Narm is a moment that is supposed to be serious, but due to either over-sappiness, poor execution, excessive Melodrama, 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, where main character Nate suffers a brain embolism. He suddenly grabs his right arm and repeats "Numb arm", but then it quickly degenerates into "N'arm! N'arm!" in an Urkel-esque voice before he comically rolls up his eyes and drops to the floor. Even though the moment was intended to be frightening, fans and critics overwhelmingly found the scene 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 tear jerker 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 save the scene.
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.
Please do not place examples that better belong on Bathos here or on any main page. In other words, only unintentional humour belongs on this page.
- Comic Books
- Fan Fiction
- Live-Action TV
- Professional Wrestling
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Animation
- Western Animation