9: And you are a blind man, guided by fear.
[Distant, approaching shriek]
1: Sometimes, fear is the appropriate response.
Usually Played for Laughs. A character is facing a conflict. The Big Bad, The Dreaded, or a similar foe has been revealed at last. This may be the moment of triumph for the protagonist... however, instead of standing and fighting it like a Hero would do, this character does what any of us would do: freezes up in terror, screams, runs away as fast as his legs can carry him, or a combination of the first three.
Also used with a party of two or more, when they are cornered. One asks "What do we do now?" and one says something along the lines of "we... RUN!", often having about a three-second head start before the others realize what is happening. Sometimes this may be used to save another character, who is completely oblivious to the danger. This, of course, is only one type of example of this trope.
The fear responses ordinarily come in five different types:
- Freezing - Going completely immobile in fear, which may conceal the character from the foe's notice. note
- Flight - Running from the threat at top speed.
- Scream - Giving a cry of terror as loudly as possible (which may or may not deter the threat, but might alert someone who can help).
- A combination of the three above.
Related to You Can Panic Now, and Run or Die. The distinction between this and Run or Die is that with this, you're choosing to break off the engagement mostly on your own terms, but with Run or Die, you're narrowly avoiding (or escaping) what you know is a Curb-Stomp Battle with you on the wrong end.
A Mentor may explain to a young character that only a Fearless Fool would face this when he had options.
See also Screw This, I'm Outta Here!
- Unusually for a shonen series, in Slayers it's a common gag for Lina to throw a Burst Rondo in the face of powerful foes that don't go down in the first few volleys, then skedaddle.
- In Dragon Ball, during the 23rd World Tournamant, "Ma Jr." receives Clothing Damage and his turban is destroyed. The audience begin to murmur among themselves about the appearance of the contestant, until (Bad) Lunch points out he looks like the original Piccolo. At this point, "Ma Jr."/Piccolo Jr. is sick of the squabbling, and angrily confirms that he's the original Piccolo's son, and vows of re-taking over the world. Naturally, the entire crowd takes off, leaving behind Goku's allies in the stadium...and the narrator.
- Another shonen example comes from Fairy Tail. In a competition to determine the next S-Class wizard, Natsu goes up against Gildarts, one of the most powerful (if not the most powerful) member of the Fairy Tail guild outside of the Guildmaster. After a short battle, Natsu almost gets passed but refuses to go on without winning the fight. Gildarts's response is to release his full power in order to teach him about this. Natsu is paralyzed with fear, then briefly tries to charge anyway but coming up close, his fear overtakes him. He unashamedly goes to his knees and accepts defeat in tears.
Gildarts: A wise choice. I applaud anyone who has the courage to stand up and face their enemies. However, the wizards who are the most courageous are those exceptional few... who know when to stand down. Remember Natsu, there's nothing wrong with feeling fear. After all, how else will we come to know our own weaknesses? You need to know them in order to become a stronger and gentler person. A necessity for those who want to be S-Class. Now that I shared this knowledge with you... you pass, kid.
- Sword Art Online: Kirito's and Asuna's response to spawning The Gleam Eyes in the 74th-floor dungeon is to high-tail it out of the boss room.
- In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, the titular protagonist usually screams in terror and runs for his life whenever his masters announce that they intend to increase the severity of Kenichi's training regime. Since this is a series that takes Training from Hell up to eleven, Kenichi's reaction is completely justified.
- There's a bit in Ah! My Goddess where Mara and Hild have put together a magical trap that zaps all of the main cast except Belldandy... and then Bell accidentally releases them. Mara realizes that this overloaded the trap's system, and takes off running until Hild snaps, "Mara! Halt! Explain yourself!" Mara explains that overloading means the thing's about to explode. "Mara... Thank you for explaining!" as Hild runs away.
- It's played in One Piece by Kamakiri after he discovers that Enel can become intangible (by turning into electricity) thanks to his Devil Fruit power.
- Joseph Joestar runs from more powerful opponents in the second (and briefly in the third) arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Subverted, though, in that it's usually a part of one of his plans.
- A more straight example happens in a flashback when Avdol first met DIO. He was so overwhelmed with fear at seeing the vampire first hand and how his soothing words eased him, proving he was indeed dangerous. When DIO gets ready to implant a flesh bud to control him, Avdol screams at the top of his lungs, dives out a window and runs for his life to escape. While telling to story, he mentions that the idea of fighting back did not once even cross his mind at that moment.
- Sailor Moon does this frequently. Instead of fighting the Monster of the Week, she will typically cower in fear or run from the enemy's attacks, only finally attacking after a Rousing Speech from Tuxedo Mask (or, in his absence, any character who happens to be present). The trait shows up less and less frequently later on in the show.
- The excuse the residents of Net Surf Village use when Taichi accuses them of being wimps for hiding when a demon supposedly appears in the nearby net ocean in Digimon V-Tamer 01. This forces Taichi to rely on a land based Digimon, after teaching him how to swim of course.
- From Watchmen:
[I]n any event, I never said "The superman exists and he's American." What I said was "God exists and he's American." If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you are still sane.— Prof. Milton Glass, "Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers," Watchmen
- Deconstructed in Poké Wars, where the mass panics set off by the Mass Super-Empowering Event are shown to be just as dangerous as the disaster itself; a particularly standout example occurs during the Muk rampage in Hearthome: in their desperation to flee from the Muk, many people trampled or shoved others aside, making them easy targets for the Muk.
- In 9, the Trope Namer, 1 says this right before the Winged Beast attacks. However, considering that 8 tries to fight the Winged Beast before they run, this trope applies more to the awakening of the Fabrication Machine, in which 7, 9 and 5 immediately run away as soon as it's awakened.
- There are several instances in The Road to El Dorado, one of which involves Miguel and Tulio being cornered by a raging bull.
Miguel: What do we do now?
Tulio: You... pet him. And I'll... RUN!
- In the Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius movie, Nick runs out into the arena, holding a spear, to face Poultra and the Yolkians. Suddenly, Poultra starts hatching and her three eyes glare down at Nick... who then screams like a girl and runs away.
- In Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, Scamp and Angel are talking on a railroad about what they could do living in the wild. There is a train coming toward them, unnoticed by Scamp.
Scamp: Yeah, and run!
Angel: No, I MEAN RUN!
- Yellow Submarine: "Once more into the breach, dear Meanies. You're advancing in the wrong direction! Retreat backwards!"
- In The Lion King 1½, one of the more notable examples of the screaming response is directly advised:
Uncle Max: [to Timon] What do you do if you see a hyena?
Timon: Scream "Mommy!"
- A good villainous example for that one would be from The Princess Bride, when Inigo finally catches up with Count Rugen, and Rugen... runs away.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- When the hobbits first meet the Ringwraiths, their only strategies are running or hiding (both things Hobbits can do very well in a pinch).
- Gandalf is listed in Run or Die already, but it's worth pointing out that, in the film version, he doesn't just inform them that the Balrog is unstoppable. He calmly explains what a Balrog actually is while it's coming at them (not as Egregious as it sounds though, as it wasn't even in visual range), pauses to take a deep breath, looks shaken, and then shouts... "RUN!" and takes off ahead of the others, while they are still standing there looking at it. Making an about-face in the process.
- A bit of a meta-example shows up in the production of the movies, where the first attempts to shoot large-scale battles between orcs and men using computer simulated armies who, left to their own AI devices, decided the best tactic was to run away from the enemy. (Subverted: the program was populating the field randomly with orcs, including the direction they were facing, but a bug in the code meant any direction was valid, including facing away from the opposing army. The orcs were charging a lack of opposition.)
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The Rabbit of Caerbannog has just killed several of Arthur's knights.
Arthur: Run away! Run away!
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Salah has just met Marcus Brody in Iskenderun. A German comes up to them and invites them to a museum. Salah realizes that there is no museum in Iskenderun and that they're in danger.
Marcus: Yes. [snip]
Marcus: Did you say...?
Salah: [punches German in the face] Run!
- Before they were the Ghostbusters, Doctors Stanz, Venkman, and Spengler do this in the New York Public Library, after attempting to bum-rush a ghost.
Librarian: Did you see it? What was it?
Ray: [still fleeing] We'll get back to you!
- From the (now infamous) 1998 version of Godzilla:
Animal: What do we do now?
Philippe: Running would be a good idea.
- Played for Laughs in Star Wars: Han Solo and Chewbacca foolishly charge a squad of stormtroopers, who run away. A moment later, Han and Chewie reappear, running the other way with a larger group of stormtroopers in pursuit...
- Exactly the same happens in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, where Max was chasing a lone mechanic, only to start running away from an anrgry mob of Bartertown guards.
- When the "Blood-Red Van" comes after the dogs in Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco, they immediately react by running and hiding.
- In District 9, the main character, Wikus, initially turns and runs away when finally confronted by his bounty hunter, Koobus.
- Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks: After it becomes clear that their weapons are useless against the animated armor/costumes, the Nazi soldiers run like bunnies.
- In Short Circuit:
Ben Jabituya: I don't know about you, but I am planning to scream and run.
- In The Wizard of Oz, the Wizard tells the Cowardly Lion he's been too hard on himself for thinking he's cowardly for being afraid to fight a powerful wicked witch who's been trying to kill them, pointing out anyone would be terrified of that.
Wizard: You think that simply because you run away from danger, you have no courage. You're confusing courage with wisdom!
- Pirates of the Caribbean's Jack Sparrow screams at things quite often, runs away even more, but his behaviour in Dead Man's Chest when the Kraken's after him frightens the whole ship:
"Jack's hat['s overboard]! Bring 'er about!"
"No no! Leave it!" [Dead silence.] "Run."
- The Dark Knight Rises has Bane kidnapping a scientist from the CIA by destroying the airplane they are on while holding on to a rope lowered by his men from another plane flying above them. And that's just the first thing we see him do in the movie.
Bane: Calm down, Doctor. Now is not the time for fear. That comes later.
- Happens in the bloopers of The Avengers (2012) where instead of Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk and punching out a giant Chitauri, he runs away like a little girl (quite literally), whilst Captain America starts cracking up. Even better when he starts skipping at the end.
- Depending on who you ask, Barbra losing her mind in the original Night of the Living Dead (1968) and going into near-catatonic shock after being attacked and surrounded by flesh-eating zombies whom she watched kill her brother is either sexist... or a perfectly appropriate, understandable, and realistic response for someone who was just attacked and surrounded by flesh-eating zombies and watched them kill her brother.
- The "freezing" variant is what Alan Grant recommends in the Jurassic Park movies when confronted with a Tyrannosaurus rex. Whether or not his advice is heeded is another matter, such as with a run-in with a sub-adult in Jurassic Park III.
Grant: Nobody...move...a muscle.
(the rex roars; everybody else runs)
- A Running Gag in the Captain Underpants series involves this exchange of dialogue between George and Harold:
George: I've got an idea.
- Ciaphas Cain's reaction to Necrons tends to be like this. Then again, he's one of the few people to have survived an encounter with them, so he's well aware of how deadly they are.
- Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files reminds us that running away from things you cannot hurt is the best strategy at least twice in every novel. And he really knows best. In fact, he spends quite a bit of his downtime running so that the next time something tries to kill him he'll be able to run away even better.
- Unfortunately, the monsters always seem to cheat, with their stupid unnatural speed...
- Later in the series, this gets turned around. In Changes, for example, Harry comes upon a Red Court Vampire in his office building. The vampire's entirely justified response is to scream its head off and run away like his ass was on fire. Which, to be fair, was very nearly the case.
- Rincewind from the Discworld series adapted this as his default strategy in any remotely dangerous situation (particularly the running type).
- Having a strong belief in his own pre-emptive Karma, Rincewind has a very broad definition of "any remotely dangerous situation".
- He also knows more than anyone else how to run away: It's all about knowing you are running away from one thing, not towards something else. He's practically turned it into his religion, which has a large following.
- Tal of The Seventh Tower understands the dangers of Aenir and the tower much better than Milla does and lacks her Proud Warrior Race Guy characteristics, resulting in him having far more sense when it comes to knowing when to run and when to fight. It causes serious tensions between them at times. It's played completely seriously.
- Flashman runs away in almost every conceivable situation. He'll cheerfully abandon friends to save his skin. For example, in Flashman at the Charge, while being pursued by Cossacks, he threw a naked woman out of his sledge to lighten the load. (It worked, but the guy driving the sledge was so pissed that he in turn abandoned Flashy when the sledge overturned.)
- Fisk is always trying to teach Michael this in the first two books of the Knight and Rogue Series. By the third, he's finally getting it.
- In The Damned trilogy, the first Amplitur to interrogate a captive human discovers to his horror that humans are not only immune to their Mind Control powers, but using them causes a feedback that renders the Amplitur almost catatonic. The Amplitur panics and orders the guards to gun down the prisoner on the spot. Later he expresses deep shame for this lapse into what these highly-civilized aliens regard as psychotic behaviour, but another Amplitur points out that he was facing an incomprehensible danger, so a lapse into a primitive survival state was not only understandable, but necessary.
- Red Dwarf does this frequently, but the standout moment is from "Meltdown" the 6.28 mark here:
Rimmer [having just beamed onto a planet from a ship] Now what?
Kryten: Now we run, sir. I'd suggest we ambulate as fast as the local gravity will allow!
Kryten: Well, because of that, sir. [points to gigantic Kaiju-esque moving wax work monsters, then when Rimmer makes no response he turns around and sees that he is now half a field away and still running]
- This seems to happen quite a bit on Doctor Who; the default modus operandi seems to be: Go somewhere, walk around until you find something horrid that wants to kill you, then run away from it until you find something whose Polarity you can Reverse, fixing the problem.
- Increasingly Lampshaded in the new series.
- Played Straight in complete Sincerity Mode in the New Who episode Doctor Who S34 E4 "Listen". At first the Doctor is telling a kid that "Fear is a superpower" and "Heightens your senses" and "Pumps you full of adrenaline". These words are, through a Timey-Wimey Ball and a Bootstrap Paradox repeated back to him when he was a young Gallifreyan.
- An episode of Sliders had the group go to a witch-doctor, and upon not being able to pay for the service, they form a huddle so that Arturo can outline his plan: "Run! Run like hell!"
- The Dekaranger episode of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger feature this exchange, when it suddenly occurred to the wanted space pirates that walking into S.P.D. HQ was likely to get them arrested:
Jasmine: I suggest you all turn yourselves in.
Luka: Well, if that's how it's going to be, then we'll just have to... [cracks knuckles] ...RUN!
- There's a villainous variation in the TV movie Spenser: Small Vices. After a failed attempt on Spenser's life, a hitman flees the scene, although fear wasn't his motivation. Spenser tells his wife that the hitman is a pragmatist when it comes to killing; he ran to avoid arrest or death and wasn't interested in proving who was the bigger man.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "The Harvest": When vampires take over The Bronze nightclub, the lead vampire, Luke, announces:
Ladies and gentlemen, there is no cause for alarm! Well, actually, there is cause for alarm, it just won't do any good.
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation when the Enterprise has its first encounter with the Borg, Guinan, the sage barkeeper of Ten Forward whose people were driven to the brink of extinction by the Borg, warns Picard: "If I were you, I'd start back now."
- Discussed in Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin asks Hobbes what to do if Moe threatens to beat him up. Hobbes tells him that when a rhino charges, tigers "scramble like maniacs for the nearest tree". Calvin is not convinced by this.
- Gangsters, vampires, demons? El Santo will take them all on. Dogs, not so much.
- A frequent tactic for Ivy from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- When the smoke snakes first arrive in the school to attack the students, Ivy and Simon waste no time in turning tail and immediately trying to bail.
- The next day, Ivy runs into Jessica, and realises that the latter's Compelling Voice would be able to kill her and make everyone forget about it. She then tries to make a break, which only ticks Jessica off.
- When Zia tries to enroll Ivy in combat against a monster, she points out that her power is really not suited for anything offensive and makes a quick getaway in Finn's car.
- From Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers:
In enterprise of martial kind, when there was any fighting
He led his regiment from behind (he found it less exciting),
But when away his regiment ran, his place was at the fore, o!
That celebrated, cultivated, underated nobleman, the Duke of Plaza-Toro!
They come in force, with stealthy stride.
- Also The Pirates of Penzance:
Our wisest course, is now to ... HIDE!
- The Taming of the Shrew gives us this rather priceless stage direction when the Zany Scheme goes awry:
- Shows up in Spamalot, which isn't surprising, as it's just the stage version of the Holy Grail (see also under Film above). Worth mentioning because they turned "Run Away" into a broadway hit song.
- While designing your character during a game of Don't Rest Your Head, you get to pick how your character responds to abusing their Madness Power. Checking off a flight response means avoidance. Whether you do that by running away, turtling up, or hiding behind a web of lies is all up to you. Meanwhile, your fight response is all about destruction. Your fists are one way, but words are also among the many ways you can hurt those around you.
- In Guild Wars, this trope applies to a nobleman's responce to harpies attacking a festival that he is at.
Prince Mehtu the Wise: Everyone move to the exits in an orderly fashion! There is only one of them! This is not the time to panic!
[more harpies land]
Prince Mehtu the Wise: Very well! This is now the time to panic!
- Played for Laughs in Portal 2, after Wheatley tells Chell she might have "a minor case of serious brain damage".
Wheatley: But don't be alarmed, all right? Although if you do feel alarmed, try to hold on to that feeling because that is the proper reaction to being told that you've got brain damage.
- In Buck Godot, the previously absolutely undefeatable Hyraxx' reaction to the Ulgib mercenaries is a simple, panicked "RUN!"
- In Freefall, after learning that the area they are in is going to be hit by an asteroid, Sam and Helix immediately decide to panic (against Florence's protests).
Sam: Two votes to one. The motion to panic has been carried. Screaming and flailing may start immediately.
- In The Order of the Stick, this is the standard response every time they face overwhelming odds (which they seem to do with great regularity).
- In Goblins, a chance encounter with an Eldritch Abomination gives us this exchange:
Grem: [unsheathing his sword] I am a goblin prince. I know when to fight.
Dies Horribly: [grabbing Grem's arm] I am a COWARD! I know when to RUN!
- This is the spirit behind Maxim 3 from 'Schlock Mercenary'' "An Ordnance Technician at a dead run outranks everybody." This turns up in the comic as when Kevyn or Pi start looking panicky. Anyone nearby should feel scared, very scared.
- In one of the first episodes in Red vs. Blue, Grif and Simmons both turn around and are looking right down the cannon belonging to Sheila [the tank]. Simmons says, "All right, on three, we make a break for it." As he starts counting, Grif quietly runs away. (Ironically, this made Grif a better target and he was the one who got fired at immediately.)
Simmons: Okay...don't move...on the count of three, we run away together, okay? One (Grif runs away)...two...(Simmons turns to run and sees Grif running away). Ooooh, you backstabbing cockbiter.
[Cut To Grif]
- DuckTales (1987), "A DuckTales Valentine": Upon reaching the position of the sunken temple, Launchpad doesn't want to get into the water, having heard the area is shark-infested. When Scrooge tries to goad him into it by implying he's scared, Launchpad responds that some things make perfect sense to be afraid of.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
Pinkie Pie: Okay, everypony, follow my lead! [Screams and runs.]
- In "Suited for Success", after a failed attempt to talk Rarity out of a 10-Minute Retirement:
Twilight Sparkle: Now what do we do?
Fluttershy: Um... panic?
Rainbow Dash: That's your answer for everything!
- In "The Best Night Ever", after the Gala has gone From Bad to Worse, Celestia quietly tells Twilight "Run."
- "Dragon Quest" gives us this exchange:
Spike: Now if you don't back off, you'll see what us ponies do when confronted by a huge group of jerky dragons!
Garble: Oh yeah? *snort* What's that?
Spike: RUN AWAY!!!
- When Cerberus arrives at Ponyville in "It's About Time":
- In "Suited for Success", after a failed attempt to talk Rarity out of a 10-Minute Retirement:
- In Codename: Kids Next Door "Operation L.I.C.E.", the doorway is surrounded by scores of giant lice. Numbuh 2 asks Numbuh 1 what to do.
Numbuh 1: Follow my lead.
(scene change later)
Numbuh 1: RUN!
- The Penguins of Madagascar, "Cat's Cradle":
Skipper: Kowalski, options.
Kowalski: I suggest a strategic retreat.
Kowalski: It's like running away but manlier.
- Even though Shaggy and Scooby-Doo run away from everything as a Running Gag, around a third of the time it works in their favor.
Fred: In a case like this, Shag and Scoob did exactly the right thing. Let's scram!
- From Futurama:
- Chuckie Finster, from Rugrats, often tries to convince his friends to follow this trope before they actually get into trouble. Most of the time they should listen to him.
- Sheen Estevez, from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, despite often being Too Dumb to Live, sometimes would recognize when something is just too dangerous or scary, and will suggest his friends to obey this trope. In the spin-off series, Planet Sheen, he even admits that running and yelling when facing danger is his primary ability.
Sheen: Don't be alarmed, unless you find it alarming that I'm declaring myself supreme overlord of the town, in which case, be very alarmed!
- In the Jimmy Neutron episode "Sheen's Brain" after Sheen becomes an Evil Genius:
- In Trollhunters, rule number one of being a titular Trollhunter is "Always be afraid", as fear keeps your senses sharp and arrogance gets you killed.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Trial", the assembled villains who were about to kill Batman discover that he's escaped and is out there in the darkness somewhere. Two-Face yells, "Nobody panic!" Then, they find Harley (who had been holding Batman's utility belt) tied up in the straitjacket Batman had been bound in. The Joker's response: "Okay... start panicking."
- This trope gets discussed much later on in the episode "Never Fear", when the Scarecrow is releasing a toxin that actually removes people's fear, and as a result, has them performing reckless behavior. Even Batman isn't safe as he comes dangerously close to violating his Thou Shalt Not Kill rule. After Robin gives him the antidote and they save the day, Batman tells him how a little fear can be a good thing.
- There is a t-shirt slogan (usually on the back) to this effect:
I am an explosives expert. If you see me running, try to keep up.
- There is another t-shirt slogan along the same lines:
I am a nuclear technician. If you see me running, it's already too late.
- In a similar vein to the above, practically every military has something to the effect of:
- In Krav Maga, a practice best described as "Combat Pragmatism: the Martial Art", teaches that running away is not only an appropriate means of ending a fight, but the best way of ending a fight if it's a possibility. Unless escape is impractical or you otherwise have an entirely valid reason to stand and fight, risking injury or death for the sake of "winning" a fight is simply not a good alternative to just pulling a Screw This, I'm Outta Here!
- Duty To Retreat, is a legal concept in some jurisdictions (others have Stand Your Ground, effectively the opposite) that works on this principal. In a nutshell if retreating to a place of safety is a valid option, you can not legally use physical force in "self-defense" to repel an attacker. Unless you are preventing a violent crime or on your own property or place of work (there are other restrictions and ifs or buts too, "I know, the red tape'll kill ya!"), fear is legally the appropriate response in these jurisdictions.