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In media of all types, but especially comics and cartoons, the "innocent" whistle is a main staple, often played for humor. Alice, feeling mischievous, decides to, say, throw a snowball at Bob. Bob is knocked off his feet. He pulls himself up and spins around to see no one around in the area but Alice, who puts her hands behind her back and lifts herself up onto her tiptoes and back down several times while whistling. Sometimes Alice would be also be twiddling her thumbs, point her eyes upward/away, putting her hands in her pockets, or a halo would appear above her head -- or any combination thereof. In comics, usually only a single note symbolizing the whistle is written. The Not-So-Innocent Whistle can also happen after suppressing a traumatic moment, or any other instance of hiding something.
Common ways the trope is applied:
- The Deadpan Snarker and/or the The Comically Serious end up Covered in Gunge or otherwise pranked. They prepare their worst Death Glare for the Plucky Comic Relief only to find him/her whistling.
- A character does something bad (accidentally or otherwise) and walk away whistling.
A Dead Horse Trope, given the large number of Genre Savvy characters who point out that whistling for no apparent reason is a surefire method to give yourself away. Not to be confused with the wolf whistle.
- A commercial for a Pokémon toy showed a kid doing this after using the product (a Pokeball on a string that can snap closed) to snatch a Pokemon mini figurine from a friend.
Anime and Manga
- In Dragon Ball Z, Ginyu, trapped in a frog's body, tries to steal the Dragon Balls. When Gohan spots him, he leans up and against the ball and whistles, forgetting that it's not something a frog usually does.
- In Asterix, Obelix once did it to fool a Roman legionary. That guy wasn't fooled, but told Obelix everything he needed to know. Obelix still didn't get it.
Film - Animated
- In Chicken Run, the chickens are caught in the middle of planning their escape. After a Beat or two of silence, every single chicken starts whistling (in unison) and looking innocent, with their hands behind their backs. They get away with it because Mr. Tweedy convinces himself that it's all in his head--chickens, after all, do not plot.
Film - Live Action
- Hancock has a strange example. Ray's wife whistles as she goes to get eggs out of the fridge that she tossed through her house wall along with the titular superhero.
- The action film Murder At 1600 tries to play this trope straight, with a disguised Wesley Snipes trying to infiltrate the White House disguised as a janitor. It fails, and he ends up captured. And ultimately killed.
- Harry and Marv do this in Home Alone when Kevin looks back over his shoulder as they tail him in their van.
- One of the earliest examples is in the movie M, where the child killer whistles the tune "In the Hall of the Mountain King" right before he tracks down one of his victims. He pauses and breaks it up at odd parts in the song, giving a sense of wrongness. This tic ends up being how the other criminals identify him and eventually hunt him down.
- In Steve Oedekerk's short parody film Bat Thumb, the villain No-Face, asked whether anyone ever had the slightest compassion for him, mentions a certain high school sweetheart of his named Vicky Nail, and his plans to get back together with her. Then he vows "...and I will kill any man who has so much as looked at her with lust in his heart!" In response, Bat Thumb (who has done a good deal more with her than just look, and also heard her say she's done plenty more herself) quietly whistles to himself from the Death Trap.
- In The Fourth Bear, Detective Spratt catches two bears in the middle of a porridge deal, and they try to look innocent. The narration notes that if bears could whistle, they would have.
- In one Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel, someone makes an Incredibly Lame Pun about Fitz's name, and it's so bad that everyone just looks upward and whistles.
Live Action TV
- Scrubs - Ted digs up a law requiring separate changing rooms for men and women, which means Kelso loses his new giant office. When Kelso demands to know who's responsible, Ted starts sort of blowing air through his mouth. Kelso asks what he's doing, to which Ted replies "I'm whistling so you won't think it was me..."
- In Police Squad!, a thug disguises himself as "press" to bring a large number of weapons into a victim's room and kill him. The guard doesn't notice. Whistling "Whistle While You Work" on the way out probably helped.
- Older Than Feudalism: The Greek god Hermes is described as doing exactly this in a myth about his birth. Apollo accuses him of stealing his cattle, and the incorrigible little scamp whistles innocently and gets shifty eyed.
- In a Garfield comic:
Jon: Garfield, would you happen to know what happened to the lasagna I fixed for dinner?
Garfield: (whistles innocently)
Jon: I didn't know you could whistle.
Garfield: I'd tapdance too if it would change the subject.
- A run of Peanuts comics had Charlie Brown's baseball team actually win a game, only to have the victory taken away due to a gambling scandal (Rerun van Pelt bet a nickel the team would win). The story ended with Charlie Brown saying the only thing he didn't understand was who had bet against the team, and Snoopy whistling.
- Lio gave himself away to his dad after creating inclement weather to cancel school.
- In Epic Mickey, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit will shoot faces at Mickey when his back his turned. Turn around to face him again and he'll start whistling innocently.
- Sometimes, the police will appear in Urban Champion, which causes the fighters to run back to the sides of the stage, thus restarting the fight. Can be helpful if you were about to lose, but annoying if you just needed that one more punch to send that green-haired punk down the drain.
- In Penny Arcade Adventures episode 2, the party rigs a monorail to crash into a giant metal orange so they can climb it to fight the final boss. Unfortunately, they realize too late that the bus was full of passengers, leading them to walk away whistling.
- In Jak and Daxter The Precursor Legacy Jak laughs at Daxter when the Yellow Sage refers to duo as "a boy and his muskrat". He quickly switches to an innocent whistle when Daxter looks up at him in accusation.
- In this strip of Brawl in the Family, King Dedede throws snowballs at Samus. It ends about as well for him as you'd expect.
- In Sluggy Freelance, this is standard vampire hunter procedure when they accidentally kill a human being.
- Elliot of El Goonish Shive, as he overhears a conversation about a topic he knows a lot about and yet dare not reveal what he knows for fear of breaking the Masquerade.
- The snowball example is from SpongeBob SquarePants, where Spongebob does this and it actually fools Patrick (though Patrick isn't too bright anyway).
- The traumatic instance: The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. "I'm thirty-eight years old!"
- Parodied in Futurama:
*Leela has murdered the Professor*
Leela: (talking to herself) OK, just stay calm and try to act nonchalant.
(Leela whistles innocently)
Zoidberg: Alright, so you're nonchalant. Quit rubbing our noses in it!
- Word Girl uses this once, when Becky's dad attempts to pay the obviously fake "babysitter." He tosses it some money and, when it remains inanimate, looks guilty, puts his hand in his pockets, and walks away whistling.
- Used in the Danny Phantom episode "Girls' Night Out." A ghost attacks Danny and his sleeping father while they are on a boat. Danny beats the ghost but, in the process, gets water everywhere. His father wakes up soaking wet to discover Danny whistling innocently.
- Used in the story "It's a Bird, It's a Plane... It's an Elephant?" on PB and J Otter. When Flick is making fun of the others for believing in dragons and flying elephants, Scootch imitates him and then Flick gives him a dirty look once he realizes what he's doing. Scootch then gives a not so innocent whistle.
- In the South Park episode "Red-Hot Catholic Love", the parents of South Park talk about the recent trend of priests molesting young boys. When Priest Maxi walks by, all of them whistle innocently, much to his confusion.
- In an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes, the entire town does this after Lucius demands to know who let Beezy borrow their cell phones.
- In a Fairly Oddparents episode, Mama Cosma manipulates a game show that will decide whether or not Cosmo will get to stay home with Timmy or not. Ultimately, only one person votes for Cosmo to "go home with his mama":
Timmy: I can't believe after all those tear-jerking heart-wrenching moments you still voted to take Cosmo away!
Mama Cosma: Actually, after seeing how Cosmo tortured Wanda I actually voted to let him stay with you.
Timmy: Then who was the person who voted Cosmo home?
Wanda: (whistling) ...What? I didn't do it! I'm just practicing my whistling!
- She didn't. It was Cosmo; he thought the button to vote him home would send him home to Earth.
- In Clone High, Gandhi, as he leaves the scene from having released the savage genetically engineered monster Geshy into the wild, upon seeing the destruction it causes.
- Homer also does in the episode "Summer of 4 ft. 2," when he, in an attempt to light a certain illegal firecracker with the stove, accidentially burned off a significant amount of the fuse, before shoving it in the sink (He was going to shove it in the refridgerator, but he stopped when he realized the beer was also in there). As a result of the obvious damage from the explosion, sewage was also coming up and overflowing the sink and onto the floor, to which Homer then walked away from the sewage with his hands behind his back, whistling. Marge is then seen cleaning up the mess in the background while Bart is complaining about Lisa's popularity.'
- Lynn, Lisa, Lana, Lola and Luan back away slowly and whistle a not so innocent tune to themselves to escape from the shouting and arguing Lori and Leni right before racing right up the stair steps in The Loud House season 2 episode: Brawl in the Family.