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Sympathetic Wince

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"That's gotta hurt!"
Wincing is a natural reaction to pain and/or humiliation. But sometimes, it isn't the target of pain or humiliation that winces, but those around them.

The Sympathetic Wince is a wonderful way for a story to show that a character is compassionate, that someone's mishap is painful and/or humiliating, or all of the above at once.

If everyone in a group winces, it's also a Universal Group Reaction.

Butt Monkeys and Woobies, particularly Iron Woobies, are often on the receiving end of such a response.

The people involved could run the gamut from True Companions to Friendly Enemies to complete strangers. If may even be a character they are usually distainful towards, showing Everyone Has Standards. If the painful act is a Groin Attack, nearly every male in the immediate area is liable to wince in sympathy.

In audio-only productions, a wince can be conveyed either by narration or by a character making an indicative noise, such as "Ooo" or "Ouch".

Often followed by sympathetic calls of "Are you okay?" or someone proclaiming "That's Gotta Hurt!"

A Super-Trope to Share the Male Pain. Compare "I Can't Look!" Gesture.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ranma ½: In one episode, during one of Ranma's morning practice sessions against Genma, Ranma is flung onto the roof with enough force that the kitchen shakes. Kasumi winces, noting, "That hurt" before suggesting that Akane check on her fiance.

    Films — Animation 
  • A Bug's Life: While watching Thumper beat Flik senseless in front of the other ants and grasshoppers, Molt visibly winces, crossing over with Even Evil Has Standards.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: When Puss does his "Spanish Splinter" maneuver, stabbing the Sleeping Giant of Del Mar under the thumbnail, it causes everyone watching the fight to wince. It happens again when Puss and Kitty do it to a gigantic version of Big Jack Horner at the climax of the movie, eliciting a wince from Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
  • Robots: When Ratchet hits the ceiling, loses his clothes...err, his upgrades, and is hanged in humiliation, the outmode robots (except Aunt Fanny, who seems to appreciate the sight) look sympathetic. Cappy, Piper, and Fender quickly look aside.
  • In Turning Red, when Mei's mother brandishes Mei's menstrual pads in front of her entire class, Mei's teacher winces due to the second hand embarrassment.

    Films — Live Action 

  • Outlander: In Written in my Own Heart's Blood. After learning that Lord John slept with his wife, Jamie punches the man in the face. This shatters the orbital socket, creating a jagged bone fracture that snags the ocular muscle, putting John in danger of losing his eye. The procedure for releasing the muscle is so painful, Jamie winces and gasps as he watches, literally forgetting that he's mad at John and leaning in to give his friend moral support.
  • In Warrior Cats, it's pretty common for other cats to wince at another's injuries or emotions; for instance, in the first series, Fireheart does this in Fire and Ice when witnessing Cinderpaw limp on her crippled leg, in A Dangerous Path when Leopardstar mocks Bluestar, and in The Darkest Hour when hearing the pain in Bramblepaw's voice as the apprentice begs his sister to come back to their Clan.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory: When a spat over a parking spot between Sheldon and Howard is picked up by their respective Love Interests, Bernadette decides to cut as deep to the bone as she can by asking, "Gosh, Amy, I'm sensing a little hostility. Is it maybe because, like Sheldon's work, your sex life is also theoretical?" Even Penny winces at that, with a sharp, "Damn..."
  • Outlander: In the series premiere, Claire has to set Jamie's dislocated shoulder. The men of Clan MacKenzie are visibly wincing, torn between keeping an eye on the English stranger who is in striking distance of their kinsman and wanting to look away from the painful looking procedure.

  • Adventures in Odyssey: In one episode, after Eugene Meltsner openly mocks the idea of Connie Kendall becoming a teacher, she hits at Eugene's biggest weak spot, and very acidly replies, "Oh yeah! Well, at least I have a driver's license! " Their employer, the kindly and all-around grandfatherly Whit, lets out a sharp "Ooo!" indicating that even he was wincing at the viciousness of Connie's retort.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • The Amazing Digital Circus: When Pomni vomits from disorientation in the pilot, a few of the other performers can be seen reacting in the background – Ragatha and Jax wince, and Zooble shakes their head.

    Western Animation 
  • The Cuphead Show!: After Mugman thrusts the invisible impenetrable sweater onto the Devil, the sweater electrocutes him, leaving the cup brothers and the rest of the crowd to wince at his pain (it doesn't stop an elephant from eating his popcorn though).
  • Looney Tunes: "Ballot Box Bunny". Yosemite Sam sets up a cannon to blow Bugs Bunny to bits at his back door. Bugs tricks Sam into opening it and winces as the cannon goes off offscreen.
  • Molly of Denali: In "Spring Carnival," everyone winces when Trini throws a snowball balloon at Tooey, causing it to splash in his face.
  • The Pink Panther: In "Pink Plasma", the Panther winces as he watches Dracula run from the shark in the moat, twice.
  • Total Drama Island: During the cliff-diving challenge, Harold lands in the water with his legs spread apart. This sight causes Geoff, Bridgette, Eva, and even the sharks to wince.


Video Example(s):


Spanish Splinter

In response to Puss' "Spanish Splinter" technique of lodging his sword under the giant's fingernail, the crowd initially cringes... and then cheers.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

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