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Narm Charm

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Moments like these are silly, but also just too heartwarming to laugh at.

"When people express what is most important to them, it often comes out in clichés. That doesn't make them laughable; it's something tender about them."

During a dramatic moment, there is Narm: a line is said too emphatically, or the alien is obviously a guy in a rubber suit.

So why isn't the entire audience laughing?

Perhaps the rest of the work is so good, and they are too wrapped up in it to be bothered. Or what's cheesy is more the fun kind of cheesy, so they are happy, but not laughing. Or maybe Rule of Cool is working its magic. Or maybe it was supposed to seem somewhat cheesy. Or perhaps the Narm feels natural in the scenario presented. Or, if the characters are up against a villain or disaster, despite the silliness of its threat, it's still considered completely and utterly dangerous.

This is Narm Charm, something that by all reason should kill the drama, but doesn't. Some people will still find the scene to be true narm and others will find no narm at all. To some, it's Narm Charm and all part of the fun.

Often invoked as a form of ageism, when something that was considered normal for the time something was made is seen as narm by audiences of a later generation (for example, the fact most actors in the early days of cinema were theatre actors who, naturally, needed to overact a little on stage and knew no better when on camera, or silent-era actors who similarly acted differently than sound-film actors might). The interval between a production's release and it being seen as narm by new audiences is decreasing rapidly.

This is a common characteristic of many a Guilty Pleasure.

If a remake does away with this, it can result in opinions that the original was So Bad, It Was Better.

Compare Undead Horse Trope, Camp, Ham and Cheese, So Bad, It's Good (when something is liked because of the Narm).


Examples:

Do not state you disagree with an example, or that other people would. No example here is meant to be absolute.

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    Fan Works 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Undertaker is the pinnacle of this trope in Professional Wrestling. Some sort of undead zombie, getting strength from an urn and wielding mystical powers? Mark Calloway played all that straight, and became a main eventer within a year of his debut and stayed that way for over two decades and counting.
  • Taker's most famous rival, Mick Foley
    • He actually came up with a gimmick that invoked this trope: Dude Love. A Shawn Michaels ripoff (his finisher was called "Sweet Shin Music"), who dressed in tie-dye shirts, wore old-school sunglasses and spoke in corny lingo that would've been out of touch in 1969. It was an absurd, bush-league persona, and fans just loved Mick Foley that much more for it.
    • Foley did it again with the creation of Mr. Socko. In the tough, manly world of pro wrestling, Mick managed to get a sock puppet over.
  • Low Ki is a small wrestler whose entrance involves him stomping on the stage like a sumo wrestler and stalking out like Goldberg. He's so flexible and so intense that as humorous as it is, he makes it look a lot better than you'd think just by reading about it.
  • Gateway Championship Wrestling in general. The gimmicks tended to be very silly. A relentlessly politically correct shirt salesman who looks like a twelve year old, frequently and always unintelligibly babbling madman in a half finished mask, a metal head banshee contortionist, Daizee Haze the Granola Girl stoner hippie looked plain compared Matt Sydal, Delirious and MsChif, just their four most famous wrestlers. Yet they were also really good wrestlers, as were most of the silly gimmicked roster. The wrestling itself tended to be presented seriously, the psychology was rarely worse than decent, the angles were usually simple and straightforward cases of dislike or title belt desires, promos were usually memorable yet efficient and there was usually a good variety of matches on the cards. It never became more than a niche indie show, but there was a reason it ruled the Midwest US for six years and those four wrestlers became world travelers.
  • The fun filled lucha shows of Chikara are silly enough to make Gateway's atmosphere feel dreary and oppressive by comparison, with baseball games breaking out during matches, angles inspired by comic book plots, obscure one off comedy gimmicks from other promotions being expanded into full on tag teams and stables, events named after James Bond movies, the only thing keeping it from being outright parody in the vein of Dramatic Dream Team is that the title belts and tournaments are still treated with a degree of reverence. Unlike GCW or DDT Chikara's also aggressively family friendly, giving one the impression it wouldn't be out of place on a Saturday Morning cartoon block. And yet it managed to have some of the best pro wrestlers in the world work for it, World Of Sport's Johnny Saint, Manami Toyota of Zenjo, Triple A high fliers like Drago and Extreme Tiger, CIMA and Super Shisa from Dragon Gate, two of the Ring of Honor founding fathers, it was the place that put The Kings Of Wrestling together! So when they do get serious about their titles and tournaments, it's a little hard not to get drawn in, even with dance routines following.
  • The Boogeyman. The idea of a guy running around thinking he's some kind of boogeyman, wearing Darth Maul-inspired makeup and having live worms sticking out of his mouth, is thoroughly ridiculous, yet Marty Wright, and his partially-toothed Slasher Smile, was so into the gimmick that it was vastly entertaining to watch.
  • LayCool - two exaggerated Alpha Bitch Valley Girl parodies whose catchphrase is "Famous and Flawless". Storylines included making fun of another woman's weight, insinuating one was really a man and claiming another had bad hygiene problems. Yet Layla and Michelle somehow made it work.
  • Zack Ryder following his arrival in WWECW and his subsequent gimmick change. Oh, radio, tell me everything you know...
    • And honestly, a lot of smarks loved him for it, because up until then he had no personality and was a sub-par wrestler. Since the change, he's had some really good matches and retired Tommy Dreamer. In fact, thanks to an internet series, he eventually became a major Ensemble Dark Horse.
  • Much like Zack Ryder, there's Robbie E in TNA, though admittedly this is on a much smaller scale and much more dependent on YMMV. When he stared off as a blatant ripoff off Jersey Shore (and possibly attempting to follow the lead Zack Ryder started,) he was immediately despised by... everybody. However, Robbie E's surprising devotion to the whole gimmick (his physics-defying hair for example) is very commendable.
  • Wrestlicious has a fan-base that are fully aware it has a horrible commentator, ridiculously corny skits and silly characters...but are willing to overlook all of that for the quality of the wrestling.
  • A wrestler embracing her inner Fangirl who likes to give everyone she knows a glomp which she also uses as her Finishing Move, and comes out to an entrance that has wacky inflatable tube-arm men? Sounds absolutely ludicrous on paper, but through a combination of sheer likability and charisma Bayley somehow makes it work to become one of the most popular wrestlers in NXT.
  • In 2006, Eddie Fatu, formerly known as Jamal from the 3 Minute Warning tag team, was repackaged as Umaga: a stereotypical Wild Samoan. Fatu's in-ring work and menacing presence helped him get over as a feared monster heel in spite of the tired, racist gimmick.
  • Professional Wrestling itself is this. You know, somewhere in the back of your mind, it's a show, that the matches are predetermined. And while it has to be a World of Badass just for those men and women to survive the moves and often to come back from the numerous injuries they receive (and it should be remembered that every so often, a wrestler doesn't come back, so please, Don't Try This at Home), it's also a World of Ham, because for almost anyone to get over they need to be Chewing the Scenery. But if two great performers are in the ring, jumping off to attack each other from impossibly high places and smashing each other with every single "international" object they can find while still telling a great story through the match, and if some idiot named Vince doesn't write something So Bad, It's Horrible, the voice reminding you that the overacting is just covering for bad writing is going to be absolutely silent until that final bell rings, because you'll not only believe a man can fly, you'll also believe he'd use that power to defeat a humongous monster by flipping through the air and crashing through a table with the monster on it.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 
  • When the Hamilton cast performed "Yorktown" at the Tonys, they decided that due to the recent Pulse nightclub shooting they would remove all the prop guns from the number, meaning the cast was performing a number about a battle while miming having weapons. It should've been ridiculous, and yet somehow it actually managed to be incredibly poignant instead.
  • In-universe example: In A Midsummer Night's Dream, this is Hippolyta's reaction to the awful Show Within a Show Pyramus and Thisbe:
    Hippolyta: Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.

    Visual Novels 
  • Most of the final battle of Higurashi: When They Cry consists of schoolchildren curb-stomping a group of trained military professionals using nothing but homemade traps, Home Alone style. But because you spent the rest of the series watching these kids go through so much horror, suffering, and madness, it's hard not to cheer for them now that they are finally kicking the ass of the conspiracy that caused them all that pain.

    Webcomics 
  • In Questionable Content, the big reveal — that Faye's dad committed suicide in front of her — is so dramatic that even the big, cartoony sound effect "BLAM!" doesn't ruin the scene.
  • The bits of comedy that MegaTokyo contains post-Cerebus Syndrome often slip into this. For example, in this strip, Ed is taunting and tormenting Ping with text messages while planning to kill her; meanwhile he strikes up a pleasant conversation with our favorite Cloudcuckoolander Largo and (among other things), complements him on his hat.
  • Nuzlocke Comics are designed to be way too over-the-top and silly to be taken seriously, but due to the nature of the challenge it's hard not to feel something for the guy whenever a Pokémon faints.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Pandora's reveal of her full name as Pandora Chaos Raven sounds like it came straight out of My Immortal. However, with the revelation that "Raven" was her human husband's last name, it's either heartwarming or saddening that, despite the man himself having died several centuries ago, she still identifies herself as his wife.

    Web Original 
  • From Channel Awesome:
    • Invoked with That Dude in the Suede' Let's Play/Review Show series Suede Played, were he plays his favourite silly games.
    • Kickassia (Channel Awesome's second year anniversary video) THRIVES off this. Almost everyone overacts, scenes are over the top and goofy, and yet it's awesome. Part 4 has some good plot developments, and an honestly creepy scene where the Critic explains what the dynamite is for. And it's because you're not supposed to take anything seriously that you're able to enjoy what happens in it.
    • Also appears in The Nostalgia Critic's "Commercials Special" with a few over-dramatic lines like "I'm a wreck!" and "You were right, director of My Pet Monster.". But somehow it still managed to be a Tear Jerker overall and you just wanted to tell him that it was going to be okay. And it was.
    • Linkara is able to use Narm in order to make even the most ridiculous sentences sound badass. "I AM A MAN!" is the most prominent example, but it's worth mentioning that he did it even with the words "I'll kill you to death!" in his Countdown to Final Crisis review.
      • The whole Lord Vyce arc is made of this. A bunch of geeks running around shooting at each other with toy weapons, complete with hammy overacting and dime-store special effects shouldn't be nearly as awesome as it is.
    • The Nostalgia Chick's "Dark Nella Saga" was this all the way. Nella left no scenery unchewed, Lindsay's acting is... not the best ever and that's still awesome, both because she knows this and Nella herself can actually act legitimately scary while still being funny.
  • HTF +: The premise and concept of the series, Happy Tree Friends characters play gory fan horror games (not very good ones in the first place to some people) of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that come alive? Sounds utterly ridiculous at first and yet it manages to be entertaining somehow, maybe one of the reasons is at the beginning it is pretty decent compared to other MS Paint and Windows Movie Maker animated works and we can also see going throught Art Evolution for the better. Even the creator herself admits how nonsensical it is and claims she does not understand why it is so popular.
  • There Will Be Brawl brings us the famous "Well, excuse me, Princess", said by Link himself. However, the way he delivers it, dead serious and menacing during a falling out with Zelda, definitely make it fit this trope.
  • The meme Israel loves Iran, Iran loves Israel, because this campaign was practically asking for sarcastic and cynic replies, but then Israeli and Iranian citizens decide to make it really serious and call for peace between the two countries.
  • NES Godzilla Creepypasta: "I'll tell you a secret... I KILLED MELISSA." Narmy? Oh god yes. Terrifying? Just as much. Sad? Yes.
  • Kingdom Paf has its climax start with The Reveal the Big Bad actually was a Cyborg Future Badass version of Dora the Explorer. The idea is completely absurd, but it's played suprisingly serious compared to the rest of the saga, and actually manages to be somewhat creepy.
  • The intro used in Matt Santoro's videos like Pirates 4 FTW! is fast-paced and looks funny when the words "Matthew Santoro" show up on the screen in only a few seconds, but it fits the comedic tone of Matt's videos.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd makes note of this being the case when he's playing A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES) and comes up to the "FREDDY'S COMING!" screen.
    "Despite all the shitty things in this game, this screen is so cheesy that it's just awesome!"
  • RWBY:
    • The JNPR dance is the corniest, cheesiest thing imaginable, but there couldn't be a more awesome or satisfying conclusion to that subplot.
    • Ozpin doing voices for the Maidens in the World of Remnant episode "The Four Maidens" is goofy, but it adds to the feeling that it's something out of a storybook, and works really well.
    • Adam's line when he's about to try and murder Blake is delivered with almost no emotion to the point where it doesn't even seem to be a question, but it just shows how far he's fallen and how he can't be reasoned with anymore.
  • The subreddit r/WholesomeCringe collects content that means well, but is executed amateurishly or strangely.
  • When Todd in the Shadows took a look at Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" for One Hit Wonderland, he gave this speech about the secret behind "I'm Too Sexy" and how a song so boneheaded can achieve such massive success. He even uses a "Harlem Shake" video to punctuate his point.
    Todd: Every so often, there comes along an idea. Could be any kind of idea, sometimes just a phrase, that is just so goddamn stupid that it can't help but take the world by storm. Pet Rocks. Mutant Ninja Turtles. Where's The Beef? And it's not like it's something you enjoy, exactly; it's just that it's so perplexingly stupid that you can't stop thinking about it. It becomes like a splinter in your brain. 'What's going on here?' 'What's the point of this?' And no one can forget it, and suddenly, it's a pop culture phenomenon. Well, anyway, that's my best guess for how this happened.
  • Ted-Ed Riddles. It is easy to make fun of the arbitrary rules (and many of the comments do that). However, the videos are well animated and the riddles themselves are interesting to solve (possibly because of said rules).
  • On the whole, this is how JonTron feels about the various Xbox Kinect Star Wars games. While he does find them silly, unresponsive, bland, and more or less describes them as Shovel Ware, he admits he feels a sense of childish whimsy when playing them as he found himself actually enjoying pretending to be a Jedi. In the end he admits he did have a ton of fun playing it despite the goofy flawed nature of the game.

    Other 
  • Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab descriptions. One of their more popular perfumes is described as "The scent of sexual obsession, slavery to sensual pleasure, and the undercurrent of innocence defiled utterly. Amber and honey with a touch of vanilla." Completely overdone, but it damn well sells.
  • The final launch of the Space Shuttle has a moment of this. "On the shoulders of the Space Shuttle, America will continue the dream." That is an incredibly cheesy line by ANY standard, NASA, so why is it working so well?
  • The final launch of Discovery. "The shuttle now rolling over on its back for the eight and a half minute ride into orbit. Discovery now making one last reach for the stars."
  • In-universe: in an advertisement for the American version of The Voice, the four hosts are driving together in a truck. They argue over the music and keep changing it; it reaches Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart". Adam Levine says "talk about corny." Cut to an exterior shot, then back in the truck, where they're all singing along.
  • This commercial for Rapid Advance is insanely cheesy, but the song is so catchy it's hard to hate.
  • This lab safety video, from the kid with a mullet saying, "hey, fire." to the mannequin stop, dropping, and rolling.
  • The 1984-1988 Walt Disney Classics logo (shown here) has some really cheesy and primitive animation and music, but can be considered endearing because of its cheesiness.
  • This 1986 Venezuelan commercial for the Toyota Corolla. Produced by Franco Rubartelli and sung by Guillermo Carrasco, it features an incredibly campy yet endearing song praising the Corolla as an affordable car with excellent performance for its price range.


 
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Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Mostly Narmless

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"Hey macarena!"

The fact that the climax can be summed up as a DJ-battle where the day is saved by everyone doing the macarena is so stupid, yet it's so hilarious that most people don't mind. What cements it is the dopey face Tinkles makes when he does it.

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (21 votes)

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