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Played for Drama

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If something is played for drama, it is being used with the intention to be serious. Sometimes, a comedic trope is played completely serious (for example, a Out-of-Context Eavesdropping setup leads to tragedy), or maybe a drama-neutral trope is milked for all the drama it can provide. Can be used in a deconstruction of a particular trope, though one should not make the mistake of thinking that all dramatic or tragic uses of a trope are deconstructions.

Contrast Played for Laughs; sometimes, the only difference between one trope and another is that one is played for laughs, while the other is played for drama. Also contrast Failed Attempt at Drama. Compare Played for Horror, when a trope is used to frighten or disturb the audience.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable has Sheer Heart Attack, a dramatic example of Action Bomb. It's a tiny, tank-like Stand that can easily sneak up on and hide close to its victims before detonation, is completely indestructible, survives its own explosions, and the only way it can be stopped is by getting its user, Yoshikage Kira, to deactivate it. Which, for obvious reasons, was not an easy task to do.
  • Episode 5 of Neon Genesis Evangelion uses Accidental Pervert to dramatic effect. Shinji visits Rei's apartment to give her new ID card, but when he finds the apartment seemingly empty, he has a look around and becomes intrigued by a pair of broken glasses lying on her dresser (unbeknownst to him it is Gendo's old glasses, which has great sentimental value to Rei) and picks them up. Rei then emerges from the bathroom, having showered and is still naked. Rei notices Shinji holding the glasses, and due to having No Social Skills, she beelines straight for him to get the glasses back, careless of her nakedness. Shinji panics and gets the strap of his backpack caught on the dresser as he struggles with her, causing him to lose balance and fall over while pushing Rei to the floor along with him, landing square on top of her. Shinji freezes completely up for a really uncomfortable long time, until Rei coldly asks him to move away, and he notices he accidentally is groping her and he quickly jumps back on his feet. The moment is not played for comedy at all, instead opting to be as painstakingly awkward and unsettling as possible. Even more notable, Rei, again due to having absolutely no social skills, never goes into any kind of Pervert Revenge Mode and doesn't even understand what Shinji is trying to profusely apologize for afterwards.
  • In Kemono Jihen, Akira's brother, Yui, looks much older than the former, despite them being (non identical) twins. Younger Than They Look ends up being played for drama in a downright chilly manner, because it realistically means he hit puberty earlier than Akira which in turn means the women in their village decided to latch on and rape him first. Yui then used this timegap before Akira hit puberty to execute a plannote  to get him out before they started raping him as well.

    Comic Books 
  • C-List Fodder is used dramatically in Astro City. In the "Tarnished Angel"-arc, a Serial Killer starts preying on C-list supervillains, apparently without discrimination. The relatives of said supervillains note that while these deaths are huge tragedies in their lives, neither the superheroes or the authorities care that someone is knocking off these no-name crooks, and probably won't until someone sufficiently famous is targeted.
  • Self-Deprecation is used to emphasize self-loathing in Dark Night: A True Batman Story. The book fully reveals just how depressed and lonely Dini felt before and after the mugging. As he recovers, his projection of Batman hits him with wave after waves of Reason You Suck Speeches.
  • Furry Reminder is played for drama in De Cape et de Crocs. Armand muses sadly over Séléné falling in love with the Maître d'Armes instead of him. He seems to think that this happened because he's a fox, mentioning for instance that, unlike him, his rival can stand on two legs without going against his nature and can discard his fur in summer.
  • The Flash has at least one example of Acquired Situational Narcissism turning tragic. As Hunter shamefully admits in the flashback of issue #197, his ego got out of control with tragic consequences. Hunter predicted that the suspect won't have a gun, and thus urges his team to make the arrest without waiting for backup. He turns out to be wrong, and the killer shoots him in the knee, crippling him, before gunning down his father-in-law. In a brutally ironic twist, years later it turned out that Hunter was right all along, and Professor Zoom was the one who gave the suspect the gun in order to engineer the incident that turned Hunter into Zoom.
  • Green Manor takes an Amalgamated Individual and plays it for drama. A police inspector discovers that the extremely prolific Serial Killer John Smith, who kills with a different method every time and leaving a letter reading "I will kill again", is actually a huge number of copycat killers who independently hit on the idea of murdering an Asshole Victim and blaming it on the original killer (something the general public will never accept, especially since he only puts the pieces together after one of them confessed). He then gets himself arrested, putting an end to the murders by taking the blame for them. A fellow inspector is shown to be cutting up an "I will kill again" letter on hearing the news, implying he too was going to murder his overbearing wife.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond is used seriously in Irredeemable. The Plutonian has an intense, driving need to be loved by everyone around him and receives endless praise from being the world's greatest super-hero. But he's unable to get over the few people who don't shower him with praise, leading him to bitterly think that the entire population of Earth are nothing but selfish, ungrateful animals.
  • A Casual Kink is briefly used for drama in Saga. In the heat of the moment, Alana begs Marko to spank her while they're having sex. Marko isn't taken aback by the request, but he can't bring himself to do it. As we find out, it's because he's troubled by his own penchant for violence, and still has baggage over being beaten by his father as a child.
  • A Pants-Pulling Prank is a point of conflict in Smile (Raina Telgemeier). When some of Raina's "friends" yank her skirt down in the school cafeteria, she's so upset she ends up running off to the bathroom to cry. Some of her other friends try to downplay it by pointing out she was still wearing tights and tell her it was kind of funny. It's at this point Raina finally decides she's had enough of them mistreating her and doesn't want to be friends with them anymore.
  • Ask a Stupid Question... is used to dramatic effect in Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin. Anakin points out that Qui-Gon's asking him if he wanted to be a Jedi was a ridiculously obvious question. He was a slave living in a desert being offered to be taught magic by a man armed with a sword made of light. There wasn't much of a choice to make there, which is causing his current discontent, as he's been seemingly locked in to the Jedi Order for life.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall gets a rare serious example in Thor: Season One. The Fates address the reader directly, telling them that if they want to change their fate as Thor did, they cannot do it alone.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname is used for drama with Soundwave in The Transformers: Robots in Disguise. "Soundwave" isn't his real name, it's the name he took after he got his powers under control. Because of his severe synesthesia he can't even remember his real name.

    Fan Works 
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism is used for drama in Bound (How to Train Your Dragon). After getting a taste of praise for his ingenuity with the success of the fire prevention system, Hiccup ends up inventing behind Astrid's back and constructs the Mangler. Not only does this violate the deal he had made with Astrid (he stops inventing, she teaches him how to wield a weapon), but it ends with Hiccup's reputation spiraling right back down to square one with the unfortunate collateral damage caused by the Monstrous Nightmare he inadvertently attracts.
  • Adaptational Modesty is played for drama in Fairy Tail: Re-Written with Lucy. Her attempts to wear more revealing outfits like in canon are hindered by self-doubt and feeling slut-shamed by her father and his more toxic business partners. At most she can wear a skirt that reaches to her mid-thighs and a top that gently hugs her curves.
  • The Flash Sentry Chronicles uses the Accidental Pervert trope for drama in "Spike’s Heartbreak". The chapter begins with Spike hoping to spend some time with Rarity, but when he gets to her boutique, he accidentally walks in on Rarity and Lightning Blitz ‘expressing themselves’. Spike at first thinks that Lightning is forcing himself on Rarity, and attacks him, only for Rarity to pull Spike off of Lightning and explains that she and Lightning are in a relationship.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail plays Shipper on Deck for drama. When Gladion wound up on the Train, Mallow was the only one who was worried about his disappearance. Unfortunately, her friends blow this off, joking about her having a crush — when Mallow asks how they would have reacted if she vanished, Lana suggests "Elopement", pushing her past her Rage Breaking Point and sparking off a furious dressing-down.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines:
    • A Twinkle in the Sky is used seriously during Chapter 18. Paul ends up blasting Ash's Primeape into the sky. Unlike most examples, it's hinted that such an action might actually have fatal consequences.
  • Anger Born of Worry is a point of conflict in A Professor and a Student. Delia angrily called Ash selfish after he helped rescue her from the Entei out of fear that he nearly got himself killed. This led to Ash and Delia not talking about his adventures at all. While Delia is proud of Ash for his heroism, she simply can't face the fact that he is putting himself at risk.
  • In-Universe examples of Angst? What Angst? are Lampshaded and used for drama in Project Tatterdemalion. The shinigami have been transformed into monsters, seen their friends and family transformed into even worse monsters, telepathically heard those former friends and family express the desire to eat them alive, and been forced to rip those former friends and family to pieces with their bare hands (and some shiny new claws) to survive. They are ok with this. They know they should not be ok with this. They are quite capable of figuring out that the only reason they are ok with this is that the shinigami virus is interfering with their brains. They don't know what else it might be doing while it's in there.
  • The Absurd Phobia trope is used seriously in Running Around in Circles. Yakko spends most of the story terrified of pencils because the guy who attacked and raped him weaponized pencils during the assault. According to the epilogue, Yakko does recover from this eventually as he heals from the emotional trauma.
  • The Accidental Pornomancer trope is very much unpleasant in the Triptych Continuum story A Mark Of Appeal. Joyous Release has a cutie mark talent for sex appeal, which she cannot turn off or control in any way. Any sapient being who spends more than a minute or two in her presence is consumed by lust for her, regardless of species, sexual orientation, or marital status. She has tried everything up to and including physically cutting out her mark (which doesn't work) to rid herself of this "talent", and finally seeks out Princess Luna as her last hope for a normal life, or indeed any life at all.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, Karma Houdini Warranty is used for drama. Ming commits a lot of antics that in real life would have probably gotten her arrested and served with a dozen restraining orders. Ming hasn't gotten in trouble for her actions only because her neighbors find her more ridiculous than threatening. She doesn't get in trouble for falsely accusing a drugstore clerk of sexually grooming a minor, let alone assaulting and battering (she did kick him) the security guard at the school, when most schools would have banned her. In fact, he allows her to drop off dumplings for Mei while reminding her she can't hide behind trees. Then she unleashes her kaiju form at the concert, literally bringing the facilities down on innocent children, and assaults Mei by grabbing her in a painful hold to berate her. Mei is forced to knock out Ming when the latter won't see reason and make her redo the red moon ritual. Afterward, Ming is apologetic about the whole fiasco, and the family's been ordered to pay CA$100 million for the damage she caused. Also, she has to constantly feed her new red panda Tamagotchi because it contains her primal panda form.
  • In Unicorn Wars, Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other is used for drama. Bluey's complicated and strained relationship with his mother has tragic consequences for both of them. A flashback revealed that Bluey was very close to his father as a child and was devastated to learn that their parents would divorce. During the flashback, it was revealed that Bluey learned that his mother secretly had an affair behind his father's back. Because of that, Bluey greatly resented his mother and refused to spend time with her, and rejected her attempts to get close to her. It is later revealed that Bluey's mother died when he was a child, and he was devastated, crying on her grave with his brother hugging him to calm down, later after the battle, where His entire unit was wiped out except for his brother Tubby and his rival Coco. Bluey snaps, kills, and eats Coco, causing his brother Tubby to leave him. When Bluey and Tubby argue, Tubby reveals that their mother always knew something was wrong with him. Bluey had a flashback when it was revealed that, resentful of both his mother for having an affair and being close to Tubby, Bluey poisoned his mother. Bluey, When he gave his mother the poison, was horrified of himself and regretted giving her poison when she drank it. It was also revealed that Bluey hey jealousy issues of how close his brother was to his mother since birth. It is implied that Bluey causing his mother's death has messed him up even more than he was already, and the guilt is destroying him. Bluey's mother is shown to love him, with her being heartbroken when he revoked her getting close to him, while his mother shares with Tubby that she believes that there's something wrong with Bluey; she was happy that Bluey gave him lemonade as she asked him to. Later it's revealed that Bluey's mother gave him a toy with the words written on it back to Bluey's mom, showing that despite her understandable concerns about his behavior, Bluey's mother did love him.

    Film — Live Action 

  • Accel World: Ain't Too Proud to Beg is played for ark drama with Noumi at the end of the Dusktaker arc. Having suffered a devastating blow from the repowered Silver Crow while in an all-or-nothing match, Taker finds himself a barely functional heap on the ground, helpless and begging someone, anyone to share points with him to keep him from losing his powers. That this is the exact situation Noumi claims he put his abusive brother in (and his screams of terror and begging were fond memories for Noumi) serves as a dark echo for someone who spent the entire arc mocking any sign of weakness in the heroes. Haru, Taku, and Chiyo take no pleasure in this display, and Taku tels Haru to end it by finishing Noumi off with the laser blade.
  • Anatomically Ignorant Healing in Book #29 of Animorphs, The Sickness. Cassie, a teen whose only medical experience is as a vet assistant, has to perform brain surgery on Ax, a Starfish Alien. She does get some help from Aftran, who went inside Ax's brain to find out where Cassie needed to operate.
  • A serious variant of the trope Aren't You Going to Ravish Me? occurs in Because I Am Furniture. Through free-verse poetry, the narrator describes how her father physically abuses her entire family and sexually abuses her sister... and ignores the narrator. She eventually breaks down and begins brokenly describing how she's jealous of her abused siblings because they get some sort of attention from their parents. Being completely ignored and dismissed is even worse than abuse to her.
  • Forgets to Eat is played for drama in The Expanse. Prax is so desperate to find his daughter that he doesn't even notice he's practically starving to death until he has trouble standing up. Granted, the situation on Ganymede was so desperate that, even if he had noticed, odds are he wouldn't have been able to find anything to eat.
  • A somber example of a Companion Cube appears in A Tale of Two Cities The shoemaker's bench and tools are this for Doctor Manette, who refers to the equipment as a friend and deplores its destruction. When Lorry and Miss Pross do end up getting rid of the shoemaker's bench, they also treat it like something alive:
    On the night of the day on which he left the house, Mr. Lorry went into his room with a chopper, saw, chisel, and hammer, attended by Miss Pross carrying a light. There, with closed doors, and in a mysterious and guilty manner, Mr. Lorry hacked the shoemaker's bench to pieces, while Miss Pross held the candle as if she were assisting at a murder — for which, indeed, in her grimness, she was no unsuitable figure. The burning of the body (previously reduced to pieces convenient for the purpose) was commenced without delay in the kitchen fire; and the tools, shoes, and leather, were buried in the garden. So wicked do destruction and secrecy appear to honest minds, that Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross, while engaged in the commission of their deed and in the removal of its traces, almost felt, and almost looked, like accomplices in a horrible crime.
  • We Can't Rewind uses Absurdly Youthful Mother for drama. Denise is indicated to have given birth at eleven. Later, due to a "Freaky Friday" Flip, her daughter Jaymee also manages to give birth at age ten, albeit from her mother's adult body.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Lost: A Bloody Mess is used for drama when Hurley is accused of murder due to police seeing burger ketchup on him.
  • Literally Laughable Question is used dramatically in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Series Finale, "All Good Things..." — Picard (and the audience) do not understand why Q finds his question laughable:
    Q: There you go again, always blaming me for everything! Well, this time, I'm not your enemy. I'm not the one who causes the destruction of humanity. You are.
    Picard: Me?
    Q: Yes. You're doing it right now. You did it before, and you'll do it yet again.
    Picard: What kind of meaningless doubletalk is this?
    (The whole courtroom laughs)
    Q: (Laughing) He doesn't understand! I have only myself to blame, I suppose.

  • Ash Face becomes dramatic in iamamiwhoami's To Whom It May Concern concert, during the song "y." The Mandragora rubs the ashes from the apparent Murder by Cremation all over her face and body.
  • Necrophilia is turned sad in the Lindi Ortega song "Lived And Died Alone". The lonely narrator's love for living people has gone constantly unrequited, so she looks for people who died alone and gives them the love they never got in life.
    When the sun has set, I will go dig up the dead
    Lift their bodies from their graves
    And I’ll lay them in my bed
    To fill their hollow hearts
    With all of my broken parts
    And all the love that they were never shown
    To all those who have lived and died alone
  • A Hell of a Time is used dramatically in Bruce Springsteen's "Youngstown", where an unemployed iron worker sums up his life:
    When I die I don't want no part of heaven
    I would not do heaven's work well
    I pray the devil comes and takes me
    To stand in the fiery furnaces of hell

  • Ambiguous Syntax is used as a source of conflict in the Radio 4 Afternoon Play Camberwell Green. Marilyn and Frankie are bus drivers discussing their friend Letitia, who died of Covid-19 after being spat on by a drunken passenger. Frankie admits that, on some level, she blames Marilyn, because Marilyn took Letitia's bus to cover for her being late, and refused to take the passenger if she didn't put on a mask. It then turns out that the version Frankie heard was that Marilyn specifically told the passenger to take the next one.
    Marilyn: I did not say that! Why would I do that?
    Frankie: That's what she told Letitia.
    Marilyn: Why would you believe her instead of me?
    Frankie: Oh, my god.
    Marilyn: I mean the woman! The drunk woman!


    Video Games 
  • The start of Blaster Master Zero II has a dramatic example of Breast Expansion. The protagonist's formerly petite companion Eve getting infected by a virus which changes her physically, most notably it gives her very large breasts. The character's themselves never comment on Eve's new endowments and the aforementioned virus is threatening her life.
  • Darkwood plays Absurdly Ineffective Barricade for drama and terror. Properly barricading a hideout is way more complicated than just closing a door and putting a wardrobe behind it – even dogs can push furniture out of the way with considerable ease.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Actually Not a Vampire creates conflict when three dead beggars with puncture wounds on their throats are found. A vampire hunter comes to town and kills a suspected vampire (he acts like one). It turns out to be all a lie. The two guys as well as a third man in a different town were partners in treasure hunting. They all had a key to a chest full of treasure (you need all three to open it), which was their retirement fund. One of them decided to accuse the other two of vampirism and thought killing them would be a good idea. If you don't catch up to him when he flees town in a game day, then he escapes, thus failing the mission.
  • Ambiguously Trained is used this way in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. Atton Rand seems to be a Han Solo Expy - you meet him in jail where he's ostensibly being held for contraband smuggling. He's got a smart mouth and a blaster, and is apparently over his head when it comes to Jedi-Sith matters. But several characters remark that his fighting style is not what you'd expect out of a typical spacer whose combat experience is limited to Bar Brawls. Atton is evasive about it until you get a chance to confront him. He used to be a Jedi hunter and Torture Technician in Revan's army, converting Jedi by making them succumb to The Dark Side but hauled ass when one of his targets showed him that he was Force Sensitive and about to be on the other end of the torture rack.
  • Ambiguous Syntax is played for drama in Pillars of Eternity when speaking to the spirit in Caed Nua. Mistaking you for her son, she tells you what happened to your father: "before you were born, the Glanfarthans attacked settlers like us...they came into our village and killed many people. Your father was one of them." She actually means her son's father was one of the Glanfarthan raiders.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Ace Attorney games often use the Accuse the Witness trope, but it gets especially serious in the fourth case of the second game. You are forced to accuse Adrian Andrews just to buy time. This also ends up backfiring spectacularly as not only does she clear her own name during the cross-examination but manages to extend the trial and inadvertently cause Phoenix to break his agreement with a kidnapper.

    Web Comics 
  • In Clarissa Interrupted Bath is hardly comedic for the titular protagonist. As she goes through her bath routine Clarissa addresses the audience on the subject of how kids like her can avoid attracting the attention of their sexually abusive parents during bathtime. When her father suddenly starts jiggling the doorknob, she is terrified.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League
  • Steven Universe
    • Ain't Too Proud to Beg is played for drama. When Jasper finds Lapis in "Alone at Sea", she goes on her knees and begs Lapis to fuse with her again. Their relationship together was highly toxic, and Jasper's desperation despite the pain it caused them both comes across as an addict looking for a fix.
    • But for Me, It Was Tuesday is used seriously in "Change Your Mind". Steven asks Blue Diamond how many times she locked Pink Diamond in the prison tower and used her Emotion Bomb powers to make her cry. Blue Diamond thinks for a second and is promptly horrified to realize she has no idea, and now understands why Pink abandoned her.
  • In Thunder Cats 2011, Animal Jingoism is portrayed seriously. Third Earth is presented as a "world of warring animals" where Thundera's Proud Warrior Race the Cats rule their empire as the self-styled Superior Species that brought order to their world. They've fought a generations-long war with the Lizards, and see little problem with enslaving those hungry Lizards they catch raiding their crops due to the Cats' systematic monopolization of arable land, even lynching them, if they feel like it. The "Alley Cats" of Thundera's slums think nothing of beating and mugging hapless Specific minorities like Dogs. All tailed Cats are themselves confined to the slums while tailless nobles live lives of wealth and privilege, and right-to-rule is granted only to Lions.
  • Tuca & Bertie has a dramatic example of masturbation in "Plumage". Bertie has spent nearly the entire episode getting unwanted attention from creepy men, and Pastry Pete getting to close to her during her apprenticeship drives her to run off to the restroom to masturbate. The whole scene is clearly played for Fan Disservice and is an indicator that Bertie has some sort of sexual trauma going on.