Narm is a moment that is supposed to be serious, but due to either over-sappiness, poor execution, excessive Melodrama, unneeded use of foul language, or the sheer absurdity of the situation, the drama is lost to the point of surpassing "cheesy" and becoming unintentionally funny.
It is named for a famous scene in the last season of Six Feet Under. In it, Nate Fisher briefly grabs his right arm and complains that it's numb. He then suffers a brain hemorrhage while repeating the words "Numb arm". However, it quickly degenerates into "Narm! Narm!" before he comically rolls up his eyes, snorts loudly, and then drops to the floor. Even though the scene was intended to be frightening, fans and critics overwhelmingly found it to be funny.
Were you to discuss this phenomenon in a scholarly work or literary circles, the word you would probably use is "Bathos". Narm and Bathos are similar, but Narm is for unintended humor.
Narm can be subjective, as different audience members may find different things unintentionally funny. It can stem from a failed attempt to pull off an awesome, heartwarming (if it comes across as sappy) or heartbreaking moment (if the audience fails to be sad). Anything that falls under Wangst and Deus Angst Machina runs the risk of falling under Narm, as what is intended to be sad can instead come across as over-the-top ridiculous and absurd.
In subtitled anime, Narms are often created through the use of badly used English. In dubbed anime, Narms are more likely to result from the combination of a budding William Shatner reading an overly-literal translation.
In CGI movies or video games, unrealistic movements or facial expressions may result in Narm. Dated special effects during dramatic scenes can cause Narm for younger audience members who were raised on nothing less convincing than The Phantom Menace. Totally Radical dialog in cartoons or commercials pandering to children can also be a rich source of Narm. Even a good performance in a bad movie can evoke Narm if the actor's performance isn't enough to keep the scene from becoming comedic rather than serious.
Sometimes, this happens completely due to the audience's reaction. Actors may end up alluding to past roles they were famous for (sometimes, that's the intended reaction) but the audience instead just ends up seeing their character. This especially happens with voices - with only a limited pool of voice actors to choose from, sometimes it's obvious a character is Talking to Himself.
And that's not even getting into what sort of things that can be done with customizable uniforms in video games, or even weird costumes in general. Serious moments can be ruined by putting the characters in very silly looking outfits, especially if they and other characters do not respond to it. Bonus points if the game doesn't acknowledge that you stripped a character to their underwear or gave them a swimsuit costume.
Much of the strength of a Narmy moment comes from the severity of Mood Whiplash caused by it. Compare with Narm Charm, which is when a scene still works even with the cheesiness included. Contrast with Dude, Not Funny!, Level Breaker or Comical Overreacting. Sometimes Narm examples come from a moment being too realistic, in which case it falls under Reality Is Unrealistic, or from overshooting its mark and making it come off as trying much too hard to sell the drama, pathos, or sense of awe the moment is meant to evoke.
Not to be confused with 'Nam, or the Narn, or OMM-NOM-NOM-NOM, a certain heavy-set Boston barfly (or his Lurian counterpart), or a talking koala. Also not to be confused with the National Area for Retired Mills, North American Registry for Midwives, National Association of Rooflight Manufacturers or the National Association of Recording Merchandisers.. Despite having it as a part of his name, the Pharaoh Narmer has nothing to do with this trope either.
See also Snark Bait, Nightmare Retardant for "scary" narm, Fetish Retardant for "sexy" narm, and So Unfunny, It's Funny for "funny" narm. If this trope is intentional on the writer's part, see Failed Attempt at Drama.
Please do not place examples that better belong on Bathos here or on any main page. In other words, only unintentional humor belongs on this page.
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Professional Wrestling
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Animation
- Western Animation