How many times have we been presented with an open-ended question emphasized by the phrase "There's no wrong answers"? And yet somehow, some way, we answer the question and it turns out we're wrong?
It's not just answers that fall into the purview of this trope, but also questions, ideas, suggestions, etc.
There are multiple varieties of this trope:
- Honest/Justified Criticism: Alice asks for an answer to an open-ended problem, Bob answers, but his answer is incredibly flawed and/or stupid. In other words, this is the trope straight.
- Not As Open Ended: Alice presents a choice, but it's clear there is a predetermined outcome.
- Singling Someone Out: Alice asks for an answer to an open-ended problem, but says Bob cannot answer as his ideas are stupid.
- Tempting Fate: Alice assures that there are no stupid and/or wrong answers, but a situation arises which contradicts that.
A subtrope of Verbal Backspace. Often Played for Laughs. If presented with a yes or no choice but the outcome is predetermined, it ventures into But Thou Must!. Rests on an intersection where it can overlap with Immediate Self-Contradiction, Hypocritical Humor, or Instantly Proven Wrong, depending on how it's written. Can cross into Tempting Fate if the promise that there is no stupid and/or wrong answers is immediately followed by a situation that is considered stupid and/or wrong. The phrase "There are no wrong answers" often veers into Schmuck Bait. If the character in question is repeatedly shot down or singled out, they become a Butt-Monkey.
Compare and contrast Mathematician's Answer, which is technically not a wrong answer but so unhelpful it may as well be.
Anime & Manga
- The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You: Rentarou tells Mei there are no wrong ideas for a gift for Hahari, whereupon Mei decides to sell her organs. Rentarou responds by calling that a wrong answer.
Film - Animated
- Lilo & Stitch: When going to the dog pound, Lilo doesn't find any dogs except Stitch, an alien masquerading as a dog who has frightened away all the animals. Seeing her exit with the creepy-looking beastie forces the dog pound clerk to immediately eat her words.
Clerk: All our dogs are adoptable... (sees Lilo with Stitch) -EXCEPT THAT ONE!!
Film - Live Action
- In The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, the class tries to think of ideas to stop Mr. Electric. Mr. Electricidad (his real-world counterpart) says that there are no dumb ideas. Linus suggests freezing his circuits, and Electricidad says that's the dumbest idea he's ever heard.
- On The Amanda Show, Amanda receives what appears to be an extremely harsh criticism of her show. When the audience is offended on her behalf, she defends the critic with, "Everyone can say what they think." One audience member takes this as a cue to announce "I think the Russians ate the moon!" to which Amanda responds "Except that guy."
- On Friends when Joey buys Barcaloungers for himself and Chandler...
Chandler: Which one is mine?Joey: Whichever one you want, man! Whichever one you want! (Chandler moves towards one of the chairs, Joey's tone changes in an instant) Not that one.
- The Odd Couple (1970): A variation of the trope occurs in "Scrooge Gets an Oscar". After Oscar refuses to take part in Felix's performance of A Christmas Carol, he auditions Roy, Vinnie, and Speed to play Scrooge, believing that any one of them can replace Oscar. After all three fail (Roy by halfheartedly reading the lines while punching the air, Vinnie for playing Scrooge as Ax-Crazy, and Speed for playing Scrooge as an auctioneer,) Felix attempts to play Scrooge, delivering a Large Ham performance which isn't well received. Everyone immediately agrees that they need Oscar for the role.
- In the Parks and Recreation episode "Two Parties", upon hearing that the party is going to a bar that specializes in experimental methods of consuming alcohol, Ron assures Tom that "there's no wrong way to consume alcohol". Upon seeing how the bar, Essence, serves its drinks (among other things, beer-infused cotton candy and alcohol distilled into vapors), Ron intones that "this is the wrong way to consume alcohol."
Ron: Can I ask if this entire establishment is a practical joke of some kind?
- Star Trek: Discovery: When the command officers of Enterprise and Discovery are trying to figure out how to generate the colossal amount of energy needed to power the Red Angel suit, Emperor Georgiou recommends finding a nova and shooting an anti-matter missile into its core. Appalled, Saru points out that this would wipe out all life within several dozen light years, to which Georgiou flippantly responds "yeah."
Michael Burnham: We're not doing that.Emperor Georgiou: I thought there were no bad ideas?Captain Pike: That's a lie.Admiral Cornwell: That's a bad one.
- In chapter 2 of Deltarune, Kris encounters Spamton, a personification of spam bots, who advertises himself as the world's greatest salesman. After a long discussion, he offers Kris to partner with him, and says "There are no wrong answers!" while a yes or no prompt appears. Picking no will just have him say "WRONG" and make the player pick again.
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2021): When the Guardians brainstorm ideas on how to get past the Church of Universal Truth's blockade surrounding their mothership, Peter asks Groot if he has any thoughts, noting that there are no bad ideas. Groot responds "I am Groot", and Rocket calls that a bad idea. As Rocket translates, Groot suggested they ask for help from the Chitauri, the instigators of the Great Offscreen War, which the rest of the team also rejects.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising: During Chapter 19, which is the longest level in the game, Pit continues to ask Viridi Are We There Yet? Naturally, she quickly gets fed up with it.
Pit: Soooo... Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?Viridi: You know that saying that there are no bad questions? Well, there are, and this is one of them! WE ARE NOT THERE YET! Though I do wish there was a way to speed up this process.
- Tower of God: Subverted. Bam, Khun, and Rak enter a room full of doors, with the task being to find the correct door and escape within five minutes. With barely any clues and the doors being identical, Khun starts panicking over which one is right, believing they will die if they open the wrong one. Bam opens one at random, much to Khun's shock, and it's revealed there were no wrong answers, the contestants just had to open a door within five minutes.
- The Champions: Though not explicitly referred to as a dumb idea by the Goalkeepers Union, Brad Guzans proposal that keepers should wear big hats that cover the whole goal so they can sit on their butts is met with incredulity and some very odd looks by his peers. The chair of the Keepers Union, Manuel Neuer even has to pause to process the stupidity he just heard before asking for other suggestions.
- In the first of Rooster Teeth's "Captain Dynamic" shorts, we get this interaction while they're pitching ideas for Captain Dynamic's missions:
- A preemptive example in ''Ultra Fast Pony: The Movie: The Moviening: When calling for fresh ideas, Applejack singles out Rainbow Dash from suggesting anything.
Applejack: Now, I'm open to ideas. Remember there are no stupid ideas, just stupid people. So, Rainbow Dash, you're not allowed to talk.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Preemptively, as Ignignokt asks for feedback on the plan:
Ignignokt: Remember, there are no dumb questions.Mothmonsterman: (raising hand) Um, yeah, right here...?Ignignokt: In the back, yes, the retard with the dumb question.
- The Fairly OddParents: In "Fairly Odd Baby", Anti-Cosmo asks his followers for world domination ideas, telling everyone not to be afraid because there are no wrong answers. One of the other Anti-Fairies suggests having a big elephant step on stuff, which Anti-Cosmo decides is a wrong answer and presses a button to eject the poor guy out of his castle.
- Ninjago: In "Double Trouble" Lord Garmadon asks the Serpentine what he should use his Mega Weapon to create next. Garmadon says there is no such thing as a bad idea, only to immediately order one of the Serpentine be thrown overboard for suggesting they make more pirates (who previously stole their ship), and repeats and goes against his claim again when another Serpentine suggests recreating the Great Devourer (which nearly killed the entire cast). Garmadon then suggests no more ideas that failed previously, and another Serpentine gets thrown overboard for suggesting they make a giant ham sandwich because he's hungry.
- Recess: In "The A.V Kid", the titular A.V. Kid is holding auditions for his replacement and asks if there are any questions, claiming that there aren't any stupid questions. This dialogue happens.
Brandon the Singer: (singing) What pray tell does the position paaay?A.V Kid: I stand corrected. Stupid question. Out.
- The Simpsons: In "Coming to Homerica", Homer and some of his friends have been hired as border patrol to keep the citizens of Ogdenville out. First, they need to agree on a name.
Cletus: The Klan!Homer: Well, there are no bad ideas, but let's keep trying.Cletus: The Nazis!Homer: Okay, you stop trying.
- Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Veritas", Ensign Brad Boimler is put on the spot for options concerning a tense encounter between the USS Cerritos and the Clicket ship Tweerk, with Captain Freeman saying that there are no wrong answers. After failing to weasel out through ass-kissing, Boimler suggests Evasive Maneuver 88. Dr. T'Ana asks if he's serious and Freeman adds that that was the wrong answer. Boimler tries to pivot to Evasive Maneuver 84, which is also met with harsh criticism. He attempts to brush it off as a joke, suggesting the Cerritos use the impulse drive to Crazy Ivan. The bridge crew all yell in exasperation at him and Commander Ransom tells Boimler he's embarrassing himself.