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Playing With / Loophole Abuse

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Basic Trope: Characters exploit the loopholes created by the way the rules are phrased for the sake of performing something they want.

  • Straight:
    • Calvinball is a sport that is somehow designed around male players. Alice requests to sign up, pointing out to the coach that there are no rules that prohibit women from playing, and is accepted.
    • Alice applies for her college's Calvinball team. When she's rejected due to not having enough skill with the sport, Alice points out a rule in the school handbook saying that female students can not be rejected from a sports team on grounds of assumed weakness. The coach accepts her to save face.
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    • Alice is the Kid Hero of Alice and Bob and Bob is her bodyguard. When Bob orders her to Wait Here while he does some Storming the Castle, Alice points out a loophole ("he asked me to stay in the car, so I'll stay in the car") to follow him. Because of this, and the fact Alice ran over The Dragon, Bob is only annoyed at her disobedience for a short moment.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Alice breaks out a machine gun in the middle of a Calvinball match and blows away the Opposing Sports Team, defending herself by explaining that the rules allow for Unnecessary Roughness and don't show where it becomes too rough. The referee allows this.
    • Alice obtains a doctorate in Troping by writing her entire thesis in Klingon. The thesis is pretty much absurd rambling that nobody but Alice can decode, but hey, they said that a thesis could be delivered in the language the student was most fluent in...
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    • Alice rapes a man and defends herself (successfully!) in court by showing a rule on Troperia's 1960s review of its constitution (that never was truly repealed) that designates sexual superiority as a method of self-defense.
  • Downplayed:
    • Alice exploits the fact that her high school's rules only enforce what kind of fabric, color, and cut the uniforms are made of to make the most form-fitting, fashionable "uniforms" she can.
    • Calvinball is a gender-neutral sport. Regardless, Alice points out that there is no rule on the book that forbids women from being part of the team in order to swindle him into accepting her. The coach accepts.
  • Justified:
    • The rules are pretty loose for the sake of allowing lateral thinking.
    • When Calvinball was first created, everybody just assumed girls wouldn't want to play, and didn't specifically create a rule around it.
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted:
    • The coach refuses to allow Alice to play Calvinball because he's sexist. Alice takes the struggle directly to court.
    • Just because there is no explicit rule that forbids Alice (or Tropey the Wonder Dog) from playing Calvinball, the rules have some details that make it implicit (like players needing to be registered students of Trope University with an average 3.0 GPA, or the Golden Snitch being maintaining hold of all of the rival players' penises at the same time for ten secondsnote ).
    • The rules say women can't play Calvinball. But they are on Section ZZ-Double-Z-Zebra of Revision 3000, on page 12,555 of the rulebook. It's just that nobody has ever thought of looking them up.
    • The Dean wants to kick Alice out of the team because he believes the rules may have a specific phrasing but the implied spirit is still very obvious, but he can't because Alice has a very strong public following and doing this would cause an uprising.
    • The rules of the game may not forbid using firearms against one's opponents, but the criminal code, particularly the one about how homicide is illegal, that governs life in general still applies.
  • Double Subverted:
    • The coach caves in and allows Alice to be part of the Calvinball team... but there is no rule that says she actually has to play. Alice becomes a glorified bench-warmer.
    • The rules say that girls can't play, but don't say anything about transgender men. Alice immediately starts doing a Sweet Polly Oliver and says she's one.
    • The Dean leads the charge to make changes to the rulebook that are "publicly acceptable" but are still a big "fuck you" to Alice — Obvious Rule Patch so it won't happen again, the formation of an all-girls team to kick Alice into that will get a whole lot less support and advertisement, which leads to an equally sub-standard segregated league...
    • During the investigation for the court, Alice's lawyer manages to reveal that the Opposing Sports Team has a particularly interesting habit of "accidentally" breaking the bones of the other team's quarterbacks, so he is able to discuss that Alice was afraid for her life and thus pulling out that gun was self-defense. It's nonsensical as hell, but it provides enough reasonable doubt that Alice still walks.
  • Parodied:
    • Alice rationalizes how she can get away with breaking the rules using nonsensical fallacies.
    • The rules being gendered but not explicitly barring women or girls from playing allows Alice to do literally anything except score herself without even being considered outside interference.
    • The loophole abuse is very, very, very stupid: because of the vagueness of the rules, Alice manages to enter a rock as a member of the Calvinball team. And the weirdest part is, it leads to the team's victory.
  • Zig Zagged: Sometimes Alice takes advantage of the wording of the rule she wishes to break and sometimes she doesn't. It also varies whether or not she gets away with it.
  • Averted: Calvinball Rule Number One is that no girls are allowed to play Calvinball.
  • Enforced: "Well, we have established Alice to be the kind of girl who would do a Jackie Robinson Story... why not have her swindle her way into playing Calvinball?" "But everybody who has played Calvinball on-screen so far has been a man." "Well, have we ever mentioned that the rules specify it's a man's-only sport?"
  • Lampshaded: "Alice is lucky that the officials didn't think about how the rules' wordings could be interpreted."
  • Invoked: Alice notices that the wording of a rule can be interpreted in a way that she can use to her advantage and does so.
  • Implied: Alice is the only member of the Calvinball football team. She gets lots of weird looks and a Double Take (followed by a shrug) from the referee.
  • Exploited: Alice causes a ruckus about girls not being allowed to play Calvinball and that the rules don't explicitly say that they can't so her friend, the transgender person currently known as "Bob", will hopefully have a smoother road when he tries to apply for a spot on the Calvinball team.
  • Defied:
    • Obvious Rule Patch
    • The rules are very, very explicit and extensive, covering every possible angle that could be exploited somehow. If the rules say Alice can't play, Alice won't play, period.
    • The college's Dean Bitterman refuses to allow Alice to play Calvinball, saying that this is within the rules' obvious spirit regardless of how vague they have been phrased.
    • Alice follows the rules as written, thinking that trying to argue loopholes is too much of a hassle.
    • Alice is punished anyway, as harshly as it takes to get across the message that the authorities in charge of Calvinball do not like being made to look like fools. From this point onwards whatever rules Alice bent are only bent in (highly) unofficial games, or until they are rewritten.
    • Alice gets the book thrown at her because her abuse of the loophole is seen as just that, an abuse, and obviously one that either obliviously or deliberately violates common sense — there may not be a real rule against Unnecessary Roughness in Calvinball, for instance, but the general supposition is that "boys will be boys" and nobody in the field is actively going to try to murder the other players, which is what Alice looked like when she whipped out that gun to scare off her opponents. Or that time when she wrote her thesis in Klingon — the implication when allowed to write it "in the language she feels most comfortable writing with" is that it would require a translation, not a literal decypher.
  • Discussed: "So, yeah, Alice manages to win the game in spite of cheating because she was being a smartass about the way the rule was worded."
  • Conversed:
    • Someone points out how dumb it is to rationalize breaking rules being okay if done so in a way that technically follows the rule to the letter.
    • "You know, when someone tells a little kid to stay put while they are Storming the Castle, after it's made clear that there's gonna be a lot of bullets flying and people willing to kill kids running around, it's common sense to stay put. Why do they like to say 'oh yeah, he didn't said to follow him this way, so let's go!'? Are they fucking suicidal?"
  • Deconstructed: The short period of time between Alice exploiting the loopholes and the Obvious Rule Patch is pure bloody anarchy, as people who argue in pro and against Alice's behavior come to blows (in really dreary scenarios literally) and people race to exploit the loophole before it closes, sometimes doing going way too far (if Unnecessary Roughness allows you to shoot your opponents (for now), then it's also okay to blow them away while they're inside the locker rooms, right? Does it really needs to be a player the one handling the gun? Alice's abuse of the loophole was by shooting people's shoulders and kneecaps, but what if someone figures out that kill shots are also okay? The last we see of Alice, she's got a Thousand-Yard Stare because she was the harbinger of multiple stadium mass shootings and hooligan riots that are — very "quasi" — legal).
  • Reconstructed: In the face of institutionalized evil, using their own words against them is the best of weapons. Calvinball players are complete assholes because the sport is a Jerk Jock breeding ground, so finding a legal way of humiliating them is just so sweet...
  • Played For Laughs: Alice exploits an Animal Athlete Loophole to enroll Tropey the Wonder Dog into the Calvinball team for a lark. Whether it backfires on her and Tropey is a good player or the Calvinball team is humiliated is entirely up to the writer.
  • Played For Drama: Alice is the main character of a Jackie Robinson Story. The loophole abuse may allow her to put a foot in the door, but she will still need to prove her worth.
  • Played For Horror: Alice uses her expertise in rules lawyering to murder and terrorize without opposition.

If you are finished seeing how to abuse the rules, please go back to Loophole Abuse, and no funny business!