Gym Classes in fiction are torturous. There's dodgeball, running, rude gym teachers, and favoritism, but the worst of all these horrors is the rope climb.
Rope climbing is the source of nightmares for nerds, kids with asthma, and people who are just not athletic. It's never portrayed in a positive light, and it will guarantee humiliation for nearly everyone involved. Expect rope burns, laughter, and crying. Sometimes, the rope climb will be a contest to see who can get to the top and ring a bell. Most of the time, however, there will be nothing at the top of the rope.
Fast becoming a Dead Horse Trope, as many schools don't require a rope climb anymore (mainly due to parents taking legal action if it happens).
- In Robin Tim has to do a rope climb in gym which he fakes having a lot of difficulty with in order to help maintain his identity separate from Robin.
- In Digimon A Seraphic Tale, Hokuto has a meltdown during such an event, because it reminds him of his father being executed.
- In the Chuck Norris vehicle, Sidekicks, this is a cause for some of the angst and ridicule that the protagonist suffers through.
- Naturally, this trope is featured in Gym Teacher: the Movie
- Mentioned in Wayne's World:
Garth, on Cassandra: She makes me feel kinda funny; like when we used to climb the rope in gym class.
- I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry mentions this trope:
Chuck: When we climbed the rope in gym class, I would pretend it was a guy.
- A variation occurs in Mulan with the goal being to get to the top of a pole while carrying weights. Mulan slings them around the pole and knots them together.
- In The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman, the rope climb is a trope-standard pit of horrors, but the protagonist avoids the worst of it by judicious use of her floating-in-the-air superpower.
- In Witch Week, Nan is continuously humiliated by her inability to climb the rope. Once, she tries climbing with her eyes closed so she can concentrate without seeing the laughing faces of her classmates, and seems to have gotten high. But when she opens her eyes, she realizes that for all her effort she's still on the bottom knot.
- In The Neverending Story, this was among the many situations in which Bastian was humiliated in school. When he's transported to Fantasia where his wishes are fulfilled and becames physically perfect, he recalls it with amusement.
- In Anastasia Has the Answers, Anastasia is frustrated because she's the only girl in her class who can't climb the rope in gym, so she practices at home on a rope she hangs from the ceiling. At the same time, her English teacher is having her memorize a poem that begins with "O world! I cannot hold thee close enough!", insisting that she flings her arms out when she says the line. When she is finally able to climb the rope at the climax of the book, she's so happy that she screams, "O world! I cannot hold thee close enough!", flings her arms out — and falls.
- A rare positive example is used in the first book of the Alfie the Werewolf series to show how becoming a werewolf has changed Alfie for the better. First he had great trouble climbing the rope, but after becoming a werewolf, he is suddenly the best rope climber in his class.
- In 3rd Rock from the Sun, Tommy refuses to climb rope in gym class, asking "What's at the top?" Dick asks the same thing when he later talks to the gym teacher, and doesn't understand why anyone should climb the rope when there is nothing at the top.
- Still Standing: Brian had to climb a rope against a wall or get his gym credit in square dancing.
- Techno Games (a spinoff of Robot Wars which featured Olympic style events rather than fights) had a "natural rope climb" event which was basically for robots built to do this.
- In the Complete Savages episode "Tutoring", Sam fails P.E. because he can't climb the rope.
- On Seinfeld, George and Jerry are said to have first met in gym class during this activity.
- Family Matters gave this its usual preposterous spin: Gangly 97-pound-weakling Urkel has to race a much more athletic rival in the rope-climb. Urkel uses a jet-pack to get up the rope. The gym coach seems okay with this. Urkel then flies away and lands in Step by Step. It doesn't make sense in context.
- In an episode of Frasier where he's dating a gym teacher, he visits the school and sees her exhorting an unfit girl to climb a rope, and immediately has a horrible flashback to his own schooldays.
- The Smallville episode "X-Ray" featured this. As a Kryptonian, Clark Kent climbs the rope easily, but then his X-Ray Vision activates for the first time, and seeing people's skeletons scares him so he loses his grip and falls.
- The Homestar Runner cartoon "A Folky Tale" opens with Coach Z trying to get Strong Sad to do this. Note that Coach Z and Strong Sad are in the middle of a grassy field, and the rope simply extends into the air offscreen, which is immediately lampshaded.
Strong Sad: Look, I'm willing to ignore that "oom-pah down my pants" comment, but I'm more concerned with what that rope is attached to.Coach Z: Never you mind! Just get to climbin'.
- An Easter Egg reveals the rope is being held up by Homsar, who is inexplicably hovering in midair and holding the rope in his mouth.
- Referenced in The Order of the Stick: When Elan is trying to climb the airship's rigging, his bard song to inspire himself is "Prove, prove, prove, prove my 7th grade gym teacher wrong!"
- The Simpsons:
Skinner: I told you, no one can climb a rope, it's physically impossible!
- In one episode, the students at Springfield Elementary stage an uprising after being trapped in the school by a blizzard. One of the things they do to Principal Skinner is tie him in a sack and force him to do this.
- In "Thursdays with Abie," the scheduled gym activity was rope climbing but the ropes had disappeared, so Coach Krupt made Millhouse mime climbing the ropes.
- In the Brace Face episode "worst first date ever, period", when Sharon walks into gym class, some of the kids are seen in the background, climbing ropes.
- Peter Parker shows up Flash Thompson in an episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man by beating him at rope climbing in gym.
- In Code Lyoko, Ulrich climbs up a rope. Everything's just fine, but then his vertigo kicks in, and his vision gets all blurry and he falls off (from almost the very top).
- In the Ed, Edd n Eddy Valentine's Day special, the boys are seen climbing ropes in gym class. Eddy gets a serious case of rope burn, Edd climbs the rope using a mechanical apparatus, and Ed... puts on a paper-bag monkey mask and tries to swing around like Tarzan.
- In Daria, one of Jake Morgendorffer's multiple PTSD moments about his dominating macho father and his miserable childhood involves freezing with fear while halfway up a rope and suffering the consequent scorn of the PE coach and his father.
- One episode of Doug has him climbing the rope. Rare for this trope, he actually does so without being threatened by a PE teacher (He's training for a fitness competition.)! He even makes it to the top...only to slide back down and spend the rest of the episode with his hands in bandages. Ouchies.
- In an episode of CatDog has Cat being forced to this by gym teacher Cliff after going Back to School. It is revealed via flashback that this was the reason Cat dropped out of school due to his inability to climb to the top of the rope and had run out of the school in humiliation.