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The Coconut Effect
aka: Coconut Effect

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The reality tends to color people surprised.

"It is doubtless true, as somebody pointed out, that a yoke of oxen would be driven, not with a whip but with a goad; but the lash of a whip can be heard on the air, whereas it is useless to ask the studio-effects-man to stand by making a noise like an ox-goad."
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The Coconut Effect describes any sound effect, special effect, or design feature that is unrealistic, but still has to be included because viewers have been so conditioned to expect it that its absence would be even more jarring.

The trope namer is the traditional foley effect of using hollow coconut shells to recreate the sound of horse hooves in theater, and later radio, film and television.

Horses hooves do sound like a pair of coconut shells being tapped together... when the horse is walking on cobblestones or some other hard pavement. However, it's fair to say that the vast majority of depictions of horses are upon dirt, grass, or other unimproved terrain where the sound would be muffled to inaudibility. Nevertheless, filmmakers and radio producers stuck the coconut sound on the audio track even when the horse was on grass or gravel (rarely even in synch with the movement of the horse) until audiences came to expect the specific audio cue. Real recorded hoofbeats on later, more sophisticated productions sounded "wrong" to test audiences (or more likely, clueless producers).

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Many other Stock Sound Effects are prime examples:

  • The Audible Gleam made by a specular reflection or intense light.
  • The very specific (but entirely unrealistic) echoing thud that is heard when all the lights are turned on in a large spacenote .
  • Kinetic Clicking: So ubiquitous that mobile phones tend to add clicking sounds to buttons pressed on their touch screen. All geared machines tick, switches make a loud 'clack' when turning on or off, crossbows have to make either a mechanical "klang" or a neat "tchak" to be taken seriously, and of course all Guns and Land Mines Go Click.
  • Noisy Nature and Incorrect Animal Noise: flapping sound effects for large birds taking wing (even owls, whose main advantage is that they don't make noise in flight), migratory Kookaburras, and roaring mountain lions for just a few examples.
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  • The Audible Sharpness of a sword being drawn from a scabbard or a knife being waved around.
  • Noisy explosions in space.
  • Kung-Foley: The 'whump' of a person getting punched in the face, or the exaggerated smack of a boxing glove. note  Real-life fistfights tend to be eerily silent, which obviously wouldn't be very dramatic or exciting (and more than a little creepy.) The only noticeable sound in a fistfight is feet tapping or sliding. Depending on the surface, it can sound more like a game of basketball than fisticuffs.
    • Any "aerodynamic" missile (from arrows to throwing knives or poisoned dart) must make a distinctive "fssshhh" when traveling through the air.
  • Laser noises. While there's a wide variety in the way they actually sound, "pew" is usually a pretty accurate onomatopoeia for anything short of a Wave-Motion Gun. In reality, a laser is basically just a precision variation on the common flashlight, and as such makes no more noise than one. Nevertheless, most of us would think there was some sort of issue with our audio if we saw Captain Space, Defender of Earth! fire an energy pistol that didn't make any noise, hence this trope.
  • All bullets in movies, regardless of caliber, will often make "zzzzip!" or "ffffwwwt!" sounds as they zip past. In reality, most bullets that miss their targets are still traveling at supersonic speed when they pass by, which creates a small "sonic boom" commonly referred to as a "ballistic crack." In truth, a bullet whizzing past you would sound more akin to a small firecracker going off than anything else.
  • Car and driving noises: "Wildest Police Chases" / "Wildest Security Camera Video"-type programs are big on this; squealing tires and crunchy crashes are all dubbed in after the fact in cases featuring security camera footage, which rarely features an audio track. Even a moped will make V8 Engine Noises. Squealing tires are Truth in Television when a car is driven at or slightly beyond the very limits of the tires' performance, but only on hard surfaces that provide enough friction, such as paved roads. On loose surfaces like gravel, grass/soil, sand, snow, and so on, tires simply cannot squeal.
  • Beeping Computers and Pac-Man Fever cover the standard sounds of modern technology and interactive entertainment.
  • The Stuka Scream is a common example of this when planes are seen on screen.

This trope does not apply exclusively to sound, but to any instance of an element that is used simply because the audience, consciously or unconsciously, expects it to be included, and/or because Stock Visual Metaphors allow writers to avoid long expositions via Show, Don't Tell:

  • Mainframe hackers had "green lightning" (or "compatibility logic" when the suits were around) named after an Ascended Glitch in an IBM terminal monitor left in so people would think the computer was "doing something".
  • Every cockpit must have Billions of Buttons.
  • Lens Flares are everywhere.
  • Technicolor Science: All chemicals are brightly colored note 
  • Radiation always has a Sickly Green Glow note 
  • Every explosion will be accompanied by Impressive Pyrotechnics, and Every Car Is a Pinto.
  • People freezing or popping in space.

This trope has a sister trope in the Rule of Perception, which explains why one would bother with any of these effects at all.

The color version of this trope is Stock Object Colors and Typical Cartoon Animal Colors.

See also Reality Is Unrealistic, Artistic License, Science Marches On, Common Hollywood Sex Traits, Mickey Mousing, Radio Voice, Vinyl Shatters, and the semi-related Extreme Graphical Representation. Related in concept is The CSI Effect and Eagleland Osmosis. Nothing to do with Coconut Superpowers (except insofar as both relate to Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Thankfully, this won't be causing any real-world casualties. We hope. Compare Aluminum Christmas Trees and Small Reference Pools. Also see Necessary Weasel.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In many anime, most noticeably Rurouni Kenshin, every time a sword moves while drawn, it makes a metallic clicking noise. This is usually used like gun cocking to indicate that a character is serious. This is only Truth in Television for a loose sword with an all-metal hilt, not a common construction for Japanese katana. Oddly enough, the Trust And Betrayal OVA (which is done in a more realistic style than the TV anime) actually uses this clicking sound in the correct context — it shows that the sword has not been used for some time and has not been maintained and emphasizes the desperation of the situation. Under normal circumstances you should never hear this sound.
  • Pani Poni Dash!: When Becky and the 1-C class go into Himeko's mind, Himeko serves a meal of crab...only it tastes like cheap imitation crab, which Himeko is more familiar with than the real thing.
  • More casual anime fans and non-fans in the West expect anime to have a particular character design, with semi-realistic bodies and distinct eyes and hair, commonly called the "anime style." As a result of this, some of these fans tend to either be baffled or react negatively whenever there's an anime that doesn't fit into their tunnel vision perceptions of Japanese media, forgetting that artists have vastly differing styles and unaware of the fact that Japanese animation was inspired by Western animation. Even hardcore anime fans run into this problem; with the increased involvement of Western studios helping with Japanese animation in The New '10s, some think the more "non-standard" art styles are due to demands from said studios rather than the Japanese studios themselves. What further muddles it is that some of the more notable character designers that helped in Western animation throughout its history were in fact Japanese, meaning their time working on those series would inevitably rub off on them when they did original properties (as was the case with the team behind The Big O).
  • Expect any crime anime that takes place in the United States during Prohibiton to exclusively use Italian hoods, Irish and Jews be damned.
  • One Gundam technical text says that Mobile Suit computers will supply sound effects for their pilots' benefit while acknowledging that Space Is Not, In Fact, Noisy. However, this doesn't change the fact that every single Gundam universe has sound effects in space battles...
  • An In-Universe example in chapter 187 of Dr. Stone: Chrome's remote-controlled record player is used to simulate gunfire and confuse Stanley's troops. However, recording actual gunfire turns out to be unconvincing, so Senku instead smacks a plastic container to make a more convincing sound.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash has long been able to use his super speed to perform a great many feats which make absolutely no sensenote , but kind of feel like things a speedster should be able to do: he can vibrate the molecules of his body at super speednote , to let him become intangiblenote ; he can run across the ocean or up the sides of buildings as if he were running on the groundnote ; he can carry people at near-light speed without hurting themnote ; and he can catch bullets out of midair inches in front of their target without them punching through his hand or slipping between his fingersnote . Needless to say, every other speedster in The DCU has to be able to do all these things too. In fact, they've added a special phlebotinum to the Flash canon - the Speed Force - to explain the more impossible ones (it lets him absorb speed from bullets, impart it upon people he carries, and gives him total control of his body's molecules). Most non-DC speedsters won't be able to turn intangible, but they'll still be expected to be able to run across water and along walls and ceilings and to catch bullets as though their palms were armored - hey, the Flash can do it, why the heck can't Quicksilver!? The running across water is justified: it's been calculated that someone running at 100 kilometers an hour (more or less, depending on bodyweight and foot size) or greater would be able to run across water.
  • The use of huge, gaudy onomatopoeia (or, depending on how people describe the phenomenon, "sound effects", "Batman words", or even "noise words"). It's obviously a ludicrous convention in more serious comic works (bright red letters saying "BUDDA-BUDDA-BUDDA" and "ZARTZ!" and "KRA-THOOM!" look downright grotesque in the middle of a realistic shootout with blood spraying everywhere), but artists still have to include them or otherwise "it wouldn't look like a comic book."
  • Whether or not Clark Kenting is used effectively, or if Clark doesn't change his mannerisms at all other than wearing glasses, it doesn't matter-every incarnation of Superman will use some variant of the classic trope. He is the Trope Namer, after all.
  • The creators of Asterix knew well that the Colosseum and other landmarks from the time of The Roman Empire didn't exist during the comic book series' time, the final years of The Roman Republic (the era of Julius Caesar). Rome just doesn't look as good without them.

    Comic Strips 
  • The The Far Side cartoon titled "When car chasers dream," depicting a dog dreaming about having caught the car it was chasing and triumphantly howling while standing on top of the upside-down car's "corpse," caused controversy due to some readers' perception that the cartoon showed the dog mating with the car. Gary Larson attributes this misinterpretation to his having unwisely attempted to draw in the transmission case on the car's underside for a touch of realism.
  • In FoxTrot, Jason Fox is eating a watermelon and tells Andrea how it doesn't taste like his watermelon gum. Naturally this earns a weird look from her.

    Fan Works 
  • In one chapter of the Fanfiction Nightmare Night And Nyx, Princess Luna decided to tease her older sister by wearing a Nightmare Night costume... of Celestia as a "Pretty Pretty Pony Princess." Along with deliberately ridiculous levels of girly accoutrements and shades of pink, it featured its own cloud of twinkling lights— that made actual tinkling noises and even, on occasion, said the words "twinkle twinkle" in tiny voices...

    Films — Animation 
  • In Incredibles 2, Elastigirl rides an electric-engined motorbike — but it sounds like a petrol-engined bike. This is probably because most people wouldn't know what an electric vehicle sounds like, and because they expect a bike to sound like, well, a bike. This could be justified if the bike is specifically programmed to make artificial engine noises.
    • This is in fact, a thing in real life, where some electric vehicles "play" a sound like a "normal" engine, to alert pedestrians who are unfamiliar with the electric vehicle's presence. As discussed here

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: They didn't actually have horses, just the coconuts. Ironically, the producers actually wanted to use real horses but didn't have the budget and the coconuts did a better job at the whole Rule of Funny bit.
  • Rocky Balboa, the sixth Rocky film, had realistic boxing sounds inserted during the actual match between Rocky and his opponent. The last few Rocky sequels before this had grown increasingly dependent on unrealistic boxing sounds, and the more authentic noises spat in the face of that dependency. Accordingly, instead of using the dramatic cinematic effect for the entire ending, the fight was presented like an ESPN pay-per-view event, complete with stats charts, graphical widgets and even the clock during the first round.
  • Ironically, Ring Girls, which is for all intents and purposes a documentary (although "creatively" edited to look more like a reality show), nevertheless added Hong Kong sound effects over all the punching and kicking, completely ruining it for every martial artist (or even fan) out there. It did not make the movie any more popular.
  • In another camera example, many films will add in the sound of a chemical flash bulb firing (a very recognizable whoosh) whenever they show flash photography, regardless of whether these old-timey flash bulbs are depicted on screen, or what era the movie is set in. Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson frequently do this. In an interesting inversion, when an older-model electronic flash is used, the noticeable whine many make as they recharge is usually absent. This may be due to the sound effect having been co-opted by futuristic Noisy Guns.
  • The sound effects used in hand-to-hand combat in the Indiana Jones films are extremely over-the-top (e.g. obtained by beating piles of leather coats with baseball bats) - so much so that the sounds are basically iconic to the series.
    • Ben Burtt, the sound designer for all the films, says on a DVD extra that he decided to make the punches over-the-top on purpose as he felt they were making a comic book brought to life.
    • And any Bollywood movie portrays it much, much more over the top.
  • The Batman film franchise on a whole is guilty of this; despite the fact that blue and grey are much better urban camouflage colors, he always retains his black rubber armor in Live-Action Films (save for the Adam West one).
    • The sound effects in The Dark Knight are deliberately "one up." Minigun sounds for Uzis, Howitzers for shotguns, etc. More a stylistic choice, but still the trope.
  • Bud Spencer and Terence Hill made a career out of fight scenes with exaggerated SFX.
  • The movies in the Spider-Man Trilogy start off highlighting Spidey's use of Spider-Sense in slow-motion, but as the films progress, the Spider-Sense is more often implied that explicitly depicted, usually in the form of whiplash-quick reflexes and/or an Offhand Backhand. Notably, the third movie never highlighted it at all, with Spider-Man's reflexes and Spider-Sense all rendered in real-time.
  • Digital readouts are an excellent example. In The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, the subway's digital speedometer makes a series of increasingly faster beeps when shown on screen, despite it being established there's no beeping noise when the trains are driven normally.
  • Common also in Knight Rider: Closeups of KITT's speedometer, usually during massive acceleration, have a frantic ticking along with each MPH displayed. In only a few cases are there closeups of slow speed changes with the corresponding tick. In addition, no wide-angle shot includes audible ticking.
  • The serial The Phantom Empire, since it has a radio Show Within a Show, actually shows coconuts being used to make horse sounds. Being partly a Western, it no doubt had many traditional examples too.
  • An intentional example in Airplane! has the jet liner in the movie sounds just like it has propellers instead for comedic effect. The creators originally wanted to use a propeller-driven DC-4 (the one from Zero Hour! (1957), the movie on which its based), but Executive Meddling forced them to use a jet. Airplane II: The Sequel has a similar effect, but on a space shuttle.
  • Cowboys & Aliens featured incredibly overdone punch sounds, similar to those in Indiana Jones (this may have been intentional due to the presence of Harrison Ford in the movie). Jake's punches seemed to be even louder and more exaggerated than other characters.
  • Star Wars:
    • The films are notable for their use of invented foley effects created by sound designer Ben Burtt. For Attack of the Clones, George Lucas decided not to use the stock sound effect of lightning and thunder coinciding with each other during the thunderstorm on Kamino, instead having the lightning happen a few moments before the thunder crashing.
    • In the commentary for the prequels, they talk about how Yoda's CG design had to compensate for the visual effect of Yoda being a puppet in the older films. For instance, Yoda's ears wiggling when he moved was originally a side effect of the material used to create the puppet, but they actually replicated the ear-wiggling when he went CG simply because audiences had already accepted that Yoda's ears are just supposed to do that.
  • The image of the alien spacecraft in Independence Day sweeping over the flag on the moon is probably the most iconic sight of the film second only to the destruction of the White House. What this and countless other films forget/ignore is that there is no American flag currently on the Moon. In the same way a poster exposed to direct sunlight fades over time the dyes used in the flags by the Apollo missions have all completely faded away leaving nothing but white pieces of fabric in their place.
  • Sunshine is especially guilty of this as, despite aiming for scientific accuracy to the extent of having Brian Cox acting as an advisor, it's still riddled with inaccuracy. In the movie's defence, however, Danny Boyle noted that the movie didn't feel right without things like audible whooshing and visible distant stars.note 
  • In-universe in The Dilemma, Ronny's and Nick's job is to work Coconut Effects into products. During the movie, they're making silent electric cars "roar" as if they had loud combustion engines.
  • Done literally and in-universe in Murder!, where one of the actors in a stage play claps coconut halves together off-stage to simulate a horse's hooves.
  • Also done in-universe in Spite Marriage, when Trilby's theater troupe needs to simulate horse's hooves.
  • In It (2017), the titular entity no longer has the original story reasons for assuming the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. In the book, this was because IT could not change forms on a whim, and its guises followed the rules of the form it took; for example, a werewolf form would be vulnerable to silver bullets, but scary clowns have no rules, so it's an ideal avatar. In the film, though, IT can shapeshift at will, and its weakness is simply that its victims' imaginations can overrule its plans, so there's no real reason for IT to default to Pennywise other than the fact that it's such an iconic character.
  • The Death Traps from the Saw tend to feature digital timers. These timers make an audible beep every second, but it's not actually the case for most real-life digital timers, such as the ones in microwaves.

    Literature 
  • The short story Damned Spot by Julian Rathbone, a Deconstruction of historical whodunnits, notes that oak darkens with age, so the dark oak we associate with Elizabethan architecture and furniture would have been quite pale at the time, before deciding that it's more important the setting fits the modern perception of Elizabethan era.
  • In the Hyperion Cantos, farcasters are implanted with devices to make a person stepping through feel like he is traveling.
  • Taking aim at the hourglass/spinning wheel/whatever which is there to convince you that your computer is actually doing something, Discworld's Hex, which is as close as they have to a computer (or more precisely a semi-sentient magical computerish thing) will sometimes drop an actual hourglass from a spring in order to demonstrate that Hex is doing something. Of course, nobody really knows if he is or not, but they do wait patiently.
  • The Cyril M. Kornbluth story The Marching Morons features this in cars, which have speedometers that go to somewhere around 200 MPH and exhausts that literally belch fire, both purely for effect. The modern-day "protagonist" notices that when the speedometer reads 140 he feels like he's going maybe 60, and then later notices that the engine roar cuts off a fraction of a second AFTER the car stops (because it's an effect added to make it seem like the cars are faster and more powerful than they really are).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Despite the fact that it purports to have at least something to do with reality, the hit U.S. boxing show The Contender features "exaggerated impact" sound effects during the footage of boxing matches between its participants.
  • In the 1950s, the Univac I computer executed operations so slowly that the engineers made a different "beep" occur for every type of instruction. This allowed programmers to tell, for instance, if the machine was executing a long loop, had stalled, etc. Only the Univac I did this, it was used almost exclusively in a back room at the U.S. Census bureau, and the beeping computer was quickly retired when faster computers were built in the late 50s. However, when the machine was new, the marvelous "artificial brain" was demonstrated for TV news and documentaries. The "beep-beep-boop" sound then got a life of its own because there wasn't really anything else in a TV computer to tell the audience that the computer was doing anything. Soon, all TV computers had to produce a series of beeps of various tones. The original Star Trek avoided this by having the computer's voice say "working..." in a monotone instead of beeping, but the show then did it anyway as the sound of an old punch-card tabulating machine was dubbed in after the computer voice. The beeping sound was mandatory in TV-show computers well into the 80s, until the trope happened in reverse. The common man began using home computers and the pointless, sourceless beeps came to be properly seen as idiotic.
  • There is a parody of this concept similar to that in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in one of the Swedish Chef sketches on The Muppet Show. The Chef is trying to get his chicken to lay an egg and after it looks like she has, he angrily declares that the object is not an egg but a ping-pong ball. The humor is, of course, that the audience would expect the ball to double for an egg in the sketch, making it surprising when the Chef refers to what it really is.
  • Battlestar Galactica did this when the Galactica warped into the upper atmosphere of a planet and immediately burst into flames. Reentry fire comes from the massive sideways velocity any orbiting object has. The ship started from a dead stop, but most people equate falling from space with fire. But they probably did it because fire makes things cooler. Potentially justified due to possibility that the flames were caused by the near-instantaneous displacement of an enormous volume of air caused by the Galactica's jump.
  • Half of what the MythBusters do is based on this trope, testing out the way things work in reality vs. the way they're portrayed in the movies.
  • Parodied in Gilmore Girls Ep.3/06 after Lorelai and Rory egg the car of the resident Bad Boy:
    Lorelai: Wait, is that a siren?
    Rory: I don't hear anything.
    Lorelai: Neither do I, it just seemed like a cool thing to say at that moment.
    Rory: It was!
    Lorelai: Hey, let's run back and speed off like we did something really awful and the cops are after us!
  • In the mid- to late 1970s, pocket calculators were just coming into their own. However, they didn't make cute bloop bleep sounds — the way they did in some television shows, notably Barney Miller, when Harris practically plays a tune on his.
  • Hustle had an in-universe example when the British character Stacie conned an American by posing as staff for the BBC. Instead of using her natural British accent, she put on an over-the-top stereotypical British accent, complete with "Toodle pip!"
  • The DVD set of the documentary series The World at War had a bonus feature showing some of the raw footage that was used to make the series. The footage, like much of the film shot in combat areas of that era, is completely silent. The narrator matter-of-factly talks about adding in all the sound effects.
  • Gene Roddenberry intended to avert Space Is Noisy in Star Trek: The Original Series, but test audiences liked the space scenes better when they were noisy.
  • Firefly might be the only aversion of Space Is Noisy. At the very least it's the most prominent. All space scenes are set to music, which totally replaces sound effects. There are still noises on board the individual ships, but as there is air there, it makes sense.
  • Martin Scorsese confessed that the biggest surprise of shooting the Boardwalk Empire pilot was "the color". Like most people, the mental image of the 1920s he had was based on black and white photographs, but the fashion magazines the production crew had access to showed that people in that decade really had a love for excess.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Lampshaded in a segment of the Cave Dwellers episode.

    Music 
  • The warmth of analogue recordings is caused partly by tape hum, which often makes people think digital recordings sound cold and sterile by comparison. Note that this largely depends on the type of music. The same could be said of the faint hum and crackle of vinyl: people missed it so much that it actually resurfaced as a medium and vinyl records of brand new albums can be found in stores.
  • The Loudness War has led to certain people thinking that maximum loudness, low dynamic range, 'whispering' on the voices (caused by parts of the vocal track to have come off) and excessive brightness are a sign of improved technology, when most of the time they are just to make the music louder.
  • Studio recordings are made in sound-dampening rooms to avoid accidental undesired effects on the music. Real-life sound however sounds very different, because the acoustics of the surroundings produce echo and reverberations. This is why there's a science to the construction of auditoria and theatres used for live music. Thus some post-processing is required to make studio recordings sound more realistic. We've gotten so used to hearing some type of post-processing on vocals (be it reverb, double-tracking, flangers, phasers, delay, compression, you name it) that just hearing raw vocals on a track can sound jarring. Of course in practice, the amount of post-processing used goes way beyond adding realism, and wraps back to unrealistic. Neil Young has written reams of technical articles on exactly why analogue is not only "warmer" but closer to the actual live sound, and what improvements must be made to digital in order to present such sound.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Back in the '60s, televised Professional Wrestling placed a microphone under the ring which made some very impressive sounds when wrestlers jumped off the top rope or stomped their foot during a forearm smash. They still do that. It's why fights backstage seem to fall a bit flat - the bumps don't have the same 'oomph' as bumps in the ring.
  • Fans often tend to complain at the 'dead crowds' on WWE television. The seemingly uninterested crowd are in fact very animated but the sound is just not being captured. If you watch fan footage recorded on someone's phone from the crowd, the noise is deafening. WWE just doesn't mic up the crowd because it runs the risk of people's personal conversations being broadcast on the air among other things. So the only time you'll actually hear a lively crowd is if they're screaming insanely at the top of their voices.
  • The big smack you hear when someone gets superkicked or big booted is of course the wrestler slapping their leg for dramatic effect. Slapping your leg and stomping for dramatic effect is falling out of practice these days. Also the big smack made when someone gets kicked in the head is usually caused by the kick pads the wrestler is wearing. Also wrestlers are taught to throw punches with the meaty part of their arm because it makes a nice impactful sound when hitting off the face.
  • Blading. Since the 1970s (if not earlier), American audiences have grown accustomed to fight scenes in action movies that cause the combatants to bleed like stuck pigs, when in fact mild bruises and maybe a few chipped teeth are bound to be the results of a real-life fight. If pro wrestlers didn't bleed as much as they do, spectators might suspect that they "aren't really hurting each other" (even though they are), or that the staged fights aren't "realistic" enough. Hence, the custom of wrestlers slicing themselves on the sly for that good old "bloodbath" effect.

    Radio 
  • The Reduced Shakespeare Company Radio Show mentions the use of coconut shells as a character starts to ride away.
  • In the 1930s, Australian radio broadcasts of cricket overseas weren't actually done from the ground. The commentary was based on ball by ball telegraphs, and sound effects such as canned applause and an artificial bat-on-ball sound were used. The trope didn't come into play because listeners knew the difference from having listened to local games; "synthetic broadcasts", as they were known, were abandoned in 1938 when shortwave reception had improved enough that the action could be delivered directly.
  • The Mercury Theatre on the Air used the classic coconut effect in the first scene of the first episode, an adaptation of Dracula, as Jonathan Harker's coach makes its way to Dracula's castle.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Laser weapons in Rifts are said to come with built-in noisemakers to satisfy customers who expect sci-fi-style sounds when they're fired. Otherwise, they would be mostly silent.
  • Lasguns in the Warhammer 40,000 universe have explored every angle of this trope they could find. In the art and the video games they are huge highly-visible coconuts, because otherwise you wouldn't know they were firing. In the fiction they are described as firing invisible, near-silent beams. There is a button to make the beam visible again, but this is officially for training purposes (read: playing laser tag) rather than actual combat. The only 'Pew', so to speak, is the audible snap of the air ionizing.
    • This also comes up when lasguns are given to Guard regiments who come from planets where most readily available weapons use chemical propellant. Guardsmen who expect guns to make a loud bang and flash when fired get fake noises and lights because the familiarity is good for morale. Guardsmen from less developed worlds are used to the relatively silent bow or crossbow and get no special treatment, while Guard regiments on appropriately advanced worlds are already used to las weapons.
    • In a similar fictional case, the guns in Gantz make a pathetically small sound and do nothing more than glow at the barrel.
    • In reality the predominant noise is the sound of cooling fans and water pumps. Occasionally, there will be a soft "pfft" sound when the laser fires, and that comes from the noise of the Xenon flash tubes used to pump the laser. High power microwave sources are also silent except for the cooling. What fun is a death ray that sounds like your air conditioner?
    • High power laser weapons actually might not be silent so much as they would switch which end the noise is on. The impact of a laser weapon on a target would actually produce a loud bang since it's vaporizing material into a rapidly expanding gas cloud; AKA an explosion. This might incidentally make them pretty crappy stealth weapons since the sound is inherent to their damage mechanism and can't really be dampened.
  • Also in Warhammer 40,000, the Orks manage to justify and exploit this trope. Because their latent reality warping abilities make anything a sufficient number of Orks believe become true, Red things go faster, louder guns do more damage, and things that look science-y and have most of the wires in the right place can do whatever a halfway competent Mekboy says they can. A commonly held theory is that orks specializing in stealth gain much of their inexplicable ability to infiltrate locations despite being, well, extremely large, heavily armed, green slabs of muscle with impulse control issues from the fact that most orks believe stealthy, disciplined orks do not exist. It's canon that they get a considerable boost from the fact most humans don't believe they exist, and so get lazy about perimeter security.

    Toys 
  • Figures of Ben Reilly as the Scarlet Spider invariably includes his hands in Spider-Man's classic "web-shooting" pose. However, Ben never actually did that; he modified his web-shooters to fire without the pose. But the pose is so iconic that it gets included anyway.

    Video Games 
  • Crate Expectations has become a sort of coconut effect. Almost every game that involves ammo (and many that don't) have crates that must be broken to get ammo. Valve, for example, found this out during playtesting of Half-Life. They attempted to avoid including crates, but so many people wanted something to use the crowbar on and get ammo from that they eventually had to give in.
  • Exploding Barrels could easily be classified as this. By now, most people realize that shooting a barrel won't actually cause it to explode, but for a game to not have explosives that can be triggered by shooting them would be just odd to the gaming audience. People Can Fly found that just trying to change the ubiquitous colour (red) of the exploding barrels to green for Bulletstorm didn't work right for the players.
    • Which is odd, given that green exploding barrels are also common in games - usually releasing poison or knockout gas - so gamers are just as conditioned to shoot them as red ones.
  • Every Platform Game since Super Mario Bros. has had a special sound effect for when the hero jumps, except for some of the Metroid games (but the Double Jump made a woosh noise to indicate the upgrade activating). Then again, Jump Physics in platformers is generally not realistic.
    • This even affects the 'realistic' platformers as seen in the SNES' heyday. Climbing up 3 straight-jump-up ledges in a row makes it sound like the hero of say, Flashback, is attempting to drop a log cabin in an outhouse. The boingy springy sound gets replaced with 'old man toilet grunts.'
    • In more classic first-person shooters, the main character says "hop" or grunts with every jump which is rarely the case in real life.
  • In the MMORPG EVE Online, the standard space-battle trope of explosions and other sound effects happening despite the inability of sound to travel in the vacuum of space is justified in the game's lore. The sounds aren't actually real, but because the player's character is piloting the ship from within a sense-depriving goo-filled pod, the outer-space sounds are created by the ship's computers to give the pilot's mind something to focus on.
    • This may be justified in this game specifically, however. Space in EVE Online seems to have fluidic properties, as ships will slow to a stop without constant propulsion, cruise missiles are described as a "lifting-wing" missile, and corpses instantly freeze when exposed to space. If this is true, the space would also presumably transmit vibrations.
    • Tyrian uses the same justification: The ship's computer simulates sounds from outside to help the pilot keep paying attention and as a navigation aid.
    • This seems to be "industrial standard" justification, right from the A New Hope book back in 1979.
    • The onboard television crew in Starship Operators mentions that they have to add explosion noises to satisfy the viewers at home; ordinarily, the fights would be silent.
    • The space combat computer game Elite justified the noise of laser impacts and enemy ship explosions as the sound of the hits/explosion broadcast from the target's radios.
  • A number of video games have film grain among the video options, as an homage to older movies:
  • Mass Effect has a couple examples. Along with the above-mentioned film grain, one NPC in the third game mentions turning off the sound emulators so he can watch an enemy dreadnought "sink" in complete silence. This suggests that Space Is Noisy is enforced in-universe, probably due to this trope.
    • Flying vehicles default to having inertial dampeners active, which the players and Shepard take for granted. Steve turns them off in one instance so the two of them can feel actual G-forces and the sensation of speed.
  • The whole trope Real Is Brown pretty much sums this up nicely. In real life, colors of all saturation and paleness exist, let alone lighting can vary in both outdoor and indoor settings, so things like ray tracing and desaturating are actually unrealistic.
    • A special mention can go to Sim City 4, in which took the trope to the extreme in which not only modern (which is somewhat justified, because some people associate brown as "earth-friendly") but also classic Victorian and Gothic (the Chicago 1890 and New York City 1940 styles) into the brown filter. Considering that most Victorian houses were nicknamed "Gingerbread houses" for their use of many colors, one must wonder what they were thinking... Of course, the fanbase is now led to believe that if anyone creates a building that isn't drab brown or gray and dull, they're insane.
    • This idea comes from the sepia photographs leading people to believe that everyone at that time wore drab clothing. The same phenomenon happens in Old West movies. People of that era loved bright colors, but any depiction of them will be in dark brown and black clothing.
  • Many modern video games use a variety of effects to look more realistic, which are far from it. These include, but are not limited to: bloom, grey colour pallets, blood and water splattering on the screen, ridiculously bumpy normals and a weird 'wet glisten effect' on skin and characters. Strangest of all, it seems like the viewer would be aware of what the sun or people actually look like.
    • Parodied in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune where the "realistic filter" option removes the vibrant colors and replaces them with muted browns and grays and puts in so much bloom that the game is virtually unplayable.
    • In the same way that animated studios take efforts to replicate shortcomings of real cameras, video games often go to great lengths to get the washed out effect of an overexposed shot (or a really bright light source), which is dubbed "HDR," when in reality this is tone mapping. Amusingly, HDR is also what photographers use to get rid of that effect.
    • Many 'realistic' video games have very long draw distances, making everything look extremely crisp and sharp all the way to the horizon. In reality, atmospheric perspective means everything should get hazier (and tinted blue) the farther away it is.note 
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which is known for its cartoony graphics, actually takes into account the effect of atmospheric perspective. It even simulates the effect of the curvature of the Earth on the appearance of far-away objects.
    • These effects have largely gone away or toned down as graphics developers shifted towards a new paradigm known as Physically Based Shading. As the name implies, all of the lighting functions are based on actual physics rather than an artist playing around with the lighting until it looks right. The result is scenery that looks highly realistic to most lay people.
  • Plenty of gun tropes are like this, due to the fact that most people who played FPS video games or watched action movies started years before being allowed to handle military weaponry (if they ever do so). In fact, this article in Popular Mechanics indicates many times the guns in games such as Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 are first made "extremely accurate, based on factory stats and more" then toned down, not just for balancing reasons, but because of "the drive to make guns feel like the ones we've seen in movies." Like shotguns loaded with buckshot:
    People associate shotguns with powerful, close-range weapons ... So a shotgun blast [in the game] will punch through walls and armor just fine, even though buckshot is known for its lack of penetration in the real world.
    • Sniper Rifles are especially the case for this. One of the earliest sniping games, Silent Scope, gave bonuses for head shots because they were more challenging. This has led to the trope of sniper rifles in games only killing on a head shot - even though real sniper rifles will kill on a shot anywhere above the waist, which is a far preferable shot precisely because aiming at the head has a high chance of missing.
  • While it has been noted that the movement speed of FPS player characters has been noticeably reduced since the days of Doom and Duke Nukem (who could manage about 50 mph at full sprint), not many know that, by scale, modern FPS player characters still move much faster than a real person (especially a real soldier with their rifle readied and aimed forward). Most can manage more than 20 mph simply walking forward, with higher speeds obtained if sprinting. A character moving at real human speed would be painfully slow, especially in Wide-Open Sandbox games like Far Cry or STALKER
  • The guitar peripheral for the first Rock Band game drew some criticism in that, unlike the older Guitar Hero counterpart, the strum bar didn't click. Many players were disconcerted at this, and felt as though the lack of audible feedback meant that it wasn't working properly. For this reason, later versions of the peripheral included a clicking strum bar.
    • That said, if you actually strum the strum bar, there will be a sound. Too loud a sound, in fact.
    • Might be justified in the fact that no matter how off you are in playing the song, as long as the game thinks you hit the note, the song will play perfectly. This is jarring because you can't figure out if you're on beat or not.
  • The Elder Scrolls series games feature a day/night system with night colors vivid enough for distant objects to be seen clearly, albeit in blue tones. Naturally, many players feel that these nights are unrealistically bright, leading to numerous "darker nights" Game Mods which make it near-impossible to see without a light source (torch, lantern, spell, etc.). In actuality, the vanilla games are very faithful to what a pastoral country would look like with no electric light pollution, especially considering the large size and brightness of Mundus' twin moons in the night sky.
  • For military shooter players, how does the M18 Claymore mine work? It's a directional proximity mine that detonates when enemies pass in front of it, right? Actually, no. As the Land Mine Goes "Click!" page will tell you, it's fired by remote control like a block of C4, never being a proximity mine. However, the perception of the M18 Claymore mine being a directional proximity mine is so ingrained into people's minds that almost all depictions of the Claymore in video games feature it being proximity-detonated instead of command-detonated (though most Hand Wave it by adding fictional laser tripwire triggers).
  • Dead Space, the flamethrower does not work in a vacuum. This makes perfect sense, as a fire requires oxygen. However, this version, intended as a tool for melting ice in the absence of an atmosphere, is actually one of the few chemical designs that could work in a vacuum, as described in supplemental material, even though it doesn't in-game.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Reflections of shiny objects in many animations often appear as sparkles even if the objects or light sources weren't moving at all. "Ting" and "ping" and sometimes metallic "whii" sounds are quite common to accompany with reflections.
  • Several anatomical inaccuracies in animals qualify.
    • Rabbits in real life do not have pads on the bottom of their paws nor button noses like a cat or a dog, unlike how Bambi and many cartoons portray. Also, their incisors tend to be hidden inside their mouths, rather than sticking out like on a beaver.
    • The same would go for cat- or dog-like button noses often drawn on certain other mammals such as rodents, walruses, sloths, ruminants, and even primates.
    • Most rodents, like beavers and porcupines for example, have orange or yellow teeth. Not white teeth like in cartoons.
    • Chipmunks are often depicted with shorter deer-like tails in cartoons, likely to distinguish them from squirrels.
    • Male orangutans are sometimes depicted without flanges or cheek pads, making them resemble female orangutans.
    • Spotted big cats often have their features generalized with each other, which results in jaguars lacking spots in their rosettes and both jaguars and leopards with solid spots. This confusion extends to cheetahs (which are not even big cats; like cougars above, they are part of the Felinae subfamily, so they are big small cats, or small big ones), sometimes portrayed with rosettes and no stripes.
    • Hippos are usually drawn with blunt canines and lacking the lower incisors, possibly due to being based on captive hippos which often have their teeth filed down. Wild hippos have sharper and longer teeth, since they need to use them as weapons.
    • Whales:
      • Sperm whales are always drawn with their blowhole on the top of the head like most whales, rather than as a left nostril like in reality. Also, baleen whales are usually drawn with a single blowhole instead of two.
      • Sperm whales are always depicted having a shovel mouth rather than the proper thin jaw, with teeth on the upper jaw (only prehistoric sperm whales had those).
      • Belly lining seem to be associated with all whales in cartoons, but in reality it's restricted to baleen whales.
    • Koalas in real life have two thumbs, not one. Though who would think a two-thumbed hand is not weird?
    • The common portrayal of parrots, toucans, woodpeckers, and owls having three toes in front and one in back, due to people often associating all birds with chickens. Seeing a foot with two forward-pointing toes and two backward-pointing toes would seem freaky and alien for some. ...Unless you DO own a parrot (or a budgie, which is basically a smaller cousin to parrots.) Alternatively, they may be portrayed with two toes in front and one in back, like an animal equivalent of Four-Fingered Hands.
    • Similar to the above, ostriches actually have two toes and only one claw on the larger inner toe.
    • Animal Gender-Bender in birds. Most notably peahens with trains, female mallards having the coloration of the males, and female ostriches being black like the males instead of the correct brown or gray (not helped by both sexes having long eyelashes usually associated with females).
    • The oversized bill pouches commonly seen in cartoon pelicans are actually a result of being filled up. Real-life pelicans normally have fairly thin bills.
    • Since many people tend to have trouble telling them apart from crocodiles, it is quite common for alligators to be portrayed with more croc-like features in cartoons. The only difference more commonly known is that gators have more rounded snouts, while other distinguishing features such as overlapping jaws and darker colors are forgotten. The same could be said for crocs being portrayed with overbites rather than the accurate interlocking teeth.
    • Crocodilians (and, by extension, archosaurs as a whole) can only have up to three claws on each hand, but they are always drawn having a claw on each finger likely due to people associating them with lizards.
    • Constrictor snakes are not toothless, nor do they have fangs (they're not venomous). For that matter, snakes and lizards do not have their teeth protrude out of their mouths, with the exception of venomous snakes with giant fangs.
    • The blobfish we are used to seeing is actually the result of it being taken onto land, suffering tissue damage from the pressure. They actually look less ugly in their natural habitat at extreme depths.
    • The common portrayal of arthropods with more vertebrate-like features such as two eyes, a nose, a mouth that close upwards and downwards, and fewer limbs. Considering many people are afraid of insects and spiders anyways, these are deliberate to make them look more "appealing" to the audience.
    • Six-legged scorpions, due to the pincers or pedipalps being considered "arms" when they're actually part of the mouth.
    • Octopuses and squids have beaks located underneath their bodies (the center of their arms), not lipped mouths on their foreheads. They also have only one siphon on one side of their bodies; it is not an ear or a sucker-mouth. They are also occasionally depicted with fewer than eight arms, even though "octopus" is Greek for "eight-footed".
    • If you haven't grown up on or near a farm, you may be surprised to see sheep with long tails, like this. Sheep are born with long tails, but they're usually "docked" (that is, cut short) not long after birth, to help prevent a variety of hygienic and veterinary problems. Farmers that choose not to do this are the exception, not the rule.
      • You may also be surprised to see that not all sheep are woolly. "Hair sheep" have hair (not wool), and are usually kept for their meat, milk, and hides more than their hair. They're more common in hot climates, where wool would cause the animal discomfort and worse. They're also harder to tell apart from goats, especially if (as is common in the Middle East) they're herded together. (Now you know why Jesus used a metaphor about "separating the sheep from the goats.") Considering that the wild ancestors of sheep, mouflons, don't have wool, this actually makes hair sheep closer in appearance to their undomesticated folk. However, you will almost never see "hair sheep" or sheep with long tails in media.
    • Mosquitoes are often depicted with their stingers as noses, when in real life the stingers are their mouths.
  • The Simpsons:
    • From the episode "Radioactive Man":
      Martin: Uh, Sir, why don't you just use real cows?
      Painter: Cows don't look like cows on film. You gotta use horses.
      Ralph: What do you do if you want something that looks like a horse?
      Painter: Ehh, usually we just tape a bunch of cats together.
    • You can also thank the opening (as well as numerous episodes, like the Treehouse of Horror short The Terror of Tiny Toon) for making a lot of people think Plutonium is a glowing green rod. So much so that a lot of people are surprised that Plutonium is actually a silver-gray metal that glows red or orange. Radium is the material that glows green, and even then it doesn't glow green on its own: as it decays it releases ionizing radiation which excites fluorescent chemicals to cause the glow.
  • Done in the CG Star Wars: The Clone Wars show with R2-D2, where his paint scheme has a "brush stroke" look to make it appear like he had been produced by hand. Lampshaded on Ace of Cakes, when Charm City Cakes were commissioned to make a cake to look just like that version of R2, and they noted that they had to also include those elements, which they generally tried desperately to avoid.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Being a setting populated by sentient equines, the show uses the old "two coconuts banging together" sound effect in interesting ways. For example things that would normally involve hand sound effects are replaced by the coconut sound effect (Or something somewhere between a real hooffall and the coconut) to reflect the fact that the characters are hoofed creatures who are using their forelegs as a substitute for hands.
    • As for walking, the sound effects fairly realistically use the coconut-ish sound on pavement but a duller thud on soft ground.
  • Exploited Trope In-Universe in Batman Beyond by an infiltration android that Grew Beyond Their Programming and was hunted by the NSA for it. After taking heavy fire and falling several stories, said android (named Zeta) is left a burning wreck. Turns out, he was using his holographic projector (that allowed him to pass for human by superposing the hologram over his robotic frame) to fake the flames, and the agents, clearly believing that Damage Is Fire, were fooled by the holographic flames long enough to convince them to break line of sight so that he could create a new human like illusion and leave before the agents get in line of sight range again. And then Batman drops explosive to create some rubble and make it seem like Zeta self-destructed. The NSA team leader was Genre Savvy enough to order his squad to dig into the rubble until he finds what's left of Zeta or is forced to realize he's been had...
  • Lampshaded in Rick and Morty, when Rick's ship gets a flat tire in the middle of space.
    Morty: It's just crazy, how much it feels like a regular flat!
    Rick: Oh, no, no. That's just my custom-programmed, fully-immersive flat tire indication experience. I... I can turn it off. (He does. The ship stops shaking.) I thought it was cooler than the celebrity voice package, but here. (Presses another button.)
    Christopher Walken: Flat tire? You should be Walken!
    Morty: Oof.
    Rick: Yeah.

    Real Life 
  • Ironically, in a major sense-of-humour failure, Monty Python founder Eric Idle threatened to sue an independent film-maker who used the "that's not a horse - you're using coconuts!" gag, claiming he had originated it for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Saner counsel prevailed, when it was pointed out to him exactly how old the gag was, and that (for instance) a radio comedy show Idle himself had written for had used this gag way back in the 1960's - ten years before the Holy Grail movie. And the BBC radio comedy archives preserved older examples still...
  • According to Harley-Davidson's official videos when the Milwaukee-Eight motor was launched for the 2017 model year, the engine's gear-driven counterbalancer mechanism, previously introduced on Twin Cam Softails in 2000 as a chain-driven unit, was so effective that it cancelled out all engine vibration. This would've been good and all, but Harley riders have gotten so accustomed to the vibrations that they complained the new motor was too smooth and thus didn't feel like what a Harley should; Harley reportedly made the counterbalancer a bit less efficient to appease enthusiasts.
  • The "clackety-clack" sound of trains travelling along the tracks come from the wheels travelling over small gaps in rail segments, which in the past were quite frequent. Today, with improvements to railway construction this noise is largely eliminated everywhere except when travelling over switches and other irregular imperfections in the track, but that classic sound is still the universal noise of 'a train is moving'.

Alternative Title(s): Coconut Effect

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