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Impossible Pickle Jar

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Okay, now it's just being spiteful.
Sheldon: When I fail to open this jar and you succeed, it will establish you as the alpha male. You see, when a female witnesses an exhibition of physical domination, she produces the hormone oxytocin. If the two of you then engage in intercourse, this will create the biochemical reaction in the brain which lay people naively interpret as "falling in love."
Leonard: Would it work if I just punched you in the face?
Sheldon: Yes, actually it would, but letís see how the lid goes.
The Big Bang Theory

The Impossible Pickle Jar is a true test of endurance. The goal: open it. Not all can pass the test.

The jar doesn't just have to be a jar of pickles, either. All jars or bottles with stubborn caps, full of jam and peanut-butter or still-moving eyes, still apply.

This trope is often used to demonstrate a character's strength, usually a male character. Though it's just as likely to be subverted: the more a character insists on opening the jar to show off, the more likely they are to fail. That, dear readers, is comedy.

After one character struggles like crazy to open the jar, after which another does so easily, the first character might try to save face by saying, "I loosened it for you."


Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • One television advert for the Yorkie chocolate bar in the United Kingdom has a female customer with a fake mustache pose as a male, because the Yorkie slogan at the time was "Yorkie: It's not for girls." The suspicious shopkeeper poses a series of tests to verify the customer's machismo, one of which is to unscrew a tenacious jar lid. The customer gives the lid a mighty effort, and succeeds.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Early in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Kenichi's father, Mototsugu, attempts to open a pickle jar when his wife Saori muses that she can do the task herself. After much straining, Kenichi nonchalantly takes the jar from his dad, instantly opens it, and leaves, much to his father's bewilderment. This is Mototsugu's first clue that his son is beginning to come out of his shell and becoming a stronger, more self-confident person, although he initially gets the wrong idea about what's going on the Ryozanpaku dojo.
  • Aggressive Retsuko: One of the ways Tsubone, a senior accountant at Retsuko's company, torments her underlings is by ordering them to open a stuck jar of preserves and watching them try and fail. Tsubone is shocked, and rather disappointed, when Retsuko manages to open a jar thanks to getting more fit from yoga class. Needless to say, karma gets her good once she tries to open one herself...and her wrist ends up fractured.
  • In Episode 15 of the second season of Osomatsu-san, one segment involves the Matsuno brothers struggling to open a jar of seaweed paste that simply won't budge for them no matter what they try. In the end, their mother Matsuyo tries to open it herself. She can't open it either and throws it out the window.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • BAMF Girls' Club:
    • In episode 8, Bella proves unable to open a jar of jam. Although, after seeing Buffy accidentally crush a pot with her Super Strength, she just hands it to her. And then she keeps hounding Buffy with more jars, until the vampire slayer shows Bella how to use a jar opener.
    • Later, in episode 14, Hermione on a magic fast is unable to open a jar, and Bella opens it for her. That she would need Bella's help, of all people, depresses Hermione even further.

    Films — Animation 
  • After Po earns the Dragon Scroll in Kung Fu Panda, he struggles to open the container. After Shifu opens it for him, Po gives him the "after I loosened it up" line.
  • Referenced in Monsters vs. Aliens. After Susan defeats the giant robot probe all by herself, she tells the others, "Did you see how strong I was? I bet there wasn't a jar in the world I couldn't open."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Hancock, Charlize Theron's character asks her husband to open a jar for her, to hide the fact she has super-strength like Hancock.
  • In Frankie and Johnny (the 1991 version), ex-convict Johnny (Al Pacino) struggles with a jar before his love interest Frankie (Michelle Pfeiffer) opens it. The producer put the scene in after noticing that Pfeiffer had big hands.

    Literature 
  • In the children's book The Bionic Bunny Show, Wilbur—the actor who plays The Bionic Bunny—struggles with opening a jar for his wife. The story closes with one of their children opening it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Jimmy asks Hillary Clinton to prove her health by opening a jar of pickles he just happened to have had hidden away, which she does.
  • There's an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch in which Sabrina and her aunts can't open a jar. Sabrina's father visits and, after a great deal of effort, is able to open the jar. Her father is going through some personal problems at the time, so to unwind he sets about opening every difficult jar in the house.
  • On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon asks Leonard to open a pickle jar for him in order to impress Leonard's date. Not only can he not open the jar, Leonard ends up breaking it and cutting his hand, which causes him to throw up.
  • On the pilot episode of The Orville, Captain Mercer can't open a vault door and asks Pint-Sized Powerhouse security officer Alara to "open this jar of pickles for me." Instead of using her Super Strength to turn the wheel that opens the door, she just knocks it over, along with part of the wall. This soon becomes a Running Gag between them.
    Mercer: (beat) I loosened it for you.
  • Pixelface: Wen Alexia and Sgt. Reilly have a contest about who is tougher, one of the challenges is opening the old jars of applesauce Rex keeps in the fridge. They both manage to do so, and then quickly regret it as they smell the jars.
  • In an episode of That '70s Show, Midge asks Bob to open a jar, to make a point to Donna about how women have men under their thumbs. He has a lot of trouble opening it, and it's implied that Midge was only doing it to make him feel manly.
  • In one episode of Arrested Development, Lindsay tries to open a jar but fails. Her husband Tobias proudly comes to her aid, but fails miserably as well—playing into his general lack of manliness displayed throughout the series.
  • Life Support: In the seventh episode of season three, Sigourney does a segment on tightening jars around the house so that your boyfriend can open them and get a boost to his ego.
    Sigourney: So, if you want your boyfriend to feel like the big man, you only have to give him something little to do. So get yourself a tightening tool, tighten every jar in the house and watch his self confidence flourish.
  • In an episode of Full House, Danny laments to his girlfriend, who was just promoted ahead of him, that he had always believed that the man of the house should be older, stronger and more successful. Then Danny struggles to open a jar, and his girlfriend pops it open for him as well. Danny can only lament that at least he's still older.
  • An episode of When Things Were Rotten has Maid Marian distract a pair of guards with the Pickle Jar Trick: She asks them to open a pickle jar for her (possibly one whose lid is glued in place).

    Video Games 
  • Stardew Valley: In a relationship event with Haley, she's having trouble opening a jar. As your character walks in, she asks for your help. You manage to open the jar, impressing her. (Your character can do it regardless of gender.)
  • Discussed in Tomodachi Life, occasionally, when a female Mii talks about her husband. She'd mention how she has a hard time opening jars and the husband can open it easily when she gives it to him.
  • One of the bonus cases in Touch Detective 2½ tasks Mackenzie to help open a bottle of tea that has the cap screwed on too tight. The one who is able to open it? Penelope, much to Mackenzie's surprise. Presenting it to anyone else will have them try, struggle, and quickly admit defeat.
  • In Sam & Max Hit the Road, one of the items you need to solve a puzzle is the severed hand of Jesse James, which happens to be stored in a jar. The only way to open said jar is to ask the clerk at the nearest Snuckey's, as all Snuckey's employees have special training in jar-opening.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY Chibi has Ruby struggling to open a pickle jar, and eventually having to use Crescent Rose to open it. Another short has her terrified to ask her sister Yang to open a stuck jar — pretty well justified because Yang goes for even more overkill (as in point-blank shooting with Ember Celica) when she ends up arriving anyway and working on the jar.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Kim Possible episode "Stop Team Go", a humorous sub-plot involves Drakken struggling to open a jar of pickles. He tries opening it himself, using various tools and henchmen and he even tries incinerating it with a massive Death Ray. By the end of the episode, Drakken finds Shego who opens it instantly.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "The Mysterious Mare Do Well", Rainbow Dash is searching for "heroic" deeds to do, so she tries to help Amethyst Star open a jar of peanut butter. Rainbow only succeeds after Amethyst actually loosens the lid for her, by tapping it against a rock.
  • Teen Titans Go!:
    • Beast Boy has been shown struggling to open pickle jars on a few occasions. The most prominent one being "No Power", where after being prohibited from using his powers (such as turning into a gorilla for added strength), he is unable to get the jar open no matter what. He ends up resorting to licking the unopened jar. Later on he's shown using a cat as a jar opener where he does succeed.
    • The episode "40% 40% 20%" has the team, frustrated with Cyborg constantly playing his favorite song "The Night Begins to Shine," tell him that if he can't open a pickle jar without his song, he can't join them in fighting the Brain. He struggles at it for days until a bird outside reminds him that he does need his music. He plays it, pops it open and has a pickle before saving the day!
  • A recurring gag on The Powerpuff Girls involves The Mayor calling the Powerpuff Girls to open his pickle jar for him.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "No Weenies Allowed", SpongeBob tries to prove he's tough enough to enter the Salty Spittoon by trying to open a bottle of ketchup. After a brief struggle, he gives up.
      SpongeBob: If I could just run this under some hot water...
    • In another episode, SpongeBob wins the Conch Signal that allows him to summon Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. What's the first task he asks them to do? Open a mayonnaise jar.
    • In yet another episode, Plankton manages to steal the Krabby Patty Secret Formula, but he can't open it because it has a time lock and the bottle is Made of Indestructium. Even a small pile of explosives doesn't harm it in the slightest.
  • A "Mr. Know-It-All" segment on Rocky and Bullwinkle has Bullwinkle trying and failing to open a jar of pickles in various increasingly over-the-top ways. At the end, Rocky notices the jar is actually a jar of jelly, and Bullwinkle says he couldn't open it because it was jammed.
  • In The Day My Butt Went Psycho!, one episode has both Duke and the Great White Butt daydreaming on what they'd do with a ripped body. Both of their daydreams involve struggling to open a pickle jar, before Granny comes along and opens it for them, to which they say, "I totally loosened that up for you."
  • In Rick and Morty, Jerry's inability to open a jar results in Rick giving him the Meseeks box, sparking the B-plot of the episode.
  • In one episode of Johnny Bravo, the eponymous meathead finds himself captured by a group of amazons. They test Johnny to prove whether he's worthy enough to be their man, and the final part of the test is to open a jar of pickles.
  • The Simpsons parodies this with a helicopter door that they treat just like a jar. The First Lady's bodyguards strain and ultimately fail to open the door — then she kicks it, and it opens. And of course, the captain mutters that they'd loosened it for her.

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