabulous school and nobody moves away to find a safer one.
  • In an early Dexter episode, after an... awkward moment with his girlfriend who had been abused by her ex-husband, and Dexter is also a serial killer and psychopath who has trouble with intimacy because he is unable to have human feelings, he says, "There's an elephant in the room and its name is sex."
  • Doctor Who: This trope runs through the series, even from the beginning. A lot of the time, the Doctor's role in a story is to bring up the proverbial elephant that locals won't discuss.
    • Susan's behaviour in "An Unearthly Child" is a good example of this — the episode marks the point where Ian and Barbara do something about it.
    • "The Idiot's Lantern": The faceless grandmother in the upstairs room. Of course, the Abusive Parent who gets explosively angry whenever anyone tries to talk about her doesn't help.
    • "Gridlock": Everyone in the traffic jam from hell knows that they haven't seen anyone from the surface government in decades, but they can't bring themselves to admit it. Turns out there isn't a surface government, thanks to a super-plague that wiped out the rest of the planet.
    • "The Unicorn and the Wasp": The Doctor and Donna realize they've arrived in time for Agatha Christie's notable disappearance:
      The Doctor: She'd just discovered her husband was having an affair.
      Donna: You'd never think to look at her. Smiling away.
      The Doctor: Wellll, she's British and moneyed. That's what they do. They carry on.
    • "The Beast Below": Everybody knows that something's off about the ship (It's basically an entire nation compacted into a starship), and are afraid of what happens, but they don't talk about it, ever. (Except for the Doctor, Amy Pond, and the Queen aboard the ship. And even the half-human half-smiler characters talk about it to a limited degree. Though, the general public refuses to talk about it.)
    • Amusing reference in "Amy's Choice":
      The Doctor: There is an elephant in the room.
      Amy: I have to be this size, I'm having a baby!
      The Doctor: No, not that... Rory... has a ponytail. [turns to Amy] I hold him down, you cut it off!
  • This is lampshaded on an episode of Dragons' Den, when a couple present a product that is essentially an elephant plushie that is supposed to be used by married couples to give a hint that something difficult needs to be discussed. The problem with this being that a couple could just use an ordinary elephant plushie, or indeed any inanimate object that they own and agree on having this meaning, to do the same thing. The Dragons are not impressed and don't invest in this product.
  • Fawlty Towers had Basil attempting to do this with "The Germans" - unfortunately, a concussion left him completely unable to keep from mentioning the war.
    German Guest: Will you stop talking about the war!
    Basil: Me?! You started it!
    Guest: We did not start it!
    Basil: Yes you did, you invaded Poland!
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Over the 8,000 years since the Long Night, conditions at the Wall have steadily deteriorated, leaving the Night's Watch undermanned and under-equipped to hold the Wall against the wildlings and White Walkers beyond. In addition, the long summer is ending and the War of Five Kings has distracted everyone, even the Starks, from preparations for the coming winter.
    • Neither Jon nor Ygritte want to face the question of what will happen when Jon is forced to choose which side he's really on.
    • Tyrion calls Joffrey a bastard in front of everyone in "The Laws of Gods and Men", though his entire speech is so venomous it's doubtful anyone read too much into it.
  • This trope is referenced by name in one episode of Joan of Arcadia. The elephant in question is the fact that the car accident that put Kevin permanently into a wheelchair was Kevin's fault, and not the fault of the other driver.
  • Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital: the source of the near-constant earthquakes; the checkered pasts of the doctors (especially Stegman) and the hospital itself also qualify.
  • An episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was based around the discovery that two teenage daughters of a family on a popular reality show have been raped and become pregnant. The detectives suspect the family's oldest son, who turns out to have a history of sexual assault; rather than get actual psychological help for him, his parents just sent him to a Christian "reform camp" each time. Even when confronted with the possibility that he raped his own sisters, they still don't address the problem and just send him away again. Although in this case, it turns out he actually didn't do it.
  • In Lost's fifth season, John Locke mentions this trope by name while talking to Ben Linus. So, what's the elephant? John's death. At Ben's hands.
  • The Mad Men episode "The Summer Man" has a Visual Pun on this expression, when Don brings a stuffed elephant as a present to his son's birthday party. (The elephant in question represents... a lot of things.)
  • A common Alternative Character Interpretation in Merlin is that Arthur is aware of Merlin's magic, and simply choosing to ignore it. This is sometimes extended to Gwen and Morgana, or even to pretty much the entire castle except, obviously, King Uther.
    • Or even to Uther. It's backed up by A Remedy to Cure All Ills, in which Merln uses magic to save Uther while he is unconscious... but Edwin specifically said a few scenes earlier than Uther would be awake and aware while he was dying, suggesting that, maybe, Uther heard everything but is letting Merlin live as a reward for saving him.
    • Gaius having once been a former sorcerer. Becomes a Wham Line in one episode when Uther begs Gaius to save Morgana with whatever it takes, even it means using magic! It's implied that Gaius' Undying Loyalty to Uther and his talent as a physician is the only reason that he's still alive.
  • Played humorously in Modern Family. Cam and Mitch spend all of Season Three trying to adopt another child, but see their efforts repeatedly frustrated. In the Season Four opener, they remark that it's time to talk about the elephant in the in the literal giant stuffed elephant sitting in the corner that was to be a present for their new baby. Getting rid of it symbolizes their moving on.
  • Gets a huge Lampshade Hanging in Outnumbered. The Brockmans have a papier-mache elephant head in their kitchen. Pete calls it "the elephant in the room" and says that they don't talk about it.
  • Mark Evanier relates a hilarious story of the time when he worked as head writer for the infamous sketch variety show Pink Lady and Jeff, and was inspired to ask the producers for a live elephant to use as a gag in an infomercial skit. The joke was that the announcer (Jeff Altman) was supposed to deliver the whole commercial without noticing that there was an elephant on the set until the end. When it came time to film, however, the elephant made the skit a lot funnier by doing some, shall we say, unscripted improv on the floor. Read the story here.
  • The 2011 revival of Pop Up Video didn't openly discuss Ricky Martin's homosexuality in the treatment for "She Bangs" (he didn't come out of the closet until about a decade after the song), but they did acknowledge that particular elephant in the room, mentioning the trope by name in the process.
  • The Punisher (2017): The elephant in the room is Matt Murdock. Despite the fact that it's obvious Karen Page is still mourning his "death" in the climax of The Defenders (2017), he's not so much as mentioned once.
  • The name of the trope is brought up in the E series of QI, where contestants would receive an "Elephant in the Room Bonus" for spotting the elephant as the answer to one of the questions during the episode.
  • In The Resident, star surgeon Dr. Randolph Bell's deteriorating surgical skills and increasingly common medical errors amount to an elephant in the operating room.
  • Parodied in Sherlock with a noodle incident involving a case with a literal elephant in a room.
  • In a Sci-Fi Stargate SG-1 special, a letter had one viewer asking why all the aliens speak English. The reader, David Hewlett, simply laughed and playfully stated that he couldn't believe the audience caught onto that.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Hammer of the Gods", this is lampshaded and played straight on two occasions.
    • Dean is walking down the hotel's hallway and passes a room with a live elephant toweling itself off. Upon processing this, he doubles back and the room now has a naked fat man toweling himself off, who declares "This ain't no peep show!" and slams the door in Dean's face. Turns out the naked fat man is actually Lord Ganesh, the Hindu Elephant God.
    • Later, Loki barges into the gathering of gods and tells them all they need to talk about the elephant in the room (Lucifer). When the fat man immediately protests, Loki retorts "Not you, Ganesh!"
  • Averted in Top Gear: When Richard Hammond returned from an accident that left him with a serious brain injury for Series 9, the three presenters took the very first episode to deal with it by thanking the emergency responders on the scene, showing the crash footage, and cracking jokes about Hammond's driving skills, together with an ounce or two of heartwarming. It was a masterful way to take most of the awkwardness out of a potentially painful situation.
    • Played straight and literally in the finale of Series 22, cobbled together from the pre-recorded footage that was left unused when the show was unexpectedly cancelled due to Clarkson's firing. Richard and James did some links from an empty studio, during which they didn't mention Jeremy Clarkson, the circumstances under which the show was cancelled, or the life-sized model elephant visible in every shot. Especially in the shot with Hammond right in front of its butt.
  • Played for horror in The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "It's a Good Life", where the residents of Peaksville, Ohio have to pretend that everything is fine and perfectly normal, to avoid angering the all-powerful mind-reading child who controls their lives. To openly admit the horror of their situation leads to madness and/or a horrible death. That one is parodied in The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror II" episode, though it's a dream of Bart. Bart has that power and it goes pretty much like the original, only naturally less horrible. Then Bart gets therapy to get over whatever they called what he was doing (the forcing people to be happy, not the being all-mighty), which he does and develops a sane relationship with Homer. In the end they hug in sign of friendship, and then Bart wakes up, screaming in terror.
  • The Wire: One such example happens during Herc's rise to Sergeant. To make a long story short, while working on Mayor Royce's security detail, Herc catches Royce in the act of receiving a blowjob from his secretary. Fearing that he'll be punished for witnessing such a transgression, Herc reaches out to Carver, who puts him in touch with the politically savvy Valchek. Valchek tells Herc he's made Sergeant already thanks to his newly gained leverage, and outlines what he predicts will happen:
    Valchek: You go back down to the hall. You act like it never happened. You shut up. Say nothing to no one.
    Herc: But the mayor, he's gonna-
    Valchek: He's gonna watch and see how you carry it. And, kid, you're a fucking rock. When the mayor looks in your face, he knows he can trust you with this. And I'll bet in a couple of weeks, he comes asking, real friendly-like, "What are you looking to do with the department? With your career?" He's interested in you. But he doesn't mention no blow job, and neither do you. Uh-uh, it just lays there like a bad pierogi on the plate, both of you pretending it ain't there.
Said meeting does happen, and it goes down exactly as Valchek outlines it.

  • The Vaporwave album News At 11 by 猫 シ Corp. deliberately turns the 9/11 attacks into this trope by sampling soundbites of morning news shows and commercials from September 11, 2001 just before the announcements of the attacks, circling around the happier and more banal moments immediately before anything is announced,note  and intersperses it with easy listening music. The second half of the album then completely sidesteps the rest of that morning by focusing squarely on distorted "Local on the 8's" music and soundbites from The Weather Channel.

  • Welcome to Night Vale has the Shape in Grove Park That No-One Acknowledges or Speaks About. When the Shape was to be removed from the park by the city council, local historians protested on the grounds that it was an important historical landmark. However, since the historians refused to either acknowledge or speak about the Shape, their protest consisted entirely of a series of gestures and grimaces.
  • Literally every episode so far of Kakos Industries has a blatantly obvious one simply due to the existence of the main character, Corin Deeth III who is the heir of the aforementioned company. Despite being the third generation of his family, there is never any mention of his father. Ever. Though Corin possibly not knowing his dad or refusing to speak of him can be explained, it becomes quite the mystery when the grandfather never brings up his own son either.

  • In a round of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue in which one team are given a performance evaluation by the other, and have to justify the complete mess they made of their job, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Susan Calman are zookeepers, trying to explain to Graeme and Barry why they released all the animals and let them roam around. Eventually Graeme says "I'm very tempted to accept your apology but there's the obvious thing you haven't mentioned: The elephant in the room!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer, The Empire of Man asserts that there is no such thing as a race of man-sized rat people called the "Skaven", living in underground tunnels running throughout the Old World. They do not have advanced weaponry, specially-bred giant warrior rats, and abundant amounts of warpstone. They are not completely malicious, nor are they plotting to destroy all non-Skaven races. They do not outnumber humans ten to one and rely on horde tactics. They do not worship a malevolent god known as the Great Horned Rat. And finally, they do not often resurface in the dead of night to kidnap humans and drag them to their underground caverns. Only insane people (and dwarves) make such irresponsible and absurd claims.

  • This is a key plot point of Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, which explores the relationship between a teenage girl named L'il Bit and her uncle, who molests her throughout her preteen and teen years. Everyone in the family knows about what's going on, and nobody ever says anything about it, instead making excuses or blaming L'il Bit for the problem.
  • In Christopher Diaz's Welcome to Arroyo's, main character Alejandro is clearly going through horrible depression after the death of his mother, but he absolutely refuses to discuss either his mental illness or its root causes. It's what makes when he finally snaps and screams "BECAUSE OUR MOTHER JUST DIED!" such a Wham Line—he's finally able to talk about it, which allows him to begin healing.
  • This is part of what makes Death of a Salesman so tragic: it's clear that Willy is not a great salesman, and that his constant praise of and making excuses for his sons has emotionally crippled them, leaving them unable to function as adults. But none of the Lomans are willing to admit the truth, and to say it ends badly is a massive Understatement.
  • Every single character (except the housemaid) in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night has his or her own personal elephant: James Tyrone has his financially-crippling combination of buying worthless land and cutting costs on everything else; Mary has her morphine addiction; James Jr. has his long-held resentment over his status as The Un-Favourite and fear that his parents blame him for killing his infant brother by infecting him with measles; and Edmund (an Author Avatar of O'Neill himself) has his tuberculosis. The drama of the play centers on all four of these elephants being dragged into the light, examined, and ultimately left unresolved.
  • Played for Laughs many times in The Play That Goes Wrong and its sequels. The Show Must Go On, even if the key actor is unconscious, the props are missing, the cast's personal issues are aired on the green screen for everyone to see, the set has fallen down, and/or all of those things at once.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy X beautifully displayed the tragic variant in that nobody can bring themselves to say out loud that Yuna will die as part of the final summon until Tidus finds out himself and calls the rest of the group out for not telling him.
  • In Tales of Destiny 2, the fact that Reala will be erased from time if Fortuna is is treated as a very serious plot development, but no one mentions that Judas will also cease to exist until he is about to die! He'd realized it long before, but just didn't want to bring it up.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The quarians and their robotic creations, the geth, fought a brutal war which resulted in the quarians being kicked off their homeworld and forced to travel the stars in a massive migrant fleet. The geth also attempted to destroy the Citadel with the aid of an Eldritch Abomination, and generally kill any living creatures they encounter. They aren't well liked. In Mass Effect 2, you can freely bring a geth to the quarian migrant fleet and the Citadel; the quarians will initially resist, but with a bit of charm or intimidation, let it on, while the entire Citadel will simply fail a spot check.
    • The player can get into a completely optional little argument with an official on the way in; it's pretty clearly lampshaded when Legion says that the "geth do not infiltrate", the customs clerk (whose job currently includes making sure no geth gets onto the station) tells you to keep your "personal attendant android" off the shuttle, as they're not allowed on anymore.
      Legion: (Beat) ... Geth do not intentionally infiltrate.
    • Anderson calls Legion a "trophy bot", so it's possible people just think Shepard's got a cool toy.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: Since the plot revolves around an entire organization settling another galaxy, a trip that takes six hundred years, it is brought up that at least some of the people in the Andromeda Initiative have loved ones in the Milky Way who lived out their lives. It's also brought up that this was anticipated. The mayor of the first colony calmly and repeatedly informs Ryder that the colony's policy on this is "we stay out of each other's grief". Another, slightly bigger elephant is that, barring an early mention that can be easily missed, no-one back home seems to be picking up the phone... no-one seems as concerned about that one.
  • Pandora's Tower: As if Mavda wasn't nearly enough of a paragon of creepiness already, she constantly carries around on her back what appears to be the skeleton of an old man, bigger than she is, for pretty much the entire game. Nobody appears to find this weird, despite the fact that the damn thing is sentient and can talk (albeit unintelligibly, though Mavda can apparently understand him just fine). You can ask her about it, but she answers you in a "You Should Know This Already" tone of voice. Apparently, she's her business partner, or something along those lines. Huh.
  • In VVVVVV, there is a literal giant neon elephant that takes up four rooms that will make Captain Viridian sad if he stays with it for a while.
  • Played for laughs in the radio news broadcasts in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where a government official being interviewed about certain mysterious black helicopters responds with just "Helicopters? What helicopters?", with the spinning helicopter rotors clearly audible in the background.
  • Pokémon has long made implications that Pokémon can pose physical harm to humans (hence why you aren't allowed to run outside of town without one of your own to fight back), but very rarely makes it explicit. The closest any games get are in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire and Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, where the protagonist gets their starter because someone gets attacked and the they have to take one of the resident Professor's Pokémon for defense. The anime also touches on it in the first episode,note  but afterward makes Pokémon incapable of doing lasting damage). The Donphan does get into the open in both Pokémon Adventures (humans getting attacked by Pokemon, including during Trainer battles, is a regular occurrence) and the Orre based games (the Darker and Edgier Gamecube titles), but is still absent in the rest of the franchise.
    • Pokémon Legends: Arceus finally broke the trend; it's a prequel when humanity knows much less about Pokemon, so characters explicitly say Pokemon may kill people, to fans' shock. And amusement. Aggressive Pokemon have hospitalized people, may have killed people, will attack the player directly, and some can easily knock you out.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable : The Battle of Aces, after the second to last stage of Hayate's story mode, the Wolkenritter note that Reinforce, despite having survived the end of the series in this continuity, will fade away relatively soon. They then note that Hayate and Reinforce both know this but don't admit it to each other.
  • The Mage-Templar War in the Dragon Age series is the culmination of this. Due to the Chant of Light saying that "Magic is meant to serve man and never to rule over him," the mages of the setting are kept isolated in colossal facilities called "Circles," which are essentially a combination of a college and a prison, all while kept under close scrutiny and guard of the magic-nullifying but lyrium-addicted Templar Order. While this does have a point (mages are normally victims of Demonic Possession or can go power-mad without demonic intervention) from the Chantry's point of view, shockingly most mages don't appreciate being locked up in a tower with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, and that, again, shockingly, guarding them with super-soldiers addled with and addicted to consuming a substance known to drive people absolutely apeshit if not completely catatonic just from touching it and then treating said supersoldiers as disposable guard dogs might make things a bit tense between the two factions. This comes to a head at the end of Dragon Age II, which proves to be the catalyst of the war when the Templar order in the city (which has begun ruling it with an iron fist by making mages Tranquil for the slightest of reasons or no reason at all or other such things despite it being illegal under Chantry law) fails to prevent an uprising and their Knight Templar (pun intended) commander declares a Right of Annulment (basically "kill every mage in the place") over the actions of one mage that she knew to be an apostate who was never a member of Kirkwall's Circle. The Player Character can decide whether to support the mages or the templars, but the damage to the rest of the world is done.
  • Played disturbingly in Dishonored. The city of Dunwall is in the grips of a terrible plague, with the body count rising terrifyingly fast and the rest of the Isles Empire seriously considering blockading the city to prevent the plague from spreading.What are the city's Beautiful Elite doing during this dire crisis? Throwing parties and hedonistically flaunting their wealth as if nothing is going on. Even as it becomes obvious that the plague is going to spread well past the city's lower class, the rich citizens are in complete denial about the situation.
  • In Persona 4, Team Pet Teddie spends the entirety of his arc agonizing over his identity, after realizing that he's a non-human living in a dimension filled with nothing but very diverse creatures made from human emotion. Logic dictates that Teddie himself would probably be one such creature as well, but due to a bad case of denial by repression the possibility doesn't even seem to occur to him for most of the game, and when it finally does, his friends pretty much admit to him straight out that it was pretty obvious to them all along anyway, they just never had the heart to tell him straight to the face. Teddie's own Enemy Without hints that even Teddie himself, in fact, was aware of this in the back of his mind, he merely ignored it, hoping to find a better answer to his identity crisis.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Much is made in the series of the "World Order" that prevents Sora, Donald, and Goofy from revealing the existence of other worlds, going as far as using magic to transform themselves into other species to blend in. But in worlds without transformations, nobody seems to notice that two of the three are talking anthropomorphic animals.
  • Ensemble Stars! heavily encourages shipping, with its Taste the Rainbow approach to the cast extending just as much to potential ships - the player character is surrounded on all sides by cute younger brother types, flirty sempais and even a Forgotten Childhood Friend, while the boys themselves take every trope from Designated Parents to Vitriolic Best Buds to Foe Romance Subtext, all perfectly willing to flirt and joke about how married they are. However, any attempt to take any of these obvious ships beyond the realm of subtext pretty quickly stumbles upon the problem that all of these students are idols in training who will be expected to remain single so the audience can project their fantasies onto them, as happens with real-life Japanese idols. The elephant is finally addressed in canon in Love Comedy when Kaoru admits that despite his feelings for the player character they can't actually be in a relationship, but the fandom at large generally prefers to ignore these issues and let the characters be happy together in the present without bringing in their careers.
  • In Ace Attorney, supernatural abilities are real, and have been conclusively demonstrated. There's a well-known village of mediums, a magazine about the occult, and Phoenix's assistant has shapeshifted in open court multiple times. No one (besides the protagonists) wants to use those powers in the pursuit of justice, besides one guy who wanted to use the mediums to clear his name, and the one case 15 years before the start of the series where the police used a medium to solve a murder. And then apparently stopped forever because of the bad publicity. This is especially bizarre considering how corrupt and shady the justice system is. You'd think 15 years would be enough for someone to try again, unless they're doing it more quietly.
    • By contrast, in the sister series Ghost Trick, the government quietly investigated the "impossible cases" starting from the first one, and they know the person (or persons) responsible is trying to sell their power to a foreign government. Said foreign government tries to murder anyone who knows about said power, just to cover their trail.

    Visual Novels 
  • People in A Profile make damn sure not to mention track to Masayuki or even hint about Kaine's sex to him. Everyone knows, but mentioning it just won't turn out well. The first is subverted in the second route, however.
  • Letting this trope take over can take the player off Heidi’s romantic path in Daughter for Dessert. Some time after the protagonist goes to Whiskeyville, Heidi asks him if he wants a date, and the two of them can go to a restaurant. Their server is Blake, a handsome young man who filled in briefly for Kathy. The protagonist is insecure about the possibility that Heidi could potentially prefer Blake over him, and Heidi knows it. He can ask her about it; if he doesn’t, then Heidi will end things with him, but if he does, Heidi reveals an embarrassing secret about Blake that means she would never date him.
  • In Double Homework, Tamara asks Johanna to come to her room to help her with something, and she asks the protagonist to come in a few minutes before that, telling him that she wants to go all the way. It has the desired effect of having Johanna see them about to have sex (and then back off her own advances toward the protagonist), but things become so awkward between the three of them that none of them brings it up for a while.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, Hisao invokes this trope by name in the early part of the game and, true to its theme, deals with the "elephant" throughout the game. It takes place at a school for students with disabilities/medical conditions, and he understands that it would be rude to ask/talk to someone about their disability/condition without the other person bringing it up themselves, even in situations where it's obvious.
  • Ikemen Sengoku: In Sasuke's route, the main character realizes early on that Sasuke has to be spying for the enemy side but they avoid discussing it because she doesn't want to lose him as a friend and he doesn't want to put her in danger by telling her too much.
  • Defied pretty much all the time in Melody. All of the characters are surprisingly willing to bring up their interpersonal issues to each other... that is, assuming that they’re not completely forgotten.

    Web Animation 
  • From the Volume 4 episode Family from the RWBY series, we have four people, including Yang, her father and two of the teachers she had at Beacon Academy carefully avoid the subject of Yang's missing arm despite the fact that a cybernetic replacement has been delivered until her father's Brutal Honesty brings the subject in the open. One of the teachers even puts a Lampshade Hanging on it.
    Doctor Oobleck "Are we finally talking about the Goliath in the room?"
  • FreedomToons: Dr. Mac shows a Spreading Disaster Map Graphic detailing terrorist attacks committed by islamists that overlaps with muslim-majority countries and countries with increasingly large muslim minorities. He then calls the reason behind the surge of attacks a mystery for the ages.

  • In Abe & Kroenen, almost nobody mentions the fact that Kroenen was and is a Nazi assassin. For some reason his presumed Nazi beliefs never actually make an appearance, probably because that would be a good way to lose a lot of viewers.
    • His Nazi affiliations are addressed in small ways, like claiming that V is so cool it almost makes him want him give up Nazism, or giving Abe a speech about staying strong, or else the sub-humans will over-run the earth, and no glory will be brought to the Fatherla— at which point he wisely shuts up.
  • Jonny Crossbones is either an undead creature or wears a skeleton suit all the time. No one has noticed so far.
  • MS Paint Adventures has the Running Gag "What pumpkin?", where the "player" mentions the pumpkin on the "game screen" and by the next scene it's gone or replaced, often with the phrase "What pumpkin?" or the narrator acting as if the player has asked for the object that just replaced the pumpkin.
  • El Goonish Shive: Despite there being a masquerade, women having the ability to summon hammers out of nowhere is accepted as normal and not thoroughly investigated to exploit its mechanism. The existence of the ability isn't remarked on by anyone besides the main characters once it's lost. This is because the hammers were introduced long before Cerebus Syndrome set in, and were only brought back as part of a Cerebus Retcon regarding their origin.
  • In Something*Positive it was a very long time before the fate of Monette's baby was addressed.
  • Penny Arcade did this at least twice, first in one strip where nobody mentions that Tycho is inexplicably a giant radish and then one where Tycho and Gabe are sitting on a giant Xbox playing with giant controllers (a jab at the original Xbox's enormous size).
    • The radish strip has a real-world explanation (the artist/"Gabe" was screwing with the author/"Tycho"); most fans assumed that since the strip was about the guys confronting Div over his alcoholism, it was a representation of how drunk he was.
  • Taken as a Literal Metaphor — Dum from Dum Cat gets crushed by it.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Deliberately invoked when Chuso discusses how he's not sure he can order Commodore Tagon, the current top officer of the Toughs, around on a mission. When the Commodore is right there. When the Commodore calls him on it, Chuso the uplifted elephant admits to it, and that it was "meta-humor, and mostly for me."

    Web Original 
  • The diary in Dragomirs Diary is constantly depicted as having a simple, smiling face, and its expression changes as much as those of the human characters. It has also demonstrated the ability to move on its own, and has done so in front of Dragomir himself several times. Despite these oddities, most of the characters view the diary as a normal book, never questioning its silent personality. Now, if they were ever to find out that it can also write in itself...
  • This article from the Babylon Bee is yet another take on "The Emperor Has No Clothes", with Emperor Joseph I showing up naked one day. When a boy tweets that he's naked, every media and tech giant hound, harass, and gaslight him, claiming that the boy is far right and there is no naked man.

    Web Videos 
  • The Irish short film Aaron has the two brothers making awkward small talk and dancing around the fact that something clearly happened between them in the past. Later dialogue implies that things were so tense at home that Chris the older brother pretty much just left and never returned.
  • The Nostalgia Critic
    • His review of The Neverending Story II is interrupted by a literal elephant in the room, who makes Doug mention that Jonathan Brandis, the film's star, committed suicide and prompting him to explain that he wasn't insulting the actor, but the poorly-written character.
    • And then he returns in the second list of the Nostalgia Critic's Fuck-Ups, who makes him mention that he made a joke about autism in the review of Ernest Saves Christmas (though the joke was edited out of that review because Doug didn't really think that joke was all that funny anyway).
    • He briefly returned in the review of It (1990), featuring Jonathan Brandis as a main character again. But since the Critic had already explained Brandis' suicide, he told the elephant to piss off.
    • For a while, the elephant in the room was a gag of general use in Channel Awesome. It appeared in CR's Familiar Faces: Baby Doll (a crossover with the Critic) to mention then-recently deceased Gary Coleman, who suffered from the same condition that the character did. And it appeared again in Iron Liz's review of the Tabletop RPG Iron Claw to mention that she was basically talking about a game of Furries.
    • In the Nostalgia Critic's review of Ponyo, the elephant very briefly resurfaces again when the Critic notes that part of the movie Japan is underwater, clearly a sign of being too close to the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of 2011.
    • In his Top 11 Simpsons episodes, the elephant mentions a certain Simpsons-related outrage caused by his fans.
    • He also appears at the beginning of the Critic's Pixels review to remind him that the movie is extremely similar to an episode of Futurama.
      Elephant: (singing) Futuuuuuurrr-AMA! Futurama! Futurama! Futurama!
  • The YouTube 'celebrity' Hannah Minx is considerably more "blessed" than your average woman, practically to the point where her videos have become less of a personal vlog and more geared towards direct Fanservice. Perhaps to deliberately invoke this trope, she never talks about her body in her videos, and the interviews she's done gloss over it as well. The only people who do mention her body is the video commenters, and they do it in almost every single comment in every video she makes. Is there a trope for From The Mouth Of Fan Dumb?
  • The ineffably brilliant video "It's Not About the Nail", in which a woman snaps angrily at any suggestion that the pain she's experiencing just might have something to do with a giant nail that's been driven into her forehead.
  • A small but vocal portion of the Game Grumps fandom believes JonTron became this following his departure in 2013, with some going so far as to claim that he was fired (usually throwing the blame at either Danny or Arin's wife Suzie). Everyone involved denies this, saying the split was amicable, with Arin explaining that they didn't bring Jon up so much because they were trying to respect his desire to form his own identity separate from his work on Game Grumps.
    • This whole controversy has been referenced a couple of times on the show, most often by Danny himself. During the Super Mario 64 playthrough, he says he's aware of the conspiracy theories, but they never bothered him because they're completely untrue. During the new The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past playthrough he addresses this trope by name when he mentions that Arin and Jon started the game but never finished it.
  • Louder With Crowder: There's a sketch where Stephen and Not Gay Jared are outraged at Donald Trump making a bunch of crass jokes on tv while giving a wide berth to Harvey Weinstein literally forcing himself on someone in the same room.

    Western Animation 
  • The Rugrats episode "Chuckie is Rich" deals with Chuckie's father winning the lottery and moving them into a new life. When everyone goes to visit he has purchased a large glass elephant for the living room. They would rather talk about that than the fact he became a snob. But everything works out. Except Stu broke the glass elephant.
  • The Fairly OddParents has quite a few, some bordering on Fridge Logic:
    • The show never shows poor and/or starving children in third-world countries with fairy godparents, despite the fact they're obviously more deserving of them than "an average kid who no one understands". They probably do have fairies, but we just don't see them.
    • Timmy never makes any sort of world-benefitting wish, like no discrimination (the closest he got to doing that was wishing everyone was the same, but that didn't change people's attitudes like he had hoped), world peace, a cure for cancer, etc. While this could be justified in that he's a self-centered 10-year-old child and when he grows up all remnants of his fairies' magic will disappear unless he keeps the mindset of a child, it seems implausible that he never thought to wish for something like this not even once. In the live-action movies which take place in a possible future, Timmy can only make selfless wishes, and even if he does, there is a limit to how far he can go with them.
    • Even the more good-natured Chloe doesn't consider making such wishes, even though she does occasionally make world-benefitting wishes on a much smaller scale.
  • The basis of a long-running introduction to an episode of The Far Side animated series. Probably.
  • It was a Running Gag in The Oblongs that everyone avoided directly referencing the fact that Bob doesn't have arms or legs. Although, in the episode "Bucketheads", Tommy Vinegar does call him a Weeble. And in another episode (the one where Helga gets her parents back) Bob goes to play the piano, which leaves Milo embarrassed and the people shocked. I wonder what they could be alluding to…
  • The City of Townsville, hometown of The Powerpuff Girls, is cartoondom's equivalent of Metropolis, Gotham City and Marvel Universe New York rolled into one. You'd have to wonder why people want to live in a city where the criminals only take a break from their activities whenever they need to run away from the giant-sized monsters that are regularly rampaging the city.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • Scooby Doo can talk... and no one cares. This has occasionally been lampshaded, even during the early era of the franchise, and the series would come to develop an on-again-off-again Running Gag where someone would exclaim "Oh my gosh! A talking dog!" and Scooby would answer "Rog? Rhere?" Much more frequent are jokes about his speech impediment: for example, in "Bravo Dooby Doo", Johnny Bravo is surprised that the gang can understand Scooby.
    • Played with in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, where the fact that Scooby (and a few other animal characters) are capable of human speech still isn't questioned, but does end up serving as a key plot point in the show's Myth Arc, culminating the in the final episode where Scooby might now be the only talking animal in existence thanks to a Cosmic Reboot. where Velma calls Shaggy... "Scooby, put Shaggy on... Because you're almost impossible to understand over the phone."
  • Family Guy:
    • Brian, a talking dog—who interacts with everyone, has human girlfriends, drives a Prius, and so on. Yet no one ever questions it. Unless it's funny. Like when Peter is suddenly shocked to hear Brian talking... in the middle of a conversation, after having known him for years. Or when Brian goes to visit the farm where he was born:
      Farmer: Lots of dogs have been born here. Refresh my memory. Which one were you again?
      Brian: I was the one who could talk.
      Farmer: Brian!
    • The episode "Death is a Bitch" has Peter and Lois discussing Peter having a breast lump. Lois insists that Peter should go see a doctor, but Peter says that it would be better not to talk about it, "just like we do with the squid." The camera pulls back to reveal an actual giant squid at the table, who knocks various objects to the floor; Peter and Lois make excuses.
    • Played surprisingly seriously in "Seahorse Seashell Party." Throughout the series, poor Meg is the Queen of Butt Monkeys—she's openly mocked, criticized, excluded, mistreated, and even set on fire by Peter, Lois, and Chris. In this episode, she finally calls Chris, Lois, and Peter out on their horrific treatment of her, and delivers blistering speeches about their own flaws. The problem is that these revelations cause her brother and parents to start fighting endlessly with one another, prompting Meg to realize that she needs to be the target of the family's derision to keep them all alive. In other words, when she mentions the elephant, it goes on a rampage.
  • Mr. Krabs from SpongeBob SquarePants is a crab who has a whale for a daughter. It's never discussed so it's unknown if she's adopted or takes after her mom; similarly, in "Krusty Love" Mr. Krabs asks SpongeBob what happened to Mr. Puff when he develops a crush on Mrs. Puff, SpongeBob responds with a cutaway scene where we see Mr. Puff used as a lamplight set in a live action background. We then see someone offscreen turning on the light that no one discusses it.
  • Steven Universe: In "Last One Out of Beach City", Pearl gets nervous when she comes across a woman with pink hair. When she, Amethyst and Steven leave the shop, there's an uncomfortable silence until Steven decides to address the issue.
    Steven: Okay, nobody's gonna say it? She kinda looked like Mom. You noticed, I noticed, we all noticed.
    Ameythst: Oh. Ohhh! (towards Pearl) That's why you were acting like such a goon!
  • A near-literal example in the Malaysian series Pumpkin Reports, where the Villain Protagonist has planted a giant pumpkin in the corner of her surrogate home that's visible in the living room and has taken out a sizable chunk of the wall.
  • Cow and Chicken from Cow and Chicken are, somehow, siblings, despite being a cow and a chicken. Nobody in the cast questions it; absurdly, not even their own HUMAN parents. Members of their extended family include a boneless chicken, a sow, a black sheep and a half-human, half-snail hybrid (whose parents, as we see, are a human woman and a tiny snail). And we also see their grandparents were a human and a hen. It's... a big mess, really. This is lampshaded by the theme song.
    Mama had a chicken! Mama had a cow! Dad was proud! He didn't care how!
  • BoJack Horseman has BoJack's then-girlfriend, Wanda, namedrop the trope in regards to their I "Uh" You, Too moment. Unfortunately, this causes the handy-elephant BoJack had brought home to help set up his auto-erotic asphyxiation machine to indignantly storm out of the room while trying to call her out on using the phrase.
  • Parodied in Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus. The Tallest are so obsessed with getting as far away from Zim and Earth as possible that they willfully ignore their navigator’s repeated warnings that they’re flying straight towards a black hole. They keep cheerfully ignoring it even as they fly straight into the singularity to their probable deaths, chiding the navigator for being "too negative" when he tries to warn them one last time.

    Real Life 
  • Basically any disaster everybody knows is going to happen but is either unable or unwilling to do anything about - basically everybody knows that a major earthquake will hit Tokyo or Southern California, but it doesn't stop people from going about their lives.
  • In April 1967, Ron Jones, a history teacher at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, found himself struggling to explain to his class how the German people could have fallen behind the Nazis so easily. So he decided to show them personally, creating a student movement called the Third Wave (after the common belief that the third in a series of waves is the last and largest). The movement emphasized conformity and the greater good, treating democracy and individualism as the downfall of civilization. Jones started with things like drilling his class in proper seating and posture, before moving on to discipline, salutes (which conspicuously resembled the Nazi salute), and the transformation of himself into an authoritative figure. By the end of day three, over two hundred students had been recruited, membership cards were being given out, banners were flying, and Third Wave members were telling Jones when others were violating the rules — all completely unexpected developments. Realizing that he was losing control of the Third Wave, Jones decided to end it. On day four, he announced that the Third Wave was actually part of a nationwide youth movement, and that tomorrow at noon, an assembly would be held in which the movement's national leader and presidential candidate would be revealed on television. At the assembly, the students were met only with an empty channel. Jones revealed a few minutes later that the entire Third Wave was an experiment in how fascism can so easily claim the hearts and minds of the masses (even those who had sworn "it can't happen here"), and played a film about Nazi Germany. It's said that after everything occurred, it was so scarring that no one at the school even talked about it for three years, as the students realized that they had willingly gone along with ideologies similar to the Nazis with very little prompting. The Wave (1981) details everything that was going on, with only slight exaggerations made to actual student behavior.
  • The Ryugyong Hotel was possibly the most literal example of this trope. Made in North Korea, it was said when it was completed it would be the largest hotel in the world. However, after spending oodles on it (2% of the nation's entire GDP), construction stopped and the government pretended it didn't exist even though it dominates the city skyline and sticks out like a sore thumb. Construction has been picked up by an Egyptian company who wants to make it the first cell tower in the nation, now they happily talk about the achievement it will be.
  • A "missing stair" refers to an abuser who gets away with their actions when other people who live with the abuser know how to avoid the abuse, while also having to instruct new people who enter into the situation on how to prevent it from happening to them. The metaphor refers to a missing stair in a house's staircase; everyone who lives there knows how to avoid the missing stair, but they also have to instruct guests in the house on how to avoid falling when the guest comes in. The term thus suggests that long-term abuse occurs when people would rather work around the abuser than confront them.
    • The original context of the above-cited blog post is regarding abuse in kink communities. No one wants to admit that sometimes, the negative stereotypes regarding BDSM as an excuse for abusive behaviour can be true in specific cases. So people become reluctant to name and shame abusers, or kick them out of the community; instead, people will simply be advised that (for instance) John once added things to a scene that the submissive hadn't agreed to, or that Mary got convicted of rape that one time. If bad things then happen relating to John and Mary, well, no one could say they weren't warned. John and Mary continue to have access to new victims (who may or may not actually know about the missing stair in advance), while everyone else allows abusers into their shared spaces. The obvious solution would be to prevent John and Mary from coming back, but that would bring up the point that everyone else let John and Mary go on doing terrible things to people, and they don't want to admit that they wasted all that time.
      Tons of people, including several in the leadership, instantly knew who I meant. The reaction wasn't "there's a rapist among us!?!" but "oh hey, I bet you're talking about our local rapist."
    • Other egregious examples in recent memory include the Catholic Church's massive coverup of child molestation and The BBC's neglectful attitude toward Jimmy Savile's horrific sexual offences. Predictably, this issue also exists in the pornography industry. Corey Feldman of The Goonies fame has likewise spoken about the phenomenon in Hollywood, and he in turn faced criticism from his late costar Corey Haim, who accused Feldman himself of letting an adult molest Haim. Then in 2017, a slew of accusations against Harvey Weinstein (co-founder of Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company) set off a chain reaction dubbed the Weinstein effect, emboldening survivors of sexual violence to come forward with similar allegations against countless prominent men and expose the figurative elephants.
    • According to court transcripts and communications between staff members, convicted child molester Walter Breen's actions were this to his wife, Marion Zimmer Bradley, others within their social circle, and the organizers of science fiction/fantasy conventions. Bradley's own abuse of her children would be this to others that knew them.
    • For nearly a decade after the death of Michael Jackson in 2009, the lingering question of whether or not he molested children was largely ignored by the media and general public. Indeed, posthumous projects spearheaded by Jackson's estate include such family-friendly projects as two Cirque du Soleil tribute shows and a 2017 animated Halloween Special. This elephant, however, would trumpet its trunk with a vengeance in January of 2019, when the documentary Leaving Neverland publicized new accusations against Jackson that spawned a much bigger public and media backlash than even the first accusation in 1993, to the point where Jackson was Unpersoned in a few places — his music was dropped from several Canadian and New Zealand radio stations, and his appearance on The Simpsons, "Stark Raving Dad", became the show's only Missing Episode. However, due in part to the efforts of his estate (which has sued HBO over the documentary and pushed new projects involving his work, such as a biopic and Jukebox Musical, into development/production) and the massive Cult of Personality surrounding Jackson, he and his work remain popular.
  • In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, many of the European powers met in Nyon, Switzerland to discuss a growing problem of Submarine Pirates and what to do about it. What nobody was willing to outright say was that the Italian Navy (in support of the Nationalists) was carrying out unrestricted submarine warfare against shipping from nations supporting the Republicans. Such attacks were an act of war, and nobody was yet ready to fight the war that this would light off, since all of the horrors of what happened last time were still fresh in their minds.
  • Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) is a German-Jewish journalist, satirist and writer says this about the German people. "In Germany is the one, who points at the dirt, seen as more dangerous, as the one who makes the dirt." See here the original German utteration of the quote 
  • When the UK left the EU, the country's economy began to decline very noticeably. While Brexit wasn't the only factor at play, it is the biggest factor, and neither official nor independent records cannot account for the decline being based solely on the Covid pandemic, the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine, or any other factor. Neither the BBC nor the two main political parties will countenance any mention of Brexit or its' effects, particularly in relation to the declining economy, the world-beating queues of delivery lorries at Dover, or the ability of the government to scrap/ignore laws that could have mitigated some of the economic distress had the country still been in the EU.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Elephant In The Corner, Elephant In The Room, Pregnant Ranma Problem, Third Rail Issue


Bojack Horseman

Wanda tries to get Bojack, to open up and talk about this trope...unknowingly insulting the actual elephant in the room.

How well does it match the trope?

4.6 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / ElephantInTheLivingRoom

Media sources: