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  • Accidental Innuendo: "When you really like someone, there's nothing worse than a naked signature." Said by Nate when Jenny didn't sign his yearbook with anything but her name, but even in context it sounds strange.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
  • Archive Panic: Big Nate has been churning out daily comic strips since February 1991 (when the Sunday comics started; the dailies started a few weeks earlier in January).
  • Awesome Ego: Nate's a total Narcissist, but still has lots of fans.
  • Bizarro Episode:
    • One Sunday strip has Nate visit a beach, where his bike got stolen by a seagull. Most of the response/comments for this particular strip can be summed up as "...What?"
    • Another one, which is part of the Nate/Trudy strip series, has him walk away, smiling, until he literally starts FLYING. Also may count as a Tear Jerker.
    • This strip has Nate walk out in his underwear because he thinks he's dreaming, then get mocked by the others kids, leading him to go back to bed.
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    • In November 2019, there was an arc in which Teddy wore a different outfit, causing Nate to gain Medium Awareness.
  • Cargo Ship: Francis and his Book of Facts, or Nate and Cheez Doodles, seeing how they are both unhealthily attached to the items.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • One Action Cat comic had Dr. Cesspool run the cat over, fix him up, and then say that he hoped the cat's learned his lesson about getting hit by cars. Cue Action Cat walking away and another "Thump" off-panel.
    • A George Washington comic series that Nate once made included his men at Valley Forge. One man told Washington that some people thought they would have to resort to cannibalism. Washington thought this was a ridiculous idea, but then the other man notices his second-in-command is missing...
  • Dork Age: During the late 2010s and early 2020s, the series found itself stuck in this as it recycles plots and humor like Nate finding a girlfriend and failing, Nate losing his temper in class and getting sent to detention, and Nate getting picked on for how his hair looks. It also has been relying too heavily on Kafka Komedy while making it mostly needlessly mean-spirited and unjustified like Nate continuously being manhandled by Kim with her suffering no consequences, his friends treating him more like crap, and random background characters beating on and threatening Nate for petty reasons. Arcs also end too early with predictable endings that offer very little growth or variety to the series as a whole, and they don't really try to make a single attempt to bring out new ideas.
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  • Fridge Horror: How does Chester treat his family members? Lessened by the fact that his parents have enough authority over him to make him quit the baseball team to focus on schoolwork, as seen in one arc.
  • Genius Bonus: Nate's character Dan Cupid has "love darts" that make people fall in love with each other, but in one strip he mentions that he has "anti-love darts" as well that make people hate and be hated by everyone. In Greek mythology, Cupid not only had golden arrows that made people fall in love, but also had iron arrows that had the opposite effect.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • After the 2016 US presidential election, the storyline where Nate runs for class president can be this, if you imagine Nate in the role of Donald Trump. Much like Trump, Nate didn't seem like a likely candidate, but ended up winning.
    • Chad Applewhite is an adorable but short and physically unfit kid. He couldn't be more different from the strong and charming but mean Chad who all the girls allegedly prefer to the "nice guys". Became even more amusing in a 2019 arc in which Nate hypnotized Chad into having a persona more like the stereotypical Chad.
  • Ho Yay: Derek Nack idolizes Nate...a little too heavily. He's only appeared in two arcs, but he's managed to get plenty of odd lines in.
    Derek: Want to exchange locks of hair?
    Nate: Well, gotta go...
  • Informed Wrongness: Whenever Nate gets into conflicts with people, he is usually the one portrayed in the wrong regardless if he's actually in the right, particularly whenever he's being treated unfairly by Mrs. Godfrey such as when she gives him detentions for the most trivial reasons like stretching in class.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Nate's not a nice person to say the very least, but his friends often tease him, his teacher gives him a terrible grade for making a replica of the coliseum out of blocks, and it just seems that the universe hates him. There are multiple times Nate's just minding his own business and something bad has to happen to him or his friends purposely screw him over for amusement.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Kim has this status among many fans for being a Flat Character who exists purely just to make Nate's life a misery by being a bully who frequently beats him up whenever he insults her or refuses to do what she says, and tries to force romance onto him while being insensitive about him not liking her and having no respect for his personal space. The fact that she is always a Karma Houdini whenever she mistreats Nate adds even more hate to her, along with her making even more recent appearances and adding to the comic's current Dork Age.
    • Miranda is this because of being nothing more than a typical Bratty Half-Pint character who despite adds nothing to the strip that is already filled with tons of Jerkass characters has been appearing in more recent comics, and is always a Karma Houdini when being a Jerkass to Nate.
  • Squick: Coach John collects kidney stones and loves showing the kids his knee surgeries. "And the bone was poking through the skin!!"
  • Uncanny Valley: Gordie looks...odd, to say the least.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: While Mrs. Godfrey is often harsh with Nate, Nate often does things that would seem just as bad to her when looked at from her perspective, such as drawing mean cartoons and blatantly disrespecting her in front of the class.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Francis and Teddy were seen as rather ungrateful and insensitive after Nate's breakup with Trudy, especially after he mentioned it was so he could hang out with them.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The characters' mean-spirited and abusive traits are this in the current era of the series. Back then, acts of violence against people weren't as taken seriously nowadays such as hitting or strangling people and came off as mostly comedic relief in pop culture. But nowadays, acts like that aren't really taken as comedy as much as it used to be, especially when it's happening to kids since bullying has become a major hot topic issue. In fact, many states in the United States have elevated strangling a person to a felony charge. The fact that a lot of the characters in this series tend to have a lot of moments of being abusive to other characters like how Kim and Gina have strangled Nate a couple of times, or when a character threatens to assault someone like when Dee Dee once threatened Randy when he got stage fright during a school play, most modern audiences will less likely to find this stuff hilarious and instead wonder why haven't any of these kids been sent to juvenile detention.
    • Kim's treatment of Nate also flies into this with how characters like Nate's dad react to it so calmly. In the comic, Kim's abusive and manhandling treatment of Nate is depicted by other characters as them being a loving couple, while in real life, this kind of relationship would be seen as a toxic and abusive relationship. Also in real life, if a father saw their child being treated this way by their boyfriend/girlfriend, they would furiously report to the police as an assault case instead of batting an eye while viewing the relationship as lovable.
    • Even though it's played for laughs, the teachers' favoritism towards Gina, especially from Mrs. Godfrey, is pretty much a promotion of social inequality as Gina tends to often get away with things other students would be punished for like shouting in class and framing others for misdeeds. If this were to happen in real life, the teachers would face losing their jobs, as well as the principal for neglecting to enforce equality among the students and staff.
  • The Woobie: A downplayed example, but Mr. Rosa qualifies. He's an overworked and underpaid Art teacher who has to work at ice-cream parlours during summer vacations, gets little respect and recognition despite having three Bachelor's degree a Masters and being a generally Nice Guy. It's implied to actually hate his job, especially when a lot of his former students are now more successful and doing better in life than he is.
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