Follow TV Tropes


"I Can't Look!" Gesture

Go To
"What do you have, shit for brains? What a gullible idiot, I can't watch!"

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, Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears if they're keeping another person from seeing, and Sympathetic Wince. Face Palm if the motion is in response to a Don't Look Back moment, where looking behind you is forbidden for a (often) potentially deadly reason.


    open/close all folders 


    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 Superman's Girl Friend, 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.
  • Wonder Woman: The Once and Future Story: Theseus' drinking buddies look away uncomfortably as he beats a slave girl to death for resisting his attempt to rape her.

    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.
    • In yet another strip, the duo are on another sled ride. Calvin keeps trying to ask Hobbes whether humanity is good, bad, or crazy, but Hobbes is more focused on the dangers Calvin is narrowly avoiding with the sled. Finally, just before a crash, he hides his face, yelling that he can't look.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Finding Nemo: Deb can't bring herself to watch Nemo swim through the "Ring of Fire", and does the same to her "sister, Flo."
  • A Bug's Life: Despite everything Hopper has done to their people, Flik and Atta can't bring themselves to watch him be devoured by the bird's chicks.
  • 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 II, Phoebus has to look away when Sarousch forces him to let him sail away with La Fidèle, on penalty of Sarousch harming his son.
  • In Animal Farm (1954), Moses the raven can only look away as he watches Napoleon send falsely accused animals off to a Public Execution.
  • Toy Story: Rex wants to cover his eyes but his arms are too short. He asks if anyone else can oblige him.
  • In Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, King Dymas of Syracuse averts his gaze as his son Proteus is about to be executed. Sinbad arrives just in time, but then takes Proteus' sentence. Marina and Spike avert their eyes just as the sword comes down... then suddenly the sword shatters to a million pieces. And a furious Eris emerges from the sea, and bound by her word, she reluctantly returns the Book.
  • In Turning Red, when Mei is in the middle of the street, about to be hit by a car, she braces for impact and covers her eyes. Fortunately for her, the car stops just short of hitting her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland: Big Bird covers his eyes mere seconds before Elmo, Telly, and Super Grover crash into each other and land in a heap on the sidewalk.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Hermione covers her face and turns to 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 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.
  • During the climax of Saw, as soon as Adam starts smashing Zep's skull in with the toilet lid to stop him from killing Lawrence, Lawrence immediately puts his head down and averts his eyes.
    • In the opening of Saw 3D, after choosing to kill Dina rather than each other, Brad and Ryan are horrified by the actual results (death by circular saw to the midsection is not clean) and shove their heads into their arms (not being able to physically look away).
  • 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.
  • Free Solo is a documentary about the mountaineer Alex Honnold climbing El Capitan (a 3200 foot granite cliff) without ropes or assistance. When Honnold is negotiating "Boulder Problem," one of the most difficult stages, the ground level camera man turns away after leaving the camera pointing in the right direction. The camera crew are stated to all be experienced climbers, so he would know better than the audience how great Honnold's risk of falling to his death was at that point.
  • During the opening stages of the the final battle in Destroy All Monsters, Minya has this reaction when King Ghidorah drops Anguirus from a tremendous height.

  • Earth's Children: When Broud orders Ayla cursed with death at the end of The Clan of the Cave Bear, Creb finds it so unbearable to watch he turns away and walks into the cave. This ends up causing his death, as he's still inside the cave when it collapses during an earthquake.
  • 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.
  • In The Chronicles of Prydain: The High King, Eilonwy cries out and turns away rather than watch as the Iron Crown of Annuvin burns through Magg's skull and kills him.
  • In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy and Susan cannot bear to look when Aslan is killed.
    The girls did not see the actual moment of the killing. They could not bear to look, and had covered their eyes.
  • In Matilda: When Miss Trunchbull is holding Rupert by his hair, one of the children illustrated is seen covering his eyes.
  • Sheila Rae, the Brave: Louise covers her eyes when Sheila Rae rides her bicycle with her eyes shut and no-handed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 Slocombe, upon seeing Captain Peacock crossdressing (for a fancy dress party), covers her eyes, then peeks out between her fingers.
  • Average Joe: In "Looks vs. Charm", 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: All right, 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.
  • 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.
  • Community: Abed looks away in shame when he and Troy sell their best friend handshake to Pierce in "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts".
  • Doctor Who: In "Amy's Choice", the Dream Lord does one mockingly as the Doctor is nearly cornered by Evil Old Folks in the butcher's shop.
  • 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.
  • Law & Order: UK. When reviewing the tape of CP Alesha Philips rape, DS Matt Devlin stands as far away from the TV as possible and turns his back. Her colleague CP James Steel watches it, but repeatedly averts his eyes. Later, when the tape is played at her rapist's trial, both men turn their faces away. Overall, it becomes painfully obvious to the audience that they're both in love with her.
  • The Mandalorian: In "Redemption", Din Djarin's flashback of nearly getting killed by a Separatist droid shows young Din shutting his eyes in fear, only opening them when a Death Watch Mandalorian shoots the droid and rescues him. In Season 2, Din repeats this as an adult, when someone else catches him not wearing his helmet; this demonstrates that when his armor doesn't cover him from head to toe, he feels as nervous and vulnerable in public as a frightened child would.
  • 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 @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 Murder, She Wrote episode "No Laughing Murder", Norma turns her face away when she comes down after Jessica and sees Phil's body.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Space Seed", Uhura turns off the viewing screen on which Khan is showing them Kirk suffocating.
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "Yellow", General Calthrop has promised his son Martin, who has been sentenced to death by firing squad for cowardice, that the squad's rifles will be loaded with blanks and that a pack will be placed in the trench behind his execution site so that he can leave the Army, which he only joined to please the general. However, when firing squad leader Captain Milligan gives the order "Aim!", the general closes his eyes and looks away, as he knows the rifles are loaded with live ammunition, and even though the whole scheme was his idea, he still can't bring himself to watch his son's execution.
  • The Ultra Series Clip Show, Ultraman Retsuden have it's episodes hosted by various alien guests reviewing older shows in the franchise. One notable episode has an Alien Valky showcasing Ultraman Ace; when reaching the infamous Family-Unfriendly Death moment where Doragoris graphically ripped off Muruchi's lower jaw, said alien covers his own eyes in panic (and Screams Like a Little Girl for good measure!).
  • Many of the clips on World's Dumbest... are so disturbing (such as particularly gory and bloody injuries) that the commentators admit that they can't watch the videos.
  • Yellowjackets: In "Storytelling, before Shauna can bring herself to butcher young Javi’s body, she has to lower her headband so that it covers her eyes. As a result, she has to rely on touch to find where to cut.

  • The singer 2-D of the band Gorillaz is seen doing this via his clown mask (and occasionally his hands) throughout the majority of the music video for "Stylo." Considering that he's just been kidnapped by the band's bassist Murdoc, been forced to spend time around both him and the robot replica of his seemingly-dead friend, and forced to undergo a car chase that's included both the police and Bruce Willis, all while being in the midst of a breakdown, this reaction is rather understandable.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In The Bible when Jesus is being crucified, God the Father is so forlorn at seeing His son be put through so much suffering that He turns away until after Jesus has died. As God doesn't have a corporeal form, this is symbolized by the sun being eclipsed.


  • 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.
  • In Jasper in Deadland, Gretchen turns away in shock when Jasper jumps into the Great Gulf and onto the glass bridge in between the two cliffs.

    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."
  • At the beginning of Mass Effect 3, when Shepard is escaping from Vancouver during the beginning of the Reapers' invasion of Earth, they watch as a young child climbs aboard an evacuation shuttle, only to have to avert their gaze when a Reaper shoots it down.
  • In Triangle Strategy, Cordelia covers her face when Gustadolph has her father, King Regna, beheaded on false charges.

    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 

  • 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!
  • Unsounded: One of Ricker's squad turns away when his squadmates grab an already dying Masek and yank him around trying to demand answers out of him after they cut him open when he'd offered them aid. As he didn't attack any children, and seemed not to be one of those responsible for attacking the inak on the other side of the door this made him the least morally reprehensible member of the squad.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures from the Book of Virtues: In "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.
  • 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.
    • Used again in the final episode where after being defeated and detained by Zuko and Katara, Azula suffers a complete mental and emotional breakdown and can only sob uncontrollably. Even if she was one of their most dangerous enemies, neither Zuko or Katara could stand to see her like that.
  • 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.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "The Predator", when Gaia shows three of the team members a scene of Bleak cutting off a still-living shark's fins, Linka shuts her eyes and turns her head so she won't have to see it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • In another episode as a man who was trying to hunt Bender is about to be killed, Bender covers his eyes and comments, "I can't watch...enough!" and enhances his eyes.
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021), Innocent Bystander Justine is so nauseated by the sight of undead snake men being melted down into pure Havoc energy that she grabs the flying Mind-Control Device Tri-Klops and forces it on her head so the robot can control her and she won't be conscious to watch the horror.
  • 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.
  • Oscar's Orchestra: Oscar and his orchestra do one in the season 3 premier “Lost Chords”.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Near the end of "Greece Lightning", Ferb covers his eyes in fear of being turned to stone by Candace, after Norm deactivates before her moments earlier. He was so frightened that he doesn't bother to look even after Candace leaves.
  • In the Popeye cartoon, "Goonland", a tied to the ground Popeye about to be crushed by a boulder, digs a hole with the pipe in his mouth and hides his head in it while saying, "I can't look!"
  • The Road Rovers episode "Storm Over the Pacific" combines this with Gory Discretion Shot after Hunter siccs Axe-Crazy Muzzle on the Villain of the Week and his cronies. Blitz lasts the longest in terms of watching the mayhem, initially cheering Muzzle on and telling him to "make sauerbraten out of them!" Shortly afterwards, he makes a face, covers it with one hand, and turns away while pointing with the other hand, remarking, "Ach... Now THAT is sick..."
  • 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.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "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!" That was but mere moments before SpongeBob ironically defeats the first competitor with his Nigh-Invulnerability.
    • In Sponge Out of Water, Plankton looks away when it looks like SpongeBob is about to be sacrificed.
  • 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.
  • Total Drama:
    • Against all instructions, Leshawna dances during the fundraiser in "Aftermath II: Revenge of the Telethon". She's terrible at it and Beth covers her eyes with her hands so as not to see it.
    • Jerd covers his eyes in "Newf Kids on the Rock" when Tyler and DJ each kiss a fish for the challenge and get a little too into it.

    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.


Video Example(s):


Kaeloo Can't Look

Mr. Cat pranks Stumpy and Quack-Quack into jumping off a cliff, and Kaeloo covers her eyes to avoid watching them fall.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / ICantLookGesture

Media sources: