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Monkey Morality Pose

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The Monkey Morality Pose is a visual comedy trope frequently seen in film, television and animation.

It is based on the old idea of the Three Wise Monkeys, whose example good people should follow to live their lives: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil with hands over eyes, ears, and mouth, respectively. A fourth monkey, Do No Evil, keeps his hands in his lap — but since that could be interpreted in at least one unfortunate way, it may explain why the fourth monkey is not so well known. According to the Other Wiki, the saying dates back to Confucius. When translated to Japanese, it becomes "Mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru" (literally, "Don't see, don't hear, don't say"). Since "-zaru" sounds like "saru" (which means "monkey") it became known as the Three Wise Monkeys.

Generally the western world has a more cynical interpretation of this trope, where it is used to convey people refusing to acknowledge things they should be acting on. It may also be used as a shorthand for people reacting to something shocking or horrifying as a type of Battle Discretion Shot, if you will.


Not to be confused with See No Evil, Hear No Evil, which is about the sound of something being withheld if we can't see it. May turn up in shows with Silly Simians.


    open/close all folders 
  • A 1980's trailer for the British Columbian "restricted cougar" logo that aired before adults-only movies featured three monkeys flipping through television channels. They come across a channel with the cougar logo on it, scream in fright, with one monkey covering its eyes, one covering its ears, and the last one covering its mouth.
  • A Chilean commercial known as "Los Niños Pudú"(thought lost for a while and famous for being scary) shows 3 men in such a pose. The men are at the end shown without their mouth, ears and eyes, respectively.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In a rather frightening version, episode 51 of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has an eyecatch showing three members of the "cyclops army" in such a pose.
  • Referenced in Saint Seiya, where Shaka, who seems fixated on monkeys, once faced three enemies ( Camus, Shura and Saga) and left one without his senses (with the loss of taste rendering the victim mute, due to paralizing the tongue) except his sight, one without senses but his hearing, and one without senses except taste. They caught the reference and laughed at it.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, Saiyu weaponizes these monkeys: Any successful attack done by these monkeys will deprive the victim of his or her sight, hearing, or ability to speak depending on the monkey.
  • In Last Period, this is the basis of Wiseman's theme. Their names are based on the Japanese translation of the phrases, and each has an appropriate fashion accessory: Mizaru's hat covers her eyes, Kikazaru's headphones cover her ears, and Iwazaru's bandanna covers her mouth.
  • A variation in Naruto: when the Ten Tails enters its second form, it gains an eyeball on its head, an ear on its side, and a mouth on the back.
  • During the credits in episode 9 of Zombie Land Saga Revenge, Yugiri's three dance students do this pose while dancing in front of statues of the Three Wise Monkeys.

    Comic Books 
  • Played with in an issue of Jason Aaron's run on The Punisher MAX, where Elektra walks into a mob meeting and slices some goombahs up. One loses his ears, the other his tongue, and the third his eyes, and they put their hands to where the wounds are.
  • The Monkeys from "Banana Sunday" ARE the original Wise Monkeys.
  • When Sun Wukong is born in a 4-panel comic abridged version of Journey to the West, several of the strips reference these monkeys.
  • The MAX version of the Foolkiller arranges his victims' bodies into 'artistic' displays. The first example seen: three disemboweled men in this pose on a park bench.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Rio, three of the marmosets do this after Nigel tosses their leader, Mauro up and then catches him after he falls for a long distance.
  • Shrek 2:
  • In The Powerpuff Girls Movie, the titular girls are briefly seen in this pose when hiding from their problems on an asteroid. They try to ignore the screams of the Townsfolk, which their super-hearing allows them to hear through space (somehow). Ironically, at the time, the town was being attacked by hordes of evil simians.
  • In the first Madagascar movie, when Mort nervously says that Alex is "going savage", there are three lemurs behind him playing this trope.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • There is a short story (could be folklore, or not) which puts the three monkeys in a very different light. You see, the monkeys are living in a palace, and the first monkey witnessed the king brutally beating a slave for nothing. When he told the steward about what he saw, the steward threatened to glue the monkey's eyes with pitch, so the monkey decided he didn't really see anything. Etc.
  • Ephraim Kishon had a little statuette of the monkeys in his apartment. He once commented that they reminded him of the UN whenever Israel was the topic.
  • In one of his travel memoirs, P.J. O'Rourke once described visiting a souvenir shop in another country and seeing a sculpture the row of monkeys with the accompanying slogans below them, but with a fourth monkey with its hands firmly grabbing its crotch, and the slogan, "FUCK NO EVIL".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: Two examples:
    • In "The Loaded Custodian", Miss Brooks, Mr. Boynton and Walter Denton mime the three wise monkeys when caught looking for hidden treasure in Mr. Barlow's office.
    • In "Wild Goose", again Miss Brooks, Mr. Boynton and Walter Denton mime the three wise monkeys when asked by Mr. Conklin who had tricked him into thinking he had won a free television set.
  • Charmed:
    • In one episode, Prue, Piper, and Phoebe rescue three chimpanzees. Near the end, Phoebe reveals she's taught them to do this pose whenever she says the word "evil".
    • A later episode has the three sisters cursed with this. One sister is struck blind, another deaf, and the third mute.
      • Leading to an amusing moment where Piper does a Face Palm (covering her eyes), Paige covers her mouth in surprise, and Phoebe (deaf and uncertain what they're doing) assumes they're striking this pose and covers her ears. And Leo figures out right away what the problem is.
  • Community: in the Christmas Glee Club episode of Season 3, in the song Baby Boomer Santa, you can see Britta, Annie, and Shirley cover their ears, eyes, and mouth respectively.
  • Kamen Rider Ghost has this as the Finishing Move for Sanzo Damashii.
  • Briefly referenced in a Halloween episode of NCIS. A trio of pranksters wearing monkey masks discover the corpse du jour at the beginning of the episode. They're listed in the credits as "See," "Speak," and "Hear."
  • In one episode of Friends, when Ross announces he has to give up Marcel (his pet monkey), he, Chandler and Joey take this pose for a moment.
  • In the Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior episode "See No Evil", the UnSub patterns their attacks after this. The first attack is an Eye Scream, the second Ear Ache, and the third Tongue Trauma.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? has one game called "Animals", where the players attempt to act out a generic drama scene while behaving like predetermined animals - any game that has them acting like primates will end in this fashion.
  • In one episode of Gilligan's Island, one of Gilligan's monkey friends terrorized the castaways with objects made of plastic explosives. At the end of the episode, thinking he had one left, Skipper, the Professor, and Gilligan did this just before he threw it. Fortunately, it turned out to be a regular plate.
  • This is the logo for the production company of Sliders.
  • In an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the villain of the week spray-painted these monkeys as part of his trail for the police.
  • The Haven two-parter "See No Evil" and "Speak No Evil" has the Barrow family. They have monkey dolls in this pose, and their Trouble causes people to get their eyes, ears, and mouth sewn shut when they deliver bad news.
  • In the Doctor Who story "Revenge of the Cybermen", the Cybermen's hostages (including the Doctor) assume this pose while sitting against the wall, holding their faces in pain.
  • Friday the 13th: The Series had a horror variant with three statues of the monkeys used by a Japanese father to tempt his two sons and daughter in order to know which one was worthy. The monkeys do exactly the opposite of what they're suppose to do.
  • In the final round of the 2017 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, as the contestants Austin Rogers, Alan Lin, and Buzzy Cohen are being introduced, they collectively strike this pose, leading host Alex Trebek to call them "a bunch of monkeys."
  • In an All-Star Family Feud special, the cast of The Waltons featured this pose—Jon Walmsley covered Judy Norton-Taylor's ears, Eric Scott covered Mary McDonough's mouth, and Kami Cotler covered her eyes.

  • There is an old MAD comic where the shadow shows what people really think/want. The comic where a man is being mugged shows the three passengers waiting at the nearby bus stop and not responding have shadows in this shape.
    • Alfred E. Neuman strikes the pose on one cover of the magazine.
    • In a full-page gag from the early 1970s, then-President Richard Nixon was shown in the "hear no evil" and "see no evil" poses, and then with his hands cupped around his open mouth with the caption "Well, two out of three ain't bad!"
    • In Don Martin's Tarzan parody. Jane asks the monkeys who encouraged Tarzan to get plastered, after which they take this pose.

  • Genesis indulges in this in their music video for Keep It Dark.
  • System of a Down included this in their song ATWA.
  • Very subtly referenced on the cover of Check Your Head by the Beastie Boys - Ad-Rock is wearing sunglasses, MCA is covering his mouth, and Mike D is wearing a woolen cap.
  • The back cover photo of the Mötley Crüe record Theatre Of Pain has a take on this, where the hands doing the covering are coming from behind them. It's also a rare instance with all four poses: See No Evil (Mick Mars), Hear No Evil (Tommy Lee), Say No Evil (Nikki Sixx) and Do No Evil (Vince Neil).
  • Referenced verbally in the Marillion song "Holidays in Eden" that uses the phrase "See no speak no hear no evil" in the choruses.
  • The album cover for Sin Shake Sin's "Lunatics and Slaves" depicts three sheep with their respective ears, eyes and mouth stuffed with money. Quite fitting, as the album's theme is a criticism against the society's tendency to simply accept everything they see/hear from the media at face value without having a thought on their own.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The June 26, 2011 comic of Bizarro suggests that the monkeys that aren't able to perform one of the three tasks do the other two. Another has the monkeys using respective features of the iPod.
  • Mr Boffo once had a set of "also-rans", which included things like "Step On No Evil" and "Swallow No Evil".

  • As a gag item popular among doctors who treat sexually transmitted infections, there's sometimes a statue of a fourth monkey covering his crotch with the phrase "Spread no evil."
  • The St. Clare Entertainment logo.


    Professional Wrestling 

  • A song on John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, season 4 episode 1. Each monkey sung about its own method of avoiding evil ("And although some don't think it wise/To simply cover up your eyes/It's certainly working for me") Of course, the third monkey just went "Mph, mph, mph". As with many modern versions, the point is that, rather than being virtuous, the monkeys are ignoring injustices they could be fighting. ("And if he sees no evil/Maybe there's no evil to see.")

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the angelic sisters Bruna and Gisela got themselves new cards with Eldritch Moon, with the flavor text representing See and Hear No Evil respectively. Their cards can be merged to form Brisela, Voice of Nightmares.
    Bruna, the Fading Light: She now sees only Emrakul's visions
    Gisela, the Broken Blade: She now hears only Emrakul's murmurs

  • In the play The Curious Savage, three inmates at a sanitarium assume this pose on a couch for a while.
  • The Spongebob Musical has Spongebob and his friends imitate this pose when Mr. Krabs and Plankton start cussing each other out; Patrick covers his eyes, Spongebob his ears, and Sandy her mouth.
  • The Virgins in Agnes de Mille's early comic ballet Three Virgins and a Devil strike this pose while the Devil is tempting them.
  • Norwegian play Two Acts For Five Women has a small statuette showing the monkeys as an essential plot point.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations 2, Sota Sarushiro (Simon Keyes) is given this motif when upset. This is actually Foreshadowing that Simon is a Chessmaster who have incited several murders, never directly killing anyone until the final case of the game. In other words, a monkey that neither sees, hears, speaks, or does any of the crimes he's responsible for.
    • All three lawyers in the Wright Anything Agency follow this pattern. Not only do they have color coordination, but monkey coordination through their unique abilities. "See No Evil" is handled by Apollo with his perceive system letting him spot tells. Athena is the "Hear No Evil" role with her ability to hear emotions. And finally, Phoenix and his magatama talking someone into revealing the truth fulfills the "Speak No Evil" of the pattern.
  • Three characters from Killer7 are based on (and named after) this trope. Iwazaru (who hangs from the ceiling in a gimp suit and makes the "shush" hand sign) gives you important information, Mizaru (who wears bondage gear and covers her eyes) points out obstacles Kaede can remove, and Kikazaru (who wears all white, is completely silent, clings to walls and ceilings, and disappears when you draw near) indicates the presence of Soul Shells.
  • Pokémon
    • Pansage, Pansear, and Panpour, as well as their evolutions all appear to be based off this trope, but each is actually based on a Japanese delinquent subculture that inverts their corresponding pose.
    • Darmanitan's Zen Mode appeared to evoke all three at once, as its eyes are blank, it appears to be covering its ears (despite having no visible ones), and its mouth is closed.
  • Runescape does this. The three monkeys are actually found ingame, with the original names. There is a whole quest centered around them, even! A short version of the story is like this: Monkeys have once lived on the desert. The clash of two gods, Amascut, goddess of destruction, and Apmeken, goddess of friendship and sociability and monkeys, caused Apmeken to lose and lose her three senses - and so did the desert monkeys. Out of the stolen senses, three monsters were forged, and killed off the debilitated monkey population - except for Mizaru, Iwazaru, and Kikazaru, which escaped to a monkey island (no, not that one), by helping each other and filling out for their respective lackings. Also due to Apmeken's loss, people of the desert turned hostile and started wars. In the quest, the player establishes a new monkey colony on the desert and defeats those three monsters, restoring Apmeken's senses, and is spoken to by the goddess... and also does a lot of other funnier things. Talking to the three monkeys is a rather comedic routine if one can't talk back and one doesn't hear you.
  • AdventureQuest spinoff site has a variation with Zorbak, Twilly and Twig in this pose.
  • Mario Party 9 has a bonus event on the DK board where you try and stop statues of Diddy in this pose to get bananas.
  • A variation of this occurs with the three head shrines in the Gretel and Hansel as one of the puzzles needed for Gretel to progress through the game. To activate them and get the remaining stone pieces to fit into the statues near the ravine, Gretel must commit an evil act related to the three senses in front of each head including: (1) killing a fawn with an arrow, (2) chanting Black Speech from a book of spells from the stickman's kitchen, and (3) carrying a screaming mandrake after watering it near the bridge. Doing so will cause the heads to cover their eyes, mouth and ears, opening their compartments and allowing Gretel to take the pieces.
  • In the casual game Drawn: Trail of Shadows, one of the puzzles involves finding the missing eyes, ears and mouth from a trio of giant simian statues and setting these parts in place.
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, the three protagonists do a variation of this trope when the incredibly corrupt government agent tells them some of the government is corrupt. Trevor double facepalms, Franklin covers his mouth with his fist, and Micheal puts his hands behind his head, covering his ears in the process.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has an unconventional boss fight against the Folding Screen Monkeys, whom you must defeat by stealth instead of direct combat. The monkeys correspond to the proverb, but act inversely from their original roles. Instead of covering his eyes, "the seeing monkey" sees far with his glasses; instead of covering his mouth, the "speaking monkey" shouts loudly and bangs a gong; and instead of covering his ears, the "hearing monkey" listens intently with a straw collar acting as an amplifier. There's also an unnamed fourth monkey that's invisible, which is a play on the "Do no evil" monkey who is almost always left out of the references.
  • Team Fortress 2 promotional material "The Sound of Medicine", Pyro (covering their eyes), Scout (covering his mouth), Heavy (covering his ears) and Soldier (covering his crotch) recreate the four poses.
  • While the poses themselves don't appear in Paracentric, each of the game's three worlds is symbolically connected to one.
  • Magazine ads for Skull Monkeys parodied this. The ad had 4 Skullmonkeys, the first three posed as "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil". The fourth was being smashed by Klaymen dropping in from above with the caption "Smash evil with your butt."
  • The World Ends with You has several pins from the Gatito brand that only work when used together. One set, with the Irregular Note psych, has the Gatito logo (a skull) performing Monkey Morality Poses: Swift as the Wind is covering its eye sockets, Hushed as the Wood is covering its jaw, Fierce as the Flame is covering its ear cavities. The "Do No Evil" pin, Stalwart as the Mount, has its hands covering its entire face rather than recreating the traditional pose.
  • NEO: The World Ends with You establishes the trope as a motif for the Fatal Flaw of each protagonist in the series. Neku was a misanthrope who wore headphones to block out the world around him, while Rindo wears a facemask and stays quiet so he can avoid responsibility and making decisions. Both of them wear clothing from the Jupiter of the Monkey brand. Unintentionally, Neku’s design might follow Rindo’s as well because his first outfit has a big turtle neck that obscured his mouth often and in this game, his new outfit doesn’t obscure his mouth whatsoever. Like Rindo, Neku also didn’t want to speak or be spoken to. Rindo intentionally or unintentionally fulfills the last 1/3 of the pose because of his preoccupation with his phone. Unlike the other characters, Rindo holds his phone all the way up to his face to the point his eyes are nearly obscured. This represents Rindo hiding himself behind social media and viewing the world behind the comfort of his phone for the same reason he covers his face. The ending has Rindo put away his phone and reach out to his online friend Shoka physically to symbolize his Character Development.
  • The final scene in Jewel Match: Naturescapes has a statue of three frogs in the poses.
  • Persona: The protagonist's Initial Persona, Seimen Kongou, comes with three monkeys. While the monkeys aren't doing the poses, one has a blindfold, another has headphones, and the third has a bandana over its mouth.
  • A variation appears in Resident Evil (Remake), wherein there are four death masks around the mansion that have to be collected. One's missing its eyes and one's missing its mouth, but as the masks don't have a place for ears, the third doesn't have a nose. The last one's missing everything. A file can be found referring to them as "a mask that sees no evil, a mask that speaks no evil" and so on.
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns: Towards the end of level 3-2: Button Bash there's a column of monkey statues doing these poses.
  • The Season Pass promotion of Far Cry 6 shows the primary villains of past games doing the poses: Vaas covers his ears, Min covers his eyes and Joseph has his hands together in front of his mouth.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: In the dining hall, Nora throwing food for Yang to catch with her mouth escalates until Nora accidentally hits Weiss in the face with a custard pie. Team JNPR is shown with Ren covering his eyes, Pyrrha covering her mouth and Jaune covering one of his ears. Nora, meanwhile, points at Ren, passing the buck in a parody of the fourth monkey, 'Do no Evil'.
  • In No Evil: Ixtlilton, Xochipilli, and Xochiquetzal, who incidentally are depicted as spider monkeys, sacrificed their vision, hearing, and voice respectively to seal the Black Tezcatlipoca in And The Raven Brought Fire. They receive artifacts that cover their eyes, ears, and throat respectively.

  • Seen in this panel of Bad Machinery.
  • Sam & Fuzzy has ninjas doing this.
  • Subnormality uses it here
  • Woody After Dark has three guys doing it here
  • Walking in the Dark: Third panel of this page.
  • Ava's Demon the TITAN propaganda poster in Gil's ship showing the order of cyborg implants in order to achieve "perfection".
  • In one strip of Flaky Pastry Nitrine's three cousins are seen assuming this pose as they brace for an explosion. While covering eyes and ears in the face of an impending explosion is quite sensible, covering the mouth is slightly less so, and can be chalked up to the fact that goblins are rather stupid. The Alt Text reads "Hear no explosion... see no explosion... taste no explosion?"

    Western Animation 
  • Three famous Harman and Ising cartoons — "Good Little Monkeys," "Pipe Dreams," and "Art Gallery" — featured the three monkeys as statues come to life, trying to be good but always misbehaving. There's also a "Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, no!" song.
    • The song is also almost impossible to decipher unless you know something about 1930s culture. Gay meant rakish, and jazz was bad (or worse... ethnic!):
      Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, no!
      We're the Goody-Goody Monkeys every place we go.
      Never have we gone astray —
      Don't believe in being gay
      Being good's the only thing we know; so
      Speak no hi-de, see no hi-de, hear no hi-de-ho!
      Not a single wild oat will we sow!
      We're so very very good, wouldn't be bad if we could —
      Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, no!
  • Daffy the Commando: The letter that Von Vulture reads depicts Adolf Hitler, Hirohito and Benito Mussolini as the "see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil" monkeys.
  • Danny Phantom has Sam, Tucker and Danny take the pose in "One of a Kind" while Samson the Purpleback Gorilla puts the beatdown on Skulker.
  • One episode of Jackie Chan Adventures has Tohru, Jade, and Jackie being struck blind, deaf, and mute respectively by a giant statue of the three monkeys. Daolon Wong then teleports the statue to inflict an entire village with these, and at the end of the episode, he is cursed with receiving all three.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: The title cards for three different episodes named after each line have a variation of Jenny striking the three poses.
  • The Censor Monkeys from Disney's House of Mouse appear to be covering their eyes, ears, and mouths during all of their appearances, respectively.
  • One Daria credits gag has the Three J's as monkeys making these poses.
  • Ovide and the Gang has a trio of koalas who echo this—one of them wears headphones, one of them has dark sunglasses, and one of them is usually just covering their mouth.
  • The old Porky Pig cartoon "Porky's Hero Agency" has Porky imagine himself as a hero-for-hire in mythical Ancient Greece, and taking on the Gorgon. At one point, the Gorgon petrifies some look-alikes of The Three Stooges, who proceed to adopt this pose, leading the Gorgon to quip "Guess I made monkeys outta them!"
  • On Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko brings his car to a repair shop. The mechanics are all monkeys (a pun on "grease monkey," and three of them do this pose while laughing. Subverted in that they are laughing at Rocko for wanting to repair his old car and have it compete in a race against their muscle cars.
  • In one episode of TaleSpin when Baloo and Louie were having a fight, Louie's monkey employees did this as a suggestion of how Louie should fight.
  • In a easily-missed moment, in the Rugrats episode "The Word of the Day", Stu, Didi, and Grandpa do this after Angelica swears on live television (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • The 1970 adaptation of Horton Hears a Who! has the Wickersham Brothers take up the poses during their Villain Song.
  • The second season of Ninjago has a moment where Zane tells the ninja about a dream involving the Green Ninja during training, and when Sensei Wu turns around, he sees Cole covering his ears, Jay covering his mouth and Kai covering his eyes. His response is worth a few chuckles.
    Sensei Wu: That looks like the Shocked Monkey. Bad form. More focus.
  • Walt Disney Presents: In the animated special "Donald's Award", Jiminy Cricket goes to Big Pete's house to ask him about a bad experience he had with Donald Duck, and he sits down next to a small statue of the monkeys. As Pete explains that it involves his trombone and he plays a few notes for him, Jiminy looks at the "kikazaru" monkey and says "I'm with you" before covering his own ears.
  • Ready Jet Go!: In "Mini-Golf at the DSA", Sunspot helps Mindy putt the golf ball into the tenth and final hole — the rocket ship. The ball ricochets all over the place. Jet, Sean, and Sydney, all on edge, do the famous pose — Sean is see no evil, Jet is speak no evil, and Sydney is hear no evil.

    Real Life 
  • Bob Dole once saw Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon together. Dole quipped, "That's hear no evil, see no evil, and evil."
  • Romanian president Traian Băsescu featured himself in place of the monkey, as part of his electoral campaign.
  • A disturbing example is this poster, directed at those involved in the Manhattan project, telling them to keep quiet about what was happening there.
  • The emoji "Monkey Covering Eyes" (🙈), "Monkey Covering Ears" (🙉) and "Monkey Covering Mouth" (🙊).
  • Ryan Reynolds posted a picture on his Instagram where he, Hugh Jackman and Pierce Brosnan are doing this.


Video Example(s):


Any More Questions?

In Rio, three of the marmosets do this, after Nigel tosses their leader, Mauro up and then catches him after he falls for a long distance.

How well does it match the trope?

4.8 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / MonkeyMoralityPose

Media sources: