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O.O.C. Is Serious Business

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Shikamaru: It's been two days since your last cigarette. When a chain smoker like you lays off, something's always up.
Asuma: Sharp eyes, Shikamaru. If the likes of you can read my heart, then I'm still a rank amateur.

The long form of the trope title is "Out of Character Is Serious Business."

Now, then. Some characters have strong traits that they are known by. This is for when characters momentarily break away from their normal habits to make a point about the seriousness of the situation. Often causes the other characters to do a Double Take and mention why this event is Serious Business. When most or all of these OoC moments happen at once, you can be sure that the world is ending, or at least the Darkest Hour, leading characters to behave in ways they normally wouldn't, because they know they might not have another chance to do so.

It's also a pretty good indication the Godzilla Threshold has been crossed.

This is a trope for when a somewhat-Out of Character action is used to draw extra attention to the scene (similar to a Title Drop). It isn't Hidden Depths because it isn't telling us something about the character we didn't already know; it's similar to an Out-of-Character Moment in that this is specifically the usage of such a moment to draw attention to a scene. If they're doing this deliberately to make another character think something is amiss, see Out-of-Character Alert. Compare Let's Get Dangerous! and Weirder Than Usual.


A Super-Trope of:

  • Alternate Catchphrase Inflection: Someone says their Catchphrase in a different voice than usual.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Characters do something that breaks their own rules.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: When a character that's usually nice and patient ends up flying into a rage after getting sick of putting up with a less nice person's crap.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Characters who don’t speak much turn out to be more threatening than they led on.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Characters prone to silly and bizarre antics proves that their silliness doesn't mean they're harmless.
  • Moment of Weakness: A normally sensible character makes a devastating lapse in judgment.
  • Not So Stoic: The normally emotionless character expresses emotion when things are serious.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Characters have repressed their anger and eventually let it all out.
  • Advertisement:
  • Rant-Inducing Slight: After putting up with a lot of stuff, one insignificant slight causes the person to go "That's it! I've had it with this shit!"
  • Stutter Stop: A stuttering character loses the speech impediment during a serious moment.
  • Sudden Principled Stand: Characters with few scruples suddenly refuse to follow an order too unforgivable even by their standards.
  • Suddenly Speaking: A silent character suddenly starts speaking.
  • Verbal Ticked: A character with a Verbal Tic speaks normally because things are getting serious.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Characters realize they're in trouble when someone else addresses them in a way they normally don't.

Often overlaps with:

Examples subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, as Calvin is lying sick in bed, his mom tells him she's going to call the doctor- Calvin's response is "OK." She also adds that it's Saturday, so he won't miss school, and he responds with a weak, "I know." Since Calvin is a kid who is usually overjoyed at the thought of not going to school, always gets up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays, and despises visiting the doctor, his mother is convinced this is serious and races for the phone.
  • In an early For Better or for Worse. Michael complains of feeling sick, and when Elly tells him to go to bed, he says "okay" and goes right upstairs. She tucks him into bed, convinced that he's sick.
  • Garfield:
    • In one strip, Garfield feels like being nice to everyone. Everyone is so freaked out that they have him tied in a straitjacket and committed.
      Garfield: People don't want nice... people want consistency.
    • Every Christmas, Jon's mother sends the titular cat a Homemade Sweater from Hell. But in one strip, the sweater is both tasteful and fits well on him. Jon immediately heads for the phone to call and check on her.
  • Peanuts: Whenever Charlie Brown breaks his Nice Guy attitude and gets genuinely angry at someone, he delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and/or a What the Hell, Hero? speech, and it's always a Moment of Awesome for him.
  • This Pearls Before Swine strip, roughly one month after the Parkland school shooting.
  • In Safe Havens, even Jenny, usually eager for the chance to boss people around, agrees that Samantha should be the commander of the Mars mission because their lives could very well depend on it.
  • In the final week of dailies of U.S. Acres, Lovable Coward Wade achieves peace with the world... sending Orson, Roy, and Booker away screaming in terror.
  • Retail: Stuart is the typical browbeating, micromanaging district manager so when Marla hasn't heard from him in weeks she worries that it's a sign that Grumbel's is going under because he'd only not call if it didn't matter anymore. She worries even more when he does call and then completely brushes off that Marla's store won't make its sales goal, rather than berate her over it as usual. Marla was Properly Paranoid because it turns out Grumbel's is looking into filing for bankruptcy, and Stuart knew the whole time without telling any of his store managers.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Is Anansi doing actual work? He's probably got some ulterior motive. You'd better watch that fish haul like a hawk, or he'll likely help himself to some of it.
  • The Bible:
    • In the New Testament, Jesus has a very serious OoC moment known as "the cleansing of the temple". While some people may argue that Jesus could never have acted out of character, there is no doubt that even (and especially) His friends and followers were shocked by what they saw. He was literally the poster boy for patience and forgiveness. But everybody has at least one thing that really burns them up and makes them want to break something/someone; for Jesus, it seems, it was taking advantage of poor and ignorant people in the name of God (the corruption in the Jewish church was along the same lines as the selling of indulgences in Martin Luther's time). When He saw what was going on, He just stood there, looking around and emanating so much anger that He didn't even have to raise His voice for everybody in the temple to know that Jesus meant serious business and they were in it deep. He flipped over a money-changer's table, and the priests and merchants ran for it. If you read the account carefully, you'll note that this wasn't a hot-blooded moment of rage. No, Jesus "made a whip out of cords" (John 2:15), which takes a good bit of time. Tranquil Fury with extreme deliberation. Not as OOC as one might think. Jesus' one true Berserk Button is hypocrisy, in any form.
      Jesus: It is written: "My house shall be a place of prayer." But you are turning it into a den of thieves.
    • Another example would be when Jesus curses the fig tree, causing it to wither and die. This is the only time that He is shown to use His gifts/talents/powers in a way that does not cause life and healing for the recipient (certain Apocrypha notwithstanding). Doubles as a moment of Oh, Crap!, because as God he could have used this power at any time to destroy anyone. Let that sink in...
    • A third example is in the Gospel of John when Jesus is not speaking in proverbs. The disciples all notice.
    • One not for Jesus, but for another figure in his story, and which ties into real-life archaeological searches for historical evidence of the life and passion of the son of God. Remember the part where he was brought before Pontius Pilate, an extremely ruthless prefect, and Pilate, instead of his usual brutal routine, had the Jews choose between him and another prisoner on the occasion of the Passover? It just so happens that Jesus was brought before Pilate at an extremely delicate time for the Roman Empire, which had just executed Lucius Aelius Sejanus, once the most powerful man in the Empire apart from Caesar himself, on charges of treason against Emperor Tiberius and was on the hunt for Sejanus's friends and allies; Pilate must've realized at the time that one wrong move and he himself could be next, so he handled Jesus's case with an uncharacteristically cautious approach.
  • There is even a saying about Buddha, the poster boy for patience, serenity, that goes like this: "Even the Buddha will get angry if slapped thrice in the face" for The Stoic finally snapping. Basically, the threshold is high, but if you are stupid enough to repeatedly annoy them, even a Saint is going to snap at you, and it's going to be Serious Business.

  • Interstitial Actual Play: Criss snapping at Mewt after the latter starts fanboying over him shows how much Criss is effected by Roxanne's death.
  • The Adventure Zone: When Taako regains his memories of Lup and her subsequent disappearance, he calmly points the Umbrastaff at Lucretia and begins to count down from ten. No jokes. No snark. No one-liners. He doesn't even let Griffin finish describing the scene.
  • The Phenomenon: Each episode opens and closes with Emergency Broadcasts. At the start of the series these are very dry, and while providing necessary instructions to survive the eponymous event, are also light on information. As the series wears on and it becomes clear that the U.S. government has no means of fighting off the threat, these broadcasts become increasingly transparent, even noting that 97% of humanity has died, and increasingly compassionate ("You are not abandoned. You are not forgotten").
  • In Welcome to Night Vale, Cecil is always pleasant and smooth in his delivery. When he's not? Something is very wrong, like his on-air breakdown when he thought Carlos had died, or the terror in his voice upon seeing the gorefest in Kevin's studio; or very serious, like the sheer venom with which he wished that rebel leader Tamika would find StrexCorp before they found her.
    • When Cecil refers to Steve Carlsberg as "Steve," and acknowledges his love for Abby and Janice, it's a sign how frightened he is by the Shadow People's invasion.
    • Cecil is also known for his Skewed Priorities regarding what constitutes important news, and for alternating between mundane news stories and warnings of apocalyptic catastrophes without any discernible change in tone. So we know Night Vale has truly reached its Darkest Hour in "Matryoshka" when Cecil passive-aggressively mocks his listeners for expecting him to respond to complaints about subpar radio programs instead of focusing on the various catastrophes destroying the town. Later in the same episode, Cecil becomes so overwhelmed by the seeming hopelessness of the situation that for the first time ever, he almost signs off without bothering to give the Weather report or wish the listeners a good night.

    Print Media 
  • MAD features the eternally grinning Alfred E. Neuman, whose Catchphrase is "What, me worry?" Except once. Alfred's reaction to the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979: A look of terror on his face, and the comment, "Yes... me worry!"
  • Following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton in August 2019, the New York Post, known for its right-wing slant and being friendly to President Donald Trump, used their front page to demand that he "BAN WEAPONS OF WAR".

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Since wrestling announcers are supposed to be loud and talking all the time, it was always a pretty safe bet that when they went completely silent, it was a sign that someone was legitimately hurt (instead of when they kept talking, which showed it was part of the show). However, that's not quite as accurate now, since the people behind the scenes have caught on to this, and have started to use dead air when trying to sell a Kayfabe injury.
  • Sometimes, when a real, serious injury or accident happens, announcers drop kayfabe and explicitly tell the audience it is not part of the show. Most infamously, this happened when Owen Hart died in an accident at Over the Edge 1999, and most recently when Jerry Lawler had a heart attack during an episode of WWE Raw.
  • John Cena is almost always above everything, just laughing off anything resembling a threat. Until The Wyatt Family came after him. Thus far the Wyatts have proven to be the only thing that can make Cena show actual fear.
  • Lance Storm is adamant that people use his Kayfabe last name (Storm), and most of his commentaries are signed as Lance Storm. However, when he is truly serious about certain things, like the deaths of Chris Benoit or Road Warrior Hawk, he has been known to sign off using his real name: Lance Evers.
  • The Insane Clown Posse were supposed to face The Headbangers on the November 23 (taped November 17), 1998 WWE RAW, as part of the The Oddities-Headbangers feud, but Violent J said that they weren't ready. Luna Vachon, the manager of The Oddities, was so stunned by this that she actually spoke in her normal voice instead of the monster voice she'd been using for over a decade.
  • As a member of The Order Of The Neo-Solar Temple Delirious was not nearly as erratic or hyper active due to UltraMantis Black putting him under the control of the Eye of Tyr, a Norse Mythological artifact that can be used to control minds. Then Ares of Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes used the Eye, after getting it from Tim Donst as part of the BDK's formation at the 2009 CHIKARA Season Finale Three-Fisted Tales, and used it to lure Delirious into the BDK. While on the one hand Delirious was more manic, Ares also tied a chain around his neck and made him the BDK's Team Pet.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In Dinosaurs, Baby always hits Earl over the head and calls him "Not-The-Mama" instead of "Daddy". When he becomes seriously ill in "Germ Warfare", he starts calling Earl "Daddy" and tells him he loves him. The family freaks out and get him cured as quickly as possible. Everyone is relieved when Baby hits Earl and calls him "Not-The-Mama" after he is cured.
  • In the Fraggle Rock episode "Marooned", perpetually paranoid Boober and energetic Red are Buried Alive in a cave-in; facing imminent death, Boober is calm and collected, while Red is a nervous wreck.
  • Gonzo the Great is such a Cloudcuckoolander that when he opts out of a Bar Mitzvah appearance in Muppets from Space, Kermit is quick to take notice.
    Kermit: You never miss the chance to shoot yourself out a cannon, is something wrong?
  • Sesame Street:
    • In the special, "Elmo Saves Christmas", Lightning the Reindeer takes Elmo to a Bad Future he created from his wish for it to be Christmas every day. In this bad future, The Count is so sick of celebrating an entire year's worth of Christmases, that he is even sick of counting them! Naturally, this sparks a shocked reaction from Elmo.
    • When Oscar starts acting kind rather than his usual grouchy self in "Oscar the Kind"note , the rest of Sesame Street reacts with surprise.

  • Big Finish Doctor Who: In "The Two Masters", the Seventh Doctor, when faced with two incarnations of his old friend-turned-enemy the Master, notices that each incarnation is acting out of character, but only realises when faced with both Masters that the reason for this change is that the two Masters have actually swapped bodies.
  • In Cabin Pressure, when the usually relentlessly cheery and overwhelmingly positive and optimistic Arthur tries to describe his father:
    Arthur: Oh, he’s, uhhh... He’s, uhhh... He’s, uhhh...
    Douglas: Good Lord, Martin, I think you’ve broken him.
    Arthur: No-no-no – it’s just that he’s, uhhh... He’s, uhhh...
    Douglas: I think — I think what we may be witnessing here is Arthur attempting to describe something with an adjective other than “brilliant”.
    Arthur: Yeah, no-no, I-I wouldn’t say he was br...I mean, obviously, everyone’s br...[beat] No, he’s not brilliant! He’s, uhhh... He’s alright.
    Martin: God!
    Douglas: Yes...
    Martin: He must be awful!

  • Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig never missed a game ever since the day he filled in for Wally Pipp; not even injury stopped him from at least getting in an inning as a pinch hitter. So when he had his manager bench him for one game in 1939, it was a sign something was wrong, confirmed by an ALS diagnosis a short time later.
  • Former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver, Hines Ward, was notorious for always smiling on the field and sidelines. Dropped a pass (a rare event for him), smile and shake it off. Hospitalize someone with a block? Smile and wave the medics over. When he lost a fumble in easy field goal range in the final minutes of a tied game against the Tennessee Titans by trying to stretch for extra yards, thereby costing the Steelers a sure chance to win the game in regulation, and allowing the Titans to take a knee and take the game to overtime, he was visibly pissed off with himself on the sidelines. The television commentators noted that he must have been really mad to stop smiling.
  • You knew Joe Theismann's career-ending injury was serious when every single player on both teams, including crazy tough, crazy fearless linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who actually made the hit, were SCREAMING for medical attention. It was.
  • An example of this may have been the turning point for the 1994 San Francisco 49ers. During the 3rd quarter of their 5th game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles (which the Eagles won 40-8, 49ers head coach George Seifert decided to pull battered starting quarterback Steve Young from the game in order to avoid risking injury in a lost cause. However, upon doing so, the normally even-tempered Young blew up at Seifert, a move which earned the respect of many of his teammates. In the end, the 49ers lost only one other game the rest of the seasonnote ; with Young taking the final steps out of predecessor Joe Montana's shadow (Young had succeeded Montana as 49ers quarterback in 1991 due to Montana being sidelined with a number of injuries) by not only leading the 49ers to Super Bowl XXIX but breaking Montana's single-game touchdown pass record by throwing for 6 touchdown passes in the 49ers' 49-26 rout of the San Diego Chargers.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A number of character-driven RPGs give characters compulsions to act in certain ways and require expending resources to ignore them, effectively making Out-of-Character a form of Heroic BSoD. For example, Exalted calls it "Limit Break"note  and forces the Solars to either take their greatest Virtue to extremes or invert it, Lunars to act animalistic and Sidereals to stubbornly force Fate into a path dependant on their caste. Similarly, Scion has Virtues (such as Loyalty, Duty, or Courage); every pantheon reveres four of them, and their Scions are expected to uphold them. If a Scion resists his or her Virtues too hard, they can explode into Virtue Extremities, causing the Scion to burst into extreme behavior; a Loyal Scion will throw herself into the line of fire for her friends even if they beg her not to, a Courageous Scion goes into an Unstoppable Rage, an Expressive Scion will quite literally bleed for his art, and so on.
  • On Mighty Thews: Characters have what is called a "D20 trait" since each skill is assigned a dice value. By acting in concert with your D20 character trait, you earn a reroll token in a scene; but if you act opposite to it, you can roll a D20 for one skill roll, which means quite a bit when D12 is the largest available die.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Tyranids are such a threat to the galaxy that the Ultramarines, a chapter of Space Marines who religiously follow the Codex Astartes and take pride in fielding balanced, tactically-flexible forces, have started training cadres of Tyrannic War Veterans specializing in combating the menace that nearly devoured their homeworld.
    • Speaking of Tyranids, when the vast, eternally hungry Hive Mind leaves a certain light-years wide area of space alone, it's probably for a good reason.
    • The introduction of Primaris Marines and cooperation with Aeldari in 8th Edition. The Imperium of Man is so hidebound they're cocooned in leather and deeply xenophobic. Innovation, ESPECIALLY with one of the Emperors Great Works, and cooperation with aliens to boot? Uh-oh. The End of Days is nigh.
    • Factions that know the Orks well start getting very wary whenever the greenskins start to do anything that isn't either charging the closest enemy or getting ready to do so. Normally, it means they're about to try something unusual, unpredictable and dangerous. If you are terribly unlucky, it means they're getting clever. Millions tend to die when the orks try actual tactics because they're just not expected to do so, and it tends to be a sign that the Warboss in charge is getting dangerously competent from the sheer volume of WAAAGH energy the troops are dispensing. The smarter they're acting, the bigger the horde, and the bigger the Warboss. Once, this got bad enough that they had actual diplomats, people farms and technology that started outpacing the Imperium and the Eldar, and the resulting war nearly destroyed Terra, and with it the Imperium.

  • So, 'so' many moments in Freewill in 2112:
  • Throughout most of My Fair Lady, linguistics professor Henry Higgins acts like a huge Jerkass to flower girl Eliza Doolittle. For days he puts her through torturous exercises in an attempt to get her to pronounce sounds correctly, deprives her of food, sleep, and drink, and stays up for hours in a desperate attempt to rid Eliza of her Cockney accent. However, during one scene, an exhausted Higgins gives Eliza a passionate speech on “the majesty and grandeur of the English language,” in which he forgoes his usual routine for genuine tenderness and encouragement towards Eliza. It’s a genuine Pet the Dog moment for him, and as a result of this, Eliza has her first big breakthrough in RP. Cue “The Rain In Spain” and a rapturous celebration exploding on the stage.
  • In Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton is a Motor Mouth who never passes up an opportunity to pick up a pen and write out his thoughts. In One Last Time, he is so distraught over his boss George Washington's retirement that he goes into Stunned Silence and has to be urged into picking up a pen to write Washington's farewell address.
    • On a more heartwarming note, verbose non-stop Hamilton is so overwhelmed by emotions at the birth of his son that he reverts to the simplest structures, rhymes and vocabulary. This only gets worse in Act 2 when said son dies and Hamilton, again, loses much of his verbosity and finesse when describing "the unimaginable" - living on after the loss of a child.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Out Of Character Is Serious Business


Todd's last straw

Normally Todd is amiable, happy-go-lucky, naive, and inclined to see the best in BoJack. However, when he learns of BoJack's latest betrayal, it's the last straw for Todd.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / OOCIsSeriousBusiness

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Main / OOCIsSeriousBusiness