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YMMV / A Series of Unfortunate Events

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  • Acceptable Targets: Adults like Aunt Josephine with crippling phobias that make it impossible for them to function.
    • Characters like Esmé Squalor almost serve as a double-dipping Acceptable Target, mocking both people who live in exceedingly, offensively lavish lifestyles and people who are only interested in jumping on the latest fad.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Averted for the most part. Most of the unfortunate events that happen to the Baudelaire orphans affect them significantly, and they frequently discuss (even under rare good circumstances, as in the early chapters of The Reptile Room) their sorrow over events that have happened a significant amount of time in the past. Their conflicts are treated as sufferings rather than fun adventures, and when characters do respond with unusual positivity to terrible things, it's noted and generally played up for absurdity.
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  • Alas, Poor Villain: Olaf's death and last words carry a perhaps surprisingly emotional tone.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Is Count Olaf's marriage ploy just to get Violet's money? Or does he actually hold a long-standing, near-incestuous, ephebophilic lust for her? (In Fan Fic, everyone is incestuous.)
    • Mr. Poe's borderline-pathological stupidity regarding the Baudelaire's safety can lead one to wonder if he is secretly trying to get them all killed for whatever reason, perhaps a cut of the fortune.
    • How much of Olaf's bumbling is an act? At first impression, he may come off as an idiot that lucked into being surrounded by a society of even bigger idiots, but he does have genuine knowledge about things like manipulating mob psychology, marking secret locations, and is well-read enough to quote poetry as his Famous Last Words. Many fans believe he deliberately cultivated an anti-intellectual persona to stick it to the literature-loving side of the VFD schism.
  • Broken Base: A sure-fire way to make people angry is to remind them of how many mysteries are set up only to be dropped like a hot potato with no resolution.
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  • Canon Fodder: While the series was going on, it was assumed that all the loose ends and questions would eventually be resolved or answered, leading to huge amounts of speculation. Most of it was never referred to again.
  • Cant Un Hear It: Just try reading the books without imagining Count Olaf sounding like Jim Carrey. Did you succeed? Oh, it just means you're hearing Neil Patrick Harris instead.note 
  • Cargo Ship: In The End, Olaf embraces his weapons — a harpoon gun and a container of poisonous mushrooms — as if they're the only things he loves.
  • The Chris Carter Effect: Invoked Trope by the author (one of the major messages of the series being that "not all mysteries can ever be solved, better to accept this and move on"). There is a serious Broken Base on whether or not deliberately invoking the Trope at all (let alone for the sake of An Aesop) and then going ahead with putting a massive amount of unsolved mysteries on the story makes it any less of a Troll act on the part of the author.
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  • Crosses the Line Twice: The freaks in the ninth book, although some people found it in poor taste.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Especially towards the end of the series, the sheer amount of times that Poor Communication Kills and Adults Are Useless makes some readers just plain give up.
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Even before we had much Belated Backstory for them, Fanon interpreted Olaf's assistants as Yaoi Guys, or certainly something far more complex and sympathetic than they appeared in canon.
    • Thanks to her clingy unlucky husband, Esmé often gets this treatment. And Carmelita too, since she acts as her surrogate mother.
  • Ear Worm: If you listen to the audiobooks, Tim Curry's rendition of "Volunteers Fighting Disease" song will never leave your head. NEVER.
  • Epileptic Trees: A rather pervasive bit of Fanon holds that everyone and everything the Baudelaires encounter is part of a plan arranged by an Ancient Conspiracy with the purpose of training them for V.F.D. Theories of the "Minor Character X is really Character Y/one of the Baudelaire parents/Lemony Snicket" sort also show up.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: One can make a somewhat reasonable case for the series being an allegory for the history of the Jewish people, and Daniel Handler has himself noted that the series contains Jewish themes. Snicket's frequent use of Meaningful Names and literary allusions has also inspired a fair amount of over-interpretation.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain: Esmé wears many elaborate and unusual outfits over the course of the series. Count Olaf also wears strange outfits as part of his disguises.
  • Growing the Beard: The whole Mind Screw started and was hinted from the third book onwards, but it's after The Austere Academy when things really took off. That's because when he was writing the fifth book Handler had finally had his contract signed for 13 installments and could plan ahead the plot.
    • You could say that The Miserable Mill also grew the beard since it revealed there was a connection between Lemony and the life of Count Olaf. Monty's death in The Reptile Room was also a key emotional step.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In The Wide Window Lemony says Josephine's fear of realtors is irrational because nothing bad has ever come out of the industry, which is rather awkward after the 2007 housing bubble collapse. This is actually acknowledged in the Netflix series, as he still says the line but then looks embarrassed by it.
  • Ho Yay: Sir and Charles are portrayed as being very close. (see Word of Gay)
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Idiot Plot: One of the reasons why the books have plots after the first few is because the Baudelaires are some of the few recurring characters that do not have the Idiot Ball. Tropes Are Not Bad because it adds to the dark humor, and the feeling of bleakness in a world going out of its way to be cruel to these children.
  • Inferred Holocaust: Considering the huge number of buildings that get torched in the series, it's to be expected. However, it's also deconstructed in the sense that when it's the Baudelaires' turn to start burning things, they admit that they have no idea how many people die as a result of their actions, and are deeply affected by it, most notably in the destruction of the Hotel Denoument, where even the author isn't sure of the death toll. The book even ends with one: there's the potential for the islanders to spread their poisoning to the mainland, though it's acknowledged that this is unlikely.
  • Iron Woobie:
    • The Baudelaire children. Their parents are killed in a house fire and they're being pursued by a relative who wants their fortune. To add to their woobieness, their relatives are killed off and their only friends get taken away from them.
    • The Quagmires. Just like their friends, their parents have been killed in a mysterious accident and two of the siblings believe their brother has died. They're also pursued for their fortune and have been held captive for who knows how long. In Duncan and Isadora's final appearance, they're separated from their friends again, but it's never explained what happened to them.
  • It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: The fear among some sections of the fandom that a Newbie Boom resulting from The Film of the Book and the Netflix series would ruin everything.
  • Les Yay: "Although sadly I believe it will be quite some time before two women can be allowed to marry and I will love you if you have a child, and I will love you if you have two children, or three children, or even more, although I personally think three is plenty, and I will love you if you never marry at all, and never have children, and spend your years wishing you had married me after all, and I must say that on late, cold nights I prefer this scenario out of all the scenarios I have mentioned.”
    • For those who don't know, this is the full quote "I will love you if you marry someone else–your co-star, perhaps, or Y., or even O., or anyone Z. through A., even R.–although sadly I believe it will be quite some time before two women can be allowed to marry." This is from The Beatrice Letters and is from LS to BB (Lemony Snicket to Beatrice Baudelaire). "R" is also believed to the R Duchess of Winnipeg, whose ring Bertrand used to propose to Beatrice.
  • Memetic Mutation: Handler's Signature Style quickly went viral, a phrase which here means "imitated endlessly by the Internet".
  • Memetic Molester: Count Olaf. On top of being creepy as all hell, the part where he "marries" Violet certainly enforces this.
  • Misaimed Fandom: There are some fans who interpret the series as a serious drama rather than a dark comedy. While the series has plenty of dark and depressing moments, there are also plenty of absurd, comical scenes to balance it out.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Count Olaf himself has no doubt crossed the line. The question is: when?
    • In The Bad Beginning, he locks Sunny in a cage at the top of a thirty-foot tower and threatens to drop her to her death if Violet doesn't marry him.
    • In The Miserable Mill, he and Georgina Orwell hypnotize Klaus to kill Charles to get him and his siblings would get kicked out of Lucky Smells Lumbermill and be captured by Count Olaf. This is also where Georgina herself crossed it.
    • Probably the biggest example would be in The Vile Village, when he kills Jacques Snicket and then frames it on the Baudelaire children.
    • Then there's The Penultimate Peril, where Count Olaf kills Dewey Denouement and makes it look like the Baudelaires did it by throwing the harpoon gun, which causes it to go off.
  • No Yay: Count Olaf's affections for Violet are always portrayed as disturbing by the fanbase.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Beneath the surface of society is a Violent Feudal Drama going back decades between two factions of a child-stealing conspiracy, many members of which lead elaborate double lives as respectable members of the community while in secret they have few compunctions about arson or murder; your parents, teachers and especially librarians are probably in on it, and so are waiters and hotel managers, while taxi drivers are just waiting to whisk you away to a new life.
  • Periphery Demographic: Like Harry Potter, it's one of those books you'll often see teens and adults picking up for themselves, possibly not allowing their own children to read them until they are mature enough that it won't give them nightmares.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: It's not like a series called A Series of Unfortunate Events would be lucky enough to escape this, anyway.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • An emotional example: The first time reading the books is easier to laugh at the wacky and absurd situations and the Deus Angst Machina because, in spite of the multiple warnings, it's easy to hope that at the end there will be a somewhat satisfactory conclusion and things will turn out well for the children. The second time around, when you are painfully aware of all the despair and misfortune awaiting the kids at every turn that will in all probability continue long after the end of the books, even the wackiest setback can become a Tear Jerker.
    • There's a surprisingly uplifting bonus: If you followed the series as each book came out, it was pretty easy to forget some of the many references to the future, long after the series finishes, that the narrator made in the earlier books. While the final book pointedly refuses to give a satisfying conclusion, and indeed an unhappy story is what the narrator had often called this entire saga, there are several small hints that the Baudelaires have quite a future ahead of them after all. In The Wide Window, it's definitively stated that Violet would return to Briny Beach for a third time, and since she hadn't by The End, she must have survived. In The Reptile Room Klaus is said to, after many years, still be wishing he called the taxi driver to take "Stefano" back, implying, though with much less evidence, that he too survived. And, in the Beatrice Letters, Sunny is mentioned as sharing her recipes on the radio when she grows up to be a young woman, which is the strongest evidence of a happy ending for any of these characters. Suddenly, a book series that's famous for its unfortunate events and inconclusive ending ends up with a heartwarming moment via a good rewatch!
  • Ship Mates: Violet/Duncan or Violet/Quigley end as this with Klaus/Isadora.
  • Spoiled by the Format: The Baudelaires' fortune will be legally theirs once Violet turns 18. It takes 11 books for her to reach her 15th birthday, and the series ends when she's roughly 16. Though by that point the Baudelaires stop caring about their fortune and are more concerned with surviving.
  • Squick:
    • Olaf trying to arrange Violet to marry him in the movie/first book. Keep in mind that he's a man probably in his fifties or older trying to get a teenage girl to marry him.
    • The Hook-handed Man or the Bald Man, both of whom agree that Violet is pretty. It's not really explained if they're just as dirty as Olaf or not.
  • Take That, Scrappy!: Olaf does this to Poe in the movie while Violet does this in the series proper, politely declining to come with him after the clusterfuck that was the first 7 books.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Frequently indistinguishable from Aborted Arc and Red Herring Twist.
  • Values Dissonance: Yep, even though it's not that old, this trope exists here. There is a running joke about how one of Olaf's henchpeople looks like "neither a man, nor a woman", and about how creepy he/she/they is/are. With increasing awareness today about transgender people, and people with gender dysphoria, and people of non-binary gender, it is hard to view this as funny. (Note, however, that this has been pointed out to Daniel Handler, who has stressed that he is quite aware of the difference between "genderqueer" and "androgynous", and the Henchperson is meant to unambiguously be in the latter category. The Netflix series adaptation confirmed this and made the Henchperson a sympathetic character to boot.)
  • What an Idiot!: In the Wide Window, Mr. Poe falls for Count Olaf's Captain Sham disguise, that's all fine because he wasn't the only one, but you'd think that he'd be at least a bit suspicious about "Sham's" associate with the indeterminate gender who isn't even bothering with a disguise standing right next to him.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: The title should have been a warning, as should the actual warning, but this series contains plenty of dark material, not to mention a vast array of references and allusions that children would not likely understand.
  • Woolseyism: Since "VFD" originally stood for Volunteer Fire Department, the initialism can vary wildly in different languages, so other names using the initialism are adjusted accordingly. For instance, in Greek, "VFD" becomes "Ε.Α.Π.", so the "Village of Fowl Devotees" has to become "Επαρχία Αρπακτικών Πτηνών" or "District of Predatory Birds". In some languages, there's even a modified logo; for instance, the French "VDC" logo looks like this.


Example of: