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The Monkey Morality Pose is a visual comedy trope frequently seen in film, television and animation.
It is based on the old idea of the three monkeys whose example good people should follow to live their lives: See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil with hands over eyes, mouth and ears, respectively. A fourth monkey, Do No Evil, keeps his hands in his lap -- and since that could be interpreted a number of ways, it may explain why the fourth monkey is not so well known. According to the Other Wiki, the saying dates back back to Confucius. When translated to Japanese, it becomes "Mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru" (literally, "Don't see, don't hear, don't say"). Since "-zaru" sounds like "saru" (which means "monkey") it became known as the Three Wise Monkeys.
Generally, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the trope has been used to convey people refusing to acknowledge things they should be acting on, or as a shorthand for people reacting to something shocking or horrifying as a type of Beatdown Discretion Shot, if you will.
Anime & Manga
- In a rather frightening version, episode 51 of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood has an eyecatch showing three members of the "cyclops army" in such a pose.
- The Monkeys from "Banana Sunday" ARE the original The Wise Monkeys.
- When Sun Wukon is born in a 4-panel comic abridged version of Journey to the West, several of the strips reference these monkeys.
- In Planet of the Apes (1968), the ape judges briefly take this pose.
- The ads for Religulous showed the three monkeys dressed as a rabbi, a priest and an imam.
- In Rio, three monkeys do this after Nigel tosses their boss up and then catches him after he falls for a long distance.
- In the Far Far Away Idol special in Shrek 2, when the Three Blind Mice sang "I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Is Gone", they tripped over each other, causing Shrek, Fiona, and Simon (in that order) to assume these poses.
- Specifically, Shrek covered his eyes, Fiona covered her mouth, and Simon, being Simon, put his fingers in his ears.
Live Action TV
- In one episode, Prue, Piper and Phoebe rescue three monkeys. Near the end, Phoebe reveals she's taught them to do this pose whenever she says the word "evil".
- A later episode has the three sisters cursed with this. One sister is struck blind, another deaf, and the third mute.
- Briefly referenced in a Halloween episode of NCIS. A trio of pranksters wearing monkey masks discover the corpse du jour at the beginning of the episode. They're listed in the credits as "See," "Speak," and "Hear."
- In one episode of Friends, when Ross announces he has to give up Marcel (his pet monkey), he, Chandler and Joey take this pose for a moment.
- In the Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior episode "See No Evil", the UnSub patterns their attacks after this. The first attack is an Eye Scream, the second Ear Ache, and the third Tongue Trauma.
- Whose Line Is It Anyway? has one game called "Animals", where the players attempt to act out a generic drama scene while behaving like predetermined animals - any game that has them acting like primates will end in this fashion.
- There is an old Mad Magazine comic where the shadow shows what people really think/want. The comic where a man is being mugged shows the three passengers waiting at the nearby bus stop and not responding have shadows in this shape.
- Alfred E. Neuman strikes the pose on one cover of the magazine.
- In a full-page gag from the early 1970s, then-President Richard Nixon was shown in the "hear no evil" and "see no evil" poses, and then with his hands cupped around his open mouth with the caption "Well, two out of three ain't bad!"
- Progressive rockband Genesis indulges in this in their music video for Keep It Dark.
- System of a Down included this in their song ATWA.
- Three characters from Killer7 are based on (and named after) this trope. Iwazaru (who hangs from the ceiling in a gimp suit making "shush" hand sign) gives you important information, Mizaru (who wears bondage gear and covers her eyes) points out obstacles Kaede can remove, and Kikazaru (who wears all white, clings to walls and ceilings, and disappears when you draw near) indicates the presence of Soul Shells.
- The new Pokémon Pansage, Pansear, and Panpour, as well as their evolutions actually all appear to be based of this trope, but backwards.
- Runescape does this, and how. The three monkeys are actually found ingame, with the original names. There is a whole quest centered around them, even! A short version of the story is like this: Monkeys have once lived on the desert. The clash of two gods, Amascut, goddess of destruction, and Apmeken, goddess of friendship and sociability and monkeys, caused Apmeken to lose and lose her three senses - and so did the desert monkeys. Out of the stolen senses, three monsters were forged, and killed off the debilitated monkey population - except for Mizaru, Iwazaru and Kikazaru, which escaped to a monkey island (no, not that one), by helping each other and filling out for their respective lackings. Also due to Apmeken's loss, people of the desert turned hostile and started wars. In the quest, the player establishes a new monkey colony on the desert and defeats those three monsters, restoring Apmeken's senses, and is spoken to by the goddess... and also does a lot of other funnier things. Talking to the three monkeys is a rather comedic routine if one can't talk back and one doesn't hear you.
- Adventure Quest spinoff site ebilgames.com has a variation with Zorbak, Twilly and Twig in this pose.
- Mario Party 9 has a bonus event on the DK board where you try and stop statues of Diddy in this pose to get bananas.
- Seen in this panel of Bad Machinery.
- Sam and Fuzzy has ninjas doing this.
- Subnormality uses it here
- Woody After Dark has three guys doing it here
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, there are three Chinese superheroes who claim to be the original Three Wise Monkeys. Don't ever ask them to assume this pose. You're only about the eightieth person to ask that day, and the joke has gotten old.
- Three famous Harman and Ising cartoons -- "Good Little Monkeys," "Pipe Dreams," and "Art Gallery" -- featured the three monkeys as statues come to life, trying to be good but always misbehaving. (And if you want an Ear Worm, just listen to their "Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, no!" song. Yikes!)
- The song is also almost impossible to decipher unless you know something about 1930s culture. Gay meant rakish, and jazz was bad (or worse... ethnic!):
Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, no!
We're the Goody-Goody Monkeys every place we go.
Never have we gone astray --
Don't believe in being gay --
Being good's the only thing we know; so
Speak no hi-de, see no hi-de, hear no hi-de-ho!
Not a single wild oat will we sow!
We're so very very good, wouldn't be bad if we could --
Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, no!
- Danny Phantom has Sam, Tucker and Danny take the pose in "One of a Kind" while Samson the Purpleback Gorilla puts the beatdown on Skulker.
- One episode of Jackie Chan Adventures has Tohru, Jade, and Jackie being struck blind, deaf, and mute respectively by a giant monkey statue.
- Often visually parodied with Huey, Dewey and Louie in Walt Disney comics.
- My Life as a Teenage Robot: The title cards for three different episodes named after each line have a variation of Jenny striking the three poses.
- The Censor Monkeys from Disney's House of Mouse appear to be covering their eyes, ears, and mouths during all of their appearances, respectively.
- One Daria credits gag has the Three J's as monkeys making these poses.
- Ovide and the Gang has a trio of koalas who echo this--one of them wears headphones, one of them has dark sunglasses, and one of them is usually just covering their mouth.
- The old Porky Pig cartoon "Porky's Hero Agency" has Porky imagine himself as a hero-for-hire in mythical Ancient Greece, and taking on the Gorgon. At one point, the Gorgon petrifies a trio of Three Stooges look-alikes, who adopt this pose, leading the Gorgon to quip "Guess I made monkeys outta them!"
- Bob Dole once saw Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon together. Dole quipped, "That's hear no evil, see no evil, and evil."
- Romanian president Traian Băsescu featured himself in place of the monkey, as part of his electoral campaign.
- The Beastie Boys did this on the cover of Check Your Head, with a bit more subtlety - MCA is wearing sunglasses, Mike D is covering his mouth, and Adrock is wearing a woolen cap.
- A disturbing example is this poster, directed at those involved in the Manhattan project, telling them to keep quiet about what was happening there.