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Playing With / Hannibal Lecture

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Basic Trope: A captured or cornered character delivers a speech psychologically breaking down the hero and undermining the hero's confidence, sense of identity and purpose.

  • Straight: Serial Killer Bob, who has been captured by police officer Alice, accuses Alice of being a weak, pathetic inadequate who is Not So Different from Bob and who arrests people to give herself a false sense of purpose and power. Alice is shaken and disconcerted by Bob's insights and understanding of her.
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  • Exaggerated: Bob delivers a speech that has resulted in mind raping Alice from being a relatively confident and well-adjusted person to being Driven to Suicide within a minute and a half.
  • Downplayed: Bob's speech is annoying and puts Alice into a bad mood for a while but otherwise doesn't bother her.
  • Justified: Bob is a psychological mastermind with a deep understanding of human nature who has studied and profiled his target.
  • Inverted: Alice arrests Bob and, while interrogating him, he tells her what a wonderful person she is for stopping killers like himself and Alice leaves with a renewed sense of self-confidence and purpose.
  • Subverted:
    • Bob delivers his speech. Alice appears to be upset about it, but she was only pretending to be so in order to lull Bob into a false sense of security. She laughs at Bob's attempts to undermine her.
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    • Bob delivers his speech. Alice bluntly and calmly points out that Bob is completely wrong and doesn't know what he's talking about then moves on.
    • Alice doesn't respond to Bob's attempts to provoke her and keeps on topic.
    • Bob's understanding of human nature and psychological warfare isn't as good as he thinks it is and so his lecture fails to do more than waste his time.
    • Alice is Too Dumb to Fool and her only response to Bob's lecture is blank incomprehension.
    • Alice strikes right back with a "Break Them by Talking" of her own.
  • Doubly Subverted: Bob wasn't entirely wrong, and some of his observations still cut a nerve; Alice doesn't reveal so to him, but reveals it later.
  • Parodied:
    • Bob's observations are ridiculously trite, feeble and simplistic, bordering on petty insults, but they nevertheless reduce Alice to an emotional cripple.
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    • Serial Killer Bob, who has been captured by police officer Alice, accuses Alice of being a weak, pathetic inadequate who is Not So Different from Bob and who arrests people to give herself a false sense of purpose and power. It turns out that Alice REALLY wanted to arrest Bob for fame, to his horror.
    • Bob's lawyer is present during the lecture and frantically tries to shut him up as he's making himself look bad.
  • Zig Zagged: Both Alice and Bob go back and forth with deconstructing each other, with the result that that it's not clear who is most affected.
  • Averted:
    • Bob doesn't say anything during Alice's interrogation.
    • Bob answers in a way that is not meant to harm Alice psychologically, and does not.
  • Enforced: "We want our villain to be a dark, creepy badass with a deep understanding of human nature, and our cop to be flawed. What better way to show this than have the villain turn the tables on the cop in the interrogation room?"
  • Lampshaded: "Is the part where you tell me what how inadequate I am?"
  • Invoked: "Walk away, Detective. If you continue this line of inquiry, I will take your psyche apart piece by piece until there's nothing left of you."
  • Exploited:
    • Alice anticipates the coming lecture and catches it on film for later use at the trial. When the jury hears it they become less sympathetic to him.
    • Bob tries to break Alice's confidence by pointing out all of her flaws; Alice responds by admitting her flaws and since she has him as a captive audience she goes ahead and vents all of her frustrations and fears to him. By the end of it she ends up feeling better for finally getting all of that off her chest.
  • Defied:
    • Punch to the face.
    • "This is the part where you expect me to give some kind of Hannibal Lecture, right? Well, no thanks, I just want a lawyer."
    • "You will answer the questions we give you and nothing more. If you utter a single syllable to deviate from this... well... We Have Ways of Making You Talk!"
    • Alice walks away from the room, hangs up on, breaks the jaw of, or otherwise successfully shuts up Bob every time he tries to lecture her.
    • Alice provides Bob an extensive "'The Reason I Suck' Speech", with every single little flaw he could have exploited, and adds "...and yet, I caught you, you fuck. So how "flawed" do you think I am now?"
  • Discussed: "When did all of these serial killers and psychopaths get psychology degrees?"
  • Conversed: "Oh come on! He's a psychopath — why are these characters taking him seriously?"
  • Deconstructed:
    • 1. Bob's understanding of human nature only goes so far, and is limited by his own sociopathy and Freudian Excuse, which has poisoned and corrupted his view of the world. Not everyone and everything can be so easily compartmentalised into his limited view of the world, and once he comes across something which challenges this understanding his psychological attacks completely fall apart, as does Bob himself.
    • 2. Bob's little speech is shown to be worthless, regardless of whatever he successfully picks Alice apart psychologically. All that evidence and those expert witnesses won't go away just because he mocked Alice's bad relationship with her mother. Bob is convicted for his crimes and survives three months in a high security prison before a more impulsive inmate shanks him to death.
    • 3. Bob's little speech, whilst insightful, ends up getting him into deeper trouble; he's so confident and smug about his ability to unpick Alice that he doesn't realize that in doing so, he's giving away vital information that can be used to convict him. Alice does realizes this, and regardless of the pain it causes her allows him to continue in order to let him dig his own grave. Once Alice reveals what Bob has done, Bob realizes that he probably should have kept his mouth shut.
    • 4. Bob is so consumed with self-loathing that he projects his own hate of himself onto others.
    • 5. Alice shuts Bob up before he starts delivering his speech. Depending on the setting he's rendered unconscious or killed on the spot.
    • 6. Alice doesn't pay attention to Bob's speech and takes him down anyway.
  • Reconstructed:

Back to Hannibal Lecture. No, on second thought, stay here. After all, you're here to have other people hold your hand through this entire trope, aren't you?

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