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"I Can't Look!" Gesture

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Vir can't look. Londo can.

Some things are just too horrible to look at. Maybe it's the guy next door plowing into your new car. Maybe it's your Love Interest falling to her death. Maybe it's your sister taking the last cookie from the plate. In any case, it's simply unbearable to watch, so you don't. Forcing someone to watch at this point is usually a Kick the Dog moment.

This gesture can take a number of different styles. Popular ones include looking away, closing your eyes, covering your eyes, ignoring a person who is physically unattractive or, for that extra dramatic punch, turning your back. Depending on the situation, you may also cover your ears to avoid hearing whatever it is.

This motion can be used to convey a number of different emotions. A person may use it out of fear if they are in terrible danger, or if a loved one is, or out of grief or disgust.

One of the most common subversions of this trope is for a character to cover their eyes, but peek through their fingers.

As you may guess, this can also be accompanied by the phrase, "I can't look!"

See also Ignoring by Singing. Compare Discretion Shot if the viewer doesn't see what the person is reacting to or Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears if they're keeping another person from seeing, Face Palm if the motion is in response to a What an Idiot! moment, or Don't Look Back, where looking behind you is forbidden for a (often) potentially deadly reason.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • DuckTales:
    • In the story "The Curse of Flabbergé", Scrooge covers his eyes and Launchpad turns his back when the Beagle Boys set off an electrical trap.
    • In an early segment of The Gold Odyssey, one of the nephews covers his eyes when a group of poachers throw Launchpad out of an airplane.
  • In Lois Lane #67, Lois turns her back on seeing Clark "hurtling to his doom."
  • In Loki: Agent of Asgard, Old Loki covers their eyes and proclaim that they can't bear to watch, when Loki attempts to lift Mjölnir. This is obviously an act as they're still looking through their fingers, not to mention laughing their ass off.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes
    • In one strip, Calvin hides his face as he and Hobbes go plunging off a cliff in their wagon.
      Hobbes: We're headed for that cliff!
      Calvin: I don't want to know about it!
    • Calvin tries to push the family car out of the garage by himself and the car rolls away from him. He and Hobbes cover their faces and scream "I can't watch!" just before the car winds up in a ditch.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin: Jafar has stolen the lamp from Aladdin and forced Genie to grant his wish to be the world's most powerful sorcerer. As he sends Aladdin to the ends of the earth to freeze, Genie turns his face away, unable to look.
  • The common subversion happens in Peter Pan when Wendy covers her eyes as Peter crosses blades with Captain Hook, only to peek between her fingers and watch anyway.
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame sequel, Phoebus has to look away when Sarousch forces him to let him sail away with La Fidèle, on penalty of Sarousch harming his son.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Hermione covers her face and faces the wall when she thinks Sirius Black is about to kill Peter Pettigrew.
  • Bit, the smallest of the three Pink Berets from Illumination Entertainment's Hop, turns away from the sight of a partially thawed turkey dressed in a flannel shirt that Patch levers from a boiling pot. The Pink Berets presume that this is the horrible fate of E.B., the renegade son and heir of the Easter Bunny. How an elite commando unit could confuse a frozen turkey for a rabbit carcass is never explained.
  • Star Wars:
    • In The Phantom Menace, as Anakin is preparing to start the podrace, Jar-Jar says it's going to be nasty and that he's not watching before covering his eyes.
    • In Revenge of the Sith: Obi-Wan Kenobi, having incapacitated his former friend and padawan Anakin, tries to look away as Anakin is burned by Mustafar's lava.
  • In Soldier, during the opening montage one of the child soldiers turns his head away from the dog killing the boar. His head is forced back, making him watch.
  • Star Trek:
  • The 1962 version of State Fair opens with the mother finishing her mincemeat recipe to be judged at the fair. Despite her family's urging, she refuses to add any cooking brandy to the mix, considering it cheating. At the last minute, she gives in and puts her arm across her eyes as she dumps the entire bottle of brandy into the mincemeat.
  • Detective Eddie Valiant from Touchstone Pictures' Who Framed Roger Rabbit watches as most of Judge Doom succumbs to the driverless steamroller, but averts his gaze as Doom's head meets the roller. It takes Roger Rabbit to point out to Eddie that Judge Doom is not finished yet, despite being rolled flat.
  • In Serenity, the recording explaining the origin of the Reavers ends with them breaking in and overpowering the speaker before she can shoot herself. As her screams hint at her offscreen fate, tough-guy Jayne is the first one to say "Turn it off".
  • Cheryl does this in Remember the Titans when the climactic game comes Down to the Last Play.
  • In Walking with Dinosaurs: The Movie, Alex the Alexornis looks away when he sees Patchi and Juniper sneaking past the sleeping pack of Gorgosaurus. He says "I can't watch!", but he peeks over his wing after that, saying, "But I will."
  • The Name of the Rose. When Inquisitor Bernado Gui catches a peasant girl inside the monastery, he declares her a witch and rips open her clothing to expose her breasts, causing the monks to avert their gaze in horror or cover their eyes. One monk does both, covering an eye and closing the other, which he quickly opens again for a peek.

    Literature 
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a variant with its "peril sensitive sunglasses" that instantly turn completely opaque if anything dangerous or threatening appears to spare you the sight of it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In @midnight, Greg Proops covers his face in fright when the subject of a weird Deviantart account dedicated to the Scooby Doo gang comes up.
  • In The Adventures of Superman episode "The Human Bomb", Lois covers her face and turns her back when Jimmy Olsen falls off the Planet building's ledge.
  • Are You Being Served?: Mrs Slocumb, upon seeing Captain Peacock crossdressing (for a fancy dress party), covers her eyes, then peeks out between her fingers.
  • Babylon 5: When Emperor Cartagia brings Londo and Vir to see G'Kar be tortured by an electro-whip, Vir hides behind Londo, looking at the floor or to the side, seeming about to throw up.
  • In the Firefly episode "Out of Gas" the injured Zoe goes into cardiac arrest and Simon has to deliver a Shot to the Heart. Inara flinches away as he slams the needle into Zoe's chest.
  • In the first episode of Game of Thrones, Bran tags along with his father and brothers to witness his father execute the Night's Watch deserter. Bran makes a slight movement to turn his head and Jon Snow tells him not to look away because his father would know.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Space Seed", Uhura turns off the viewing screen on which Khan is showing them Kirk suffocating.
  • Community: Abed looks away in shame when he and Troy sell their best friend handshake to Pierce in "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts".
  • In the Married... with Children episode "The Egg and I", Al yells "I'm Blind! My eyes, my eyes!" when Marcie takes off her nightie and reveals her negligee. Then Steve rips open his shirt ans shows his scrawny chest, Peg screams "WAAAAHH! Now I'm blind too!".
  • In the "Looks vs. Charm" episode of Average Joe the Joes face off against the Hunks in a 3 on 3 pick-up basketball game with Melana Scantlin as the referee, who announces that the game would be shirts vs. skins. Melana assigned the Hunks as the skins team because she already saw the Joes shirtless and indicates that she didn't like what she saw by closing her eyes before asking the Hunks to disrobe:
    Melana: Alright guys, you got 20 minutes on the clock. We're gonna play shirts and skins. I've seen you guys in your skins. It's your turn.

    Radio 

    Theater 
  • Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson decides the best thing for the American settlers is to betray Black Fox and order troops to destroy the Native American tribes, but is too overcome with guilt to watch as his friend is dragged away.

    Video Games 
  • While riding some vehicles in LEGO Dimensions, Scooby-Doo may lie down and cover his eyes with his paws.
  • In one particular cutscene of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), when Sonic is found out to be dead, Shadow of all characters closes his eyes and refuses to look at Sonic's body. He even slowly unfolds his arms when no one is looking as if to say... "we may not have been friends, but you were a worthy opponent, Sonic."

    Visual Novels 
  • In Virtue's Last Reward, one group inside the GAULEM Bay notices a deactivated (and skeletal) GAULEM wearing boxer shorts for whatever reason. Thinking this hints to something much racier, the group wonders over whether taking them off to help solve the puzzle is a good idea. When Sigma was about to take on the task (For Science!, as he says), he notices Luna was covering her eyes just in case, and he pointed out that she was clearly peering through her fingers anyway.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Digger: Played for laughs. Digger turns away as the Cold Ones are being pummeled by the vampire squash.
    Digger: I can't look.
    Surka: [watching eagerly] I can!

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventures from the Book of Virtues episode "Wisdom", Aristotle does this near the end just as Socrates was about to take the honey from the beehive.
  • Aladdin: The Series: When a series of booby traps in the Sultan's treasury, Iago gets caught in one intended to behead its victim, and Jasmine covers her eyes moments before the blade strikes. Fortunately, in addition to being one of the main characters, Iago's much smaller than a human and the blade only removes the feathers on the top of his head.
  • In the Five-Episode Pilot of DuckTales (1987), Scrooge and Donald say that they can't look and cover their eyes during one of Launchpad's landings. Launchpad says he can't look either and covers his eyes.
  • Invoked then subverted in an episode of Rugrats. Angelica tricks Tommy and Chuckie into going and getting a cake from the kitchen right under the adults' noses using "invisibility creme". As she watches them, certain they're about to be caught, she chuckles then turns away, saying, "I can't watch...yes I can."
  • Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
    • In the episode "Go Away Ghost Ship", Velma and Daphne shut their eyes (Fred covers his) to avoid seeing Shaggy and Scooby crashing into a pile of tires.
    • In "Mystery Mask Mix-Up", Fred drives the Mystery Machine off a high-rise during a chase scene with the ghouls of the week. The camera pans across the van to show everyone covering their eyes, including Fred.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Demolition Doofus", Mrs. Puffs is among the audience during demolition derby while Spongebob participates in it. When the derby is about to start, she covers her eyes and says "I can't look". However, since she talked Spongebob into it with the intention of getting him killed, she quickly changes her mind, uncovers her eyes and says "Wait... yes I can!"
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: When Master Eeth Koth is captured by General Grievous, he sends a transmission to the Jedi in which he tortures Koth with an electrostaff, causing a pair of younglings to turn away.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Iroh turns away as Zuko is burned, and scarred, across his eye by his own father. Notably, Zuko's sister Azula does not look away; instead she beams in delight.
  • Parodied in Breadwinners when Sway Sway and Buhduce are stuck in space, while Ketta watches, via satellite.
    Ketta: Oh I can't watch... without popcorn.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head have been known to cover their eyes at the sight of a particularly disliked music video.
  • Parodied in Futurama in "The Problem with Popplers." When Bender realizes that Leela is about to be eaten, he says "I can't look!" He then unscrews his eye bulbs, puts them in his chest compartment, then turns to face her anyway.
  • Kaeloo:
    • Invoked and subverted. In "Let's Play Simon Says", Mr. Cat puts Quack Quack in a very humiliating situation and covers his eyes, saying "I can't look..." but then uncovers them and says "Or maybe I can."
    • Played straight in "Let's Play Treasure Hunt", when Kaeloo covers her eyes and says "I can't watch this!" when Mr. Cat pranks Stumpy and Quack Quack into jumping off a cliff.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Bugs Bunny does this in "The Unruly Hare" in jest when Elmer tells him that "he just put a cwazy wabbit out of his misewy!"
      Bugs: [looking in the tree stump Elmer shot in, then whispering to Elmer] Don't look now, Doc, but you missed me!
    • Daffy Duck does this in "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery" reading a Dick Tracy comic book, unable to stand the suspense over whether or not Tracy survived an attempt on his life.

    Real Life 
  • A classic Audience Reaction to Doctor Who villains, especially Daleks, is to hide behind the duvet.
    • In The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Peter Davison and his young sons are watching the 2012 Christmas episode; one of them is behind the sofa.
    • Children in Need presenters often warn people to get behind the duvet just before showing the Doctor Who specials made for them.
  • Any scary film (or even a scary portion of one) may cause eye-covering or hiding behind the couch.

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