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Humble Pie is a single, significant humiliating event that deeply affects a character. The subject is typically a particularly obnoxious and/or self-important character who makes a serious mistake or suffers a defeat that forces them to reflect on their failure and their ego. This happens most often to antagonist characters, and is usually portrayed as being well-deserved.

Sometimes, just to rub it in some more, it can be followed by a Humiliation Conga, and might result in Breaking The Haughty. In more obvious cases, the character will actually be called out for his arrogant attitude, but usually the situation is more subtle and the realization is more personal.

There are many ways for a character to respond. Oftentimes the character will simply accept their failure, realize the error of their ways, and change themselves to become a genuinely more tolerable person. Other characters simply cannot handle eating Humble Pie, and may react with anything from a Villainous Breakdown to something more more drastic.

The trope name comes from the phrase "to eat humble pie," meaning for someone to be humiliated. The phrase is derived from umble pie, which was a food made of offal (that is, the internal organs and other "throw-away" parts unwanted by the wealthy) during the Medieval Period that was often eaten by servants and lower-class people.

A similar phrase is "eating crow".

Compare with Humiliation Conga, which is what happens when a character is forced to eat several Humble Pies all at once, and Break the Haughty, which may occur as a result of pie-eating.

No relation to the band led by Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton.

Examples of Humble Pie include:


Anime and Manga

  • The Prince of Tennis: Ryo Shishido's loss at the hands of Tachibana and being kicked out of the regular team. Both trigger his Important Haircut and Character Development into a still harsh, but more kindhearted person.
  • Prince Talupsin from The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird is at the end of this trope when he acts like a Princess in Rags as the Amano family hides him from his enemy (and Katori becomes his Body Double). At some point Haruka gets fed up with his crap, slaps him and then begs him to hear the voice of the people like a noble prince should; after the little girl tells him how things are, Talupsin quickly straightens his attitude.

Film

  • At the end of Chicago (the movie adaptation), Roxie is acquitted, but literally moments later, a new heinous crime is committed and all the reporters rush out of the courtroom, leaving her all alone and without the fame and adoration she had been seeking.
  • In The Devil Wears Prada, after being chewed out by her boss, Andy storms out of the office and goes down to Nigel to complain. Nigel answers with a thorough "The Reason You Suck" Speech, forcing Andrea to admit that she doesn't appreciate her position enough.

Live Action TV

  • Played with and then averted in Glee 2x14: Rachel promises to take Kurt to 'a bakery of his own choosing for a piping-hot slice of humble pie' after proving that Blaine (the boy Kurt's in love with) is actually straight with a non-drunken kiss. When the kiss in question actually confirms to Blaine that he's really most sincerely gay, Kurt starts warming up to deliver that slice of pie to Rachel, but she completely fails to notice, due to being struck by the realisation that dating a boy who 'turned out to be gay' is perfect material for her new songwriting career...

Theater

  • At the end of Inherit the Wind, after Matthew Harrison Brady wins the case he wants to talk some more about God, the evils of evolution, and how good Christian folk have to be on their guard in today's permissive society, but the people in the courtroom were kind of sick of the whole business so they ignore him.
    • For clarification, he had prepared this brilliant monologue about all the stuff mentioned above, intending to use it as his closing statement. Unfortunately for him, his Genre Savvy opponent realized that he would never be able to produce a better statement, since Brady was a more experienced lawyer and a better public speaker, so his opponent pulled a fast one by declining to give a closing statement himself. Under the laws of the time, this meant that Brady wasn't allowed to give a closing statement. He tries to give the monologue after the trial, but by then the spotlight isn't on the case anymore, so no one really cares.

Video Games

  • Both "eating humble pie" and the variant phrase "eat crow" come up occasionally in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series. This deserves special mention, synonym or no:

 Godot: Looks like, this time, I've been forced to eat crow.

Maya: I wonder what recipe crow-flavored coffee is...

Western Animation

  • In The Emperors New Groove, Kuzco is quite the Karma Houdini until he dismisses and insults Pacha (okay, that happens quite a few times, but this time he means it), only to find out that Pacha was in fact looking out for him, and now he's all alone.
  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, there have been two examples.
    • In "Boast Busters", The Great And Powerful Trixie doles out these to those who challenge her claims, by taking whatever task they challenged her with and twisting it to her own ends. And at the end of the episode, she stoutly refuses to accept the slice that's served up to her, running away instead.
    • In "Sweet And Elite", Jet Set and Uppercrust get this thanks to Fancypants on two occasions. First by him taking Rarity into his reserved balcony seat at the races, right in front of them, and second, when he endorses Rarity and her friends, who'd they'd just spoke down to, forcing them to suck it up and praise her.

Real Life

  • Actress Kristen Stewart was described by several celebrity gossip mags as "eating humble pie" after she was forced to apologize for remarks in which she equated being famous with being a rape victim.
  • Aging tennis star Bobby Riggs acted the male-chauvenist lout during the run-up to the "Battle of the Sexes" between him and Billy-Jean King. After King beat him soundly, he had to eat a lot of humble pie...
  • Older Than Steam: The expression derives from 'umble pie', which was a pie filled with liver, heart, and other offal. It was popular among British commoners in the 15th and 16th century. Something of a subversion, as umble pie can actually be quite delicious (assuming you like offal); however, it was considered humiliating for someone who could previously afford "real" meat (e.g. a nobleman) to have to eat the stuff.
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