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Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!

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Griff Tannen: What's wrong, McFly? CHICKEN?!
(Data plays a chicken sound effect)
Marty McFly: What did you call me, Griff?
Griff: Chicken, McFly!
Marty: Nobody. Calls me...
(Griff whips out a baseball bat)
Marty: [chuckles nervously] ...chicken.

Some heroes take so much pride in themselves that they just can't turn a challenge down. To do so would be an affront to their personal honor. It would imply that they don't have the courage to go through with what would happen if they failed. Moreover, by showing that they lack the resolve to go through with the challenge implies that they think they'd lose. And by gosh, no hero of ours is going to be a loser!


Inevitably, though, a situation will arise that's so over-the-top that even the most headstrong character is going to think, "Maybe it isn't worth risking my life in a chainsaw-juggling contest just because I accidentally said that guy's hair looks like a mullet". It's here that only one thing has to be said to get the character to go through with the crazy scheme anyway.

"What are you? Chicken? Buk-buk!"

Of course, this doesn't always end well. Often, insulting a character's courage can end up pushing the Berserk Button, and the opposition will promptly get taken to the cleaners on whatever the bet was. Sometimes this is done deliberately thanks to a tricky mentor to get the hero to do something he is unlikely to do for any other reason.

By contrast, things can go very badly if the villain is deliberately manipulating the hero into doing something stupid, using the hero's pride as a means of accomplishment. Expect a great deal of evil laughing as this devious plot unfolds.


Sometimes a character doesn't like to be called a Dirty Coward because he actually is one. This can go one of two ways: He might chicken out at the last minute and head for the hills, making him a Miles Gloriosus. Or he might live up to his blustering and win the fight anyway, Becoming the Boast.

This can also become a verbal form of Get A Hold Of Yourself Man if it is directed at someone specifically for the purpose of inspiring them to action, or to shake a normally-badass person out of a Heroic BSoD.

The Inverted Trope is when the character puts up with being called a chicken because deep down they really aren't one; that's The So-Called Coward.

Subtrope of Inspirational Insult. Compare Fearless Fool. Closely related to Game of Chicken, an often foolish challenge to see which player chickens out first. See Clucking Funny for actual chickens.


Contrast Blinded by Rage, when this is used to exploit the angered guy's outburst to his detriment.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ranma ½ has the titular character accept all challenges for a duel, no matter how unreasonable or uneven the stakes because of Ranma's strong sense of pride and unwillingness to let anyone have any excuse to call him a coward. At times this was so irrational that he even accepted things like "cuteness" challenges, where Ranma had to prove that he was the cutest competitor even when he didn't want people to think of him that way at all. Whenever Ranma gets involved in some contest that revolves around proving his "femininity", it's invariably either due to wounded pride or because he's been forced into it.
    • Played with in at least one case. Shampoo tries to egg Akane on by telling her that Ranma will date her if she wins the Martials Arts Takeout Delivery contest, trying to provoke Akane into going all You Know What You Did on him. Several minutes later Shampoo actually tries to make the ridiculous proposal to Ranma and he accepts.
    • Cologne exploits this trait in her first duel with Ranma for the sake of Hustling the Mark: when it seems the young martial artist is whipping the floor with the little old lady, the latter challenges Ranma formally and gets him to agree to marry Shampoo if she wins. Ranma, high on his near-certain victory, agrees, and Cologne immediately beats him into paste.
  • Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z is goaded by Cell into sparing him just long enough for Cell to become powerful enough that they can have a "fair fight". Vegeta even beats up the other characters who try to stop him. Needless to say, this doesn't end well.
  • The titular character of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has a big case of this. He's not a huge fan of violence and fighting in general, almost to the point of pacifism, but the biggest way to get him to fight you (aside from threatening his Love Interest Miu) is to call him a chicken or a coward, at which point he will turn around and give you a massive ass-kicking.
  • Shuumatsu no Walküre: Record of Ragnarok opens with the gods deciding humanity isn't worth their effort and that they'd wipe the Earth clean and start over, only for the Valkyrie Brunhild to propose that humanity be given a chance to fight for their survival. When they call it pointless and try to refuse, she taunts them into accepting by loudly accusing them of "chickening out".
  • Ace from One Piece falls prey to this whenever anyone badmouths Whitebeard or threatens his little brother. Indeed, his original purpose in the series is to hunt down Blackbeard after his "insult" of killing a fellow crewmember. This trait tends to go poorly for Ace though as he always gets defeated/captured/hurt whenever this trope takes effect (we even learn after the fact that Ace's battle against Blackbeard was an example of this as Ace couldn't leave Blackbeard alone even if he wanted to due to both the threat he posed to Luffy and the insult to Whitebeard that would occur if he had abandoned the battle. He loses this battle horribly and gets captured as a result). Finally, in what is the most apt example of this trope, Ace, after having just been freed from execution in Marineford, gets goaded into a fight with Admiral Akainu via the latter purposely insulting Whitebeard. Then, to make matters worse, Akainu invokes Ace's second berserk button by suddenly attacking his little brother, resulting in Ace taking the punch for Luffy. "Going badly" understates the result of this as Ace dies from this even though he's in a series well known for its fluid mortality.
  • In Eyeshield 21, after Leonard Apollo arrogantly cancels the Japan vs. America football match between the Deimon Devil Bats and the Nasa Aliens, Hiruma baits him into going through with it by making a viral video that, among other indignities, depicts Apollo as a chicken.
  • In Chapter 2 of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha INNOCENT, Lord Dearche manages to goad a reluctant Alicia into joining the team match by calling her, well...
    Dearche: I guess you're happy with your current number of losses to me, hey, LITTLE CHICKEN?
  • This is why Red in Pokémon Adventures agrees to battle Giovanni, even though Red would be forced to join Team Rocket if he loses.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL dub gives us this gem:
    Yuma: Maybe you're just a big chicken!
    Shark: Chicken? Do you know what happened to the last person who called me a chicken?
    Yuma: Something, uh, bad?
    Shark: I don't know, because it's NEVER EVER happened before!
  • During the climax of Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Vento Aureo, Diavolo is considering pulling a Screw This, I'm Outta Here! after Giorno gets his hands on the Requiem arrow. When Diavolo's estranged daughter Trish calls him out on it, Diavolo's titanic ego causes him to stay and fight instead... and promptly finds himself on the recieving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle leading to an And I Must Scream Fate Worse than Death at the hands of Giorno's new Story-Breaker Power.

    Comic Books 
  • In Fantastic Four #1, Ben Grimm has an unreasonable objection to Reed Richards' plan to steal an experimental space rocket and fly it through lethal cosmic rays, leading to...
    Sue Storm: Ben, we've got to take that chance unless we want the Commies to beat us to it. I never thought that you would be a coward.
    Ben Grimm: A coward! Nobody calls me a coward!
  • Superman:
    • In Krypton No More story arc, Superman refuses to undertake a space mission and his cousin Supergirl slaps him and calls him a coward. Several hours later, Clark is still brooding about it.
      Clark: Coward... She called me a coward.
    • In Kryptonite Nevermore, third-rate supervillain Nyxly challenged Superman to a death duel. Superman was weakened but he appeared because "Whatever else Superman may be... He's no coward!"
    • In The Superman Adventures, Jimmy Olsen thinks that Perry White was calling him a coward during his latest chewing-out, and he is not pleased. Later, he puts himself in danger to get a good shot, something Perry said was essential for a good newsman.
    • In All-Star Superman, Atlas and Samson both challenge Superman for the right to go out with Lois Lane. He walks away until they call him a coward. He then takes them on in One-Sided Arm-Wrestling.
  • In the Supergirl story arc Red Daughter of Krypton, Lobo taunts Supergirl, stating that she's afraid to cut loose. In reaction, Kara goes ballistic and delivers a brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to him.
    Supergirl: He thinks I'm weak. He thinks I won't do it...
  • Wynonna Earp: Calling Ike Clanton a coward is surefire way to push his Berserk Button.
  • In Shazam! (2012), Captain Marvel and Black Adam battle, but are too evenly matched. Marvel gets an idea and proposes they fight equally as mortals. He says Shazam to turn back into little Billy Batson. Black Adam calls him a fool and prepares to kill him, but Billy calls him a coward for not taking his challenge. Enraged, Black Adam says Shazam to depower himself, which is what Billy was counting on. Since Black Adam was kept alive for centuries by his powers, he rapidly ages into dust.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate Spider-Man
      • Ox has never actually met the Kingpin. Montana told him that he couldn't defeat him, that he shouldn't even joke about it... and now Ox thinks that he has to fight the Kingpin. He has been challenged!
      • Electro called Spider-Man a "Slippery little yutz". He got offended for that, and this allowed Electro to defeat him for good.
    • Ultimate Vision: Tarleton tried to manipulate the Vision with this. It did not work. She has no problem to say that she is afraid of Gah Lak Tus.
  • An Archie story from the 60s had Jughead being called a chicken for declining a cave exploring trip with the others.
    Jughead: Mr. Chicken to you. And you'd better watch out for cave-ins!
  • In Combat Kelly and his Deadly Dozen, Ace Pilot 'Mad Dog' Martin had been imprisoned on a charge of cowardice in the face of the enemy, so being called a coward was his Berserk Button. When "Ace Hamiliton—who is at least a head taller than Martin—calls him a coward, Martin immediately attacks him and has to be hauled off by the other members of the Dozen.

    Fan Works 
  • In Power Girl fic A Force of Four, Wonder Woman tries to goad Badra into unchaining her and fighting her. Unfortunately the villain doesn't take the bait.
    "Would you like to punish me, Wonder Woman?" she cooed. "Would you like to try your famous Amazon strength against my mere Hatorian body?"
    "You know the answer, coward," said Princess Diana. "But unchain me now, and I'll let you have the first three blows. If your might is all you claim it is, then that should be enough, should it not?" Diana plastered a sneer on her face, trying to incite the woman to rage.
    Badra replied, "I am not so foolish as to relinquish my own advantage, Diana. Held by those man-joined chains, your power is negated. Freed, you might be a threat to me... so the fetters will remain until the time of your execution. Or should I say, your murder?"
  • Back to the Future Prequel: Marty, even though he's scared of "The Doctor", spray-paints his house to avoid being called scared.
  • Common Sense: In Chapter 21, Misty, who is still sore about Ash defeating her in Cerulean City, and refusing to accept that he's grown stronger than her, tries to goad him into a battle by accusing him of being afraid to battle her. This ends up hitting Ash's Rage Breaking Point, since she's trivializing everything he's gone through due to Team Rocket at that point, and after giving her a good "The Reason You Suck" Speech, he proceeds to trash her entire team with one Pokémon.
  • Ghosts of Evangelion: If Asuka wants to get Shinji do something he isn't sure about, everything she has to do is taunting him. That trick still works when they are in their thirties (and Shinji is quite miffed about it).
    Asuka rolled her eyes. "Stupid Shinji, just knock on the door."
    He balked. "Why do I have to do it? You're the impetuous one, you do it."
    She flushed, irritated. "Damn it, Shinji…"
    "Hey," he said, "I'm just as nervous as you are, you know!"
    "Tch," she said. "Coward."
    Shinji's brows knit. "I am not!" His fist clenched in determination, and he raised his hand and knocked on the door. He glanced at her sidelong. "Why does that still work?" he grumbled.
    She raised her arms. "Who can say?" she asked, smirking at him.
  • In Hellsister Trilogy, Supergirl goads Satan Girl into fighting in the anti-matter universe. Satan Girl initially refuses to take the bait, but Kara knows which buttons to push.
    Kara stopped at the warp-gate and looked behind her. Satan Girl had stopped as well, less than a mile behind her. To her credit, she wasn't stupid. She knew that Supergirl was leading her on. And, having Kara's memories, she knew where she was headed.
    <That is the anti-matter universe,> sent Satan Girl.
    <Oh, very good,> mocked Kara, smiling like a teacher tutoring her most backward pupil. <Now, if you'll just join me here, I can finish you right off.>
    The villainess didn't budge. <It'll blow us both to bits if we touch any substance there without force-shields or matter-conversion,> she sent. <I can just wait you out. You'll come back, or you'll be atomized. Either way, I win.>
    <Oh, will you?>, asked Kara. <I thought for certain that you wanted to tear me apart with your own hands. Except it hasn't been that easy, has it? Maybe you're just not up to it, after all... since you're just a pretty pathetic copy of me.>
    Satan Girl's expression of hatred, which was about the only one she owned, intensified. <YOU...> she began, and that was all she could get out.
    <Just one more thing, darling,> sent Kara. <I didn't want to have to tell you this, but we killed Mordru. He's dead. Hope you didn't get attached to him too much.>
    At that, Supergirl knew she had succeeded.
  • The Ikaris uses this to put the plot into motion. The gang finds Misato's beer stash and Asuka dares Shinji to drink. Then he dares her to try and out-drink him. By the end of it, the two are so blasted, they got married and forgot about it the next morning.
  • A Future of Friendship, a History of Hate: This is how Fury Cross goads Rainbow Dash into fighting him in Episode 3. Notably, she doesn't really care about the specific insults, she just can't stand anyone disrespecting her or her reputation in any way.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, Kara baits Zol-Am into accepting her personal combat challenge by adding "If your commander is too scared to face me one-on-one, I’ll understand."
  • In Heart of the Inferno, Galadriel gets Smaug to help her Elves against the Orcs attacking Lothlórien by suggesting that the famed dragon-dread is too cowardly to stand up against Sauron.
    Galadriel: Perhaps I was mistaken, then. Perhaps you are not the famed dragon-dread who could slay an army as he did the great warriors of old. Perhaps you are just a snake too craven to stand against the Dark Lord.
    [Smaug nearly attacks her, but then ponders on what Sauron has done to him and Kathryn, and makes up his mind]
    Smaug: For what Sauron has done, I vow to kill him and all that he rules for this insult!
  • Fates Collide: Mercury Black challenges Gilgamesh to a fight, but he refuses because he sees Mercury as nothing but a weak mongrel... until Mercury calls him a coward. Gilgamesh thrashes him.
  • In A Prize for Three Empires, Carol Danvers successfully baits Deathbird into a one-to-one duel by calling her a coward.
    Deathbird: Do not tempt me overmuch, woman. Thus far I have shown you mercy. I could bring you to trial lacking your eyes or tongue, or both, and nothing would be said about it so long as you could speak or write your responses. You try my patience.
    Warbird: So far, Deathbird, all you’ve shown me is cowardice. Way back when, you weren’t afraid to face me one-on-one, mano y mano, with both my hands untied and you armed with those claws and a spear. I may have beaten you, but you gave me a hell of a fight both times. Now you talk about maiming me while I’ve got both arms locked up. That isn’t the mark of a monarch or a warrior. That’s just the mark of a coward.
    Gladiator: Te’ Warbird, have a care. Even I cannot protect you from everything.
    Warbird: Maybe she wants you to protect her from me. Ever think of that, Gladiator? Maybe she just doesn’t have what she used to, when she was a fighter.
    Deathbird: For such impudence, I would strip another’s flesh from her face. Then I would let them bleed to death in their bonds.
    Warbird: If you do that, everybody here will know you for a coward. They may not say it to your face, but they’ll know it in their hearts. You will, too.

    Films — Animated 
  • Done in The Simpsons Movie where Homer gets Bart to skateboard nude across town as part of a dare.
  • On Peter Pan, Captain Hook calls Peter a coward for flying away instead of fighting him man to man. Peter says "No one calls Pan a coward and lives" and gives his word to fight Hook without flying.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This trope is named for the line in Back to the Future Part II and Part III, where Marty is shown to be easily provoked whenever someone questions/challenges his courage. While this initially works well, pushing Marty's Berserk Button and allowing him to outmaneuver several future bullies, we also see past, present and future scenarios where this proud attitude causes very bad portents for him, with risk of job loss, crippling physical injury, and death all as possible results.
    • This is a reference to Rebel Without a Cause, where it's such a Berserk Button that it ends up getting people killed.
    • One of the reasons Marty learned better was because he met his great-great-grandfather Seamus, who had a brother named Martin, who was stabbed in a foolish fight because someone called him a coward.
    • This character trait is notably absent in the first film. Fridge Logic suggests he may have been subtly affected by the changes he made to the past (either by witnessing the events or by somehow merging into/with the version of himself from the new timeline), specifically his parents getting together because his scrawny teenaged dad rescued his mom from a much larger and physically tougher would-be-rapist. The Marty of the second and third films may be trying to live up to that heroic moment and trying to prove his own "courage" whenever it is challenged/questioned.
      • Then again, Marty could have always had this trait — nobody actually called him a coward/"chicken" in the first movie.
    • The novelization took the point a bit further; as Needles peels out and Marty backs away, Jennifer ask him what's going on. Marty replies, "He's nobody," referring to Needles.
  • In the film The Poseidon Adventure, toward the end, Mr. Rogo is suffering a Heroic BSoD after the successive deaths of his wife, Linda, and Reverend Scott, who had just done a Heroic Sacrifice. Martin shakes him back into action by asking him derisively if he preferred to go out "on his belly".
  • Spaceballs: "What's the matter, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?"
  • Johnny in The Room invokes this. "You're just a chicken! Cheeeeeeep cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep..."
  • Done in Rookie of the Year when Henry provokes a baserunner to take base so he can get him out.
  • In Jumanji, when Alan refuses to finish playing the game, Peter tells Judy "It's OK, he's afraid." This quickly changes Alan's tune. Peter later says he learned the technique from their dad.
  • Hancock is about to abandon prison and heads for the door when his friend Ray calls him out ("You're being a coward!") which makes Hancock change his mind.
  • In Heathers, Heather Chandler is challenged to drink from a cup of unknown content. First she denies, but immediately succumbs to her pride.
    Heather: "Think l'll drink it just because yοu call me chicken? ... Just give me the cup, jerk!"
  • Used several times in Tombstone. Accusing Wyatt Earp of being a coward takes some balls, it must be said.
  • In Undercover Brother, Lance goes off the deep end when he gets called a sissy.
  • In Thor, Thor, Loki and the Warriors Three visit the Frost Giants domain to demands answers for a failed attack. Loki manages to calm the situation and convince the leader of the Frost Giants to let them leave without a fight. The group are about to do so when...
    Frost Giant: (To Thor) Run back home, little princess.
    (Cue Thor grinning and readying his hammer)
    Loki: ...Damn.
  • In Hot to Trot, Fred Chaney's step father can't believe that Fred's entering Don the horse into a race, and considers making a bet, pointing out that he can bet Don (when Fred says he has nothing to bet). He calls Fred chicken shit, then laughs off the bet, but when Fred calls his step father chicken shit, this pushes him into betting all of his horses (including his girlfriends beloved Satin Doll), just because nobody calls him chicken shit.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Dean's line in The Stinger to Eggsy "Why don't you ask that tailor friend of yours, and knock up a nice chicken costume?" prompts the latter to prepare for an Ironic Echo Bar Brawl.
  • Star Trek: First Contact: When Picard starts going full-on Captain Ahab against the Borg, everyone tells him the sensible idea is to just blow up the Enterprise with the Borg on it, including Worf, who actually calls Picard on his obsession. Picard calls Worf a coward, and he snarls that if Picard were any other man, he'd kill him where he stands.
  • In Starkweather, Charlie decides to not to commit robbery and murder and is driving away from the gas station. His infuriated Imaginary Enemy, the Dark Man, starts calling him a coward and chickenshit. That last one so stings Charlie that he turns the car around, drives back to the gas station and kills the attendant.
  • In Confessions of a Psycho Cat, Virginia is able to goad Rocco out of hiding to come and fight her by calling him a coward and insulting his manhood.
  • Curse of the Undead: At The Sheriff's urging, Buffer is willing to ignore Tim Carter's drunken goading and walk away. Right up until Tim calls him a "yellowbelly". At that he turns and a gunfight is inevitable.

  • David from Animorphs has a huge complex about being seen as cowardly and weak, to the point of doing extremely stupid things to make himself look good. When he betrays the team, it's in part due to Blood Knight Rachel denouncing him as a coward.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Brienne uses this tactic to pretty much save Jaime Lannister's life after he loses his right hand. Jaime's pretty much hoping to die at that point, and doing everything he can to bring it about, until she accuses him of being too cowardly to live with what's happened. It actually works, because while people have been calling him a murderer and a traitor behind his back for decades, no one has ever called him a coward before — and he's not about to let them start now.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort face each other in a Wizard Duel in a graveyard, but the much more experienced Voldemort soon has Harry on the ropes and starts torturing him. Harry eventually manages to dodge a spell and then hide among the tombstones. Voldemort mocks Harry as a coward and unworthy of his parents, who fought Voldemort head on and died on their feet. Enraged, Harry declares to himself that he will not die a coward and comes out to face him.
  • The Berenstain Bears and the Double Dare has Brother Bear dealing with peer pressure. On a number of occasions, Too-Tall Grizzly, who invites Brother to join his gang calls him a chicken for not wanting to get involved in the gang's idea of "fun".
  • The Someday Birds: At the waterpark, Charlie at first refuses to go on the big slide, but he decides to go when the twins make fun of him for being scared.
  • In the Warrior Cats novella Redtail's Debt, part of the reason Redtail decided to attack Sorrelpaw on Tigerclaw's orders was because Tigerclaw asked if he was still a mouse-hearted apprentice. Redtail later feels bad for the attack and knows that it was wrong.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Amanda Show had a recurring sketch where a brother and sister would do any dare anybody gave them, no matter how gross or embarrassing, once someone called them chicken, scared, etc.
  • Mr. Meaty had an episode called "Incredible Jerk," where at one point, Parker calls Josh a little chicken and teasingly clucks, to which Josh replies with, "Well at least I'm not a pig, Porker!".
  • In the The Big Bang Theory episode "The Jiminy Conjecture", we have this gem:
    Howard: Tell you what; I'm willing to bet ANYTHING, that's an ordinary field cricket.
    Sheldon: I can't take your money.
    Howard: What's the matter? You chicken?
    Sheldon: I've always found that an inappropriate slur. Chickens are not, by nature, at all timid. In fact, when I was young, my neighbor's chicken got loose and chased me up the big elm tree in front of our house.
    Raj: Chickens can't climb trees.
    Sheldon: Thank God.
    Howard: Okay. (holds hands up in surrender) I believe a chicken made you his bitch.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy", a spambot arrives in the TARDIS advertising the Psychic Circus. Ace refuses to visit, until it suddenly asks her if she's scared to go.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine features Amy Santiago. In her first appearance, she dumps half a bottle of hot sauce on her hot dog after being told it was hot. In a later event, despite the fact that she took a blanket to a baseball game in July, she also agrees to compete in a polar bear challenge after someone mentions that she would never do it. Neither event ends well for her.
  • Done subtly in Gotham when, after Theo Galavan has his mother killed in front of him and then orders a minion to get rid of him, Penguin dares him to do the deed himself, accusing him of coming from a long line of cowards. Without changing his expression or even betraying that this trope so motivated him, Galavan obliges him... only for Penguin to turn the tables on him and escape to reveal the murderer's true colors to Gordon.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • U.S. Acres: A worm dared Booker (a literal chicken, mind you) to cross a line and vanished inside his hole before Booker responded. After Booker crossed the line, the same worm (or another one) showed up from another hole and acted like Booker had yet to decide if he'd accept the challenge or not. Booker was confused.

  • In Williams Electronics' No Good Gofers, the "Pop-A-Gofer" mode has the game's two rodents taunt the player while the "Chicken Dance" music plays. The player can try to repeatedly hit them for one million points each.
    Buzz: "Chicken!"
    Bud: "Yea, Cluck cluck!"
  • In Tee'd Off, choosing a 10 million bonus (instead of "Double or Nothing") in the Skins Game will prompt Gunther the Gopher to call you a "chicken."
  • The Shadow sometimes taunts the player with this if the Match Sequence fails:
    Farley: "Coward, chicken, sissy... Come on, play again!"

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This trope is constantly invoked in professional wrestling. No matter how much they have to lose or how unfavorable the stipulations, all wrestlers will accept any ridiculous challenge if their opponent attempts to brand them a coward. Faces will generally concede instantly if somebody calls them a chicken whilst heel wrestlers may need to have the same challenge put to them for three weeks in a row, but it never fails.

  • William Shakespeare's Macbeth is suddenly having second thoughts halfway through his plot to kill King Duncan, who after all is a nice old man who's done Macbeth great honour. Lady Macbeth is having none of it and gives him a speech which essentially amounts to "What's the matter, Macbeth? You chicken?".
  • Played with in West Side Story, where repeatedly calling Tony "chicken" is how Bernardo goads Riff into striking the first blow in the rumble which ends with Bernardo killing Riff and Tony killing Bernardo.
  • In Fangirls, Edna is able to bully Jules into blackmailing her mother into buying extra tickets for the True Connection concert with a manipulative spiel that ends with the question "Or are you chicken?"

    Video Games 
  • A staple of most RPG mechanics is the Taunt skill, which inflicts Berserk. This generally increases the target's attack power at the cost of making them too blinded by rage to think about anything (which sometimes includes maintaining their passive defenses) but killing the user - even if the user's ally is slowly charging an attack right behind them.
  • World of Warcraft gives players the ability to make their characters emote in front of other players and NPCs. The most notable emote for this trope is aptly named "/chicken." The most notable race to use this trope effectively is the male goblin.
    • "Hey, we've got a chicken over here! Buk buk buk buuuuuk!!!!"
  • In Super Paper Mario, the usually cowardly Luigi is angered by Dimentio's statement that "the shag upon his lip will make a fine trophy", to which he responds "SHAG? This moustache is all LUIGI!". Battle ensues, and Luigi wins. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a Batman Gambit for Dimentio to implant him with a floro sprout so he could then effectively gain the Chaos Heart.
  • When you meet Anne in Metal Max Returns:
    Anne: Listen up you cowards! This kid here said that you looked dumber than a bucket of hammers! But I think he was being way too easy on you! I told him, the last time I saw this many sacks of shit, I was in a fertilizer factory!
    Soldier A: What the hell did you say? You fuckers want your faces rearranged?
    Anne: Hey, you're starting to catch on! A bunch of losers like you ought to be ashamed to call yourselves soldiers! Come on, let's get it on! I'm going to mop the floor with you and throw you out on your asses!
    Soldier B: You bastards! You're going to regret that!
  • In the Team Fortress 2 comic, WAR!, the Soldier agrees to declare war on the Demoman because he called him a "civilian."

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Melody has a trick up his sleeve to get the title character to take a picture of herself wearing a dress, and then sending it to Amy: teasing her that she’s too scared to do it.

  • Rumy of Fans! challenges the General to one-on-one combat. The General is savvy enough to say "No" and order her Mooks to open fire instead, but after Rumy rips into her divine image with accusations of cowardice, she gives in rather than cause her side to doubt her.
  • In Exiern any insult to Tiffany's pride requires retribution...whether it is a sword fight or holding a dressmaker at sword point until she makes Tiffany prettier and more feminine than the Alpha Bitch. For the record, Tiffany used to be a male barbarian.
  • In Oglaf, this is how a peasant gets a Barbarian Hero to plant his potatoes for him.
    The Mighty Finn: Oaf! I choose not to plant them!
    Peasant: I know. I know that, Mighty Finn, it's just that... well... people will talk, won't they?
  • In Here There Be Monsters Lucas managed to goad Victor into giving away all but one of his silver bullets before leaving to hunt a werewolf, bragging "I only need one silver bullet to do the job, unlike you wasteful slobs." That worked out for Victor about as well as can be expected.

    Web Original 
  • Danganronpa Abridged Thing: Apparently, Leon Kuwata doesn't take too kindly to being called a weenie by Maizono.
    *Flashback to Maizono in Naegi's bathroom*
    Maizono: Get away from me you big weenie! Weenie!
    *Back in the courtoom*
  • Ashley from The Crazy Kids Of Grade 5 will either hurt or scream at anyone who insults her, and she isn't afraid to fight people.
  • According to Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, Gozaburo Kaiba took on Seto in chess because Seto threatened Gozaburo with this.
    Seto: What if I said "bawk-bawk" and made arm movements comparing you to a chicken!?
    Gozaburo: Oh! Anything but that!

    Western Animation 
  • Homer Simpson from The Simpsons.
    Homer/Clyde: Chicken? Nobody calls me chicken without goading me into doing something stupid!
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, "The Blind Bandit"
    Toph: Sounds to me like you're scared, Boulder!
    The Boulder: The Boulder is over his conflicted feelings, and is now ready to bury you in a Rockalanche!
    Toph: Whenever you're ready, the Pebble!
  • A classic exchange between Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny in Looney Tunes:
    Yosemite Sam: Now you ornery, no-good, long eared, varmint...
    Bugs Bunny: Just a minute, doc. Them's fightin' words.
    Yosemite Sam: Yeah, them's fightin' words!
    Bugs Bunny (draws a line across the ground): I dare you to step across this line.
    Yosemite Sam: I'm a-steppin'.
    ''(some variations involve multiple "lines", but they always result in Sam falling of a cliff/diving board/what have you)
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In the Your Worst Nightmare episode, Blossom gets Buttercup to face her fear by teasing her about being afraid.
  • El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, in the episode Dia de Los Muertos. all the dead Riveras and Manny are in a saloon brawl, and three guys walk up.
    Guy: Hey, I know why the Riveras are always fighting each other. They're all cowards, who are afraid to fight anyone else.
    Riveras (in unison): COWARDS?! * furious dust-cloud of ass-kicking*
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
    • In "Billy and the Bully", Mandy does this when confronting Sperg. He ultimately winds up running off in tears because he’s afraid of her.
      Mandy: Hey, Sperg! I got a bone to pick with you.
      Sperg: Well, well, well. If it isn’t the Wussy Squad, with a new member; Sally Teacup!
      Mandy: Why don’t you say that a little closer? Unless of course you’re chicken.
      Sperg: Are you callin’ me chicken?!
      Mandy: Yeah! And I eat chickens for breakfast!
      Sperg: (raises his fists) I’ll make you regret that.
      Mandy: Bring it on!
    • Parodied in "Bully Boogie". Grim accuses Boogey of being scared to face him, but never outright says the word “chicken” due to a large poultry being in the room at the time.
      Grim: What’s wrong, Boogey? Are ya… scared like some sort of small, tasty bird?
      Boogey: Me? Scared?! I am the essence of Scary itself! Everybody fears The Boogeyman!
      Grim: Only until they’re like, eleven. Then they’re mine!
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Apple Bloom is attempting to actually call a chicken, and Scootaloo claims "that is not how you call a chicken!" When Scootaloo refuses to show her the right way to call a chicken…
    Apple Bloom: You're just CHICKEN!
    Scootaloo: Am not!
    Apple Bloom: Oh wait, now I know how to call a chicken. SCOOTALOOOO! SCOOT-SCOOTALOOOOOOO!
    Scootaloo: That was so funny, I forgot to laugh!
    Apple Bloom: You also forgot how to call a chicken.
    Granny Smith: What did you just call me, sonny?
    • And in "Pinkie Pride", guest star Cheese Sandwich takes offense to being called "boneless".
    Cheese Sandwich: Nopony calls me boneless! (turns to his rubber chicken) Right, Boneless?
  • The Fairly OddParents: Anti-Cosmo and Head Pixie once goaded Timmy into accepting a bet by impersonating chickens.
  • "Shredder! Do you fear us?!"
  • Family Guy did this in "Mr. Saturday Knight"
    Black Knight: You see kids your father is nothing but a FIZZLE!
    Peter: Nobody calls me a fizzle and gets away with it! Except that one guy who called me a fizzle and then ran off. He got away with it. But most people who call me a fizzle don't get away with it. Well, actually, that guy who got away with it was the only one who ever called me a fizzle. After today... only half the people who ever called me a fizzle will have gotten away with it!
    • Happens again with the actual word in "Petey IV where Vladimir Putin ridicules Peter by saying he's a chicken. Since Peter's Sitcom Archnemesis is a chicken, he takes great offense to this.
  • From the Mr. Bogus episode "Bogus To The Rescue":
    Brattus: [in a sing-song tone] Bogus is a chicken! Bogus is a chicken!
    Bogus: [Angry muttering]
    [Every inanimate object in the bathroom starts laughing at Bogus.]
    Bogus: Oh yeah?!? Bogus not chicken! Bogus not- [Promptly turns into a chicken and starts clucking like one.]
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: In the episode "Run Pig Run," Spider-Man, after being transformed into a pig by Loki and made the target of an Asgardian boar hunt, is hiding in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s helicarrier while his friends and allies. Loki proceeds to taunt him, stating that since Spidey is letting everyone else fight his battles for him, perhaps a chicken was a more appropriate form for him than a pig. Spidey is livid and immediately jumps into the fray.
  • In one occasion where the Stunt Dawgs were contract bound to perform stunts for one of Fungus' movies, he tried to use this trope to make them wear blindfolds during the performance. They said that the contract didn't require them to accept that request and they asked 60 million dollars in exchange for doing it. Fungus made a counter-proposition (half the gross profits) and they accepted it.
  • The Adventure Time episode "Memories Of Boom Boom Mountain" has a shout-out to the Back to the Future example above, where the Marauder leader calls Finn "chicken" (with the added bonus of the former being voiced by Thomas F. Wilson himself).
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy manages to invert this trope. When Eddy taunts farm boy Rolf by calling him a chicken, Rolf is furious at the insult to chickens and takes Eddy up on his challenge.
  • In the Johnny Bravo episode "Beach Blanket Bravo", a boy gets jealous when his girlfriend latches onto Johnny, so he angrily challenges Johnny to a surfing contest. Johnny refuses, not wanting to get his hair wet, but the boy calls him chicken. In response, Johnny goes, "That does it, kid! You've earned yourself a serious butt whooping!" and accepts the challenge.
  • In the Popeye cartoon, "Females is Fickle", Olive buys a goldfish, but is distraught when it jumps into the sea. She begs Popeye to go and save him, but he refuses (the fish was rude to him prior). A sobbing Olive calls him a coward, which is enough motive for Popeye to jump in after it.
  • The Rupert episode "Rupert and the Temple Ruins" has Rupert Bear motivate Edward Trunk into joining him in the Professor's balloon ride by calling him "chicken". Rupert gives an Aside Glance and remarks to the audience that calling Edward "chicken" always works in getting him to have fun.
  • Tom's cousin in the Tom and Jerry cartoon, "Timid Tabby", subverts this by saying "I can't help it if I'm chicken," when scared by Jerry.

    Real Life 
  • Supposedly, in the Wild West calling someone a coward was one of four fighting words that you would only invoke if you were prepared to fight for your life. The other three were thief, cheater (especially when playing cards in a saloon), and liar.
  • Truth in Television: In Tennessee and the DC area, you can get arrested for calling someone a coward if they refuse to fight you. Interestingly, this is where the phrase, "Them's fightin' words!" comes from, "fighting words" originating as a legal term referring to words spoken to deliberately incite a fight, which is illegal.
  • For anyone who gets pressured into doing drugs, if they are called a "C-H-I-C-K-E-N" for refusing, they can tell them (or not) that it stands for "Cool, Honest, Intelligent, Clear headed, Keen, Energetic, and Not interested in drugs".
  • This was very nearly the undoing of Second World War flying ace and rare positive example of Inspirationally Disabled Douglas Bader. Someone dared him to perform an aileron roll at low level over the airfield, which he wasn't especially keen to do for the very good reason that it's bloody dangerous... but then they implied that this was down to cowardice on Bader's part. So he tried it, and it went horribly wrong and cost him both his legs.


Video Example(s):


Are You Chickening Out?

Brunhilde gets the gods to agree to holding the Ragnarok tournament by accusing them of being scared of humanity.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / NobodyCallsMeChicken

Media sources:

Main / NobodyCallsMeChicken