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Red Pill, Blue Pill

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When Neo decides to Take a Third Option...
"You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."
Morpheus, The Matrix

In many series, the hero's heroics are going to change his world. Perhaps he's making things his problem. Maybe he's learning the truth behind the Masquerade, maybe he's traveling to Another Dimension, or maybe the hero lives in a Lotus-Eater Machine and he's going to leave.

In these series, the Call to Adventure is often phrased in the form of a question. Would you like to:

(A) Go out on wacky adventures, fight magic extradimensional alien monsters, and save the universe? (Or, in other words, face mind-numbing danger, allies as crazy as your enemies and Everything Trying to Kill You?)


(B) Pretend none of this ever happened and go back to your normal life? (Or, return to the mundane grind, potentially unable to find it exciting anymore or forever to wonder what might have been, or just watch the world go to hell while being powerless as a mere normal guy?)

Red Pill, Blue Pill applies when the hero is offered this choice, and could plausibly have chosen B. The Blue Pill is the promise of being able to resume normal life, with none of the elements of the "new" world intruding upon the old ever again. Often, it even includes Laser-Guided Amnesia so you don't even have to remember that it could have been different.

Of course, the viewers know the character is going to take the Red Pill; otherwise there would be no story. But just the simple act of giving them a chance to choose a normal life lets the writer tell you something about the character: they're the sort of person who does this willingly when they reasonably could say no. In Long-Runners, expect at least one episode where we see what would have happened.

What it says about the character depends on the context. Sometimes it just means he's curious. Sometimes the character Jumped at the Call, despite not knowing it was possible. Other times, it's the ultimate expression of how much he hates the world he knows, and welcomes any change.

Sometimes a villain offers this choice, in the form of taking a quick break from threatening some third party to say something along the lines of "This doesn't concern you. If you leave now, I'll let you go." In this case, it typically indicates selflessness. The villain can also give the hero one last chance to go back to her old, boring life (especially if it turns out that saving the world involves a Heroic Sacrifice). You know the hero is really dedicated if she chooses to continue fighting anyway.

Note that the Blue Pill only has to look like a viable option. In many cases, if the hero had chosen the Blue Pill, the world probably would have ended because The Chosen One didn't show. The villain mentioned above may be planning to shoot the hero the minute he turns to leave. More subtly, if the hero does take the Blue Pill, this is technically Refusal of the Call, and just because the Call asked nicely doesn't mean it doesn't still know where you live.

In video games, this is usually a But Thou Must! or a chance for a Non-Standard Game Over. Compare also Point of No Return.

If this choice is offered at the end of the adventure, it's the hero's "Leave Your Quest" Test, and choosing the hero's path anyway is proof the character is a true hero. The villain prefers to "offer" the hero The Final Temptation instead.

This trope may also be used in conjunction with Betty and Veronica, where the Hero's choice is embodied as possible romantic partners: An Action Girl who fights by his side as the Red Pill, and the sweet Girl Next Door who offers the opportunity to settle for a normal life as the Blue. In this case, it's not a single choice, but a constant temptation complicated by the pull(s) on the Hero's heart. Following from the above, however, the dynamics are different if this choice is made at the end of a work: In this case, the choice is the difference between In Harm's Way and Home Sweet Home. Subtrope of Two Roads Before You.

Unrelated to Red Oni, Blue Oni. Also not to be confused with the documentary The Red Pill, though the title is derived from this trope's concept.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Death Note: At any time and for any reason, a human who owns a Death Note can relinquish the notebook to the Shinigami to whom it originally belonged, losing all memories of it in the process.
    • Main protagonist Light Yagami only learns of this option five days after he realizes the book's power, by which time he's already made ample usage of it and would rather keep using it for his own devices. Which aren't heroic by any normal definition of the word, but anyway.
    • This option is used a few times in the series, but it's always for a Memory Gambit, never because someone actually wants out.
  • The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya: Kyon gets stuck in an alternate universe without the SOS Brigade and all the characters are normal people. After completing the challenge of bringing the Brigade members to the Literature room, the room's computer turns on and tells Kyon the way of turning everything back to normal (maybe). Then he is offered the chance of fixing everything with a program that will be deleted no matter what he answers, so it's a one-time chance.
  • Hyouka features a hallucination in episode 3 in which The lead Character, Houtarou Oreki is forced to choose between two menus ('rose-coloured life' and 'grey-coloured life'). Of course, it does not help that the imaginary Eru Chitanda 'recommends' (forcibly) that he choose the rose-coloured life.
  • Kaze no Stigma: A non-heroic example during the game arc: "Do you want power?"
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: Although the titular heroine had Raising Heart thrust upon her in an emergency, Yuuno later asked if she was absolutely sure she didn't want to give it back and be a normal girl. Of course, she decided to stay, and prove that she wouldn't be a burden, leading to the Training from Hell she willingly puts herself through day in and day out. It pays off.
  • Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam: One of these choices caps off the first chapter. The protagonist, a foreign exchange student, accidentally discovers poison gas canisters on the cruise ship and gets attacked by his former teacher, only to be saved by the Space Pirates he assumed were villains. The lead pirate tells him that he can either go home and forget everything he's seen so far, or join the pirates to learn the truth. No points for guessing what he chooses.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Fate offers Negi the "this doesn't concern you" version; he and his students would be allowed to return to the real world unharmed, and in exchange he doesn't interfere with Fate's plan. In a twist, it's discovered that a hidden magical device would have made the agreement magically binding, Exact Words and all that.
  • Rozen Maiden: "Will you wind Yes/No?" Specifically, will you wind the doll so it can come to life and bond with you. Of course, they don't tell you that upfront...
    • The Continuity Reboot manga was about the other choice. Poor Jun can't catch a break even that way...
  • Tiger & Bunny: Karina Lyle/Blue Rose is given a choice in the fourth episode: stick to a relatively frustrating, often thankless job as a superhero (with the only perk being that her sponsors will support her music career) or go back to a normal life and try to make it on her own as a lounge singer. She ends up choosing the Blue Pill... until the bar she's singing at airs footage of all the other heroes risking their lives to rescue a single man trapped in the wreckage of a burning drilling site; not for points, publicity, or appreciation, but simply because someone needs to be saved. Cue a new motivation and a Big Damn Heroes moment.
    Kotetsu: Hey, did you find your answer?
    Karina: I want to save people in trouble. Isn't that enough of a reason?
  • Yes! Pretty Cure 5: Happens frequently throughout the Pretty Cure series, but Rin is particularly noteworthy. Her response was "No thanks, I'll pass", and she tried to get Nozomi, who had Jumped at the Call, to change her answer to the same. Eventually, the Call got its way by taking a hostage.

    Comic Books 
  • The Books of Magic: Tim Hunter gets one of these. He's destined to either be a great scientist or become a great magician. John Constantine and company take him on a tour of Functional Magic in the DC/Vertigo universes and everyone tells him that Functional Magic is much more dangerous and unpredictable than science and is likely going to bite you on the ass when you least expect it Because Destiny Says So. After seeing all this, Tim chooses science... but regrets the decision soon afterward. Subverted, though, as it turns out that when four weird strangers turned up and offered to take him on a tour of space and time to help him decide, saying "yes" at that point was actually choosing the path of magic. In the end, he makes the choice with his eyes open.

    Fan Works and Parody 
  • Trope Namer Parodies:
    • In one gag, Neo actually reaches for the blue pill, prompting Morpheus to comment, "By the way, the blue pill is a suppository." Grimacing, Neo takes the red pill instead. "Excellent Choice, Neo."
    • Also spoofed in the Polish comic Górsky & Butch: "Take the red pill and you will be transported to a different comic book. Take the blue one and you will have an erection for 4 hours." "Tough choice... aren't you taking one?" "I don't need to, I'm black."
    • In "Sex and the Matrix," a parody video with Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, being taken through the same sequence as Neo. When shown the Matrix, she practically lunges for the Blue Pill, wanting to go back to her Manhattan lifestyle.
    • The fan-made Matrix Regurgitated simply has both pills turn out to be drugs, but Morpheus can't vouch for the blue pills' quality.
    • This video points out how bad of an idea it is to take a red pill from a leather-wearing man you met on the internet while in an abandoned warehouse.
    • In Robot Chicken, when Neo takes the red pill, he passes out. Morpheus smirks and pulls down Neo's pants.
    • The Annoying Orange also made a parody of The Matrix in "The Fruitix" episode. Orange is, too, offered an red pill and a blue pill. Apparently there's also a green pill that tastes like boogers.
    • In Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space, Buster Kincaid accidentally takes the red pill instead of his Food Pills and starts channeling Ted while perceiving that he's in an artificial reality created by machines, e.g., thousands of fanfic writers with personal computers. Proton offers a blue pill to snap him out of it.
      "He'll wake up in his bed tomorrow and believe whatever he wants to believe — especially after finding the words 'Bubba's Bitch' tattooed on his behind. At least, that's what happened to me."
    • The Ever After High fanfic series Ever After Hero features references to the Matrix trilogy. One of those is when Regina Queen gives Abbey Roe a potion that allows her to see what really happened to the parents of her classmates. While there were no pills involved, the bottle containing the potion is red.
  • The Eminence in Shadow: The Shadow's Web: Cid is offered two choices by the Goddess, Arachne; She can help him to return to his old life at the cost of losing the memories he had gained following his reincarnation or he can stay and be her avatar. Cid lampshades the offer being similar to the trope with Arachne deciding to humor him.
  • Heroes of the Desk: The Featureless Protagonist who inadvertently created the Heroes in the first place opts for the "blue pill" route in Heroes of the Desk: Repercussions because they just want to be normal.note 
  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero: Kyon gives Tsuruya the option to either learn the truth behind the SOS brigade and the supernatural, or remain 'just a side character.'
  • The Night Unfurls: Offered to Sanakan and Hugh twice in the original version. An uncommon instance where The Protagonist, Kyril, is the one offering this choice. It is not a parody either.
    • In Chapter 5, the two kids have passed Kyril's test by returning proof of their kills. In response, Kyril proceeds to the next step of their apprenticeship: a contract. An oath to serve under his command. After giving them a "disclaimer" of what being an apprentice hunter entails (e.g. the burdens they bear, experiencing the hell that is war, and essentially becoming a Child Soldier at worst), he gives them the "blue pill" option — not signing the contract. The two sign the contract ("red pill"), obviously.
    • Comes up again in Chapter 7. Kyril clarifies that the aforementioned contract is a mere formality, and that they are free to leave if they wish. This time, however, he emphasises on the consequences of choosing the "blue pill" — be normal and defenceless until the Black Dogs either kill them or take them as a slave. Again, they pick the "red pill".
  • Steal the Truth, Reach Out For Your Heart: In Chapter 27, immediately after being knocked out by the knights of Kamoshida's castle for refusing to dress in lingerie, Margaret confronts Nanako in a dream and warns her that she's on a path she was never meant to follow. Her choice comes in the form of two tarot cards. The Blue Pill is Justice, representing her bond with her cousin Yu Narukami, which will erase the memories of the past month and return her to the happy, peaceful, mundane life in Inaba she was meant for. The Red Pill is The Fool, the mark of the Wild Card, which will maintain her current path of life-risking confusion and fear. Despite her reservations, Nanako refuses to turn away from Ren and takes the Fool card, whereupon Margaret grants her just enough power and instruction to escape the castle.

  • Barbie (2023): Parodied. Weird Barbie offers Stereotypical Barbie the choice to either stay in Barbieland and live in blissful ignorance, or go to the Real World and investigate her sudden imperfections, representing the options with a pink high-heel and a brown sandal respectively. Stereotypical Barbie keeps picking the high-heel, but Weird Barbie forces her to go to the Real World anyway.
  • The Last Starfighter: Subverted initially. Centauri does a very hard sell to pressure Alex into becoming a Starfighter, up to kidnapping him to the Star League and having him sit in a mission briefing, but Alex still turns down the offer. It's only when the Ko-Dan starts sending assassins after him that he reluctantly accepts.
  • The Matrix: The Trope Namer is the famous scene where Morpheus offers Neo this choice. Of course, he takes the red pill, partially out of Jumping at the Call, partially because we've seen how crappy his normal life is. This choice is more than just symbolic, as the red pill is actually a piece of code that allows the humans outside the Matrix to track a person's location in the machines' power plant. This causes the person to disconnect from the Matrix and start to wake up, so the machines flush them out, and the humans retrieve them.
    • In the video game adaptation, The Matrix: Path of Neo, choosing the blue pill naturally results in a Non-Standard Game Over.
    • In a clear inversion of this trope, a character in one of the Matrix comic books actually takes the blue pill. Her story, instead of being the action-packed thriller, deals with the psychological implications of saying no.
    • The villain type of choice also makes an appearance in The Matrix Reloaded in form of the The Architect's two-doors-choice.
    • A resurrected/"rebooted" Neo is presented with the same blue pill/red pill choice in The Matrix Resurrections (he seemingly forgot everything about his past life).
  • Men in Black: Though little attention is called to it, all agents apparently get this. Naturally, it's the amnesia version.
  • Return to Oz: Just before Dorothy enters the ornament room to try to save her friends against very high odds, the Nome King suddenly offers to send her home, where she will never think of Oz again. Dorothy refuses.
    Nome King: Dorothy! You don't have to go in. I can use the ruby slippers and send you home, and when you get back, you'll never think of Oz again.
    Dorothy: What about my friends?
    Nome King: Forget about them, you can't help them now. There's no place like home.
    (Dorothy turns her back, and strides defiantly into the ornament room)
  • Total Recall (1990): In the original version, Douglas Quaid goes to a company to have memories of a spy adventure implanted in his mind. Something goes wrong and he embarks on a spy adventure very similar to the false memories he was going to get. Later, he's told that what he thinks is reality is in fact those false memories, and is offered a chance to escape by taking a red pill. He decides against it and kills the person offering the pill. The movie leaves unresolved the question of whether everything after the memory implantation was real or not.

  • Animorphs:
    • The main characters are offered a chance to retroactively take the blue pill. They take it. Crayak expects the Yeerks to win handily without any humans fighting back. Turns out his Good Twin, the Ellimist, cheats, leading to the Yeerks losing. Crayak calls the whole thing off at that point.
    • Happens with the Ellimist's first appearance, where he offers the heroes a chance to be taken to another world, along with their families, where they will be spared from the Yeerk Invasion, or stay and fight, and surely lose. He even shows them a vision of the Bad Future where the Animorphs are infested. Of course, Rachel sees through the whole test: the Ellimist's real purpose was showing them that vision, revealing the location of a critical piece of infrastructure that, if destroyed, would set back the invasion for some time.
  • Beowulf is given an explicit choice between dying in the glory of battle or living a long, peaceful life with a wife and children. Given he was a Germanic hero... guess which one he picked.
  • Cherub Series: Discussed by Dante, one of the organization's agents. He says that although they undoubtedly love going on missions, he guesses that if CHERUBs were given a choice between continuing being a government spy or going back to a normal life, most would choose the latter option. The choice is a little more justified in this case, because agents are, by organization requirement, orphaned, and going back to a "normal" life would probably mean their parents (or other family members) would still be alive.
  • "The Confession", a short story by Laszlo Xalieri, throws in one of these at the end. The story is initially presented as having been dictated by an evil immortal to an unwilling hostage, but the immortal has no intention of revealing the truth of his existence to the world—he knows the police are coming, and he plans to pretend to be a mere corpse, letting the cops assume that the hostage is insane and is the real culprit behind his various murders. On the final page, the immortal presents the possibility that he really is a corpse that the "hostage" skinned and stuffed, and proclaims that the hostage has only two choices: accept this version of the truth, and face the punishment for his crimes (the blue pill), or commit ritual suicide to become an immortal himself (the red pill.) It's left unclear whether the hostage really is insane, and the story ends without revealing which option he chooses.
  • The Gardella Vampire Chronicles: This is offered to all Gardella family members in the form of a hypnosis disk. At least two recent family members (Victoria's grandfather and mother) have chosen the blue pill and had their memories wiped when they chose not to become Venators (vampire slayers).
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: Yuki gives Kyon the choice to either stay in the normal, peaceful Alternate Universe she created, or return to his crazy, troublesome world. Refer to Disappearance in the anime entries.
  • In Nightrunner, this is how Loveable Rogue Seregil offers to take the reluctant Alec on as his apprentice: "I admit I've cut a purse or two in my time, and some of what I do could be called stealing, depending on who you ask. But try to imagine the challenge of overcoming incredible obstacles to accomplish a noble purpose. Think of traveling to lands where legends walk the streets in daylight and even the color of the sea is like nothing you've ever seen! I ask you again, would you be plain Alec of Kerry all your life, or would you see what lies beyond?"
  • Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere:
    • At the beginning, Richard chooses to rescue Door from bleeding to death on the street and unwittingly becomes embroiled in the scheme on her life.
    • In the end, Richard goes back to his normal life, but he regrets it soon after and decides to go back to London Below.
  • Magic Fire by Christopher Pike: There is a drug that takes you into a Matrix-esque reality that is extremely addictive. Despite Jessa (main character) being informed she is living in a fantasy world, she refuses to wake from her coma (and stop her addiction).
  • Many Gamebooks will offer this choice to the reader right at the start. Naturally, selecting the "blue pill" will end the story right there, sometimes involving the author calling out the reader for walking away from the adventure they read the book to experience in the first place.
  • The young Bobby Garfield, the protagonist of the first story in Stephen King's Hearts in Atlantis, are asked to choose between going with the "low men" to their world as their prisoner, but in return getting to stay with his best friend Ted and see the universe, or remaining a free person on Earth to live with his cold and emotionally distant mother. He reluctantly chooses to stay, realizing that he is all in all just a child.
  • Used in The Magician's Nephew as part of a Batman Gambit by the White Witch to ensure she is revived when someone finally finds the world of Charn she destroyed and lies dormant upon. A bell must be rung to revive her, and to ensure the hypothetical visitor chooses to ring it rather than leave it, a poem is inscribed upon it which promises that if they take the blue pill by ignoring it, they will be driven mad from spending the rest of their life wondering what would have happened.
    “Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,
    Strike the bell and bide the danger,
    Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
    What would have followed if you had.”
  • From The Heroes of Olympus, Piper's father gets kidnapped by a giant and tortured for months. Aphrodite gives Piper a potion that will allow him to forget everything he's been through, and he opts to take it. While knowing who his daughter really is would be nice, PTSD and the inability to get any true treatment for it is too high a price to pay.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's novella "Gulf". When former FBS agent Joseph Brigss goes to "Kettle Belly" Baldwin to try to find out what's going on, Kettle Belly offers to set him up anywhere in the world with an air-tight secret identity and enough cash for a new start. He warns Briggs that his offer is Briggs' only chance for a normal, happy life and that if he doesn't take it and gets the answers he's looking for, his life expectancy will significantly decrease. Briggs insists on the truth and ends up joining Kettle Belly's secret society of geniuses.
  • In Laird Barron's short story, Strappado, the main character, businessman Kenshi Suzuki, visits an Indian city, and has a chance meeting with an old lover of his, Swayze Harris. Through Swayze, Kenshi meets his friends, a group of other rather well-off tourists, who are planning to go to an underground exhibition by the very controversial art collective Van Iblis. Kenshi finds himself somewhat reluctantly roped along by Swayze to visit the exhibition, which is somewhere on the outskirts of the city, though he has a bad feeling about it. Kenshi's foreboding feelings aren't helped, when him, Swayze, and Swayze's friends show up at the supposed site for the exhibition, only to be met by masked men armed with machetes. The men ushers them to an abandoned building, where there is a hall with two doors, one indicated with blue paint and the other by red paint, orders them to strip naked, and then picks them out two at the time, at which point the selected pair are asked to pick a door which supposedly leads to the exhibition. Kenshi, ending up as an odd man out, has to go alone and picks the blue door. The blue door, it turns out, just takes him to long dark corridor that ends in an eight feet drop into a gravel pit, where someone grabs him and drugs him as he struggles to get out of the pit. Kenshi then awakens three weeks later when he is found unconscious in a closet in an abandoned house by the local authorities. He learns that picking the blue door, something Swayze also did, meant he was allowed to live. Those who picked the red door met with a much worse fate, the full details of which the story doesn't disclose, because Kenshi goes out of his way to not learn them, as what little he does learn leaves him severely traumatized and suffering from Survivor Guilt and horrible nightmares where he does pick the red door.
  • The World of Tiers novels by Philip José Farmer: An aging man with a failed life and a shrewish wife is in the basement of a tract house he is buying when a door between the worlds opens up. He can stay with his living-death retirement or leap into the utter unknown. Soul-killing safety vs death-or-glory.
  • The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane: A potential wizard has to take the Wizard's Oath before getting any magical powers. And even after taking the Oath "wizardry does not live in the unwilling heart", so if the wizard ends up truly regretting having gotten involved they lose their powers and Laser-Guided Amnesia sets in.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: In the episode "Birthday", Cordelia, who is aware that her visions are giving her brain damage to the extent that her doctors are baffled she's not a vegetable, passes out and meets a demonic spirit guide. He tells her that if she keeps the visions, she'll end up dead, and offers her the chance to change the past, taking a different turn at a party so that she never met Angel again in LA and instead became a famous actress. She takes it. However, in her other life, she feels like she's supposed to be doing something else, and in the course of trying to find it runs into Angel & Co; turns out that without her around, Angel gets the visions and goes insane, and Wesley loses an arm. She ends up deciding to become half-demon.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: This is basically the theme of the sixth-season episode "Normal Again", in which Buffy begins having visions of an alternate life where the entire vampire slayer identity, Sunnydale, the Hellmouth, and basically all the weird stuff in her life is a psychotic delusion, she's actually in a mental institution, and doctors there are trying to cure her psychosis so she can go home and live a normal life with her parents (who are together and both alive in this version of reality). Eventually it becomes clear that she has a choice as to which reality she'll act on: she can take the "cure" that her Hellmouth-inhabiting friends brew up for her, or believe the doctors in the hospital and accept the life she's been living as a fantasy. In the end, it's not about which reality is real (it is in fact heavily implied at the end of the episode that the mental hospital reality was the real one), but which one she chooses to inhabit: mundane, happy normalcy, or demon-fighting superheroics. She chooses Sunnydale, not necessarily because she wants to be a hero, but because she can't bear to give up the friends she has there.
  • Charmed: Played with in the fourth season finale. The Angel of Destiny offers the sisters a reward for vanquishing the Source: to give up their powers and lead normal lives where demons won't be able to track them down (however, they will remember their previous lives as witches). Paige is against the decision while Piper and Phoebe are undecided. Eventually, after having to help an innocent without being able to use their powers, they decide it's in their nature to help people and turn down the reward.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In a rare case, Donna chooses the blue pill. Of course, she comes to regret the decision and goes as far as investigating paranormal activity in hopes of bumping into him again - which, naturally, she does.
    • Grace, from the Eighth Doctor TV movie, also chooses not to accompany the Doctor. Various Expanded Universe stories have explored the consequences of that decision.
    • In the series 5 episode "The Beast Below", there's a tremendous red-pill/blue-pill plot, whereby people who found out about the big secret that a captured Space Whale was powering the city were given the choice to forget or dissent. Dissenters were eaten. The Queen also got the same choice, about once every 10 years for the past 300 or so years.
    • A similar forget-me-now is seen in New Earth (Gridlock)
  • Good Eats: Spoofed in the Thanksgiving episode "Romancing the Bird - A Good Eats Thanksgiving." Alton Brown uses a blueberry and a cranberry to show his sister what actually happened at the first Thanksgiving, opposed to the "traditional food" of pies, corn and turkey.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Late in the first season, Zordon gives them the offer to return to their normal lives. In less than a second, the team agrees to stay Power Rangers. This is an interesting example, since the original draft for the episode was supposed to be the finale of the show, in which the big bad would have been defeated. So in the original ending, the rangers would have taken the blue pill. But because the show was enormously popular, Saban decided against ending it, and the episode was rewritten.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: Sarah Jane Smith offers the choice to Rani Chandra after she saved her from a murderous clown in "The Day of the Clown".
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In one episode, the leader of a species with which the Federation has just made first contact asks what happens if they ask that the Federation simply leave them alone and never return. Picard simply replies, "Then we will leave, and never return". Since only a tiny part of the species actually knew about the attempt at first contact, it would effectively be as if they had never been there. At the end of the episode, the aforementioned leader requests that the Federation leave ("blue pill"). The researcher who had nearly finished development of her species' warp engine, however, requests to go aboard the Enterprise and work with the Federation ("red pill"). Both requests are granted.
    • In another episode, the Enterprise encounters an isolationist civilization who is so intent on not being discovered that they developed a weapon that can knock out an entire ship's crew, give them short-term memory loss, wipe the ship's data logs of the encounter, and then relocate the ship some distance away making the crew think they encountered a space anomaly. Except the weapon doesn't work on Data who revives the crew and causes the civilization to threaten Plan B, which is kill everyone onboard, until Picard comes up with Plan C which is to order Data to never reveal the existence of the secret civilization to anyone, ever, and then have the civilization wipe the crew's memory again. Only things don't go precisely as planned.
  • Torchwood: Gwen gets repeated warnings and opportunities to take the blue pill in "Everything Changes" — to the extent where Jack effectively drops a blue pill in her drink. Only because of her amazing stubbornness does Jack eventually allow her to join (possibly since the only other alternative seems to be killing her).

  • In Christina Aguilera's Birds of Prey
    ♪Taking the blue pill only made you cry♪
    ♪And all that the red pill did was make you forget why♪
  • "The Red Pill" by Scratch D & H-Bomb directly samples Morpheus's words.
  • Apoptygma Berzerk, in Incompatible:
    I ate the red pill, no turning back
    The gloves are off now

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism: Classical Mythology features The Choice of Heracles: He was approached by two Anthropomorphic Personifications before his adventures — Pleasure and Virtue — who offered him either an easy, pleasant, and un-special life, or a severe and perilous but glorious one. Heracles chose the latter, of course.
  • Achilles was given two choices; stay home to live a long and normal life and to die in obscurity; or to fight in the Trojan War to die young and win immortal fame.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Candorville parodies the trope-naming scene, but with only one pill and a bit of uncertainty which it is. The psychiatrist says that it's an anti-psychotic, and that it will eliminate Lemont's hallucinations of monsters. Lemont doesn't believe his health insurance would cover mental illness, so he thinks he can't really be in a sanitarium and there must be something else going on. (Also, he has a strong gag reflex and needs a chewable pill.)
    • It should be noted that a): Lemont actually took the pill, and b): the supernatural stuff, while no longer in-panel, hasn't fully gone away.
  • There was a Pearls Before Swine strip where Pastis was sending several crocs across the USA to find anyone who took offense at Pearls, resulting in this exchange:
    Croc: Ooohh, red pill or blue pill... Juss like "Matreex".

    Tabletop Games 
  • C°ntinuum: roleplaying in The Yet. Each PC starts the game by experiencing a first encounter with time travel. They are then contacted and given a choice ("Invitation to Dance") by a group of spanners (time travelers). They can either join the group and become a spanner, or have the spanners erase their memories of their experience (this was clearly based on the Red Pill, Blue Pill scene in The Matrix).
  • The mysterious Messengers give this option in Hunter: The Reckoning. When Hunters literally receive a call from on high to take up the fight against the supernatural monsters hiding among humanity, the potential Hunter can refuse. If he does, he's stuck being able to perceive the supernatural creatures, but unable to do anything about it.
  • The opening fiction for the English version of In Nomine subverts this trope. An angel has just revealed her true form to some random lowlife in a grimy alley and convinced him to knife the mugger who almost got him. She wants him to become her servant and assistant on Earth, but allows that he can refuse and go back to his mundane life. The blue pill even comes with Laser-Guided Amnesia and an offer to put him back into reality right where she "removed" him. It sure sounds viable... but then she suggests that the police might get some bloody, fingerprint-covered knives in the mail any day now. Whoever said angels are nice?
  • In Mage: The Awakening, the titular awakening, a metaphorical journey in which one comes to understand the truth of reality and attain magical powers, takes this form, as a person undergoing it can turn away and deny what they are experiencing (though it is not necessarily a conscious choice). The 'blue pill' is taken by those who prefer the mundanity of everyday life, and results in them disregarding or misremembering the awakening. In something of a subversion of the trope, it is suggested that a great many people annually undergo but reject the awakening, with the number of those who accept it decreasing every year (a sobering thought for mages).

    Video Games 
  • In Throne of Bhaal, the expansion pack to Baldur's Gate II, your character, in one of his explorations of self, is confronted by... Your innocence. It presents you with the choice to accept your innocence and go back to the blissful ignorance of not having killed, of not knowing who and what you are. You must refuse either way, causing your innocence to become the Slayer and attack you. In other words, You must destroy your innocence to proceed.
  • Cave Story: After the Doctor kills King and forces you to kill Toroko, plus Curly Brace sacrificing herself to save you (unless you took the hard route), Kazuma offers you a chance to escape the island. Agreeing gives you a cool cutscene and the bad ending (a text-only detail of how you ran away, set to Hero's End).
  • Dragon Quest: At the end of the original game, as the hero confronts the Dragon Lord, the villain offers the chance for the hero to rule by his side instead of fighting to the death. Accepting the offer results in a Non-Standard Game Over.
  • Drake Hollow begins with the Big Good approaching the Player Character in the woods and asking them to follow him. He initially defies this trope by walling off the path back to civilization to make you follow him, but if you start backtracking at the point where he opens the portal to the Drakes' world, the wall will no longer be there, allowing you to bail on the adventure (which gets you the "Ignored the Call" achievement).
  • Fate/stay night: Kotomine gives Shirou one of these choices right at the beginning of the Grail War. Of course, if you actually reject participation, Ilya will just show up and kill you.
  • Golden Sun: The party is given a choice on whether to go on a quest to save the world or not. Choosing "No" results in a Non-Standard Game Over explaining that the world was destroyed. (There's also some Fridge Brilliance here. Despite the fact that activating the lighthouses is good for the world, Isaac still had the Mars Star, which would have made finishing the job impossible, and the second game states that this would also destroy the world, possibly faster than if Saturos and Menardi hadn't stolen the rest of the stars.)
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: The entire "Taraimawashi-hen" arc of the PS2 version is treated as a blue pill by the game, as evidenced by the poem at its outset. Basically, if you don't set off any of the triggers of your friends' insanity, then you wind up in that arc, where everyone goes insane around you, but you just don't get involved. The Call does not approve.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories: In the "Reverse/Rebirth" mode, Riku faces this choice twice:
    • The story begins with Riku finding himself in a void between light and darkness, and a voice asks him if he'd rather go back to sleep and forget his troubles and the light, or take the card before him and discover the truth. Riku, finding the prospect of napping in a boring room unappealing, takes the card and ends up in the lowest basement of Castle Oblivion.
    • Later, after the events of Sora's story have ended, Naminé offers Riku a choice like this. Throughout the game, Riku has been struggling against Ansem, whose essence still survives in the darkness of Riku's heart. Naminé offers Riku the choice of putting him to sleep like Sora and using her powers to lock his heart, ensuring the darkness never touches him again. But having made peace with the fact that his powers are of both light and darkness (thanks to her), Riku turns her down and chooses to fight Ansem himself.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo actually gives you the option to have Neo take the the blue pill. Doing so triggers a Non-Standard Game Over.
  • Persona 3: Ryoji Mochizuki, the herald of Nyx, gives you a choice on the final day of December. Kill him, delay Nyx's arrival, and forfeit all their memories related to the Dark Hour, and return to a normal life, blissfully unaware of the impending The End of the World as We Know It. Or let him live, and try to face the undefeatable Nyx.
  • In Super Paper Mario, Merlon gives you the choice as to whether or not you wish to embark upon the Quest to restore the Pure Hearts. Unlike most video game examples, this game actually gives you the option to say no, with three consecutive No's resulting in an Non-Standard Game Over, before you are even given control!
  • Thief And Sword: In this Choose Your Own Adventure-style game, you get the option to ditch your mission right at the start.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2: At one point, Serah finds herself in a world where she's married to Snow, and they and Lightning and the rest of their friends all live happily in New Bodham. Serah knows that it isn't real, but real or not, it's offering her everything she wants. The player is able to choose whether Serah loses herself in the dream world or rejects it and continues the fight.
  • In Saints Row IV, during the mission to rescue Matt Miller, Zinyak presents the President with a choice: continue fighting a fruitless battle against an alien empire, or sacrifice themselves to free the rest of humanity, with Zinyak promising to give them a spaceship so they can find a new home planet. Accepting the deal simply results in a Non-Standard Game Over with the message "Zinyak lied". Since the entire game is a riff on The Matrix, the choice is even represented as a pair of doors (mirroring the Architect's offer from Matrix Reloaded), one red and one blue.
  • We Happy Few is set in a society where people assume the "Joy" drug to remove bad memories, thoughts, and feelings. The game opens with Arthur Hastings suddenly remembering his brother Percy's existence and something bad related to him. This prompts a choice: make Arthur take some Joy and ignore the memory, or have him refuse and see the world that's hiding beyond the Joy-induced illusion. The very end of the game presents a similar choice: Arthur can either take some Joy and return to blissful oblivion, or escape Wellington Wells while accepting the truth about Percy.

  • In Beyond the Canopy, Glenn gets two such moments in quick succession. When he sees some shady characters heading off to the Forest's Navel, he considers his grandfather's warning to stay the heck away from that area—just long enough to reject it and rush off to stop the bad guys. Right afterwards, the bad guys themselves tell Glenn to get out of their way or die.
  • One Kid Radd strip features a parody of this concept:
    Itty Bitty: This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. (He suddenly has two more arms) Or take the purple pill to relieve your acid indigestion. Or perhaps the orange pill to reduce your cholesterol. (Two more arms) Then there's the green pill for your receding hairline. And of course the yellow pill for... well, that's kinda personal. But remember, whichever pill you choose, you should always ask your doctor first.
  • xkcd spoofs this, along with a couple of other memorable scenes from The Matrix, when Neo takes a third option.
  • In Oglaf, it's subverted in "Felicity", where the hero chooses to return to his mundane life. Turnips are awesome.
  • The Noordegraaf Files has one, which the author says he deliberately based off the scene from The Matrix.
    Katrina: I can have Akila wipe your memory of all this, and have you wake up in your bed and live your life as a normal person, or you can stay here with me, continue to live in this world, and see things as they really are.
    • The page from which the above quote is taken is titled The God of Sleep, and who was the (greek) god of sleep? Morpheus.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Used by a group of villains here (warning MAJOR spoilers); oddly inverted in that it's the blue "pill" that connotes acceptance. This being OOTS, it comes complete with a Lampshade Hanging in the form of a Shout-Out to The Matrix.
    • Actually, the colors assigned to the two decisions make a lot of sense when you think about it. Choosing the blue orb and taking the IFCC's offer would mean V chose to continue living in the illusion that any problem can be solved with more arcane magical power. Choosing the red orb would mean V chose to "wake up" from that illusion and accept their own limitations.
  • PHD includes the scene in its "Graduate School as the Matrix" spoof, replacing the red and blue pills with two different flavors of ramen that sport the colors on their respective wrappers. "Nerdo" takes the red one, and suddenly finds himself in the real world (i.e. graduated), where he gets to see sunlight and actually has money in his pocket.
  • In Darths & Droids, Yoda offers Luke a choice between the "blue milk" and the "red brew". The blue milk is the same stuff his adopted parents have been feeding him, and will let him "become like everyone else. No more Force, no more danger, no more ... expectations". The red brew will flush the blue milk he's already consumed from his system and let him access his Jedi powers.

    Web Original 
  • From the Whateley Universe, in Bladedancer's origin story "Destiny's Wave". The Taoist Immortal Lan Caihe Ho offers Alex Farshine the choice: give up the magic sword and return to his mundane life, or keep it and become Handmaid Of The Tao, servant of powers of which she understands nothing.
  • SCP Foundation: A Foundation Tale introduces this in downplayed form where SCP personnel can tell their immediate families about the existence of the Foundationnote . Given how frightening this revelation is, if the family member being disclosed to is too disturbed by it, they have the option of literally taking a blue pill to forget the conversation ever took place.
  • Parodied in the RWBY Chibi episode "A Slip Through Time and Space Part 2" where Nora, in her latest caffeine-fueled adventure, ends up in the real world as a chibi figurine and led by similar figurines of Ruby and Jaune. Jaune offers Nora two choices: a "Blue vs. Red" shirt or a "Red vs. Blue" shirt only to figure out that Nora Took a Third Option: running back to her box and her world.

    Western Animation 
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Operation: R.E.C.R.U.I.T. is one big parody of The Matrix. A child named Bobby seeks to join the KND. Before being inducted into Sector V, he is given a choice between a red lollipop, which is sweet and will make him forget, or the sour blue lollipop, which would allow him a chance to prove himself worthy. He chooses blue and faces through many strenuous tests. In the end, it turns out that "Bobby" was just The Interesting Twins From Beneath the Mountain in disguise, trying to infiltrate the KND as a mole, and after the twins give up and storm off, it's revealed that Sector V knew it was the twins from the start. As they always do.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Parodied by the Secret Snake Club initiation, who use red and blue cupcakes instead of pills. Billy asks for a chocolate cupcake.
  • The Proud Family: Used in the fifth episode, "EZ Jackster". Instead of the pills, the mysterious Mega gives Penny a choice between a red computer mouse or a blue one to click on. Penny even lampshades the reference by calling him Morpheus.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Question Of The Call


Red or Blue

Bobby is asked to choose either a sweet or sour lollipop which will determine him joining the KND or not.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / RedPillBluePill

Media sources: