Basically, this is playing bait and switch with a trope. A work makes you think a trope is going to happen, but it doesn't.
But how could people know a trope is going to happen? Well, tropes live in the minds of the audience. As such, sufficiently Trope Savvy audience members can predict a familiar trope coming based on the hints dropped by the writer. So when the writer decides to build on this expectation, only to reveal that the expected "trope" was a Red Herring while an entirely different situation results, you have a Subverted Trope.
Phrased another way, the work is ultimately revealed not to be using the trope at all, but in the meantime was played up to look like it was.
This is one method of leveraging a trope to give a story texture. It certainly isn't the only way.
A subversion has two mandatory segments. First, the expectation is set up that something we have seen plenty of times before is coming, then that set-up is paid off with something else entirely. The set-up is a trope; the "something else" is the subversion.
To put this another way, a trope of the form "X are often Y" is not subverted by every X you can think of that isn't Y. If someone is murdered and there's a butler around, but he didn't do it, that's not automatically a subversion of The Butler Did It; that's an aversion. But if the writer makes it look like a typical example of The Butler Did It, then reveals he didn't, that's a subversion.
A full comparison could go something like this: A car chase is in progress at reckless speeds. The camera cuts to some workers carrying a Sheet of Glass, then cuts back to the panicked driver headed towards the workers. It seems pretty obvious that the driver is going to smash the glass sheet into a million fragments... or is it?
- If the car drives through the pane of glass, it's played straight.
- If the car drives through the pane of glass, and the workers are heard complaining about why cars that are being chased can avoid nearly everything but a pane of glass, it's lampshaded.
- If the car drives through the pane of glass, and the driver stops to explain the reason why he crashed into it, it's justified.
- If the car misses the pane of glass, it's subverted.
- If something else causes the glass to be broken before the car can even make it to where the glass pane broke, it's also subverted.
- If the car misses the pane of glass but a second car breaks it instead, it's a double subversion.
- If the pane of glass is broken before being hit by the car, which then drives through a different pane of glass carried by a second pair of workers, it's also double subverted.
- Another double subversion is if the car hits the glass and knocks it out of the workers' hands without damage to the glass or car... and the glass crumbles after it gets picked back up.
- If the car comes down the road in a series of wide turns, and it isn't clear if the car will hit the pane of glass (if it ever makes it there), it's zig-zagged.
- If the car disappears from view and isn't seen again until after the sound of glass breaking, it's implied.
- If the car stops before hitting the pane of glass and then takes a different route, it's defied.
- If the car drives into the pane of glass, and not only the glass shatters, but also the car, as well as the workers, it's exaggerated.
- If the car is not doomed to hit the pane of glass, but one of the workers sees the car coming and stops in the street such that the car drives into the pane of glass, it's invoked.
- If the car drives through the glass, and views are shown of damage sustained by the car either complicating the driveability of the vehicle and/or making the car more identifiable to the chasers, or the workers point out the direction of the car to the chasers as they drive by, it's deconstructed.
- However, if the chasing cars get flat tires driving over the glass shards strewn across the street, or if the drivers stop to see to the workers' injuries from the broken glass, it's reconstructed.
- If the car hits the pane of glass, and the chasing car(s) regain their lost trail from the scattered pieces of glass, it's exploited (and also Played for Drama.)
- If the car drives into the pane of glass, and the result is that the glass merely has a car-shaped hole in it, that's downplayed (and also Played for Laughs, but that's another matter. It's also Impact Silhouette played straight.)
- If the car drives into the pane of glass, but the glass is only slightly chipped, then that's also downplayed (and also played straight.)
- However, if the car drives into the pane of glass, and the result is that the glass merely has a car-shaped hole in it, but the pane of glass collapsed on itself, it's either played straight or a double subversion (And also breaking a downplay).
- If the car drives through the pane of glass backwards, or in any other weird way that a car should not be driving in, it's parodied.
- If the car drives through the pane of glass, but it's the car that shatters (instead of the glass), it's inverted (and a very shoddily-built car at that).
- If the car hits the pane of glass and drives through unharmed because the car company paid to have their car in the film and wouldn't allow its use unless it was show undamaged, it's enforced.
- If the workers are talking about the possibility of a car driving through the glass before the car chase reaches them, it's discussed.
- If the car's occupants mention the number of car chases that lead to a pane of glass being carried across a street, it's conversed.
- If the car drives into the pane of glass, but the glass endures and car bounces back, it is backfired.
- If there is no pane of glass despite road signs saying "glass factory", or no car chase despite hearing engines roaring from the distance while the workers transport the glass through the road, it's averted.
Additionally, note that a trope can be handled in different ways in different parts of a work; it's not uncommon for long-running serial works to sometimes play with or subvert tropes that they initially played straight.
Bear in mind that, just as Tropes Are Tools, subversions are not automatically good, witty, clever, or original.
Playing with a Trope compares this with many other ways that a trope can be used.
See also Discredited Trope, Dead Horse Trope, Double Subversion, Downplayed Trope, Playing with a Trope, Zig-Zagging Trope.
In-Universe Examples Only
- A series of Discover credit card ads established a pattern of people calling their customer service line, and having their queries answered by an employee who symbolically looks just like them ("We treat you like you'd treat you"). Then they subverted viewers' expectation that the employee's resemblance was purely symbolic, having the employee in a new ad be the caller's actual identical twin.
- Cross Game: A beautiful girl is attacked by three delinquents. But lo, a hero arrives! With but three mighty punches he decks the villains, saving the girl. Noticing her injured hand he gentlemanly offers to provide medical treatment at his conveniently nearby home...
- Wait a minute... we've seen this hero before. Gasp! He was part of the gang of delinquents — it's an Invoked Trope! Oh dear, what will happen to the beautiful innocent girl now? Will our onlooking heroine warn her in time?!
- Wait... what is the beautiful innocent victim doing now? She's got her cell phone out! She's calling the police! "That was extortion they tried to commit — the police need to know about it." The "delinquents" flee, revealing the truth.
- An Invoked Trope that then got subverted.
- Rurouni Kenshin has a degree of subversion of the Determinator trope, in how he reacts when he's truly put into a dangerous fight. The layers of his friendly, pacifistic personality start to fall away, until beyond a certain point he becomes the cold-blooded killer he once was.
- In March Comes in Like a Lion, Rei's name uses the kanji for zero and nothingness. However, My Hero, Zero is subverted when it just gives his adopted sister Kyoko fuel to taunt him with, as it is not played for Rule of Cool.
Kyoko: You're name is Rei? What a weird name! But it suits you ... "No home. No relatives. No school. No friends."
- Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V loves to use the viewer's expectations from previous Yugioh series against them. For example, the Warrior Therapist trope shows up a lot in previous series through duels, usually at the Darkest Hour when the opponent is about to crush them and has just revealed his/her tragic backstory. When Yuya reaches this moment, he doesn't have a way out and the duel has been so brutal that he winds up discovering his Superpowered Evil Side, accidentally enforcing his opponents views and destroying any chance at redemption or friendship. Furthermore Yuzu, Gongenzaka, Shun, Sergey, Jack, Reira and Reiji repeatedly subvert viewer expectations about their characters based on previous characters with similar roles and traits, especially Reiji.
- The writers seem to go out of their way to take elements consistent in previous Yu-Gi-Oh! shows and insert a bit of Surprisingly Realistic Outcome into them, creating many franchise-specific examples.
- Catwoman does this with Bastard Bastard. Some incarnations of Catwoman are the illegitimate daughter of Gotham-based mafia don Carmine Falcone and his mistress. She grows up with no knowledge of her parentage since Falcone cut ties with her mother before she was born, condemning them to live in poverty. Catwoman, even at her worse, has stronger morals than the most honorable version of her possible father.
- Green Lantern does this with All for Nothing. As a boy, Sodam Yat grew disgusted with his planet's murderous xenophobia, including when his fellows murdered an alien astronaut whose ship crashes on his planet. In response, he labored for years to repair the alien's ship and leave, but just as he was finished, a power ring arrived to induct him into the Green Lantern Corps. While that meant that now he didn't need the ship to leave the planet, the fact that he worked with that much determination to repair a ship he didn't know, nor how to pilot it or even where he could have gone after he launched, all for the sake of leaving a place and its evil is an incredible display of courage worthy of the Corps.
- Too Much Coffee Man: A character in a bar discusses how he has never seen a barfight happen in real life, and is approached by a man who says he is sitting on his jacket. He gets up from the bar stool to let the man have his jacket, and sits down as the man walks away.
- In her Pre-Crisis origin Donna Troy, Wonder Girl, and her adoptive family assume she's had an Adoptive Name Change as there were no records of her to be found. When her past is uncovered in Who Is Donna Troy? it turns out by some twist of fate, or perhaps due to her sister's innate connection to the truth her birth name was actually Donna.
- The Writing on the Wall has Adventurer Archaeologist Daring Do speculating that the eponymous writing is just a curse meant to scare off superstitious tomb robbers who might otherwise disturb the Ancient Tomb she was exploring, just like she had seen on dozens of similar buildings. She's right about it being meant to scare off tomb robbers, but it isn't a curse - it is a genuine warning against entering. The building isn't a tomb at all; it is an ancient nuclear waste storage facility built by humans.
This is not a place of honor. No great deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is here.
- Unbreakable Red Silken Thread:
- Subverted Brutal Honesty. Noah doesn't hold back when telling Cody of all the instances that prove that Gwen would never love him back, and that Cody has an extremely idealized image of her. Partially subverted because Noah held back for a very long time to spare Cody's feelings, and only told him because of the story's events.
- Subverted My Girl Is a Slut. An unusual case when it comes to Heather and Cody. The nature of their relationship would lead most to thinking this is the case, when it's actually subverted. Heather herself is actually ashamed of her sexual history though masks it well, Cody on the other hand focuses less on the fact that she has history and more on the fact that she chose him despite it.
- Justice League vs. The Fatal Five subverts Power Trio. Although Miss Martian, Jessica, and Thomas are the main three teen heroes of the movie, she's not as close to either of them as Jessica and Thomas are to each other. When she tries befriending Thomas, he's too out of it to respond to her but responds better to Jessica, so Miss Martian leaves the two be.
- Through much of Toy Story 2, Pete the Prospector plays the role of the wise old sage, dispensing advice to other characters, Woody in particular. But a glimpse of "Woody's Roundup", the TV show that represents his origin, shows Pete playing a self-sabotaging buffoon. The glimpse hints that his sagely nuggets of wisdom may actually be fool's gold. By the end of the film his true role as a selfish antagonist is revealed.
- In Turning Red, Meilin Lee believes she's Keeping the Handicap when she refuses to go through with the banishing ritual for her red panda spirit. She later discovers that by choosing to embrace the spirit, she has actually acquired complete control over it, and it's no longer really a handicap at all.
- Watchmen: Adrian Veidt is set up to be the ultimate in Ambiguously Gay, with all of the preening attention to his own physical appearance and lack of fighting ability that is associated with that trope. Then somebody tries to shoot him, and he responds by picking up an eight-foot-tall floor lamp and using it to bash the gunman into a fountain, then climbing in after him and demanding to know who sent him while shaking and choking him. Subverted even further when we find out that Veidt hired the assassin himself as a red herring, and when Veidt proceeds to beat the everloving crap out of Nite Owl and Rorschach simultaneously, and then proves his skill further by catching a bullet.
- The ending is a subversion. Rorschach and Nite Owl confront the now realized-to-be-the-evil-villain Adrian, he explains his master plan and when told that he will be stopped, he informs them that he carried out his plan before they even got there.
- The film of Birdy subverts the Downer Ending. All through the film, Al has been trying to get his fellow traumatised Vietnam vet and childhood friend Birdy to respond to him as a human being, but he becomes increasingly convinced that Birdy is suicidal. By the end of the film, Birdy has built himself a pair of wings and is about to jump off a flat roof, so that he can fly. Al knows he's going to do it and races to the roof to stop him. He arrives just in time to see Birdy leap from the roof to certain death. Al screams a Big "NO!" and runs to the edge of the roof... only to find Birdy standing on a different part of the flat roof a few feet below, dusting himself down. Birdy turns around, looks at Al, smiles and says "What?"
- Nightlight (2015) subverts the trope of Found Footage Films. Trailers and excerpts make it look like it's viewed through an In-Universe Camera, but it's actually an Impending Doom P.O.V. sequence from the perspective of a haunted flashlight.
- G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Knew Too Much. Every single story in it has its amateur detective explaining how a crime was committed. And then, when we expect the arrest, he explains how the criminal is too rich and powerful, or too well-connected, to be arrested, or the arrest would cause too many problems in other situations.
- Överenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt:
- You would have expected Deceased Parents Are the Best to be played straight, considering how Beatrice is treated by her uncle. But even though she misses her parents, she can still admit that they had flaws.
- Death by Childbirth is subverted when Sofia gets ecclampsia and becomes very ill, but survives.
- Gerridon and Jamethiel of Chronicles of the Kencyrath were twins, and consorts - as well as the most infamous people in their people's history. Sounds like Villainous Incest, right? Well, no: twincest was culturally sanctioned in their time, and very traditional. And the heroes are shaping up to be twincestuous too!
- The Green-Sky Trilogy does this for False Utopia. Sure, the Kindar are a Perfect Pacifist People with a society built on a Big Lie (the exile of dissenters who became the Erdlings) and has serious issues with narcotic abuse and fading psionic skills...but when the whole thing was exposed due to the High Priestess's Batman Gambit, the Erdlings turn out to be almost as pacifistic as the Kindar, people adjust to the reality in a relatively calm manner, and most make an effort to integrate the societies. By the end of the tie-in game, the society is well on its way to ditch the "false" label entirely.
- In the season 2 finale of Carnivàle, Jonesy strikes Varlyn Stroud unconscious with a log of wood. He then runs into the house that Varlyn was about to enter and rescues Sophie, leaving Varlyn and Varlyns handgun unattended right outside the door. Seconds later, Josey gets shot... By Sophie.
- Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman seems to have a straight example of Perspective Reversal at first glance. Sully is generally more progressive than most of the other men in town about almost every issue: ethnical minorities, women's rights, controversial books in the new town library, the theory of evolution, homosexuality... But when it comes to the railway and other building projects, Sully is the one fighting "progress" and the other men are supporting it. Sully has good reasons to dislike that kind of "progress" though, because he knows how this would affect the local Cheyennes, all the animals in the nearby forest and the nature scenes. Which would have been a radical viewpoint in the 1860s/1870s. The other men on the other hand will only want to make a quick profit, and will not care too much about if other values can be lost. So it means that Sully still is the progressive one and the other men the more conservative ones.
- This is a staple of much of the comedy on Mongrels; starting out with what seems to be a buildup to an obvious joke only to quickly turn it around (often lampshading it in the process), like so:
Nelson: How did you get these documents?Badger: Let's just say I have a... "mole" on the inside.(cut to an ordinary-looking person in an office, grabbing documents off a table and sticking them into an envelope)(cut back)Nelson: Huh. Y'know the way you said that I was expecting an actual mole.Badger: Nope, he's a person.
- Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger had a Monster of the Week named Debo Hyogakki. He was credited with having wiped out the dinosaurs, but being the first opponent that the team faced, it seemed to be an Informed Ability. Then we got episode 17, where it was revealed that the monsters were getting stronger as Deboss was reviving, to the point where the Kyoryugers started having trouble with the Mooks until they got their Full-Potential Upgrade. Then episode 21 subverted it even further by revealing when he was revived that Hyogakki wasn't the only one who wiped out the dinosaurs. He, along with Debo Viruson and Debo Nagareboshi, were a Power Trio known as the Zetsumates, a pun on the Japanese word zetsumetsu, or extinction. Then in episode 25, Hyogakki, as the last of the Zetsumates, showed his true power by making it so that if the people in the city shed a single tear, they'd turn into a Human Popsicle. So while you might have chuckled at his reputation when you first met this guy, it ultimately is revealed that he wasn't nearly as weak as he initially seemed.
- Lemon Demon's Being a Rock Star handily subverts the Rock-Star Song trope. It starts with some generic lyrics about rockstardom, but rapidly switches to insulting the concept in the space of a verse or two.
- P.D.Q. Bach's "Concerto for Horn and Hardart" contains a subversion of the Theme with Variations.
Peter Schickele: The striking thing about the middle movement, the Theme with Variations, is that the variations have nothing whatsoever to do with the theme. Now, that's one of those things that everybody takes for granted, but why not? I mean... This is apparently variations on some other theme. Perhaps we'll turn that other work up someday.
- "A Wonderful Flag-less World" is a song about subverting tropes, and whether constantly subverting every trope makes for an interesting story or not.
- In The Walking Dead:
- Season One subverts the Big Bad trope in Season One with "The Stranger". Halfway through the game, The Protagonist Lee discovers that Clementine, a girl he treats like his daughter, has been communicating with a Mysterious Stranger over her walkie-talkie. This man is implied to know a lot about Lee's group, and holds something against Lee. After an episode of watching Lee's group try and fail to stay alive, he kidnaps Clementine and Lee goes through hell to try and get her back. It's only when Lee and the Stranger meet face to face that he reveals why he hates Lee; at the end of Episode 2, Lee's group stole from an abandoned station wagon, which actually belonged to this man. Because of this, his Wife and child died, and he blames Lee. The man we expected to be the Big Bad turned out to be an Anti-Villain.
- The series as a whole has multiple subversions of the Sadistic Choice, which constantly turns out to be Morton's Fork. Subverted choices include but are not limited to: Saving a young boy or a young man from zombies (the young boy's father always saves him, the young man can't be saved), choosing whether or not to euthanize or attempt to revive an old man who has had a heart attack and may be on the brink of zombifiying (he dies either way), deciding on stealing from an ostensibly abandoned vehicle (if you refuse to steal, the rest of your group steals anyway), and saving an injured man or a woman (an inversion; they both make it).
- In Fallout 4, Elder Arthur Maxson of the East Coast Brotherhood of Steel seems to be set up for being a Puppet King for the Lost Hills Elders back in California. Maxson gained his position at the age of 16, is only 20 years old (which would make him seem inexperienced), and is praised by his followers for bringing his chapter of the Brotherhood "back onto the right path" of following the Brotherhood's Codex. It's also suggested that, since Maxson took control (unwillingly) because of the death of Sarah Lyons in combat, the woman who he had his first crush upon, that he's been indoctrinated by the Elders back out west in order to become a Principles Zealot. However, this trope is subverted in that Maxson actually does wield massive authority and respect among his organization: he is highly charismatic, the members of the Brotherhood love him to a near-fanatical degree, and he is more or less treated like a honorable and mighty warrior king. Also, while he has Taken A Level In Jerkass, he still has a noticeable honorable side; he is actively spreading the Brotherhood's influence not because the Lost Hills Elders are telling him to do it, but because he wants to use the Brotherhood's resources to help people (something that the Lost Hills Elders are not happy about). He also refuses to let go of all of Elder Lyons' reforms (his Brotherhood still recruits Wastelanders, they still protect Wastelanders by annihilating dangerous mutants and A.I.s, and rule fairly (if firmly) over the peoples in the lands they conquer), and still thinks that what he's doing is for the betterment of the human race (even though he takes no pleasure from it).
- Explorers of Souls: It is a staple of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, fanfiction, and comics to make the first Mon the protagonist sees upon awakening their partner for life. Despite what Mel assumes, the Pikachu that she first meets has no interest in adventuring or becoming her compadre.
- George the Dragon subverts the expectations of dragon dietary preferences.
- In Grrl Power, Sydney fumbles for her glasses, talking as if she were Blind Without 'Em. She then takes out the overconfident bad guy and exclaims, "Trope subverted!" before putting her glasses back on and explaining that no one's that blind -- well, yes, some people are, but they don't get to be cops.
- In "The Island and the Idol" story arc in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, when two Sufficiently Advanced Aliens depart abruptly and somewhat anticlimactically, Molly gripes that there's supposed to be a big lightshow when that happens, and cites several movies to prove her point. The less impressive aliens she's with at the time sympathize, and fire all of the ship's weapons at once to make a fancy display for her. She is pleased.
- The Amazing World of Gumball:
- Does this with Fat Idiot. Mr. Fitzgerald is scarily on the ball when it comes to parenting, and seems to be a very authoritative and strict person, despite his size - which, given what the Fitzgeralds are like under their shells, may not be indicative of his weight anyway.
- Does this with Happily Married. Gaylord Robinson and his wife Margaret are "happily" married because they argue, a lot. However, in Season 6 he seems to HATE his wife now and doesn’t want to be married to her. He tried to get her dunked for being a witch in “The Intelligence”, tried to burn their marriage certificate in “The Understanding”, and said that he messed up with his Halloween costume because his wife is still his bride. (He was Frankenstein and she was his wife)
- Braceface: Does this with Beta Bitch. While Alyson Malitski was friends with Nina Harper for a large part of the show, she was never truly cruel or mean-spirited; she just did whatever Nina told her to do because, like a lot of teenagers, she just wanted to fit in and be noticed. Eventually, after Alyson and Conner discover they have feelings for each other and start dating, Nina forces Alyson to choose between her and Conner, with Alyson performing a Heel–Face Turn by ultimately choosing Conner (and by extension, Conner's friends) over Nina.
- The Dragon Prince:
- Does this with Conveniently an Orphan. Rayla parents were supposed to be guarding the Dragon King and his egg, but when he was slain and the egg was lost, they fled. She'd rather believe that they were dead, since she feels that they showed weakness in running away.
- Does this with Jerkass Ball. When Callum is in a coma because of his use of dark magic, Rayla spends two episodes being angry at him for doing so even though he did it to save her life. To be fair, however, she still gives him doting care and throws in a gentle word of encouragement every now and again. Subverted when she begins to understand how serious Callum's fever dream, or dark magic coma, is after Callum begins having trouble breathing.
- Does this with No Sympathy. Rayla is angry at Callum for using dark magic despite his saving her life, and spends her time in the last two episodes chastising him for doing so. Subverted when she realizes how serious Callum's fever dream, or dark magic coma, actually was; she ends up clutching Callum in a bone-crushing hug, begging Callum not to die.
- Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: Does this with Ferris Wheel Date Moment. In Ratland, Kipo confesses to having a crush on her friend Benson. He explains that he was just trying to show her that the surface isn’t so bad and that he likes her as a friend, before going on to say that he’s gay.
- Solar Opposites: Does this with Humanity Is Infectious. Korvo wants to get off Earth as quickly as possible while Terry at least tries to assimilate with humanity. Both are still learning and are quick to misunderstand basic human mannerisms or use their technology in the wrong way.
- Superman: The Animated Series plays straight and subverts many tropes, but it is noteworthy the way it handled Bury Your Gays. Maggie Sawyer was primarily a victim of Hide Your Lesbians, up until the second season episode Apokolips...Now! there had not been any hints to her orientation in the comics, but she seemed to be legitimately set up for death. When she is attacked by Intergang she is thrown from her car in a fiery explosion and she is shown horribly burned beneath a crushing pile of rubble, noticeably without a blinking eye or moving fingers. It looks like she is Killed Off for Real, especially when Dan Turpin starts calling the attackers "murderers" while screaming at them, except a later scene reveals her to be Not Quite Dead. This later scene, which revealed that she had survived and thus subverted the Bury Your Gays trope, also provided the first ever hint at her sexuality when she is visited in the hospital by a woman that the DVD commentary reveals is Toby Raines, her partner in the comics. So, Maggie not only survives the attack, which is a straight subversion of the Bury Your Gays premise, but the setup actually lead to a (partial) revelation of her sexuality, something this trope is usually invoked specifically to avoid, making it also an inversion.
- The Simpsons is the master of the subverted trope.
Burns: Books and cocoa in the same store? What's next, a talking banana?Smithers: (after a moment of fruitless waiting) Uh, I don't see one, sir.Burns: Of course not. The very notion of a talking banana is absurd. But still....
- One example of many is in the episode "Monty Can't Buy Me Love," where Cue the Flying Pigs is subverted when Mr. Burns and Smithers enter a book store:
- In Vino Veritas and Actually, I Am Him are subverted in the episode "Mountain of Madness," where a park ranger enters a cabin and finds it full of partying employees from the nuclear plant.
Ranger: Hey, what is going on here? Who are you people? This is a lookout post. Where is Ranger McFadden?
Drunk: I was just happy to see so many nice people!Ranger: Quiet, you drunk. Where is Ranger McFadden?(The camera then moves a step to the side, revealing a straight-laced ranger with glasses)Ranger McFadden: Right here, sir, behind the drunk.
- A third example, also from "Monty Can't Buy Me Love," is when Mr. Burns, Homer et al have finally found the Loch Ness monster, who proves impossible to subdue. Finally Mr. Burns walks toward the monster with a stern look in his face. We expect an epic fight where Mr. Burns is revealed handing out an unexpected ass-kicking — but instead the scene cuts to the team's helicopter in the air, with Nessie tied up and swinging below. Mr. Burns explains to the admiring team:
Burns: I was a little worried when he swallowed me, but ... well, you saw the rest.
- Another episode subverts the Sheet of Glass example mentioned above. In this case, the car hits the glass, but simply knocks it down flat on the ground and drives over it. The workers then pick the glass back up noting "Wow, tough glass."
- The glass example is subverted again in the episode where Bart gets an elephant. The elephant runs off, stampeding down a street towards two workers carrying a glass pane. They jump out of the way of the elephant, with the glass surviving, only to jump right into the path of a skateboarding Bart... Who they also successfully avoid, eventually making it all the way across the street, glass intact, to complete their goal of throwing it into a dumpster, shattering it to pieces.
- The Simpsons really loves playing subversions for laughs. Another example: When the Simpsons are kicked out of their house, Homer remarks: "Well, at least it's not raining!" Beat. "See, it's not raining."
- Sponge Bob Squarepants is almost as good at doing this as The Simpsons is. In "The Slumber Party", Mr. Krabs enlists the help of SpongeBob to spy on Pearl at the titular slumber party, from which her father has explicitly been forbidden. When the party starts, we see what is obviously SpongeBob dressed as a woman, making no effort to disguise his voice and calling himself "Girly Teengirl from Farawayville." Pearl and her girlfriends call him out on this, and "Girly Teengirl" gets upset and runs off crying...right past a normally-dressed SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs, who wonder who that strange teenage doppelgänger girl was.
- The Ambulance Cut is brilliantly subverted in "Born Again Krabs", when Mr. Krabs discovers a badly burned patty so vile that it tried to bite SpongeBob. Mr. Krabs insists that it's safe to eat, and opens his mouth to take a bite. Immediately cut to a speeding ambulance with the siren blaring...and then cut back to Mr. Krabs, watching it go by and remarking, "Oh look, an ambulance", before he bites into the patty and is instantly rushed to the hospital anyway.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil does this with We Used to Be Friends. The Deep Trouble comics show that a falling out with Star was the in-universe reason for Alfonzo Dolittle & Ferguson O'durguson being Demoted to Extra in Season 2 — Star stopped taking them with her and Marco on adventures because of their immature behavior. She gets even more reason to distance herself from them when she finds out that they've been breaking into her room and screwing around with her stuff, and she speaks of them rather disdainfully even before learning about that. Star's offhand line about how Marco would still be hanging out with them if she were never born implies that Marco spends much less time with them. He doesn't look too happy to see that they've been breaking into his house to raid Star's room either. The episode "Sophomore Slump" reveals that Marco is still friends with them and hangs around them. Though they did get annoyed at Marco when he keeps talking about Mewni, they accept Marco's apology for his behavior and they present him with their lucky dice as he leaves for Mewni.
- In Family Guy, Peter has just launched himself from a cannon. Cut to a living room:
Guy: Great, I've got all my dominoes set up exactly how I want them, next to the good china. Now I'll just place this priceless Fabergé egg next to my newborn hemophiliac baby....(Peter lands with thud outside the window, and looks in.)Peter: Wow. Those are all really nice things.
- Clone High:
- Single-Target Sexuality: For most of the show's run, Abe is only in love with Cleo and doesn't even notice that Joan is in love with him. But in the end, Abe has the sudden epiphany that he's in love with Joan.
- Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Toots, the blind Jazz player, starts a speech that sounds like it'll be the voice of reason in troubled times, but instead decides to let everyone get on with their angry mob.
- The Hollow: Does this with The Big Damn Kiss. Mira and Adam do kiss, but it's extremely awkward and he immediately follows it up by saying that he is not interested in her.
- Total Drama: Does this with Team Mom. Courtney from Killer Bass sees herself as one, but she overdoes it to the point where she's viewed as being obnoxious.
- Rick and Morty:
- Does this with Humans Are Not the Dominant Species. The viewer is lead to believe that cyborg dogs have taken over the earth, usurping humans as the dominant species. Instead, it turns out that it was All Just a Dream designed to convince the leader of the dog rebellion that taking over the Earth would make them just like the humans, leading him to decide to colonize another dimension instead.
- Does this with Never My Fault in "Rick Potion #9". Rick and Morty both blame each other for the end of the world. Rick blames Morty for everything due to wanting him to make a love serum in the first place and refusing to simply pass him a screwdriver, even comparing it to drugging a girl so he could rape her. Morty, on the other hand, blames Rick for haphazardly rushing his cure by throwing a bunch of random genes together and hoping for the best, which results in mutating everyone into "Cronenbergs." However, Morty is willing to accept his part of the blame when Rick calls him out on his actions, saying that he should have listened to Rick when he refused to make the serum. However, Morty tells Rick "you got to accept your part of the blame too", which Rick refuses to accept, constantly. Telling Morty "you're welcome" for all his mistakes and even pointing out in the end that if he didn't screw up as much as he did then the two of them would have died anyway, as if that would make Morty feel any better.
- Phineas and Ferb does this with Birthday Party Goes Wrong. In episode "Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together", where Dr. Doofenshmirtz arranges a birthday party for his daughter Vanessa and invites all her friends. She hates it because she feels she has outgrown all the hearts and ponies. However, the place gets trashed when Perry the Platypus escapes, and Vanessa's friends are impressed by the result.
- Regular Show subverted the Sheet of Glass used as example in the page in "Guys Night 2" when the cars pass by the side of the workers, just after it the workers left fall the glass because they were distracted by the persecution.