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The Power of Apathy

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"If everyone in the entire world got together and 'not cared' hard enough, it would fix the multiverse!"
Linkara, Crossover review of Warrior #4

In fiction, enthusiasm is power. But the lack of enthusiasm can also be power. It takes more than just trying to pretend your problems don't exist. You have to mean it. You have to really feel your lack of feelings about the conflicts around you, and declare to yourself and the world "I DON'T CARE!"

The Power of Apathy is most commonly applied for challenges too immense for a character to realistically overcome. Perhaps the protagonist is facing against The Horde spanning infinite legions, or a giant, indestructible Kaiju parent who just won't let me hang out with my cool new friends cause he is, like, a total b-word! What is the solution? Just Ignore It. And not just ignore it; get on with your life and find something better to do. The armies and the monsters will get frustrated with your lack of attention, and either go home disappointed, or the apathy will physically hurt them as a Literal Metaphor.

The Power of Apathy is usually a cynical trope, meant to be a twisted parody of The Power of Love, The Power of Hate, The Power of Friendship and whatever power you can get out of all the other emotions. It is usually Played for Laughsnote . The times it is not is usually to counter those empowered by Clap Your Hands If You Believe. A Sociopathic Hero has a related power to apathy, but just by not caring about morals; they might still care about other things.

Compare Sheathe Your Sword, which involves winning by deliberate inaction rather than apathy, and Safety in Indifference for characters who are deliberately (and usually unsuccessfully) trying to invoke the trope. They may sing an Ode to Apathy while doing it.


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    Comic Books 
  • Invincible: Hapless scientist David Anders is cursed to transform into the reptilian supervillain Dinosaurus whenever he becomes overly bored and apathetic. To keep Dinosaurus contained, the authorities thus put David in a Luxury Prison Suite filled with video games, movies, books, and various other activities to keep him entertained. When the heroes later need to bring Dinosaurus out, Mark sits David down and forces him to listen as Mark rambles on about boring, mundane subjects.

    Fan Works 
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls: Weaponized by Harshwhinny. Her power, The Uncaring, produces a powerful sense of apathy in her targets that leaves them sapped of their willpower, such as their will to fight or defend themselves against attacks, leaving them vulnerable to enemy attacks. It ends working against her when fighting the Fourth Espada. While it makes him care less about his ally (which he only because of politeness) it also makes him more focused and determined to kill all threats while blocking out his deeper emotional turmoil.
  • Feralnette AU: Marinette stops caring about the civilian side of her life, deciding it's less important than her responsibilities as Ladybug and the Guardian of the Miracle Box. Her Establishing Character Moment in the series involves grabbing an akumatizing butterfly out of the air and daring Hawkmoth to do it, declaring that "Every leash has two ends! I just have to pull until I find out where you're holding it!"
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, apathy is a source of power for an improved variant of the Killing Curse. Whereas the basic hate-based Avada Kedavra spell can usually be cast only once during a battle, as it is difficult to hate somebody that much, the True Killing Curse only requires you not to care about somebody's life and can be cast without limit.
  • The Karma of Lies: Marinette discovers that cutting ties with her Fair-Weather Friends is much easier than she originally believed it would be, as by the time she transfers out of her class, she's completely given up on her classmates, having realized that they're only interested in what they can get out of the relationship.
  • Raise: Once he realizes that he'll never be able to fully appease the public, as the media will take and twist anything and everything he does to criticize him, Jaune gives up on doing so. For instance, he accepts Winter as a mentor because he realizes that people are already claiming that he's unfairly favoring the Schnee family and their MegaCorp; why bother trying to convince them otherwise when they'll make completely baseless accusations regardless of what he does to disprove them?
  • Scarlet Lady:
  • In Uninvited Guests, Hitsugaya eventually snaps and takes on a very Zen-like perspective. One of the things this perspective teaches him is that he can rely on the plot to solve all his problems eventually. Since he has no internal conflicts to entertain potential readers with, the plot consequently resolves itself much faster and smoother.

    Film — Animated 
  • The evil wizard Ommadon from The Flight of Dragons tries to frighten and cow the hero by expanding himself to giant size, with multiple hydra-like heads. The protagonist however, is a man of science, who refuses to believe in Ommadon's magics. Instead, he cites principles of physics and biology that refute Ommadon's powers. By remaining The Stoic throughout the contest, he sees the Ommadon expend himself entirely in fruitless bluster and theatrics.
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth, apathy is weaponized by the Lethargians, a group of slime-like creatures that inhabit a swamp called the Doldrums. When Milo ends up there by not paying attention or thinking about where he's going, he finds himself surrounded by the Lethargians, who sleepily explain that they don't care enough about anything to be active or even think. Milo finds himself hypnotized by their apathy and starts agreeing with their philosophy, which lulls him into a stupor. Unfortunately, when the Lethargians say they don't do anything, they mean anything—including eating and breathing.
  • Rise of the Guardians: Pitch Black finds that the town's children refuse to be cowering and fearful of his powers, those powers diminish to the point where he becomes the most afraid. The children's combined disbelief reduces Pitch to insubstantial and ineffectual, his worst scenario. As a result, his nightmare mooks, who can smell fear, turn on him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Hunt (2020) essentially ends up as a tribute in support of apathy. Crystal, the film’s primary protagonist, was kidnapped by mistake (she essentially shared a name with the person the hunters truly wanted to target), but the film goes out of its way to show that she has no political affiliation. She loathes her liberal captors and wants them dead (understandable, after what they did to her), but she doesn't follow politics or seem to have any strong beliefs about it, and is explicitly shown disagreeing with the conservative views of her fellow captives. Essentially, in a satirical war of liberals vs. conservatives, the indifferent bystander comes out on top.
  • In Wristcutters: A Love Story, the Crapsack World that suicides end up in has a number of rules that make it just a little worse than the real world, and one of these is that anyone can perform miracles- but only if they don't care whether or not the miracle happens.

  • Aliens (Steve Perry Trilogy): Wilks has this. Near the end of Nightmare Asylum, he recalls a psychiatrist telling him about Doc Holliday, and how he survived against deadlier gunslingers despite subpar skills because, with his tuberculosis diagnosis, he honestly didn't care if he lived or died in any given moment. Wilks embraces "Doc Holliday Syndrome," believing he's been living on borrowed time ever since Rim. Nothing the Aliens can do to him frightens him, since it should have happened to him a decade ago, just like the rest of his platoon. And if he's beyond caring what the Xenomorphs can do to him, he certainly has zero fucks to give about anything a human being could threaten him with, no matter how much rank, status, money, or power they can claim.

  • "I Forgot That You Existed" by Taylor Swift is about how for a long time, she was mad at a former friend and upset about everything they did but is now at a place where indifference is all she feels, and it's peaceful and nice.
  • Eminem's Slim Shady character represents this. He does not give a fuck about anything, and encourages the audience to use him as an Escapist Character alter-ego to help them not give a fuck about anything either.
    • In the 2017 song "Believe", Eminem tells the audience, "When you struggle with despair... I am your 'fuck-it' switch — nothin' can compare".
    • In a 2018 interview, when asked about how Not Giving A Fuck connected to his extreme pettiness, sensitivity and tendency towards overreaction, Eminem explained that, to him, Not Giving A Fuck is a concept that encompasses two different things. The first is just not caring about anything, which is not really possible for most people. The second is taking action about what you care about while not caring what the judgement or consequences will be, which is motivating, liberating and inspires people to make positive changes in their lives.

  • The Magnus Archives: This turns out to be a pretty effective way to escape the Entities, which makes sense. Given that the Entities are literal manifestations of fear, it follows that not giving a crap weakens them of their power.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: The planet Aphexis is populated by people who simply do not care- Chaos forces have repeatedly conquered the place only to find that the inhabitants don't give a rat's ass about the vast displays of cruelty their captors put them through.

    Video Games 
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, there's an enemy in the Daily Dungeon called the Apathetic Lizardman. While it's not a tough opponent for its level (it's apathetic, after all), the true danger comes from attacking it in melee, which causes its sheer apathy to spread to the player, giving a huge reduction to all stats for a good few adventures.

  • Royalty, Kill Six Billion Demons's version of enlightenment, is one part power of apathy, one part Achievements in Ignorance. The harder one tries to achieve such a state, the more difficult it becomes to reach. As such, people who don't care about such things end up becoming Royalty through little effort. This shows up in the setting's lesser metaphysics as well. Mottom, for example, has obtained eternal life by mass Human Sacrifice, but her constant brooding on her fear of death causes any youth she gains from it to fade within hours. Conversely, in her final battle, she remains young and beautiful even in the face of imminent death, because she's no longer afraid to die.

    Web Videos 
  • At the end of the Warrior #4 Linkara/Spoony Crossover review, Spoony and Linkara realize that the time and effort they took bashing the titular comic is what was causing the multiverse to collapse and that they must stop caring about it in order to prevent the apocalypse. They reach out to the audience and plead with them to announce that "these comics suck and (they) don't even care anymore." The spatial rift diminishes and the multiverse is saved, but Spoony, Linkara, and Insano end up turning into Grey Lanterns, the Guardians of Not Giving a Crap, complete with everything becoming black and white. This soon goes away when Insano asks if they want to watch TNA Impact.
  • In the Ninja the Mission Force episode "Bruce - A Dragon Story", the knights manage to defeat the Troll by ignoring it, the troll crying out "pay attention to me" as it dies from lack of attention. Later, the hero of the episode manages to defeat Number 34 through apathy, even proclaiming "I don't care" as he stabs it.
  • In the Jreg series "Centricide", the Centrists all seem to have this ability in different flavors, all of them capable of making other ideologies less extreme. With Political Nihilist's nihilism beams and Apepolitical's brute force, they both were able to turn AnCom (the Anthropomorphic personification of Libertarian Left-Wing Extremism) into Post-Left, while the Anti-Radical nearly turned Libertarian and AnCap (Anarcho-Capitalism) into Neo-Liberals with his knife.
  • The Runaway Guys: During the Wii Party U playthrough, Jon discovers that he gets better dice rolls if he doesn't dramatically shake up the dice beforehand, which gets jokingly referred to as the power of apathy.
  • In RWBY, this is the threat of Apathy Grimm. They're not particularly strong, fast, or ferocious (though they are pretty tough), and just casually meander over to their targets. They don't need to be fast or strong, because their very presence drains people of their will to survive. Get enough Apathy together, and even the most powerful of Huntsmen will just stand there and allow themselves to be killed.

    Western Animation 
  • Lumpy Space Prince in the Adventure Time episode "The Prince Who Wanted Everything" defeats his monster parents through the power of apathy, screaming "I DON'T CARE" at them through a microphone, reducing them to a lifeless pile of lumps.
  • In the Futurama episode "I Second that Emotion", Bender is implanted with an empathy chip tuned to Leela's emotions. When Bender has to save Nibbler from a monster, he can't because Leela is too emotionally distraught. So Bender has to teach her to not care about Nibbler... for the sake of saving Nibbler.
    Bender: Listen to me, Leela. I'm an expert at not caring. The secret is to stop giving a rat's ass about anyone else and start thinking of the things that you want, that you deserve, that the world owes you.
    Leela: Well, I could use a new tank top.
    Bender: Bigger! Bigger!
    Leela: A fashionable tank top, and fashionable boots... encrusted with jewels.
    Bender: Don't stop now! You need pants to go with that outfit!
    Leela: Yeah! And I could afford it all if I didn't have to feed that stupid Nibbler!
    Bender: Bender is back! I'll save you, Nibbler!
  • One episode of Wander over Yonder has the Main Characters confront a monster called the Troll, who feeds off of negativity. He constantly insults and taunts Prince Cashmere's goat army, and he gets bigger and stronger every time he gets a rise out of them. How do the heroes defeat him? By ignoring him. Once they stop reacting to the Troll's jeers, the Troll loses his power and shrinks into nothing.
  • In the The Simpsons episode "Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores" segment from "Treehouse of Horror VI", giant billboard mascots come to life and rampage through Springfield, and the only way to make them inanimate again is by not paying any attention to them.
  • Played for laughs in an episode of Kim Possible. Ron and Monique get paired up for a group assignment, and Ron makes it clear that he expects her to do all the work. Monique tries to refuse, but Ron weaponises this trope against her.
    Ron: "Monique, I think that we both know that you'll do the work."
    Monique: "What do you mean?"
    Ron: "Four words. Grade Point Average. Hey, you care. I don't."
    Monique: "You..." (*stomps off fuming*)
    Ron: "Check and mate."


Video Example(s):


The Grey Lanterns

Spoony, Linkara and Dr. Insano manage to successfully save the multiverse by convincing the audience that Warrior #4 is irrelevant and have now become Grey Lanterns, the Guardians of Not-Giving-A-Crap. It makes more sense in context.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThePowerOfApathy

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