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Screening the Call

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The Hero would be happy to answer the Call to Adventure. After all, he's been waiting in the Call Reception Area, waiting for the message to appear — but he learned that someone's been clearing the voice mail behind his back. It seems that some well-meaning family, friends or loved ones are preventing the Hero from catching the call.

Why? Maybe the Hero has really overprotective parents who don't want their child harmed. Maybe some tragedy has occurred in the past and it's known that adventure runs in the family. Maybe the Hero has a really nasty fate in store for them. Maybe the town is uncomfortable with the Hero's superpowers and would really rather he were just normal. Maybe they have an interest in making sure Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here (after all, adventure is really bad for property values). For a Regular Caller situation a protective Love Interest might be determined that We Are Not Going Through That Again. In really extreme circumstances, those Screening the Call might take the Hero out of the equation.

Eventually, those well-meaning but obstructive people will discover that The Call Knows Where You Live, and will thus be forced to give in (assuming the Call doesn't exact revenge by killing them off first). See also Locked Out of the Loop.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z: Good luck getting Gohan to help save the world if Chi-Chi's nearby.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Homura Akemi actively tries to prevent Madoka from becoming a Magical Girl. The reasons why become very clear as the show goes on, but she turns out to be right in doing this. In accordance with the Rule of Drama, her attempts only make Kyubey/the Incubators more determined to call Madoka.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, the rest of the characters are constantly working to keep Haruhi Locked Out of the Loop regarding her own powers. They have a very good reason, though.
  • Eas of Fresh Pretty Cure! does this to herself. You see, she was meant to be the user of Akarun and become the fourth Pretty Cure. But, her evil aura prevented Akarun from approaching her. Once she died, Akarun stepped in, revived her, and turned her into Cure Passion.
  • In Noir, Mireille Bouquet was one of the candidates for Altena's plan to resurrect the title duo of warrior maidens, but her parents Laurent and Odette did not approve. Wound up being a moot point when the two of them and Mireille's brother were murdered by a Soldat assassin and ultimately Mireille gets caught up in Altena's plan anyway, but they tried. Plus Odette made a certain Last Request to said Soldat assassin aka little Kirika, which ultimately threw Altena's plans to HELL.

     Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Invoked in Knightfall. Bruce gives Jean-Paul the Mantle of the Bat because he knew that if he'd given it to Dick, he'd try to get revenge against Bane and he didn't want him in the same position he was in.
    • Invoked again post Batman: Endgame: When Alfred finds out that Bruce is alive but has no memory of ever being Batman, he decides to go above and beyond protecting him and is essentially telling anyone who knows he's Batman "Don't do anything to bring that memory back. He's happy."
  • Daredevil: In Daredevil (Chip Zdarsky), Spider-Man invokes this on Matt Murdock after a series of events causes him to go on a strange and suicidal run, telling Matt that he's letting the rest of New York's heroes know that if he goes back out as Daredevil, they need to shut him down.

     Fan Works 
  • Played with in With Strings Attached: After Ringo crops up psychic and John starts flying in front of the others, the Fans decide they'd better get the other two some magic to prevent group friction. They maneuver George to his shapeshifting ring, but before they can deal with Paul they're kicked off their computer by an official because their school is closing for Winter Solstice Vacation. Paul spends an undetermined amount of time drinking and jealous because of this, though the Fans finally do get to him once they return to school.
  • White Devil of the Moon has Fate preventing the Sailor Senshi from finding Nanoha because a) Nanoha has just been badly injured and is a workaholic, and b) if Nanoha gets involved, she will overwork herself trying to solve the Senshi's problem, putting her back in the hospital.
  • The village of Sunny Town in Story of the Blanks is full of friendly, charming ponies who have never earned their Cutie Marks. They murder anypony who does, seeing "the Mark" as a curse.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: Chapter 12 of the sequel Diplomat at Large reveals that this happened to the yaks. One in particular was in charge of turning away attempts at communication from outside and got a little overzealous, so the actual leaders never got Celestia’s request for aid in the war effort. They’re furious when they find out they missed a good battle, and tell Twilight that if they’d known, they would have happily joined up.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru seemed to be doing this to Luke Skywalker in Episode IV of Star Wars, at least before the Empire caught up with them. Uncle Owen was the staunchest proponent of Luke staying home despite Beru's insistence that "Luke's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him." Owen's answer: "That's what I'm afraid of." We're initially led to believe that they're afraid Luke's going to get himself killed just like his father, but after a certain reveal in The Empire Strikes Back, we learn that what they're really afraid of is the possibility that Luke might fall to the Dark Side and go evil like his father. Of course, Owen's logic is a bit skewed. There are no more Jedi save for Ben/Obi-Wan, and he doesn't even know Anakin became Darth Vader, so chances of Luke becoming a Jedi or Sith just by leaving home are nil. But he's still under the impression that Luke leaving the house, never mind the planet, in any way = him dying or becoming a Sith/Jedi/Evil/whatever.
    • Owen was around when Anakin slaughtered the Sand People encampment in revenge for kidnapping and killing his mother. Owen may not be aware of the Sith, or of Anakin's ultimate fate, but he probably can recognize Lightsaber-Crazy when he sees it, and is worried that Luke will exhibit the same tendencies. It's also possible Obi-Wan gave Owen and Beru strict instructions when he left Luke with them not to have Luke draw too much attention to himself and to lay low.
  • In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Sam's new girlfriend Carly is playing this trope when Sam starts assembling the clues to a new adventure. She would prefer that he leave his dangerous ways in the past while he safely basks in their glory in the present. She fears that if he goes off to war again that it will be a repeat of the tragedy that claimed her brother. Unfortunately for her when she leaves Sam she unwittingly walks straight into the thick of the plot and becomes a Damsel in Distress.
  • In Be Cool, Raji literally does this to Elliot when he deletes messages left for him by Chili. He'd prefer to keep Elliot as his muscle forever rather than let him embark on a movie career.
  • In Poolhall Junkies, Johnny is understandable quite mad after learning that he has been invited to play in a professional tournament multiple times but his manager Joe kept throwing away the letters so that he could keep making money off of him.

  • Chrestomanci: Eric Chant has the capacity to become a nine-lived enchanter and one of the most powerful magic users in the multiverse. Unfortunately, his big sister Gwendolyn stole all his extra lives when he was a baby and has been using his magic to amplify her own talents, all without his knowing.
  • Harry's foster family, The Dursleys, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Uncle Vernon uproots the entire family rather than admit his nephew's a wizard, forcing Hagrid to track them down and hand-deliver the letter.
    • This happens all the time to Harry Potter; it's not just the Dursleys. In the second book, it was Dobby; in the third, the Ministry, and in the fifth, Dumbledore.
  • Ida's ghost-related powers in Shaman of the Undead didn't manifest until she left her family house. Tekla speculates that that's because magical wards that were supposed to stop demons and Black Magic from entering the house were also weeding out ghosts, and without ghosts, Ida had no way to realize what her powers are, much less use them.
  • Lyra's mother in His Dark Materials hides her in a cave and keeps her in a drugged sleep to prevent her from fulfilling her destiny.
    • In the first book the Headmaster of Jordan College tried to kill Lord Asriel because he knew the man's experiments would instigate the conflict with the church and that Lyra would be drawn into it.
  • In The Rowan, all the psychic Primes who handle interstellar teleportation were trained by the neurotic, agoraphobic and overbearing Siglen who telepathically impressed her own inability to handle personal travel into all the other Primes, making travel off their homeworlds a mind-scarringly traumatic experience and leaving The Rowan unable to assist her distant lover in a Bug War that threatens to kill his entire planet. Luckily, The Power of Love leads her to overcome the effects by realizing that it's just psychological baggage, not an inherent trait of Primes.
  • The overprotective parent flavor shows up in Codex Alera, though it's at least partially an accident: Tavi's mother was trying to suppress his furycrafting abilities slightly to hide who he was and make him less of a target. She accidentally overdid things a bit, turning him into an Un-Sorcerer instead.
  • In a rare successful example, Kirney Slane's Cameo in the Wraith Squadron novel Mercy Kill shows her insisting, several times, that ex-squadmate Piggy is not dragging her children into his latest mess (not an entirely unfounded fear, since a number of current Wraiths are the children or students of her companions). He eventually has to promise point-blank that he won't, twice, before asking her about the information he really came for.
  • In The Witcher, Queen Calanthe of Cintra uses every trick in the book to stop her daughter Pavetta from marrying a man to whom she was promised through the Law of Surprise. In the end, Calanthe yields and lets the two of them be together. The resulting daughter, Ciri, is in turn promised to Geralt through the same Law. The Queen makes it clear she'd rather kill him than let him take the girl away to become a witcher. Despite this, Ciri eventually ends up in Geralt's care.

    Live Action TV 
  • On Chuck, it was revealed that Chuck was targeted for CIA recruitment during college, but his friend Bryce got him expelled so he wouldn't get involved with spy work. Later on, it becomes apparent that Chuck's dad Stephen Bartowski has been Screening the Call since Chuck was a child. Needless to say, it doesn't work.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy is adamant about keeping Dawn out of combat. That's all well and good, but considering Dawn's the sister of the Slayer and is quite literally bound by destiny to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and fight the evil that results, it becomes fairly obvious to everyone that trying to keep Dawn out of danger only serves to make her an easy target. By season 7 and the comics, Dawn has received training, and Took a Level in Badass, becoming a hell of a lot more useful and less likely to be kidnapped.

  • A Threshold Guardian will often prevent those who are not ready for The Call from receiving it, often needing to be defeated as proof of a passing grade or simply as a judge of character. If they weren't there, the hero could be overwhelmed by the following challenge, instead of rising to the occasion. Can appear as anything from a local bully to a training course.
  • According to Buddhist legend, the parents of the Buddha tried to prevent him from seeing any forms of human suffering. (There was a prophecy that he'd either conquer the world or found a great religion; they were hoping for world domination.) Eventually, however, he ran into an old man, a sick man and a dead man and realized that there was a great deal of misery in the world, and decided to pursue the religious life in the hopes of finding a way of relieving the pain of existence.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Seers of the Throne, the major antagonist group in the roleplaying game Mage: The Awakening, make it a point to interrupt Awakenings if the mage won't throw in their lot with the Seers. According to the game's Karma Meter, this is a very bad thing.
    • The more benign version of this is done by the Guardians of the Veil, who (quite understandably) believe Awakening should be a privilege, not a gift to be handed out willy-nilly. As a result, they create a sort of pseudo-conspiracy, called the Labyrinth (a trail of supposedly world-controlling organizations and conspiracies that also happen to be complete bunk) meant to mislead people only in it for the power away from Awakening and people Genre Savvy enough to realize they're being fooled towards it. More than one Guardian is proof that it works. Sadly, quite a few Guardians get caught up in playing the Labyrinth for their own ends, which hasn't helped their reputation.

    Video Games 
  • In Psychonauts, Raz's father forces Raz into rigorous acrobatics training in order to keep him from mastering his psychic potential. Not because he's overprotective but due to his prejudices against psychics. It turns out, during The Reveal, that the father he meets in the mental realm was built on Raz's exaggerated perceptions of his father and his real father appears to tell Raz he really was trying to protect him.
    Web Animation 
  • Invoked in Hellsing Ultimate Abridged, as Abridged!Intergra knows that Abridged!Alucard will go anywhere she doesn't want him to, but nowhere she wants him to, so she has Abridged!Walter tell him that he has vacation days, and he can go anywhere besides Brazil. So, he goes to Brazil, where the latest threat is.

  • In Girl Genius, Agatha's uncle, her foster parents and Dr. Beetle went to great lengths to conceal her true nature and abilities until she was old enough to survive the inevitable civil war that followed the revelation of her true identity.
  • Gloomverse: Turns out to be the reason Assistant didn't have her hat when the comic began. That "dark overlord" the Lemonheads keep going on about? It's real, and swiped it before she could find it, only returning it to her when not doing so would have meant a major catastrophe.

    Western Animation 
  • Toph's parents in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Aang and friends invite her to join their team, but her parents (who can't comprehend that their blind daughter is far from helpless) want to keep her isolated and protected. Luckily, it's hard to keep tabs on the world's greatest Earthbender, and even after she leaves, Toph's parents still can't give up on keeping her out of the adventure; they hire a pair of highly skilled adult Earthbenders to find Toph and bring her back. The Earthbenders do find her... but then she kicks their asses and sends them back in their own steel box that was meant to hold her. By doing something thought to be impossible.
    • And in The Legend of Korra, the Order of the White Lotus tries to keep the new Avatar Korra safe by secluding her in the South Pole so she can train properly (and to avoid a repeat of the last Avatar where Aang went missing for a hundred years) and Tenzin explicitly forbids her from coming to Republic City where a new threat is building. Naturally, it doesn't work and she stows away to go there on her own and their insistence on keeping her secluded seems to have backfired as the now-teenage Korra has very little in the way of social skills, something that allows her to be manipulated.
      • They actually had very good reason to keep her secluded, as she had been the target of a kidnapping attempt by the Red Lotus when she was a small child.


Video Example(s):


The Letters from No One

The Dursleys try to prevent Harry from receiving his Hogwarts letter.

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Main / ScreeningTheCall

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