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Tempting Fate

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Heinrich Hoffmann sends his condolences.

"Fate is like a caged gorilla. It will pelt you with dung if you mock it."
Warriv, Diablo II

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Some things just shouldn't be said, even in jest. Taunting a monster or bullying a dragon is likely to end badly. (Mugging the Monster definitely will.) Monologuing will invariably give The Hero the time he needs to defeat you. And then there's this trope.

Tempting Fate is when a character says something that dares the universe into making things miserable for them, and the universe takes them up on the challenge. Oftentimes, the character is commenting on how they've hit Rock Bottom and how things couldn't possibly get any worse — right before things do turn From Bad to Worse. Conversely, they may talk about how things are absolutely perfect, only for their world to come crashing down five seconds later. Also watch out for a Gilligan Cut.

And sometimes tempting fate can get downright lethal. For example, that guy in every horror movie who tells his friends "I'll be right back" before wandering off by himself is most assuredly not going to be back. Or that guy in every war movie who shows that picture of his family to the others and expresses his hope to get through this and make it back home to them, which all but ensures that he won't make it. Or that veteran cop in every action movie who's just a few days away from Retirement, and thus doomed to be gunned down in his final case. This particular variant of Tempting Fate is known as a Death Flag.

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The fate-tempting words may be followed up by a friend saying "You Just Had to Say It!"

For the supertropes to this, see Trope Telegraphing and Be Careful What You Say. Compare Schmuck Bait, Instantly Proven Wrong, Speak of the Devil, Famous Last Words. Contrast the Godzilla Threshold for where things really can't get any worse. See also Too Good to Be True.

And don't forget the Evil Overlord List, either.

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Examples

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, any unfortunate ideas that Jonie comes up with are almost guaranteed to happen immediately after she mentions them. In particular, if she says anything related to Wolffy appearing, you'd better watch out for him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts has a few where the universe often takes offense to a character's Badass Boast:
    • In one arc, Linus gets a new hobby, drawing on air. Simply put, he traces things on air with his finger, and being a Mr. Imagination, perceives it as art, one that costs no money and needs no materials. However, he enjoys it a little too much, saying "nothing can interrupt your work! Nothing, nothing!" And then it starts to rain.
    • In another arc, Linus' hobby is building snowmen; he builds lots and lots of snowmen. However, he gets a little Drunk with Power, and starts talking to them like a general leading an army. "I am your leader!" he shouts to his "troops". "Stand behind me and you will be invincible! Nothing can stop us, nothing, nothing, NOTHING!" And then the sun comes out and melts them all.
  • Garfield likes to play with this trope. If someone says things can't get worse, they will (usually with Garfield warning not to say it). However, if a character admits things could get worse, they get worse.
  • U.S. Acres played with this trope when it was a beautiful day and Orson said even Lanolin couldn't ruin it. To prove him wrong, she yelled she had just washed her car. Cue the Rain.
  • One segment of Calvin and Hobbes has Calvin try and snowball Susie in the back, only to miss with every single one. After the barrage ends, Susie turns around to laugh at Calvin's throwing ability... and THAT'S when Calvin's aim finally pays off.
    • In another strip, Calvin doesn't feel well in the middle of the night:
      Calvin's Mom: Calvin probably just ate too much dessert. If he's going to get me up at this hour, he'd better really be sick.
      Offpanel, we see a massive "BAAARRFF" as she reacts in horror)
      Calvin's Mom: (Shouting to the heavens) I DIDN'T MEAN IT!
  • FoxTrot does it on multiple occasions:
    • In one arc, Jason accidentally makes Eileen Jacobson fall in love with him thanks to a poem he wrote for his mom. Then this happens:
      Jason: Could anything be worse?! Could this situation possibly be any more dire?!
      Huge crowd of students: JASON AND EILEE-EEN, SITTIN' IN A TREE... KAY-EYE-ESS-ESS-EYE-EN-GEE!
      Jason: Boy, that question sure got answered in a hurry.
      Eileen: I hope you don't mind, but I told a few of my friends.
    • One week of strips revolves around Paige getting a surly Tamagotchi knock-off called a Tamagrouchy. Near the week's end, she sends it to Jason, who thinks he can reprogram it.
      Paige: I figure it can't get any more annoying.
      (cut to upstairs)
      Tamagrouchy: (Beep) Feed me and give Jason $10.
      Paige: I take that back, Peter.
    • Jason and Paige try the so-called "super gum" invented by Marcus' uncle. With all the upsides, Paige has to ask, "Does this gum even have a downside?" while they're each blowing a monstrous bubble. They spend the next three strips stuck to each other.
  • In one Zits strip, Pierce runs off a list of his many, many body piercings, including an impressive twelve earrings on each ear.
    Pierce: I defy anyone to find a way to attach more metal to my head.
    (cut to Pierce at an orthodontist appointment)
    Mr. Duncan: Pierce, you need braces.


 

Alternative Title(s): Asking For It, You Were Asking For It, Tempt Fate

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