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Embarrassing Superpower

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Gigafyte (to Mind's Eye): That's just messed up... wait, how did you even find out that you had this power?
Finster (ignoring Mind's Eye's distress): Oh my God! This is the best divorce story ever!

Simply put, the Embarrassing Superpower is a term to describe superpowers that are humiliating to use, or socially frowned upon.

While it's easy to fall under the assumption, note that the superpower isn't necessarily useless. In fact, the superpower could actually be incredibly useful—it's just that it's not necessarily the thing you'd want your grandmother seeing.

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Subtrope of Blessed with Suck. See also Embarrassing but Empowering Outfit and Bad Powers, Good People. Compare What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? and Useless Superpowers. If the power comes in handy, then either Heart Is an Awesome Power or Cursed with Awesome is in full effect.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Gigantomakhia: In order to heal Delos, Prome secretes what she calls "nectar" from her body. Prome being Ambiguously Human, she doesn't care what it looks like. To anyone else (especially Delos), it looks like a young girl is pissing on him. After she heals him, he feels part of his humanity is irretrievably lost.
  • 12 Beast: Eita can perform a Fusion Dance with a Monster Girl to power up his vambrace... which is usually achieved by groping their breasts. The hunter who catches them in the act as he's preparing to snipe them looks shocked.
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  • Teruo Hazukashi, a minor villain in My Hero Academia, has a literal example in his Quirk, Shame. It increases his power, but only if he feels embarrassed. He tries to trigger this power by streaking down a crowded street, but is defeated by Hawks before his power can kick in.

Comic Books

  • Lanfeust: Everyone on the planet Troy gets a different superpower, which can range from anything from invincibility to causing thirst, or creating freshwater springs, or farting from their ears.
  • A side character in He Pao only fathers male children. Being good-looking, he's very much in demand among wives looking to secure their position by giving heirs to their husbands, but he can't exactly advertise the fact lest said husbands get vengeful.

Film

  • "The Spleen" from Mystery Men has Fartillery powers. While his powers can be effective, he compounds the issue by being a socially awkward and unattractive.
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  • The Specials: Naïve Newcomer Nightbird found her way to the team (a gloriously dysfunctional and not-well-respected group) because her powers include laying eggs. Eggs that could contain explosives or other useful power-ups, but still...laying eggs.
  • Kim Possible: Professor Dementor gloats and laughs as he watches the first test of the dissolving slime a Kidnapped Scientist created for him... until the stuff turns pink and sparkly, at which point he starts ranting that he can't use it because it would make him a laughingstock.

Jokes

  • A man confesses that he suffers from a condition where he has an orgasm every time he sneezes. When asked if he's taking anything for it, he says "Yes: sneezing powder".

Literature

  • The Wild Cards series has multiple examples:
    • There's a deuce whose power to defy gravity reaches Ace levels, but only if he's having sex.
    • One Ace can turn anyone into a body swapping Jumper by putting his penis inside them.
    • Fortunato's psychic power comes from having the sex but preventing the ejaculation.
    • Roulette emits secretions upon orgasm that can cure the Wild Card or turn her partner's card into the always fatal Black Queen.

Live-Action TV

Video Games

  • Epic Battle Fantasy 3: Natalie considers her "Kyun!" Limit Break embarrassing but useful (as it clears away all status problems, buffs the party and debuffs the enemy).
  • Inverted early on in Golden Sun, where Ivan uses his Mind Read ability (he needs to touch the other person or at least be very close) on the heroes without asking for their permission. After he apologizes for it and the ability is used to capture three thieves... the game gives no penalty for using the Psynergy on other people (mitigated by the fact that non-Adepts can't feel or see Psynergy, but they seem unfazed about teens with No Sense of Personal Space). Thirty years later in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, it's said he no longer uses the power, possibly due to A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read.

Web Original

  • Tom Winkler, formerly an animator on the Simpsons, created Doodieman, a superhero who poops at an excessively fast rate (allowing him to fly and shoot bad guys). Even though he defeats all criminals, the townsfolk isn't too happy with pieces of excrement spread over themselves and their whole town.
  • Happens occasionally in Worm (and it's sequel, Ward). Characters often end up unhappy with their powers as a result of them being weak, limited or otherwise embarrassing. The main character, for example, consistently struggles with the fact that her ability to control bugs is very powerful, but pretty universally creepy and very hard to use in a way that looks impressive or heroic. It ends up taking far too long for anyone to take "the bug girl" seriously.

Webcomics

  • Super Stupor: One of the supers can make people tell the truth... if his penis is inside them. He is very much aware of the implications of using it on people who don't want to talk and has resolved not to even think about using it unless there's an apocalypse imminent. The story of how he discovered he had this power is deemed the "best divorce story ever!" by another super.
  • Early on in El Goonish Shive, Elliot Dunkel experiences a magical Awakening. Now, if you Awaken properly, you get spells customized to reflect your personality and interests. Unfortunately, Elliot awakened improperly, which means that until his Awakening stabilizes he will instead get spells related to whatever triggered the improper Awakening. Due to the circumstances of Elliot's awakening, his initial spells are almost all some variant of "turn into a girl" (except one that's "turn into a catboy" but it's extremely painful). Even the spell that turns him into a Captain Ersatz of Superman turns him into a superheroine, To make matters worse, the other side-effect of improper awakenings is energy buildups: Unless Elliot burns off the magic his body is generating by turning into a girl several times a day, his body will just keep generating magic until it can't contain the energy anymore and he has to transform whether he wants to or not.
    • A downplayed example for Nanase in the Sisters II arc. While the new spells she's getting (a spell that lets her know how many people are looking at her, a spell to instantly swap out the clothes she's wearing for another set, and a "decoy summon" semi-autonomous clone puppet) are very useful, she is not exactly comfortable with how all the spells she's getting seem customized for someone who wants to sneak around and hide things.
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