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"No, Fire Lord Ozai, you're not wearing pants!"—Aang, Avatar: The Last Airbender, "Nightmares and Daydreams"
"I was up at the front of the plane, and I said, 'Listen, I don't think this is a real plane crash, since I happen to notice that I'm not wearing any pants, and when I'm not wearing pants, it's probably a dream.'"—Adam, Myth Busters
A stock dream where the subject finds themselves in a familiar social institution (usually school or the workplace) wearing only their underwear, or sometimes nothing at all. This is often coupled with a high-pressure task (such as an examination or a deadline), and the thought that you have somehow forgotten to get dressed this morning.
Usually, this trope is invoked to simply indicate that the person is dreaming. When played straight, it is simply embarrassing, and not in the least bit erotic or terror-inducing. And it will never, ever be prophetic...although in comedy, it's occasionally subverted by having the "bad dream" turn out to not be a dream at all. This is definitely Truth in Television.
The subversion is Nude-Colored Clothes.
- One of the "Windows 7 was my idea" ads features a student Not Wearing Pants.
- Target also capitalized on this dream for an ad.
- Jeremy in Zits has a dream where he is naked at school and can't decide whether the most disturbing part is that he's naked or that no one notices.
- Jon in Garfield once had a nightmare, where he was about to address the assembly of the United Nations, with millions of people watching by television... and he forgot to wear pants.
- Played with in The Far Side, where a professor realizes to his horror that he has come to a seminar without his duck.
- In Little Ego, Ego has a dream where she ges to a party only to discover she had forgotten to put her dress on under her cape. While hiding from her hosts and the other guests, she meets a man who had forgotten to put on anything other than his bow-tie.
- In a variaton, one Calvin and Hobbes story arc has Calvin rip his pants on the swings right before he has to present a math problem on the chalkboard. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Batman, Tim Drake once commented that normal people have nightmares about accidentally heading to school in their underwear. He doesn't. His nightmares involved accidentally going to school in his Robin uniform.
- A cartoon in Punch shows a man, naked from the waist down, riding the bus, while explaining cheerfully to a horrified elderly woman that this is simply a recurring dream of his in which he always wakes up before reaching a particular stop.
Films -- Animation
- Part of Shrek's baby nightmare in Shrek the Third.
- The Live Action Show Within a Show dream sequence Ozzy watches features Frank appearing in his daughter's classroom and getting called out for being in his underwear...and getting laughed at by everyone, from the kids, to his coworkers, to his rival in the chicken-wing-eating contest he plans to attend.
Films -- Live Action
- In Bull Durham, Nuke LaLoosh had a nightmare about playing naked. When he wakes up on the team bus, wise veteran Crash Davis tells him "it's OK, I have that dream all the time too." Writer/Director Ron Shelton really did play minor league baseball, and this is one of the many parts of the film that are evidently Truth in Television.
- A High School Musical 3: Senior Year blooper had the entire basketball team somehow forgetting their pants.
- The live-action part about Frank's subconscious (a movie theatre) in Osmosis Jones featured a dream in which Frank was in his daughter's class taking a test he didn't know about or study for...in his underwear and getting laughed at by the kids, the buffalo-wing-eating champion, some bullies from work, etc. and berated by Mrs. Boyd.
- In the Victorian farce The Wrong Box, Morris (Peter Cook) has his pants ripped off getting extricated from a train wreck. A military man indignantly gives him his jacket to cover up. He meets up with cousin John (Dudley Moore):
John: Morris! Do you realize it's a criminal offense to wear that jacket?
Morris (angrily): I'm not wearing any trousers!
John: ...but that too is a criminal offense!
- In New York Minute, Jane has a nightmare that she gives a speech naked.
- Chris Van Allsburg's storybook The Sweetest Fig involves self-centered Parisian dentist Monsieur Bibot receiving two figs as payment for a tooth extraction. The lady who gives him these figs says that all of his dreams will come true. Not believing so, Bibot eats one of the figs. The next day his preceding dream comes true; he walks his dog Marcel in his underwear without knowing it, and the Eiffel Tower droops over as if it were deflated of air.
- In Bridget Jones's Diary, Bridget has a nightmare where she has to take A-level French while wearing nothing but her Domestic Science apron.
Live Action TV
- Sam Axe in Burn Notice seems to have a thing for pantslessness, especially in season 1.
- In Episode 2 of Season 1 while Sam is detailing Michael on a cover ID.
Michael: Not bad for a man in his underwear.
Sam: Hey, you think that's good? You should see me without em.
- Eureka uses this... in the same episode everyone winds up sharing dreams.
- Willow mentions having such a dream in an early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Buffy: Do you remember the demon that almost got out the night I died?
Willow: Every nightmare I have that doesn't revolve around academic failure or public nudity is about that thing. In fact, once I dreamt that it attacked me while I was late for a test and naked.
- In season 1, Episode "Nightmares", Xander is forced to live through his nightmare of suddenly being in his underwear in front of the entire class. It is mentioned that this is a recurring nightmare of his.
- A Star Trek Voyager episode about dreams begins with Tuvok having one about being naked on the bridge.
- Referenced in the "Cabin Fever" episode of Myth Busters, wherein Adam recounts a dream he had about piloting an airplane, in which he said it must be a dream because he wasn't wearing pants.
- In the episode of Malcolm in the Middle with Dewey's chicken pox and the dominoes, Hal has a dream that starts with his wife on a white horse, and transitions to him having a test in school for which he didn't study... and suddenly he's in only his underwear.
- One episode of Night Court has Bull come to work in the buff. "It's okay, I'm just having that nightmare where I go to work naked." "...Bull, this isn't a dream." Cue the slow burn, the girly scream, and the title.
- Referenced in iCarly when Sam was having a nightmare and Gibby ran into the classroom in his underwear. Sam told him to "Get out! This is my nightmare!"
- In an episode of Power Rangers RPM, Ziggy reveals that he once dreamed that he had gone to school in just his underwear, only to realize that it wasn't a dream. Apparently there was a rash that had spread down the back of something too... Later on, he tests out a teleportation ability. Well, his suit teleported, he didn't; leaving him in just boxers and a helmet.
- Babylon 5 used this with Ivanova in one episode. She dreamed that she was on the bridge but forgot to get dressed. When she mentions it to Sheridan by saying she dreamed that she went to work feeling vulnerable and exposed ("totally... unprepared for my work"), the Captain responded by saying that at least she didn't dream that she went to work naked.
- On How I Met Your Mother, Ted has one of these dreams right before starting as a professor. Not only is he missing his pants, but he doesn't even have his hat and whip. Barney comments on it, telling Ted he should have had sex with the hot student in the front row because he already had his pants off.
- In an episode of Angel, the hero dreams that he comes to work but forgets his shoes.
- On The Drew Carey Show, Drew told his not-quite girlfriend about a dream he had involving her:
"You were on fire and I was squirting you with a giant hose. Then you turned into my mother and my pants fell off."
- Played with in series 3 of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica when Baltar is imprisoned on the Cylon basestar. He's mostly naked or in just a robe, while the Cylons are clothed, and this adds to the dreamlike and surreal quality of his experience. But when he's actually dreaming, he's usually fully clothed.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch has Sabrina enter Valerie's dream to find her taking a test on which her entire future depends. Then she looks down and all her clothes are gone.
- Pixelface: Referenced by Rex in "Mrs Dynamo's Son":
Oh no! Is this a dream? Am I going to have to sit an exam with no pants on in a moment?
- Happens in the beginning of The Longest Journey when April sees a "dream" about Arcadia. Justified, as she actually did unconsciously travel to Arcadia while sleeping in her bed (and she didn't sleep fully-clothed, naturally). It happens again much later, when she has to flee after being awakened at night and arrives to Arcadia in just her undies.
- Dreamfall does this again whenever Zoe arrives to Winter (she gets a brand new suit of clothes upon every arrival to Arcadia, though). And no, this time it isn't justified by anything, so it must have been an Author Appeal all along...
- Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Due to appropiately-programmed cutscenes it's quite possible to have the main character attend any number of serious situations, such as a business meeting with his sister, in his underwear. Or any other clothes one can acquire, including a gimp suit.
- Dragon Age Origins: If you play a female Noble human and agree to marry Alistar after he becomes king of Ferelden, his response is "Usually after this I'll wake up, or notice that I'm only wearing my underpants and everyone laughs at me. "
- A comment Hawke can make to Merrill during his/her final talk to the companions in The Last Straw quest of Dragon Age II when she asks if it all feels like a dream: "In a moment, I'll look down and see that I have no pants on."
Merrill: (giggles) The Champion of Kirkwall going into battle naked! Why can't I ever have that dream?
- Implied, but ultimately subverted, in one Sam and Max game. Various characters are living out their worst nightmares, and one is the paranoid Bosco, who is naked, on a stage, and has everyone looking straight at him. Later turns out that it was the "everyone looking straight at him" part that he disliked; he actually doesn't mind being naked in public.
- This Buttersafe comic, complete with a Lampshade Hanging on the whole phenomenon.
- Ansem Retort: Pants are for the weak!
- This Giselle strip. "I wish for my dreams to come true," indeed.
- This comic from The Non-Adventures of Wonderella.
- Dork Tower on reflecting it was not like an anxiety dream
- Escape from Terra here
- This comic from Julia's dream in Think Before You Think.
- Discussed in The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal.
Amal: So what are you dreaming about?
TJ: I'm on Wheel of Fortune... and I'm naked.
Amal: Oh, the naked-in-public dream, that's a classic.
TJ: Yeah, but it's okay, 'cause Vanna White's naked too.
Amal: Vanna White's, like, seventy years old!
TJ: Hey, this is my dream, so she's still bangin'.
- In the Whateley Universe, one story has Phase going through a long series of nightmares. (Can superhero characters have PTSD?) One nightmare is her naked in the school cafeteria. At which point her physical peculiarity is visible, and the rest of the Super-Hero School tries to kill her.
- In an episode of Aladdin, Iago and Abu are magically transported to the land of the dead, which gives them the ability to visit living people in their dreams. They manage to convince Aladdin and the Sultan that they're dreaming by pointing out that they aren't wearing pants.
- In Futurama, Fry has a dream about being in his old underpants in front of his Ancient Egyptian Algebra class. The dream then turns into an advertisement for Lightspeed Briefs, a much cooler brand of underpants. He then learns that advertisements in the 31st century can be beamed directly into people's brains.
- As mentioned in the quote, the episode "Nightmares and Daydreams" of Avatar: The Last Airbender features this: Aang dreams that he faces the Firelord while pantless, then inverts it at the end. Complete with the line "My royal parts are showing!"
- Though, admittedly, this is the same series that gave us this (unrelated) quote: "Pants are an illusion... and so is death." And "Where we're going, you won't need pants!"
- Hilariously, Aang also has a nightmare that he faces the Fire Lord, who then whips out a maths test that Aang hasn't studied for! Wait a second...
- Ron Stoppable's reveals to Kim Possible that his worst nightmare is to being in school without wearing any pants. And this is a guy that drops his pants, a lot.
- And Kim pointed out he actually did come to school with no pants.
- Occurs in The Simpsons... except it isn't a dream.
Judge Snyder: Mr. Hutz, do you realize you're not wearing any pants?
- He's not even wearing any underwear.
- From the episode where Homer goes to college:
Homer: A test? This is like one of those bad dreams!
(camera pans out revealing him in his underwear)
- In Bob And Margaret, Bob's nervousness about giving a speech at a Dental convention culminates in him having a dream where he's giving the speech naked.
- On American Dragon Jake Long, the eponymous character ends up in his underwear on a bridge in front of a reporter, his little sister and his home economics teacher who turns out to be another dragon. He figures he must be having a bad dream because of all the stress of his job and begins acting crazy. However, he was not dreaming and pictures of the event were eventually published.
- Played straight in another episode where Jake dreams that Rotwood points out that he's wearing his underwear to school.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: "I'm in my underwear, AT THE MALL!"
- In an episode of Extreme Ghostbusters involving nightmares, this was Egon's nightmare. Subverted in that he doesn't have a Naked Freak-Out over it.
- In the My Gym Partners a Monkey episode "The Hyena and the Mighty", Adam had a dream that he came to school in his underpants. Jake informed him that it wasn't a dream.
- Not used, but referred to in the The Amazing World of Gumball episode The Responsible, where Richard and Nicole have gone to a Parent's Meeting, and Richard is in his underwear.
Richard: This is just like one of those dreams where you go to school naked!
- In an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, Jade enters Jackie's dream, and has to point out Jackie isn't wearing pants.
- A little Fridge Brilliance over why everyone seems to keep having these dreams: not necessarily because of psychological factors or whatever, but what are we usually wearing when we sleep? Either loose-fitting pajamas, underwear, or even nothing at all. We're wearing the same clothes in our dreams, just in different situations!
- This might explain why some of us who tend to sleep in our clothes don't have those kind of dreams.
- In Reading Lolita in Tehran, the women discuss having dreams of appearing outside without their veils.
- Also, for those who believe in dream interpretation, these types of dreams usually indicate that there is something about us that we don't want other people to know and we are afraid they will find out about it. We fear the exposure of this thing (i.e. ether our undies or personal areas) may lead to humiliation and ridicule. Also, dreams in which someone is completely naked means the same thing, but on a more severe level.