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Mood Dissonance

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"It's hitting bed crisis time, and I just don't know where I can physically fit any more severely ill children on my ward. Still, listen, sorry to unload on you; how was your day at the ice cream factory?"

The mood of a story or scene is the net effect of many different elements: the dialogue between the characters, the soundtrack, and the use of light and color in the background, to name a few. Artists will specifically select those elements that work together in unison to create the desired mood.

Or not. Some artists will introduce one element into a scene that completely rubs against the prevailing mood. However, rather than undermining the prevailing tone, this Mood Dissonance can make it stand out further. Rather than drowning each other out, the contrasting elements resonate against one another.

Of course, that's when it's done well. When Mood Dissonance is done poorly, the varying elements simply cancel each other out, rendering the final product a confusing mess, or worse.

Note that cases such as the page quote are very common (and often done deliberately) in Real Life, since people with jobs dealing with sickness and death are still human.

Inversions of Empathic Environment are common. The Empathy Doll Shot is a specific subtrope. Crapsaccharine World is when the dissonance is an inherent part of the story's setting. Soundtrack Dissonance and Lyrical Dissonance are music-specific subtropes. Scenery Dissonance is a subtrope involving the scenery contrasting with the nature of the events happening in it. See also Mood Whiplash, when the differences in mood are sequential rather than simultaneous. A Happy Flashback can be used to render a sad present scene more poignant. Compare Art-Style Dissonance. See also Dissonant Serenity, for when a character, rather than the story itself, acts in a manner that's innapropriately or unsettlingly calm for their situation.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Azumanga Daioh: Ayumuu "Osaka" Kasuga is one of those few characters who revel in this trope, for hilarious effect. She's supposed to be a Shrinking Violet, but due to her eerily serene voice, bloodshot Tareme Eyes, and habit to go into a Slasher Smile even over the most innocuous and cute things tends to stray into this trope. Luckily it's all Played for Laughs.
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Hope Spots show up frequently. One moment the situation can be hopeless, and the next moment we're treated to light-hearted character development. The reverse can happen just as often.
    • Even the funny moments are subject to this, such as a flashback to Mikasa and her parents where they pass the buck on The Talk when there's a knock at the door...
    • An extreme example is Eren accidentally forming (part of) a Titan body in front of the Survey Corps for the first time. The tension builds up rapidly as the Survey Corps intensely yells demands at him and are a hair-width from closing in and killing him... only for Hange to arrive and go absolutely, hilariously, rabidly Squee over it, immediately defusing the situation.
    • Another example comes from the capture of the Female Titan. Eren and the rest of squad Levi are triumphant, and joking about who pissed their pants on their first mission. Then the Female Titan escapes and brutally murders squad Levi, except for Eren, who can only scream in despair, as he's too far away to do anything about it.
      • The anime tends to play this up for as much dramatic effect as possible and to make the following tragedies just that much more tragic.
      • The first few episodes are a good indicator for this. Episode 1 and 2 are absolutely brutal, as they cover the Titans' breach of Wall Maria and the subsequent mass starvation. Episode 3 is basically an extended comedic introduction for the supporting cast — slapstick, punchlines, the whole deal. Then, by Episode 5, people are dying en masse again.
      • Of course, even the episodes that end on a dramatic and/or depressing note are followed by the calm ending song.
  • CLANNAD's ending theme is a cute, soothing tune that also doubles as Nagisa's theme, which conflicts with the dramatic moments that several episodes end in. The second season proved to be far worse. Episode 16 ends with Nagisa dying after giving birth, a flashback over Tomoya's happy moments with her, and Tomoya wishing he had never gotten involved with her so that she might still be alive. With the words "I should have never met her", the screen fades to white, aaaaaaaand... cue the cheerful, bouncing ending theme (which showcases the whole cast, ending with Tomoya and Nagisa)!
    • "Dango Daikazoku" could and could not be. While it seems to be cheery in contrast, it definitely highlights the main point of the show - family - as well as how happy things could be. Still, it's a stark contrast to the rest of the show.
    • Definitely a case of YMMV. There are some who, beneath the surface cuteness, find the song to be oddly melancholic in tone, making it more Lyrical Dissonance rather than Mood Dissonance.
  • Later episodes of Magical Project S suffer from a minor case of this.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Mood Dissonance becomes more prominent as the series ticks down to the Gainax Ending. Mind Rape? Why not add the Hallelujah Chorus? Kaworu's death? Add 'Ode to Joy!' Shinji strangling Asuka as the last remnants of his sanity are stripped away, not to mention every human being on Earth being turned into a liquid? Cue the light jazzy pop! Of course, it is Komm, süsser Tod so it isn't as Mood Dissonance as you first think it is.
    • And then in the second Rebuild film, while Unit 01, controlled by the Dummy Plug system, is mutilating and disemboweling and eating Unit 03 — piloted by Asuka in this version — a bright and cheerful song about being best friends forever (this song) plays as everyone but Gendo is either too horrified to look away or all but openly weeping.
  • Code Geass R2: In the last episode, Nunnally sobbing over Lelouch's dead body is set to the uplifting Continued Story and the rallying cheers of "ZERO! ZERO! ZERO!"
  • In the middle of one of the most climactic scenes in Gunbuster, Noriko - alone in the cockpit of her giant robot - suddenly rips her shirt and bra open, exposing her breast.
    • Mind you, it made sense since it's a Motion-Capture Mecha and she had to tear out its core — located roughly where the human heart would be — in order to activate the Jupiter Bomb. Still, the bare breast was probably unnecessary.
  • Any time a thoroughly dramatic moment in Slayers is followed by a ridiculously peppy commercial bumper. Evolution-R managed to avert this: in the few thoroughly serious episodes, the eyecatch has different, moodier music.
  • The anime of Violinist of Hameln has one of the most inappropriate opening themes. The sequence is very light and upbeat with an uplifting song, while the anime itself is very dark and depressing. Not to be confused with the manga, which is a comedic parody of shounen action fantasy.
  • Bleach provides an excellent example of a cutesy ending theme left unchanged after dramatic elements. Skoop on Somebody's upbeat, peppy "Happy People", the closing Anime Theme Song during much of the Soul Society arc, seems incongruous when it follows a hard-hitting or violent episode—especially "Rukia's Nightmare", which explores the titular character's Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Shadow Star's ridiculously over-the-top cheery introduction can have this effect, given that inevitably it will only take a few seconds after it's ended for the anime to start recapping how the plot went horribly wrong last episode.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei's plot so far: A depressed-to-the-point-of-attempting-melodramatic-suicide-on-a-daily-basis man becomes the homeroom teacher for a class filled to the brink with borderline psychopaths, social misfits and mental cases (except for that one girl who is normal), and he has offered a handful of the students to commit double suicide with him. Depressing? Not one bit, much thanks to the fact that it all gets so bizarre and fudged up with all the different and extreme personalities, you simply cannot take the show seriously. The fact that the show doesn't seem to take itself seriously, but provides so many forms of dissonance it's pretty much a Mind Screw on drugs, also helps.
  • Prétear has a (possibly unintentional) one—the ending theme for the series is a very cute, bubbly song that shows Himeno wandering around wistfully in her bedroom clad in cute pajamas while the Leafe Knights and other supporting characters are shown framing the scene drawn as chibi angels. This theme stays throughout the show, even as the tone gets darker and darker. The last time this theme is used in the show, it's right after Sasame, having previously betrayed the Knights, jumps in front of an attack meant for Takako and dies in the process. Seeing Sasame die and then represented as a cute, flirtatious angel in the ending theme immediately after is jarring, if not a downright Tear Jerker.
  • Tenchi Muyo!: One example that comes to mind of a sad ending going into an inappropriately cutesy closing song is episode 5, which ends with Kagato blowing up Ryu-Oh, seemingly killing off Tenchi, causing even Ryoko to start crying. Hey, look, Ryo-Ohki's planting carrots and flowers are dancing to a cheesy love song!
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The music of the song Soldiers of Sorrow in the 2nd movie has a very light-hearted, upbeat tune, which does make the song's message of the tragedy of war and man's unending folly/absurdity in glorifying it stand out further. The movie's earlier releases placed this music in the climactic battle. The seemingly-incompatible light intro amongst the action slaughter can make the viewer take notice of the whole scene, and as the music and the battle progress they intertwine, becoming one profoundly emotional experience. The tune's upbeat element underscores the valiance of both sides, while at the same time its light merry-go-round-music aspect underscores the "here-they-go-again-killing-each-other-off" message. (One focus is the portrayal of Kai Shiden, where he shows his cemented resolve to see the war through due to a recent personal tragedy, and thus jumping into the carnage.) Later releases of the movie had Soldiers of Sorrow displaced by some action music, changing the feel of the moment. (It was then turned into the movie's closing music.)
    • The third Gundam movie had the battle with the Big Zam accompanied by what could best be described as seventies style smooth jazz.
    • On the subject of the music, Victory Gundam is just as infamous in having peaceful, shiny music backing the bloodbath.
  • Episode 8 of Paranoia Agent is probably one of the cutest, funniest and most light-hearted episodes in the entire series. It follows three people, one being a young girl, attempting to commit suicide. And, unwittingly, succeeding.
  • A (probably) unintentional example of this can be found at the end of episode 9 of Nanatsuiro★Drops. At the end of the episode Haru Tsuwabuki, the male lead, is turned into an inanimate doll "forever", but they decide they decide to use the same, upbeat ED theme they used to end the previous episodes with.
  • Most of the Soul Eater episodes for which the peppy and cute 'Style' was the ED. The Kid Heroes not only fail to stop the bad guy, but they also fail in a very unpleasant fashion with some of the series' prime examples of Nightmare Fuel. Although the tune does allow for the adorable version with a young Maka and Crona. In contrast, the fourth ED 'Strength' is considerably darker than what the final episodes actually depict though it spoils the general setup.
  • In Majokko Tsukune-chan, much of the humor involves cutesy characters reacting in inappropriately cheerful or blasé ways to horrible events.
  • Hellsing Ultimate will randomly insert chibi-style animations into what is otherwise a very gory series, which is often very jarring.
  • The Really Dead Montage of Setsuko's ghost/spirit/memory playing around the pond in Grave of the Fireflies is sad enough... but when that's accompanied by a lovely rendition of HomeSweetHome being played on the record-player of a family that had kept everything while the two children we'd been following had lost everything... It just makes that scene all the more poignant.
  • In Digimon Tamers while Henry and Renamon were having a deep conversation about Rika leaving her, Calumon and Terriermon were laughing right between them.
  • Pretty Cure All Stars DX 3 plays a cheery, upbeat theme for its end theme as we're treated to still scenes of twenty-one Precures crying over the loss of their Mascot Companions followed by clips of how they met. The post-script scene after the credits fixes that problem. While Smile Pretty Cure! kinda repeats the ending in its own continuity the trope is not present, as we get to hear Miyuki, Akane, Yayoi, Nao, and Reika wave goodbye to Candy and Pop... and once they're out of sight, the girls proceed to bawl their eyes out... and no cheery, upbeat theme during the whole scene to make a dissonance.
    • Speaking of Smile Pretty Cure, a text news bulletin about a bus crash appeared during the ending theme of the original airing of "School Excursion! Miyuki's Least Happy in Kyoto!?".
  • In the opening credits of the second season of Ah! My Goddess, "Flights of Fancy," one part seems a little strange. There's a short clip of Belldandy being surrounded by darkness, and she has a pained look on her face as the mark on her forehead glows with dark energy...all the while the cheerful introductory song plays in the background. Uh...yay?
  • In R.O.D the TV, Nenene does some rather conspicuous breast bounce while being Mind Raped.
  • The original Super Dimension Fortress Macross tended to use fight scene music that sounded less like epic battle music (think Star Wars) and more like jam session freestylin' (think Herbie Hancock).
  • Played for Laughs in a chapter of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun when Hori, Sakura, and Wakamatsu try to choose and apply screentones to the backgrounds of Nozaki's manga without his help. When he checks their work the next day, he realizes that all of the backgrounds they had chosen are hilariously mismatched with what's actually going on in each panel.
  • Similar to the Smile Pretty Cure! example, the original airing of the PriPara episode "Hurry Up! Divine Idol Grandprix" had a typhoon warning appear on screen during the upbeat song "Mon Chouchou".
  • In One Piece, the Straw Hats often act or appear goofy even when the tone of a fight is serious and menacing. Oda has said that the original intention for Luffy's powers was to invoke this trope.
  • When Reborn! (2004) underwent Cerebus Syndrome, the characters still kept their comedic gimmicks, such as Yamamoto continuing to believe they are all just playing a game. What makes it especially bizarre is that the manga presents most of it with a straight face rather than a comedic beat. Leroy Douresseaux of Comic Book Bin said that the battle arcs are like if the cast of Arrested Development was injected into the setting of Naruto. This is notably averted with Giannini, who had his appearance and personality redesigned for the future arc.

  • In the foreground of Gassed, depicting the aftermath of a mustard gas attack during World War I, are blind soldiers walking in a procession to a dressing station, surrounded by dead or wounded. In the background is a football match. The players are seemingly indifferent to the suffering of their peers, suggesting the gas attacks are routine occurrences.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: The Joker lives and breathes this trope. He's a clown, something that's supposed to be lighthearted and happy, that does awful and horrible things to people in a way that's occasionally funny. One description that sums it up goes that when the Joker's written right, he should be terrifying, should make you laugh, then hate yourself for laughing at him.
  • The ending of Don Rosa's Scrooge McDuck story "The Old Castle's Other Secret or A Letter from Home": the last main panel contains several smaller panels around the edges, combining into a single scene with multiple viewpoints. Central is Scrooge reunited with his estranged sister and looking at the letter from his long-dead parents that confirms that, contrary to what he began to fear during the story, they were proud of him and trusted him. The other panels play into this theme and into the generally uplifting spirit of the goal of the adventure having been achieved and the villain defeated... except the last one, which features Donald frantically trying to fix the Holy Grail, which he accidentally broke earlier. When it works, the effect is basically to make the reader be moved to tears and laugh at that last panel at the same time.
  • Spider-Verse: Morlun transports into a Hostess Fruit Pies ad and eats the Spidey there, turning it into a cheesy ad for totems instead. His brief tenure as a player-eating SNK Boss in the MVC2 world was also done the same way.
  • Wonder Woman Volume 1: Lila Brown, Steve and Diana's coworker and one of the very few regularly recurring characters, gets pretty much vaporized from the knees up by Dr. Psycho's experimental bomb. Di then makes a joke about Lila not having to listen to her anymore while standing right over what's left of the poor woman's corpse since Lila grabbed the explosive right after Di told her not to.

    Fan Works 
  • Always Visible: Apart from the moment of Delia's death, in all chapters the characters just sleeping, eating, and shirking work. However, the author presents this as if it were something completely out of the ordinary.
  • Darths & Droids frequently accomplishes this with the contrast between what the characters are doing within the game and what their players are talking about outside the game. Taken to the extremes in #607, in which Anakin is Force-choking Padmé and exclaiming My God, What Have I Done? while, out of character, Annie is pronouncing her love for Jim for roleplaying the scene so effectively.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction Jericho (MLP) has a few of these. A lot it comes from the narrator, Jericho, being a First-Person Smartass and also a Sociopathic Hero. During the dark scene in chapter 3, which had earlier had an Apocalyptic Log wherein a little girl watched her parents beaten up by agents of a Government Conspiracy, we get this little gem:
    By the operating table was a little table with various tools: scalpels, an unused IV drip, a bottle of whiskey (half full, because optimism was something I really needed right now), a full syringe of morphine, and a bottle of something called "laudanum".
    • Then, during a conversation with the Baron of Sleepy Oaks, which was going all fine and dandy:
    My mind was suddenly filled with the inexplicable terribly attractive vision of the Baron being mauled by a pack of feral dogs—their leader being the three-headed one with all the medals pinned to its chest—which the baron tried to flee from, only to gallop straight into a crowd of rowdy stallions who proceeded to beat him to death with rubber chickens. All that clucking…
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog Dark Fic Prison Island Break always injects its humour this way, making engrossed readers sit up sharply. During even the darkest or most dramatic of moments, humorous thoughts and dialogue turn up almost randomly. There are many examples, one when the depressed Silver tries to drown himself in his bowl of cereal, and in another, during a dramatic Anger Management class Sonic drops boiling hot coffee in his lap without noticing. Others involve the erotic, violent, dramatic romp between Shadow and Sonic being described as 'a dance-battle with sex', and a Shout-Out to Frozen happens while Silver is dying from a drug overdose.
    Silver: Shadow... Sir... am I gonna die?
    Shadow: (thinking) Great. Why can't Sonic be around to answer that kind of question when you need to lie to somebody? He's so much better at shoving false hope down people's throats? (out loud) I... uh...
    Tails: You're hesitating.
    Shadow: Uh... no, I'm not...
    Tails: See? You did it again.
    Shadow: Shut up, you little cuntnugget!

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Incredibles, partway through the movie, there is a montage in which Super Hero fashion designer notes the drawbacks to capes. The montage is of several superheroes and superheroines getting into quirky cape-related accidents. The accidents are so hilarious that you don't dwell on the fact that they were fatal. Especially the teenage girl getting sucked into a jet engine.
  • The LEGO Movie surprisingly did this despite what it's based on, being a colorful, wacky film where just about everything's made of the titular building blocks, but going completely out of its way to demonstrate satire reminiscent of Brave New World and 1984, Cold-Blooded Torture - especially the full force of it on Good Cop Bad Cop whilst Lord Business is enjoying every second of it a decapitation of a main character and many attempts on people's lives involving an attempted homicide of the Master Builders and a superweapon that turns people into practically frozen corpses... but since the superweapon is Krazy Glue, it's still somewhat goofy, even though to the characters it's anything but.
  • In Turning Red, Mei and her friends shedding tears of joy at the 4*Town concert happens while Ming ominousnessly approaches in her giant red panda form crushing everything in her way.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The opening of Saving Private Ryan shows the D-Day invasion in horrific detail, with intense cinematography designed to give a "you are there" feeling. It's quite sickening. In the middle of all this, there's a brief moment in which a soldier's helmet is struck by a bullet and gets dented. He takes it off to look at it, with a puzzled expression on his face. A moment later, a bullet goes through his head, killing him. It's oddly hilarious, even though it has no right to be.
  • The Dark Knight:
    • The Joker's two funniest moments are when he makes a pencil disappear and when he has to fiddle a bit with his detonator to get a hospital to explode.
    • In the online viral ad campaign for the film, you can find a site that's essentially the Gotham Times as defaced by the Joker — The Ha Ha Ha Times. It's wickedly funny in parts, and eerie in others, but it does not prepare you for what you get in the movie. Things that are benign when first read, or just another throwaway joke, get... rather disturbing in light of the actual plot.
  • Natural Born Killers presents a scene of domestic violence and child abuse in the style of a '50s sitcom, complete with a Laugh Track.
  • The Fall plays the tension between the innocent imagination of its child heroine and Roy's cynical interpretations of reality both for laughs and drama, like when Alexandria makes silly faces at a sleeping Roy after he's just tried to overdose on pills, or in the climactic brawl of the fantasy sequence, where the heinous arch-villain, in between beating the tar out of the hero and trying to drown him in a pool of water, exasperatedly demands that he stand up and fight because the pool of water he's drowning in is only a few feet deep.
  • The brief random Intermission scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • Stanley Kubrick loves this trope:
  • Serenity
    • Book, stop making jokes as you die, gorramit.
    • How about when after navigating a very difficult sequence with some deft maneuvers, Wash is impaled MID-SENTENCE? Puts a real damper on the "whew we got through that one!" feel.
    • Much earlier in the movie, of course, as relationships and moods are imploding left and right, River hears the impossibly cheery Fruity Oaty Bar commercial, complete with kawaii-but-disturbing visuals, which triggers her Waif-Fu so hard that she maims or incapacitates nearly everybody in the bar. Including Jayne!
  • In The Howling, Robert Picardo plays a lycanthropic Serial Killer who smiley-face stickers at the scenes of his crimes.
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Darth Vader has just been mutilated, is imprisoned in an awful suit for the rest of his life and has just discovered that he killed his wife, his entire motivation for his turn for evil which was directly responsible for his prior two predicaments. Of course, it's the dramatic peak of the movie and possibly the franchise, the moment where the whiny hero Anakin Skywalker truly dies and Darth Vader rises as a force of evil. Wait, what? It's not? Then what... Nooooooo!
  • The Avengers (1998) has a scene where the Big Bad of the movie has a meeting with his henchmen; two of them indicate that they want out, and he promptly kills them. It would all be very serious if everyone in the scene was not dressed in a giant teddy bear costume.
  • The entirety of Ed Wood is based on this trope. Despite Wood's movies constantly earning scorn from the audience and his increasingly pressing financial problems, the movie almost never stops being as upbeat and optimistic as a Rags to Riches story. Given everything the man's friends ever said about him, this is utterly appropriate as the man was an inveterate optimist who never failed to see the silver lining to any situation.
  • Towards the end of the film adaptation of Matilda, Miss Trunchbull is having her Villainous Breakdown and collapses in Matilda's classroom. The students cautiously advance on her as she awakens and immediately grabs one student to be thrown out the window. Matilda immediately uses her powers to open the window and helps him fly around a bit, making him laugh as light music plays in the background before bringing him back to crash into Miss Trunchbull and continue her breakdown/Humiliation Conga.
  • When Harry Met Sally...: The "Mr. Zero" scene is a hilarious description of a — divorce.
  • In the film Nikita, about fifteen minutes in there's a scene where the junkie Nikita is turning her life around in the secret government agency, complete with bouncy, uplifting music. The problem is this is about ten minutes after watching her blow a cop's head off.
  • The Crow: Eric Draven's interactions with the gang that killed him jump sentence-to-sentence between silly jokes and brutal violence.
  • Played for Laughs in Shaun of the Dead when Queen's Don't Stop Me Now plays on the jukebox while Shaun and his friends are beating the crap out of zombies.
  • When TBS offered The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (2009) On Demand - the had their Commercial Pop-Up saying "TBS Very Funny" all through a movie that includes seven on-screen deaths and terrified hostages.
  • The Hunger Games: The Reaping - with no music, the tension from the names being called, the horror of hearing Prim's name being called and Effie Trinket practically bouncing with excitement.
  • Howling III: The Marsupials: Word of God says it's a comedy, but the tone makes it not clear if this is supposed to be a comedy, a horror, or a Green Aesop about not hunting animals to extinction.
  • Tricky People is a pedophile awareness PSA that featuring among its cast members Yello Dyno, a wacky dinosaur resembling a hybrid between Barney and Woodstock. The filmmakers apparently realized the possibility of this trope and had him drop the goofy voice for a dramatic sequence midway through (while keeping his giant yellow noggin out of frame); however, any tastefulness the special may have built up from said scene is utterly destroyed several minutes later, when Yello Dyno takes several levels in badass to storm the antagonist's headquarters and confiscate his child porn stash. The entire sequence is filmed completely seriously. Few things in life are more surreal than watching a previously-harmless Barney Captain Ersatz begin to speak and act like the hero of an action thriller.

  • In Dragon Bones, this happens a couple of times. In one instance, Ward and Oreg are on a ship that belongs to the villain, and things look pretty bleak. Oreg is angry at Ward and befriends some rat-like creatures on the ship. Ward notices that his blankets are always damp, the food is gone bad, and the rope of his hammock is manipulated to make him fall down in the night. Despite the tragic fact that Oreg resorts to this because he's bound by ancient magic to serve Ward, and cannot oppose him himself, those petty pranks are quite funny.
  • Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin is written in a light-hearted, witty style, with a lot of jokes, but the story itself is pretty depressing.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows : J.K. Rowling seems to be fond of this trope. More than one serious scene ends with one jarring note of humor. For instance, Harry is shocked at the realization that Umbridge has the Locket and accidentally lights Mundungus's eyebrows on fire, which are then quickly doused by Hermione.
  • The ending of Jude the Obscure. Jude is dying, not yet thirty, abandoned by the woman he loves, after having lost all three of his children. Meanwhile, his amoral wife Arabella is out having fun -even going back out after she finds him dead because she can't be bothered. In fact, the whole of Christminster (Oxford), which represents all that Jude aspired to, seems to be celebrating while he dies. Ouch.
  • Stephen King likes to employ Squicky moments in the middle of dramatic scenes. For example, in an early scene at the beginning of the second book in The Dark Tower, Roland is badly injured by a "Lobstrosity (essentially a carnivorous lobster the size of an alligator)." Having just lost a toe and two fingers — including his right trigger finger — one of his first thoughts is at least he jerks off with his left hand.
    • He also has people thinking satirical or funny thoughts in the midst of tragedy, often because they're exhausted.
  • Swiss writer Robert Walser's short story Kleist in Thun is, for the most part, an excruciatingly sad account of the title character's mental breakdown, but in the last few lines of the story, Kleist gets into a carriage with his sister who's come to look after him; although the story is in the third person it's been presented entirely from Kleist's point of view, but as the previously invisible narrator starts to describe the carriage journey he suddenly breaks off with the comment "On and on it goes, well well, what a journey it is" and starts to talk cheerfully if inconsequentially about the place where the story is set and what it's like and the fact that there was a beer festival there, "I think three or four years ago." Those are the last words in the story. The effect is as if Kleist is so far gone that he just doesn't matter; it works on most readers like horror itself.
  • In Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee, several sad scenes are punctuated with bizarre bits of humor. For example, the narrator states that "the train took a swan dive into the Allegheny River" while describing the train wreck that killed the protagonist's parents.
  • The Strugatsky Brothers often used this trope. In Hard to Be a God, for example, most dialogs are humorous, and witty. The story, about a man trying to study a medieval society and becoming less and less civilized himself, until his girlfriend's death sends him into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, where he kills hundreds of people, is tragic and scary. Even sadder is "The Burden of Evil", which however also contains plenty of humorous and funny moments.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The Amazing Race 3's final elimination leg, "wonder twins" Derek and Drew missed the clue box, and, in their confusion, ended up making their way to the Pit Stop. The final scene had sad music playing, Derek and Drew being confused and distraught at their imminent elimination, Flo upset because she caused the elimination of her future boyfriend by telling Ken and Gerard where the clue was, and Ken and Gerard grim but resolute in their decision to ditch the twins in order to save themselves, and, in contrast to all that, Zach laughing away at the twins' mistake, happy to finally be rid of Drew, the man who had spent the entire race flirting with his teammate.
  • Battlestar Galactica: In the original, the colonies are all wiped out, same holds for most battlestars, but the show tries to maintain a light, comedic mood.
  • From Blue Peter:
    Steven: [in Doctor Who clip] No! Not that one! Katarina! [off-camera, Katarina depressurizes the airlock and she and Kirksen die] KATARINA!
    [cut to Blue Peter studio]
    Peter Purves' co-hosts: A star is born!
  • An episode of Bunheads ends with a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment of Sasha doing a dark and sensual dance routine, referred to by Word of God as "Sasha's Anger Dance" to the bouncy tune and silly lyrics of the They Might Be Giants cover of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The whole point of Spike and Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that they act like any other giggling, heavy petting, sexy, young couple in love... over scenes of mass destruction that they probably caused.
    • Invoked in "Innocence, when Angelus pretends to be Angel to make Buffy believe Angel never loved her. When Angelus responds to Buffy's Love Confession with "Love ya too", he says it an off-hand, disinterested way that makes it clear that he doesn't love her, nor does he give a damn if Buffy loves him or not. It's clearly more hurtful than if he had just declared he didn't love her.
  • The Byker Grove episode that ends with the death of Jemma Dobson has the same upbeat credits as every other episode, and the laugh at the end of the song comes up just as the image of Jemma's dead body comes on screen.
  • Castle usually opens with some jolly tune, while the camera pans over yet another gruesome murder scene.
  • Dexter: The combination of visuals and soundtrack in the opening makes a normal morning routine look sinister. It is the morning routine of a Serial Killer, after all. It gives new meaning to "blood orange".
  • Doctor Who:
    • On the Daleks: The Early Years VHS, the footage of the extermination of Kert Gantry, a security agent for the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire, had no sound, so they used the 1964 novelty Christmas song "I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek".
    • Many of the post-regeneration trauma scenes, in which the Doctor's natural funniness is combined with the usual shocked, horrified and grieving reactions from the companions. For instance...
      • It's quite amusing when the Second Doctor takes out his recorder and starts playing and dancing a jig... but since his companions have just seen him regenerate and Ben thinks he is an imposter and is seriously considering trying to kill him, it's embarrassing and uncomfortable.
      • The Fourth Doctor babbling nonsense, reciting Ironic Nursery Rhymes and running around like an eight-year-old actually combines with the horrified reactions of the UNIT family for Black Comedy.
      • The Tenth Doctor staggering about and wishing Jackie and Mickey a Merry Christmas before collapsing is done with brilliant comic timing, but Rose is still mourning her old Doctor and we soon realise that with the Doctor recovering, everything is horribly wrong and scary.
      • The most extreme example, however, is the Deconstruction of this with the Sixth Doctor, who does a load of stock post-regeneration funny-antics setpieces (trying on silly clothes, having trouble remembering who his companion is), but it's all Played for Drama and without a note of comedy, making the whole sequence extremely (perhaps too) disturbing.
    • Transitional periods between producers or lead actors in the Classic series tended to result in this, as an incoming production team was usually forced to use scripts intended for the old regime until it could commission new ones — and if they had a drastically different idea for what Doctor Who should aim for emotionally, this was the result:
      • "Planet of Giants" was based on a concept invented by executive producer Sydney Newman as one of his very first ideas for what they should do with this children's Edutainment show about a scientist — everyone shrinks and they learn about bugs and the environment. By that time, the show had all but abandoned educational subtext to concentrate on adventure stories, and it's both a misfit in Season 2 and rather odd to watch a simple educational story being told to us with the same histrionics as an adventure full of Daleks.
      • Used for characterisation in "The Highlanders", the Second Doctor's second story. It resembles the kind of sombre "pure historical" adventure story associated with William Hartnell, only the Doctor's antics in it are Flanderized outrageously, going from gentle comedy setpieces of him adopting false identities to fit into the historical setting to an enormously silly subplot involving the Doctor adopting various false identities (a Funny Foreigner, a Harmless Lady Disguise, etc) and running rings around people. The tone of the sequences with the companions is much the same as it would have been with Hartnell, but the tone of the sequences with the Doctor is much loopier and anarchic.
      • "Planet of the Daleks" was Terry Nation's first script for the show since 1965 and he had not moved on — in fact, he was so behind the times that he titled each individual episode, a practice abandoned in 1966. The result of this is that the story is a massive William Hartnell-era throwback, in terms of structure, plotting, and characterisation, which tends to result in mixed reactions.
      • "Robot", the Fourth Doctor's first story and the last story produced by Third Doctor producer Barry Letts, does a similar thing to the above — most of the story is the same 'the Doctor and UNIT investigate a science fictional threat in bucolic English surroundings' template associated with the sombre and authoritarian Third Doctor, the result being that the drastically more flamboyant, sly and alien characterisation of the new Doctor shines through.
      • "Horror of Fang Rock" and "Image of the Fendahl" were written for Philip Hinchcliffe's Gothic Horror-influenced tenure, but Moral Guardians had forced him out of a job and his replacement, Graham Williams, was told that horror was off the table or the show would be cancelled. The result was that they were some of the most thematically dark scripts in the whole of Tom Baker's tenure (The Siege in a foreboding Victorian tower; people trapped with an explicitly occult Eldritch Abomination that makes people kill themselves upon seeing it) but with all the scares and gore taken out and replaced with jokes.
      • A few years later there was "Meglos", which was the kind of cracky idea that'd have worked just fine in the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-esque Season 17 (an alien potted cactus that can turn you into a Criminal Doppelgänger? "Groundhog Day" Loop comedy skits?), resulting in very strange effects when Played for Drama in the new Darker and Edgier, soap-opera-influenced regime of Season 18.
    • "The Empty Child" has a moment of this when Jack flirts with Rose while they're standing on his invisible spaceship … as London is being bombed by the Luftwaffe. Rose points this out:
      "Okay, we're standing in midair, on an invisible spaceship, during a German air raid. Do you really think now's a good time to be coming on to me?"
  • The Fast Show: The "Rowley Birkin QC" monologues are generally unintelligible but very funny anecdotes. One, however, seems to be about a woman he was in love with during WW2, and who apparently died. The whole scene is melancholy, and the final line "I held her in my arms... (long pause)... I'm afraid I was very drunk." is unutterably sad.
  • Fringe does this in the episode "Dreamscape" where a man jumps through a skyscraper window and classical music is playing while he's falling to his death.
  • Heroes:
    • Be it ever so humble, in California or Texas, being paid a visit by creepy, quasi-ephebephilic stalker serial killers, desperate hostage takers, The Men in Black or cute lap dogs, the Bennetts' house is always sunny and warm and welcoming. DVD commentary reveals that this is intentional.
    • The series does this with Sylar, also a Serial Killer, who provides his own Plucky Comic Relief on occasion, such as by eating Dippin' Dots while watching his prey.
  • Inspector Rex: This Austrian cop show is a poster child for Mood Dissonance. It's got cheesy theme music, a cute dog acting human, chocolate-box Vienna locations: everything points to a fun family show. And then you realise you're watching a plot about kids being kidnapped from the fair and forced to make child porn... This changes in the Roman seasons, which begin with shots making the shape of a dog footprint.
  • Legion (2017) does this all the time to bizarre and often disturbing effect, like a psychic duel between powerful telepathic mutants depicted through a dance battle - that's still somehow extremely tense and ominous in context. Or the scene where the protagonist sings and plays "The Rainbow Connection" for his girlfriend on the banjo while they're in a beautiful, softly lit pure-white bedroom. What should be romantic and sweet instead becomes incredibly chilling to watch, because David is visibly terrified - so badly he can barely sing - and is trying desperately to warn his girl about the horrifying demonic entity that's trapped in there with them, but can't.
  • The finale of Life On Mars ends with Sam waking up from his coma and returning to his life in 2006... and then realising he feels nothing. So he goes up to the roof of the police station, and with a huge smile on his face and David Bowie rising triumphantly on the soundtrack, he runs to the edge and leaps to his death.
  • Misfits: The episode with Rudy's third doppelganger featured a scene with him talking to Jess about their dark and troubled pasts, but they are doing it in the community center, which is being used for a wedding, so the conversation is interspersed with The Macarena.
  • Monarch of the Glen: During the episode with Hector's funeral, the sombre mood of the funeral is broken by the coffin brought in not by the uniformed coffin-bearers, but by workmen in hard hats.
  • One Foot in the Grave: Mood dissonance is practically the bread and butter of the show. Many episodes revolve around Victor Meldrew being driven to fuming indignation by a series of increasingly absurd comic mishaps, then in the final scenes of the episode, the tone abruptly shifts as he (or his long-suffering wife Margaret) draws a comparison between what just happened, and how it is simply another example of the unfairness of life, usually on the theme of mortality and the trials of growing old. Then, with a resigned sigh, normal life resumes. Aside from this staple, the show also randomly drops in tragic moments, often as a counterpoint to a farcically comic scene, such as the death of a relative, or revealing Victor and Margaret having lost a child early in their marriage. Though it doesn't always hit its mark, at its best these scenes can be genuinely sad.
  • The Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black uses this a lot, often switching from comedy to tragedy very quickly. The use of this trope is especially pronounced in the very last scene of the last episode of season one: Everyone except Chapman is having a great time at the Christmas pageant, inmates and guards altogether. Even Doggett, who gets to perform in the pageant, is happy. Chapman, meanwhile, is totally alone and friendless, and goes outside in the snow, where Doggett follows her to kill her. The switch from the warmth and happiness of the pageant to Chapman fighting for life alone in the cold winter darkness is very jarring, and very effective.
  • Power Rangers RPM is made of this trope. For the guardians of the Last City on Earth, fighting killer robots who turned the planet into a bombed-out wasteland, with most loved ones dead and a single loss meaning total extinction, the characters are disturbingly peppy.
  • Scrubs: Similar to some of the anime examples above, sometimes the light and upbeat credits music get the show in trouble. While most of the time the music fits just fine, Scrubs is known for having several very serious episodes per season. The episode with Ben's death is a good example. To go from that to the downright twinkly credits is...jarring.
  • Sherlock:
    • The fact that the ringtone on Jim Moriarty's phone is the Bee Gees' "Staying Alive" just underscores how batshit crazy he is.
    • There's also Moriarty himself - whenever he speaks, it's hard to tell whether you should be laughing or cowering under a table in fear. He says everything in such a campy tone of voice, imitating a gay person, and then when told that "people have died" suddenly screams "That's what people DO!!!!" It's funny and terrifying all at once.
    • "The Reichenbach Fall" starts with a sad scene, complete with rain, and John saying that Sherlock Holmes is dead, but then immediately jumps to the rather upbeat title sequence. Talk about Mood Whiplash.
  • The West Wing has the same problem as Scrubs, but its credits are even more lighthearted and sparkly than Scrubs' — it wouldn't be out of place in a circus or carnival. Just listen to this and then ask whether or not you'd like to hear that two seconds after the show fades to black during an assassination attempt, or the president holds back tears while coffins carrying the bodies of several pointlessly killed DEA agents are carried past him, or Leo breaks the news of Mrs. Landingham's death.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look: In the last episode of series four, a sketch about an elderly Sherlock Holmes succumbing to dementia and Watson desperately trying to pretend for his sake that nothing has changed is initially played for laughs... until Holmes, in a sudden moment of clarity, reveals he knows what's happening to him.
    Holmes: I know, John... I do know. I can't get the fog to clear.
  • An episode of Veronica Mars does this beautifully - a major character is stabbed in the stomach by an ex-lover at a Christmas party while everyone is outside smiling, watching snow fall, and listening to a choir sing happy Christmas music. As described by Veronica: "Christmas in Neptune is, was, and always will be about the trappings - the lights and the tinsel they use to cover up the sordidness, the corruption."
  • The mood completely shifts in the very same sentence in the The Vicar of Dibley New Year special about Band-Aid. When the comedic Jim, who has a tic of stuttering no, reads a letter. With this tic normally being the butt of comedy, you can even hear the audience laughter over the tic immediately drop at once and there's literally no more laughter for the other times the tics are used.
    Jim: Dear Tony Blair. No-no-no-no-no-no more children dying… Not when we no-no-no-no-know how to save their live... No-no-no-no-no more... No-no-no-no... no excuses... Yours sincerely, Jim Trott.
    • The final scene of that episode is also this. It goes from a comedic scene with some laughs to showing a video of African children who lost their parents. The scene and episode end with everyone finally agreeing that poverty is a serious issue.
      Geraldine: ...I'm sorry about that. That rather more serious then I had expected. [she turns around to see everyone in complete silence, distraught by the video]
      David: You're right, this sort of thing won't do at all...will it?
      Jim: No-no-no-no longer...
      Geraldine: Thanks... Suddenly, out of nowhere, best birthday I've ever had! [she chuckles slightly then the camera goes back to everyone else's silence, before the episode ends]

  • Black Gryph0n: The video for "Jester" has Pomni curling up in despair on the floor while the others dance around her, colorful spotlights spin around the floor, and dance music plays.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "I Remember Larry". Happy lively song that sounds like it's a cheerful remembrance of someone? Check. All the lines about all the horrible things Larry did to the singer? Check. Final verse about the singer's subsequent kidnapping, murder, and leaving in a forest of Larry? Check. Funny as hell? Definitely.
    • A lot of his songs go for this effect, everything from One of those days
      The Bank called me up and told me I'm overdrawn
      Some freaks are burning crosses out on my front lawn.
    • To I Was Only Kidding which starts out as a crooning love ballad until the singer says he's only kidding prompting a shift to a much crazier melody where Weird Al basically lists all the ways their relationship has been a lie.
    • Not to mention Good Old Days, which is a nice and sweet song about young memories - of savagely beating a store owner before burning down his shop and abandoning a high school sweetheart in the desert after shaving her bald, to Generic Blues which the singer weighs the choices of suicide, or just going bowling instead.
    • Bohemian Polka is another Weird Al candidate for mood dissonance. It's not only a Speedy Techno Remake of the original, but it also comes with zany sound effects. Now, the original lyrics tell of a young man destined to be stoned to death, because he supposedly shot another man.
    • Since You've Been Gone summarizes all the strange feelings he is going through after the breakup (like chewing on tin foil), until the last line states, "I feel almost as bad as I did when you were still here."
    • Take a typical lighthearted Christmas party song, with upbeat syncopated rhythms, jingle bells, jammin' barry sax, and final chorus key-change. Then add in some explosions, air raid sirens, and cheery lyrics about the imminent nuclear holocaust. It's Christmas at Ground Zero!
      What a crazy fluke, we're gonna get nuked on this jolly holiday!
  • Pretty much any uptempo song by Wednesday 13 or any of the bands he fronts (Murderdolls, Wednesday 13, Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13, Manic Spider Trash, Gunfire 76, or Bourbon Crow) will be one of these. Expect plenty of upbeat songs about graverobbing, necrophilia, cold-blooded murder, obnoxious drug addiction, and cross-dressing. Sometimes all at once.
  • Kylie Minogue "Better the devil you know" appears to be a catchy pop song about an abused wife/girlfriend.
  • The Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". A cheerfully, peppy number. About a psychotic serial killer.
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising," another cheerful song about a not-so-cheery topic:
    Hope you are quite prepared to die...
    Don't go around tonight
    Well, it's bound to take your life
  • Much of the music by The Cure, especially around the "Head on the Door" and "Kiss Me" albums, falls into this. Major key pop-songs with jangly guitars and upbeat keyboards, with lyrics about loneliness, isolation, drugs, and heartbreak.
  • 1999 by Prince. The world ends today, wheeee! Par-tay!
  • Fuck You by Cee Lo Green is a very upbeat song. However, the song is a bitter rant against the singer's ex and her new boyfriend.
  • Lily Allen seems fond of this. In particular, "LDN" is the most obvious.
    There was a little old lady who was walking down the road, she was struggling with bags from Tesco.
    There were people from the city having lunch in the park, I believe that is called al fresco,
    When a kid came along to offer a hand, but before she had time to accept it,
    Hits her over the head, doesn't care if she's dead, cos he's got all her jewelry and wallet.
  • Fuck Buttons' "The Lisbon Maru" is an interesting take, if only for the name. Listening to it, it sounds like a hopeful soldier's march. The Lisbon Maru was a World War II Japanese ship filled with English POWs. Which the United States Navy sunk, not knowing the cargo (The Japanese didn't bother placing markings signifying it was carrying POWs).
  • Hadestown features "When The Chips Are Down," a very fatalistic song set to a very catchy, jaunty tune.
  • Microdisney made this their trademark. The cheerful sounding "Town to Town" starts with the lines "Got a peaceful feeling, I've found a reason, for taking life less seriously" and yet the bridge contains the line "Help reap the dead harvest".
    • There is also "Dear Rosemary", which is a charming acoustic song which starts off with sweet lines about friendship and love and then catches you off guard with the line "They want to build a land fit for heroes to starve to death in".
      • "High and Dry" with its synth-tastic '80s sound has serious mood dissonance: "Why'd you have to leave me for some Albanian gambler on the Beirut train. When I finished laughing, I celebrated with a glass of paint". To sum up, this upbeat catchy song is about somebody whose lover has left them and now he's gone mad and is trying to commit suicide by drinking paint.
  • Ed Sheeran's song "Small Bump".
  • Tom Lehrer is great at these:
    • His "Irish Ballad" is a cheerful little ditty about a girl who slaughters her entire family in various gruesome ways. In fact, the song is a take on the fact that a lot of Irish music is like that.
    • His "My Home Town" is a cheerful, nostalgic tune about the singer's home town...and all the sociopaths who inhabit it.
    • "We Will All Go Together When We Go" starts off as a lament over inevitable mortality and the mourning that ensues, and then quickly changes to a "positive dynamic uplifting song in the tradition of the great old revival hymns" - about how the nuclear Armageddon will kill us all at the same time.
    • "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" is a carefree, whimsical song despite the subject matter - "All the world seems in tune / On a spring afternoon, / When we're poisoning pigeons in the park."
    • "In Old Mexico" has a few examples:
      • "The mariachis would serenade, / And they would not shut up till they were paid."
      • "We ate, we drank, and we were merry, / And we got typhoid and dysentery."
      • "For I hadn't had so much fun since the day / My brother's dog Rover / Got run over."
      • "In that moment of truth I suddenly knew / That someone had stolen my wallet."
  • As Gustav Mahler's cantata "Das klagende Lied" approaches its tragic dramatic climax and the chorus sings of horrible things, the offstage band continues to play upbeat festive music. This is foreshadowed in that music's first appearance, which is briefly interrupted by a Scare Chord and angry violins.
  • Seanan McGuire's "The Black Death" is a cheery, bouncy educational song about the transmission, history, and symptoms of one of the most devastating plagues in human history.
  • Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sun is Burning" has a serene and almost cute melody and theme, singing about happy days in the park. Until the fourth verse, when you realize the song is about nukes. The peaceful tune never changes, even through the verses about death.
    Now the sun has come to Earth,
    Shrouded in a mushroom cloud of death.
    Death comes in a blinding flash
    of hellish heat, and leaves a smear of ash.
    • Another one of their songs, "Silent Night/7 O'Clock News" has a very bleak and distressing news report of 1960s events in the background, gradually increasing in volume as the song goes on. The news report contains stories such as failed Civil Rights bills and protests, serial murders, and politicians commenting on a crippling lack of patriotism. Juxtaposed next to Silent Night.
  • The Lonely Island's "Spring Break Anthem" starts off as a club anthem celebrating typical spring break hedonistic debauchery, but gradually starts weaving in references to a gay couple planning a rather tasteful wedding.
  • Third Eye Blind seems quite fond of this with the catchy song "Semi-charmed Kinda Life" which is all about doing meth.
    • If that's bad, it gets worse on "Slow Motion" which starts out with shooting his English teacher's son over drug money then proceeding to do coke and heroin to an upbeat tune.
      • "I see my neighbor beating his wife/ because he hates his life/ there's an arc to his fist as he swings/ oh man, what a beautiful thing"
  • T Baby's infamous It's So Cold in the D. The video shows her friends laughing at her and what seems to be dancing to a totally different song. She slowly loses her rhythm until she's starting verses in the middle of the background beat, which it's hard not to laugh at. This is immediately followed by pictures of people in her life who died as a result of gang violence, including one of a young child in a coffin. Not too easy to laugh after that.
  • Ninja Sex Party is fond of this, often contrasting a tune with completely dissonant lyrics. Attitude City is an "I Am" Song with all of the badass imagery undermined by the narrator's ineffectual accomplishments, while Wondering Tonight is a soul-wrenching breakup ballad strewn with ribald language and funny euphamisms.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: One of the greatest modules from the early days, "I6: Castle Ravenloft", is a spooky gothic tribute to Dracula and various classic horror tropes, fondly remembered by generations of players who got their characters killed there. It's also got a basement full of crypts with horrible puns carved on them.

  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The somewhat lighthearted and fun-to-sing-along-with Sondheim songs somehow make you feel like murdering people with barber razors seems like what should normally happen, and you find yourself happy that he kills the Judge in the end. The song that actually introduces the cannibalism is a light waltz full of silly puns.
  • The theatre of Bertolt Brecht is essentially based on this trope- he used Mood Dissonance to provoke the audience into thinking about the play, instead of simply absorbing it. Ideally, you're meant to laugh at it, then realise what you're laughing at and stare at it for a second, disgusted. Possibly the most popular example is his swingin' jazz tune Mack The Knife, a hilariously catchy song about a murderous thug.
  • In the third act of La Bohème, both main couples sing a quartet ("Dunque è propio finita!") as they each break up. Mimì and Rodolfo's sweet, sad I Want My Beloved to Be Happy split is juxtaposed with Marcello and Musetta humorously Volleying Insults at one another.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: At Act II Scene VI, Cyrano heart is broken when Roxane confesses him that she is in love with Christian. Then the Duenna interrupts Cyrano and Roxane telling him she has eaten all the pies Cyrano gave them. He comically sends her to read poems and closes the door in her face. The last four acts of this play have funny things and tragic things happening one after the other.
  • The final scene of Carmen has Don José threatening to kill Carmen unless she leaves her lover for him while the outcome of the bullfight is greeted with fanfares and cheers.

    Video Games 
  • A reucrring joke in the gaming community is that any game in which your customized character appears in a cutscene is constantly at risk of this trope. Broadly speaking, it isn't difficult to induce it in most modern video games given the amount of control offered to you. If you're so inclined, nothing's stopping you from t-bagging an NPC that just died dramatically, running in circles or staring at a wall while being given important information, or simply breaking the game with cheats. Many livestreamers and people who make videos based on games thrive on this for content.
  • In The Lion King, the stage "Simba's Exile" takes place right after Scar has killed Mufasa and led Simba to believe it was his fault. The stage itself is appropriately bleak — it uses relatively dark and subdued art, the player needs to be constantly wary of falling rocks, and the level's music is a medley of assorted somber themes from the movie. However, young Simba still uses his standard smiling sprite, he still chases butterflies in his Idle Animation, and he still says "cool!" when he grabs a bug.
  • Modern Warfare features a "shooting gallery" level, "Death from Above", in which the player controls the armaments of an AC-130 Spectre gunship and uses them in support of allies on the ground. The dissonance is in the calm, almost light-hearted banter of the crewmembers; when you send enemies flying with a shot from the 105 mm howitzer, they will exclaim things like "BOOM!", "I see lots of little pieces down there", and so on. This, of course, could very well be Truth in Television.
    • It pretty much is Truth in Television; operators of weapons systems like this, particularly aircraft, are often very emotionally detached from what they're seeing, to the point where they do not have the typical human psychological aversion to killing that troops on the front line experience. That's why it is significantly easier to kill enemy troops with artillery or air power - the soldiers operating these weapons are neither in much physical danger of retaliation nor do they really see their targets face-to-face and can thus carry out their missions with an almost disturbing level of calm.
    • Also, the potential for retaliation against that gunship was minimal, at least from the infantry armed with RPGs. Soldiers, even those in the safer battlefield positions, tend to become a lot less calm when there is a possibility, even the smallest chance, of a bigger fish coming along. Unlike a tank crew, these guys would probably have been safe from just about anything the Ultra-Nationalists holding the area could have used on them.
      • It's true. You cannot die in that mission, and you can't fail unless you accidentally open fire on a civilian, one specific building you're told not to destroy, or the friendly soldiers you're supporting.
    • After blowing up a truck full of enemy soldiers all the gunner has to say is "Shit, must have been a full tank of gas".
  • At the end of the credits for Call of Duty: World at War, a number of real soldiers who fought in World War 2 are named, and thanked with fairly emotional words for their service and their help in crafting the game. Aaaaand then you transition into Nazi Zombies...
    • And again in Call of Duty: Black Ops, with the credits rolling over the sight of a massive US Navy armada coming to save the day, shifting to yet another allusion to the Kennedy assassination that all but states outright that the player character is the one who did it, ending with a somber quote from Kennedy himself about not looking solely to the past, which then shifts into the hilarious "Five" cutscene before you're shooting zombies in the Pentagon's inner sanctum.
  • EarthBound (1994) is a fun, bouncy, delightfully absurd game. EarthBound's final boss is the embodiment of lost innocence, an indescribable dimension of horror ruled by a tragic monster who eats prayer.
    • This extends to the entirety of Mother 3. On one hand, it's colorful, creative and hilarious. On the other hand, there aren't enough people left on Earth to maintain the human species for more than a few generations. Not to mention all the murder, death, and suicide. Y'know, for kids!
  • During the Gainax Ending of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the Colonel... changes. His dialogue begins to vary from parental admonishments to childish fantasies to quotes from earlier games to dadaist nonsense, and it's funny; Raiden's nudity is also funny or sexy. But it only serves to rub in that you are helpless, alone and betrayed and it's going to get worse from here on, providing one of the creepiest segments in any game ever made. "GODDAMMIT stop calling me! You're creeping me out!" Made all the worse by the fact that you have to answer the incessant (and repetitive) codec calls in order to advance the game.
  • GLaDOS in Portal, like the Colonel in the MGS2 example above, combines breezy corporate spin with raging psychosis and bitter passive-aggression. Once again, she becomes a deeply, deeply terrifying character because her dialogue is so funny.
  • Super Cosplay War Ultra: This fanmade fighting game features a character named Kay, who looks like she's straight out of Super Monkey Ball. Her attacks are (mostly) based on Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • Sega Rally Championship has what is quite possibly the most cheerful standard Game Over around.
  • Very deliberate throughout Cannon Fodder, particularly when your oh-so-cute soldiers (the trope namers for War Has Never Been So Much Fun) bleed to death in agony. It's an attempt to avert Do Not Do This Cool Thing.
  • World of Warcraft: Blizzard's trailer for the "Wrath of the Lich King" expansion exploited this with the chilling precision for which they are known. The voiceover is of Terenis Menethil speaking, as if to his son, Arthas:
    "My son, the day you were born, the very forests of Lordaeron whispered the name Arthas. My child, I watched with pride as you grew into a weapon of righteousness. Remember, our line has always ruled with wisdom and strength. And I know you will show restraint when exercising your great power. But the truest victory, my son, is stirring the hearts of your people. I tell you this, for when my days have come to an end, you shall be King."
    • The accompanying video depicts Arthas, as The Lich King, waking and rising from The Frozen Throne in Northrend, drawing his sword Frostmourne and shattering the ice with it to raise his most powerful minion, the skeletal dragon Sindragosa, and empowering his Scourge army in preparation of leading them forth to destroy all of Azeroth.
  • In Star Control II, the Orz are colorful, parrotfish-like Starfish Aliens with annoyingly silly theme music, speak in engrish, and are generally friendly and helpful to the player. Oh, and they also come from a different plane, which the Androsynth discovered right before going mad and being completely wiped out in mysterious circumstances. The effect is suitably creepy — try talking to them for a while without feeling your brain melt out of your ears.
  • Both of the DS Drawn to Life games have this. In the first one, you're busy rescuing the Raposa and sending them back to town while getting pages of the Book of Life so that you can draw stuff they need (well, they may not need beach balls, but they send you to get them anyway). Then, Wilfre kills the Mayor, and the Hero kills him in return. In the second one, it gets worse. Wilfre is resurrected through being a symbiote on Heather, the half-shadow Raposa. The plot? Wilfre steals the color from various worlds, and it's up to the Hero and his friends to get them back. Along the way, Jowee makes a new friend with a Raposa named Sock. Near the end, it's revealed that Sock was Wilfre in disguise. When you finally go to confront Wilfre and restore color to the land, you learn that restoring color would cause the worlds to die. After Wilfre is defeated anyway, everything fades away, even the Creator (the Raposa version of God, and essentially you), the last thing being Heather, whose voice gets jumbled. Then, it turns out that the Raposa world is a dream of Mike, a human in the games who was turned into a Raposa, and Heather was his sister. Mike's family was in a car crash that killed his parents, put half of Heather's face in bandages, and put Mike into a coma. And you thought these were happy little pepper-uppers.
  • Final Fantasy VI is generally considered one of the darker games in the series—for example, absolutely every character has either been kidnapped, enslaved, abandoned, lost family members, lost lovers, lost the rest of their kind or their country prior to the start of the game at most and all before the Wham Episode, wherein the villain destroys civilization and blasts the world back centuries, and then spends a year idly blasting what remains because he feels like it. After this point the game takes pains to impress you with the real tearjerkers of the game, because clearly things were not bad enough. And yet...the game has some of the most hilarious moments of the entire series, usually right after — or hell, even during — the soul-killingly depressing ones. Here's an example: A silly, witty character is hopping around like a flea while giving orders to gods and demanding to know why their smiting isn't up to snuff, gosh dang it! To the right! The right! That scene happens during the Wham Episode. The one doing the ordering is the sadistic, psychopathic Monster Clown villain, and what he is directing the smiting at was once his emperor and conqueror of the world, but is now a broken and bleeding old man crawling on the ground. After the smiting connects, the villain kicks him in the ribs, tosses off a oneliner, then heaves his still-conscious body off to fall miles to his ultimate death. There are many scenes like that, where the general reaction is a combination of grief, horror...and laughing.
  • So we have Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, one of the games of the series in which a ton of the really bad shit happens, right? So we come to the end of the Trauma Conga Line for our three protagonists and what plays? None other than "Hikari"/"Simple and Clean" by Utada Hikaru. It felt really awkward to hear it this time around.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword features a scene where Ghirahim has finally kidnapped Zelda, is about to use her soul to revive Demise, and has summoned a massive army of monsters to hold Link back while the ritual is in progress. In the midst of all this, he performs an extraordinarily goofy, giddy dance around the unconscious Zelda, presumably from excitement over the prospect that his master will finally be revived. Granted, this is all perfectly in character for Ghirahim, but the context of the whole scene makes it stick out like a sore thumb compared to all the other times he has acted so crazily.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy XIII-2 has Chocolina, who was designed cheerful in order to contrast with the Darker and Edgier mood of the game. However, even Chocolina becomes depressed in the worst timelines, or after the most depressing plot events. It really shows how dark the whole game can seem when you compare some of her later appearances with her first few.
    • Final Fantasy X-2: During the battle with Bahamut at the end of Chapter 2, the cutscene preceding the battle, and the Sad Battle Music during the actual fight really hits the player with how painful the fight is for Yuna. The fact that anyone using the Songstress Dressphere will still chirp up with their usual "Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na!" when the Sing commands are used doesn't. This is exacerbated by the fact that all of the other Dresspheres' usual quirky lines are muted.
  • Tales of Symphonia has a hilarious one due to the character's in-game sprites having only one expression. Zelos' death is supposed to be heart-wrenching, but during his final words the entire party (except Perpetual Frowner Regal) all have frozen smiles on their faces. Bonus points go to Sheena who is supposed to be rubbing her eyes in tears, but looks like she's Face Palming trying not to laugh.
  • Averted in Freedom Planet, where the normal jingle for getting an extra life is replaced with a shorter, more subdued sound effect during boss battles and other intense parts of the game. Played straight in the story, when an important Plot Coupon is lost and the player characters, temporarily unable to do anything about it, accept the mayor's invitation for sushi.
  • While most DLC for LittleBigPlanet, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean and Marvel packs mostly fit in their tone, the Metal Gear Solid DLC can easily be considered this, for both franchises involved! Even with Metal Gear Solid 4's plot and violence made much more simplistic and kid-friendly, it still has the same visual aesthetic and music as a typical MGS game that contrasts wildly with the colourful and cutesy look of the base LBP game. It could even be considered a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment considering that the DLC has little lasting impact on the series outside of materials, stickers and the Paintinator.
  • The intro movie for Fallout includes propaganda footage of two Power Armored soldiers executing a prisoner...and then cheerfully waving to the camera.
  • In Toad Trainworks in Paper Mario: Color Splash, the broken train has a car full of impatient Toads. Entering it initiates a "battle" that consists of twelve Toads yelling at Mario, which takes 1 HP each time. If you start off with 12 HP or less, the Toads will keep yelling at the poor guy - even when he shows clear signs of exhaustion - until they take all his HP, at which point one of them says "Ah, I feel so much better now!". Then you get the usual Game Over animation where Mario falls over and the Slurp Guys suck up all his colour as the screen fades to white... but the Toads who got to yell at him watch contently as their only hope of survival suffers a Family-Unfriendly Death.
  • D'LIRIUM is an indie game starring cute talking Ponies. It's an utterly terrifying tribute to '90s horror shooters like DOOM and Silent Hill.
  • The finale and events of the Christmas party in Ciconia: When They Cry. The characters, in their mental chat room, are having a fun and happy Christmas party, juxtaposed with the small snippets of reality where all of these same characters are killing each other and being killed in turn.
  • Played for dark comedy in the first Metal Slug (the sequels took the goofiness and ran with it), with most of the humor coming from the silly animations and upbeat music juxtaposed with very detailed scenes of war and death. Mission 5 in particular takes place in a city and has you getting in shootouts with Rebel soldiers hiding inside the buildings, which are inevitably filled with civilians corpses (possibly slaughtered by Rebels, but since living civvies will sometimes run out of them the implication is that they were caught in the crossfire), while a cheery rock tune plays. It’s more or less lampshaded in the credits, which scrolls over all the destruction you caused while a more somber version of the main theme plays, complete with a grieving widow.
  • In Stardew Valley, most of Shane's character arc features this. For example, in his 4-heart event, Shane is passed out drunk in his room, and after he wakes up his family talks about their concern for his choices and his future. And how do you, the farmer, wake him up? With your watering can.

  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Antimony is in the middle of a bright, sunlit field when her Emotionless Girl facade breaks and she starts bawling her eyes out. Later, Kat's poignant goodbye to Alistair ends with her smiling dazedly and exclaiming, "How could I cry after a week like that?"
  • The Perry Bible Fellowship: Much of its Black Comedy is juxtaposed with cute, "innocent" artwork with situations ranging from adult to utterly horrifying. Even within a single strip, nice safe idealised artwork can become infected with realism: deliberate visual Mood Whiplash.
  • Hooves of Death's entire premise runs on this, considering it's all about a group of noble, superpowered warriors who are humanity's last defense against a seemingly unstoppable Zombie Apocalypse. It's just that said warriors happen to be adorable, sparkly, pastel-colored unicorns.
  • In this Sluggy Freelance strip, Oasis's series of dramatic flashbacks is broken up by a shot of "My Love" (Torg) going, "mmmmmmm, pork rinds." Whether this ruins the mood, provides a pleasant break from the mood, or enhances the mood (since the man she's compelled to love is so disinterested in her), is up to you.
  • In Breakfast of the Gods, after Cap'n Crunch dies and floats up to heaven, greeted by none other than the Quaker Oats Man. Really sad and touching, but the sight of the friggin' Quaker Oats man as God...
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del: The death of Embla is supposed to be a moving event, as she's the only other intelligent robot on Earth and Zeke's only equal. It's tarnished due to Ethan acting like his usual "lolrandom" childish self, being insensitive by attempting to dump Embla's body in a recycling bin, and selfishly blaming his alcoholism on Zeke leaving. It's further warped when you realize Ethan is acting more emotional over Zeke, a robot who loved insulting him and blackmailed him into creating his mate, than his own unborn stillborn child.
  • Boxer Hockey: Young Rittz and Skip are having an intense discussion about whether they should stay friends (idealistic Rittz is appalled at Skip's shoplifting while Skip is clearly doing it to survive and each is the other's only friend) while Rittz is holding his dad's hand at his mother's burial service. Skip agrees to be good [Beat] and snatches someone's wallet on the sly.
  • Homestuck: Andrew Hussie is pretty much a master of this technique, using it to jarring perfection.
    • Right after End of Act 4, when dream-Jade has died, what's the first thing we see? Her stuffed corpse, in the same manner as her grandfather's, in a disarmingly cheerful pose.
    • Also, immediately after the [S] Jade: Enter flash, the next page shows Bro, dead by his own sword. It is a tragic and terrifying Worf Effect moment. Of course, the very next page shows Jack putting on his shades and gloves. It is simultaneously hilarious and disturbing. You don't want to laugh at it, but you have to.
    • As well as the usage of Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff-style Stylistic Suck imagery during Gamzee's murderous rampage.
    • In-universe, Terezi's games are set up using colorful, cuddly dragon plushes with cutesy names such as Berrybreath, Lemonsout, Pinesnort and Pucefoot, and invariably revolve around criminal investigations, political corruption, gruesome murders, and equally gruesome executions.
  • In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn is fighting his way through a horde of shadow wights to destroy a rat-king. It is a gruesome page. The only words on that page? The 23rd Psalm—and it is badass.
  • Unsounded:
    • Duane's idealistic speech about waging war with honor and decency is contrasted with pictures of his No-Holds-Barred Beatdown at the hands of the authorites of the government he is defending. "Only in Alderode are we free”, indeed.
    • After Duane flings an enemy wright onto Lemuel's sword, Lem actually managing to stab two wrights at once, they sing their surname and pose triumphantly while splattered in blood in the middle of a gory civil war.
    • When Mikaila drops the allepakh on Uaid and Matty, the most innocent and nice characters in the whole story, she cheers and whoops while shouting "Death to traitors!" while gliding away from the carnage.
  • Zebra Girl: So, on the one hand, you have a group of friends preparing themselves to fight again a former one (and, for all they know, this dangerous ex-friend is out for their blood), all of them being deeply saddened by the situation and traumatized by past events, and on the other hand you have a werewolf completely ignoring how said group of friends really feel, reminiscing past traumatic events with excitement, and seemingly impatient to kill her (whereas the others don't really want to think about such a possibility).

    Web Original 
  • Chuck from SF Debris likes pointing out in his Full Moon reviews that it's the lighthearted tale of a terminally ill orphan girl, her emotionally abusive grandmother, and her only friends: a pair of death spirits.
  • Clown Robbery: A clown holds up an entire panicking bank armed with a balloon shaped like a gun, a squirting flower, and a pie. Then the balloon somehow goes off, killing a bank teller. The crowd switches to cheering.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: The Ending Theme is the slow, relaxing "Anne's Theme", which tends to play after episodes that end with a heavy twist or cliffhanger, such as "Prison Break", "Bizarre Bazaar" and "Anne of the Year". It becomes more rocking and anime-like in the final season.
  • The pilot episode of Big City Greens features a montage of the Greens struggling to get around Big City, while at the same time, a song about spending the day with friends plays in the background.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog plays this for laughs. On one hand, we have terrifying imagery, disturbing villains, and eerie music. On the other, we have two oblivious old people and a Funny Animal doing wild takes. The result is hilarious. At least until Eustace and Muriel start freaking out.
  • The ending of the Moral Orel episode "Repression" has Orel proclaiming "Everything's Fine!" then walking off into a sunset with an Andy Griffith-esque theme . . . right after Principal Fakey has thrown out his wife, thinking she's been unfaithful (which he was).
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • It's become practically a Running Gag that the two-parter episodes will have a dark opening or end on a scary cliffhanger... and, cue the happy theme song.
    • In "Party of One", Pinkie Pie starts growing increasingly suspicious of her friends avoiding her; for her, not being liked would be the worst thing imaginable. She being a character that can't even sneeze without comedy, it's played for comedy — but gets increasingly disturbing with the growing element of her outward anger and inner pain (and the others' distress over how they can't just put her at her ease about it yet because they're hiding something). In the climax, falsely convinced she has solid evidence her friends want to disown her, Pinkie suffers a full-fledged psychotic break and starts holding a party alone with inanimate objects, with the surreal scene depicting her mental state vividly. At this point, the elements of the scene are so mixed that it's not even clear whether the dominant mood should be considered funny and even cute, or sad and disturbing as heck. (If Black Comedy were a mood, it would be easy to answer this.)
    • Pinkie Pie tends to be the god-queen of this trope due to her wackiness. Charging in to attack Nightmare Moon? She hops with a big smile while everyone else is deadly serious. Getting ready to take out Discord? She tells both her friends and the baddie to wait (which they do) so she can have one final drink of the free chocolate milk raining down. She also tends to invert it. When everyone else is calmly walking around the Crystal Empire politely asking for information, she's sneaking around dressed like Sam Fisher and disguising herself as Fluttershy.
    • In "The Return of Harmony, Part 2", Twilight Sparkle slips past the Despair Event Horizon after the Elements of Harmony fail to work on Discord and her corrupted friends leave in a huff after a big argument. She sadly walks back to the Ponyville library, her head hung low... while a cotton-candy Personal Raincloud rains on her, silly things like dancing buffalo and an upside-down rain of pies happen all around her, and Discord shows up to mock her failure.
    • In "It's About Time" when Twilight Sparkle meets her future self, she suggests in a panic that the reason for her scar and her eye patch are the result of an "epic pony war". Given what these creatures are capable of in-universe such a thing actually would be pretty nasty, but just try and say the phrase "epic pony war" out loud without smirking.
  • The Owl House has a relaxing and soothing Ending Theme which tends to pop up after an episode that ends serious, even the Season Finale of the first season. It's averted in "Agony of a Witch", which takes place before the finale and has Silent Credits instead.
  • At one point in the Rick and Morty episode "Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Repeat", Rick ends up in an alternate version of Earth populated by bug versions of the characters. In this universe, the Smith family are wasps who eat their prey alive, and their dinner tonight is Morty's math teacher, Mr. Goldenfold, who is a caterpillar. Goldenfold screams in agony and begs for death throughout the scene as the Smiths tear him apart, burn him with acid, and eat his larvae, adding a Black Comedy twist to what would normally have been a heartwarming family moment.
  • The Simpsons: Lampshaded. Marge, Bart, and Lisa pay two hostages takers for Homer's release via cable car (which was Homer's idea), and the music in their cable car was making the situation lighter, so Bart changed it to be more dramatic.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Space Pirate Hondo Ohnaka lives and breathes this trope. He almost never drops his jovial, snarking demeanor, including when being threatened by Sith Lords.
    • His main reason for disliking the Sith is that they cannot be negotiated with in a business sense, not, say, that they're evil.
    • He even asks, after he's about to ransom Anakin and Obi-Wan along with Dooku to the Republic if they can "go back to being friends" when this is all over.
  • Tangled: The Series is a pretty good example, both with its opening and ending themes. No matter what happened in prior episodes, whether it be a young alchemist or Rapunzel's best friend turning evil, the whimsical "Wind in My Hair" always plays regardless of the situation. In addition, with the exception of right before moments like the above, the upbeat, pop-sounding "More of Me" has a tendency to pop up after an especially serious episode. The only exceptions to this are "Queen For a Day", "Destinies Collide", "Cassandra's Revenge" and "Once a Handmaiden...", all of which contain omininous themes for their end credit sequences to fit the final scene of the episode.
    • DuckTales (2017) and Big Hero 6: The Series manage to pull off the same trick by always having their upbeat and rocking opening and ending themes play before and after every episode, no matter how serious or dark they are.
  • With its upbeat, J-Pop-ish theme tune, Teen Titans (2003) sometimes suffered from this after a dramatic opening sequence. Somewhat downplayed as most serious episodes would use the English version of the theme song, while the more comedic episodes utilized the Japanese version; it doesn't help matters, but it's a good indicator of what an episode is going to contain. For example, in "Apprentice: Part 1", Robin wakes from a disturbing nightmare about Slade, in a cold sweat, to find Cyborg telling him that they've been contacted by the aforementioned villain. Seconds later: When there's trouble you know who to call...
  • Winx Club:
    • The show does this all the time, though the episodes are bookended with Previously on… and On the Next segments. The spinoff has only the former, thus making every episode that ends serious and darkly are immediately followed by the upbeat and rocking end credits music.
    • The special "Revenge of the Trix" is the only one of the four that does this, ending with the Trix taking Bloom's Dragon Flame, and Bloom lying upset on the floor. Fade to black. Cue up that upbeat "We are Superheroes"!


Video Example(s):


Perfect Day

Candace is chased by a horde of rabid animals, all set to a peppy song about having a happy day.

How well does it match the trope?

4.36 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / MoodDissonance

Media sources: