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File:Out-of-character-moment 3920.jpg
"Batman does not eat nachos!"
Batman to another Batman (who continues to eat the nachos), Batman the Brave And The Bold

As any writer will tell you, there are times when drama, art, and normal human behavior are not just at odds, but in a Mexican Standoff waiting for the others to blink before blasting each other as doves flutter by in slow motion.

Sometimes the characters are stuck and unable to move forward, and the author doesn't feel comfortable dropping in solutions via Deus Ex Machina or having a guy barge in with a gun. Other times, there's a great set up for a joke but no one present is snarky or smart enough to say it. There is a solution though; albeit it requires that one or more characters act outside their established character for just a moment.

Enter the Out-of-Character Moment. Whether it's one of the various Ball Tropes, Improbable Behavior Tropes or Poor Communication Kills, a character gets temporary Character Derailment for a scene and allows the plot to move in the direction the author wants. Generally, the creator herself will acknowledge she forced their behavior in some way; though it's not quite as damaging as Character Derailment, especially when it results in the natural progression of the plot.

Quite often it is a very fine line and difficult to notice in the first place, such as the difference between a Deadpan Snarker and The Comically Serious. At other times, with a Five-Man Band or other ensemble group characters, they are often shifted around to better fit into a team dynamic when they are used to being alone or in a simple partnership.

Speaking of natural growth, this Out Of Character Moment may be expanded on as Character Development (for examples of this, see OOC Is Serious Business). If they are being pushed beyond their comfort zone they may act differently than normal, but somehow they find their own way to survive. After all, not all character growth is predictable or linear.

Sometimes there is a Real Life aspect to this, in that real people will not always behave in the most expected way (if only for a brief moment). Depending on the general circumstances, immediate situation and who is around, the most mild individual can just snap. This is related to the Fundamental Attribution Error, in which people tend to place more of what they expect from someone on their personality than the situation.[1]

And this is also a reminder that true Character Derailment isn't merely one instance of "I don't like what they did."

Contrast Alternate Character Interpretation. See also Character Exaggeration and Characterization Marches On. Possibly caused by a Writer on Board.

Specific Examples of this include: Comedic Sociopathy, Conflict Ball, Hero Ball, Idiot Ball, Idiot Plot, Smart Ball, Villain Ball, Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass and depending on the character Lawful Stupid.

Examples of Out-of-Character Moment include:


Anime and Manga

  • In the Bikochu Filler arc, there was a Running Gag of Naruto being unable to differentiate insects. This even gets on Hinata's nerves. This was the only moment where Hinata ever raises her voice at Naruto.
  • It happens to Kaiba in a filler episode of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kaiba is just getting ready to fire some of his business associates for trying to kill him when they tell him that he should test out their new virtual simulator. Kaiba agrees and says he'll fire them AFTER testing out the trap... er, I mean, game. You can guess what happens.

 Kaiba: I instantly forgive you.

Mokuba: Wait, big brother, why are you acting so out of character?

    • That was actually Dub Induced Plot Hole. In the original, they make a deal with Kaiba - he plays the game they invented. If he wins, they're fired; if he loses, they stay. Kaiba even notes that he knows it's a trap, but he has to play anyway or they'll try to get revenge later. It's still a nice holding of the Idiot Ball (they would get revenge either way), but Kaiba is known for never refusing challenges, so it wasn't so OOC.
  • Many Trigun Maximum fans thought the ending was extremely out of character when Knives turned "good", presumably put his last energy into healing Vash and growing a tree and asked the kid to take care of Vash. Arguably, Livio had an OoC moment in his "I now realize I love kids!" speech. This may be more of an invoked trope due to him taking up Wolfwood's mantle regarding kids.
  • In the Legend of Galactic Heroes side story Shirogin no Tani where Fugenberch is badly wounded and pleading for his life, and Kircheis advocates killing him. Even though Fugenberch was sent to kill them, and even though he did call Annerose a whore, shooting a man in cold blood is something Kircheis would usually object to. Of course, Fugenberch was effectively Doomed by Canon anyway...
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga (and in Brotherhood), Alphonse is shown to be a level-headed, mature, and kindhearted young man. But after receiving a Hannibal Lecture from Barry the Chopper, Alphonse actually believes him and starts to doubt his own existence, causing him to Freak-Out and have a fight with his brother Edward. There had been no indication before then that Alphonse would react this way to anything, and no foreshadowing that showed his existence being in question in the first place. It pretty much takes a heartfelt speech with help from a monkey wrench from Winry to turn Alphonse right back into his previous characterization, never behaving that way again. This is avoided in the original anime by way of building up the issues that Barry brings up for a bit before Al deals with him, and then having Al feel the effects of it for a far longer time than in the manga/Brotherhood. He also has several more freak outs over the course of the series, making them part of his overall characterization.
    • The anime has one in the fillery fourth episode when Ed seems to break his Thou Shalt Not Kill principles, albeit by accident, and doesn't react much to it. This is given a Hand Wave in a later episode. And then later he's responsible for killing Greed--also pretty much by accident--but he has an appropriately devastated response, and, after some Character Development, he manages to kill Sloth as well.
  • In Dragon Ball, Vegeta spends most of the first Broly movie too scared to fight, simply because Broly "is the legendary Super Saiyan", and that means they have no chance to win. Sure, Vegeta (generally) tries to not get into fights unless he believes he'll win on a Curb Stomp Battle, but that doesn't mean he won't fight a stronger opponent if there's no way around it (See: Recoome and Buu) and even when he's sensed absurd power levels before he never freaks out on quite that level. And while he cries against Freeza, it's because he realized he couldn't win (and that Goku, of all people, stands a better chance of winning than he does), but only after he tried. Yet here he's pretty much a coward except when he finally decides to do something (not that he accomplishes much). No wonder he doesn't show up at all in the next two Broly movies.
  • Used for Rule of Funny purposes in the fourth arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, in which all of a sudden, you have cool, calm, and generally nice Virgilia go flying off the handle when Gaap summons a few of her goat-headed butlers. Cue the next exchange she pops up in, where she's going Stupid Evil and giving every cliched, Villain Ball line in the book (Literally - they actually make a special formula out of this).
  • Cyborg 009's "The City of Wind" is seen as an Out of Character Episode for The Hero Joe Shimamura once he meets Princess Ixquic. It's not unusual for him to immediately empathize with others and want to help those in need... the problem is his abrupt Lack of Empathy for his Nakama, particularly towards G.B., who has just lost one of his oldest and most idolized friends from his old life (and the person they were searching for in the first place) as well as towards his best friend and possible Love Interest Francoise (who had been Brought Down to Normal and trying to not give into Heroic Self-Deprecation) because Ixquic, while not being evil, isn't very good at being Kabrakan's leash. Considering that compassion is one of Joe's defining traits, his treatment of the others during that episode is jarringly off, though thankfully isn't brought up again. The possibility that Ixquic has a siren-like influence on him is brought up by Albert who compares her to the legendary Lorelei, but it's neither confirmed nor denied.
  • The very last scene of Infinite Stratos is generally right on the mark, except for Charlotte's reaction. One would expect her going "Ara, ara~" in the background instead of turning violent like the rest of the crew (minus Houki, who is being dragged by the hand by Ichika).
  • In the second season of Kuroshitsuji, Aleister Chamber faints at the sight of blood, despite being a doctor and being arrested for illegal organ trade in the first season.
  • Subverted in One Piece. Luffy wears an afro wig in the fight against Foxy. As usual, Nami finds this ridiculously stupid. The rest of the crew think it's awesome. Even Robin. However, the way she says it is consistent with her character. It seems like she just has an unusual fondness for afros.
    • During one of the television specials "Protect! The Last Great Performance" the crew joins the players after several actors quit, you may expect overacting and goofiness from Usopp and Luffy, who is running around in a monkey costume, however Nico Robin is seen goofing and overacting as well!
  • In the odd show Bobobobo Bobobo, Softon, one of the more "normal" characters, briefly lapses into the nonsensical behavior of the rest of the cast so that he could be able to fly. This is lampshaded by another "normal" character.
  • Played for Laughs with Japan in Axis Powers Hetalia when he went on a sightseeing tour with Italy and his Inscrutable Oriental facade cracks completely when Italy gets behind the wheel of a car.
  • One episode of Keroro Gunsou involved the Keroro platoon all getting their end-of-year bonuses. Everyone got one except for Dororo, who's bonus was never discussed. Dororo is normally the Only Sane Man of the group, staying calm, focused, and level headed around the others, even despite knowing about the Running Gag that people often forget he's even there. When he doesn't get his bonus, he starts freaking out and crying in despair, asking where his bonus was, and frantically searching all over the place to find it.
  • Cygnus Hyoga from Saint Seiya is a cool and calculating warrior. Nonetheless, during the Sanctuary Arc, upon entering the Gemini Temple and encountering the Gemini Saint, he immediately loses it and starts attacking over and over again; all while Shun tries to warn him the enemy in front of them is not what he seems. This continues until Hyoga gets knocked out by one of his own techniques bounced back to him.
  • The DVD Extras for High School DxD have the entire female cast acting like typical tsunderes that hate perversion, hitting Issei when he has perverted moments, either on purpose or by accident. This is in contrast with the main series, where Rias and Akeno are actually very naughty themselves, Asia is shy but doesn't mind Issei being like that, and only Koneko complains about the perversion, but only after she suddenly becomes ruder and she still won't hit him! To put it in perspective, in one episode all the girls but Koneko were cool with bathing nude with Issei. It's like the picked a generic Fan Service script and put the show's cast on it.


Comic Books


Fan Fiction

  • Many a Peggy Sue Fanfic has time-displaced characters trying to avoid this trope, or playing it straight to their advantage.
  • A notable example where this is a plot point is in the Neon Genesis Evangelion Peggy Sue Fanfic The Second Try. Shinji and Asuka, after surviving on their own for several years in a Post-Third Impact world, overcoming their own psychoses and insecurities and becoming better humans, they are suddenly swept back in time (and age) to before the arrival of the 12th angel. One of the things they struggle with is trying to act like their old selves so as to not arouse suspicion. However, neither one is particularly good at acting, and most of their friends note that they are acting odd (Asuka is bad at hiding her emotions, while Shinji is bad about remembering to be careful with words or actions). The only reason they manage to keep the facade up is because no one would suspect that they were actually a couple, much less the other absurdities of their story.
    • Misato eventually figures out their secret because of this trope. Specifically, she finds an "anonymous" warning letter (meant to warn her about the 13th angel) in her belongings... That Shinji had written by hand; she recognizes his handwriting, and a quick peek at his schoolwork confirms that he wrote it. She then remembers his and Asuka's odd behavior, and realizes that Asuka may know something about the letter. When she confronts Asuka, who is extremely distraught at the time (for Very good reasons), Asuka breaks down and lets the facade drop.
  • In Once More with Feeling several characters have noted that Shinji's current personality does not match up with previous reports on him. Also, Ritsuko became suspicious of Shinji after she noticed the supposedly "Berserk" EVA 01 use a prog knife the same way she had seen Asuka do in a video report even though Shinji and Asuka had yet to meet.
  • In Harry Potterandthe Invincible Technomage, Harry says Tony Stark (Iron Man) told him it's good not to make the other guy hate oneself, because it's bad business, and thus makes nice with Snape early-on. After Harry overrides the limits on his armor to defeat the troll, and is harmed by it, Tony comes in, blames Dumbledore for it, and when Dumbledore tries Legilimency on him, as a first resort, because he can't believe the arrogant Muggle is talking to him that way. Tony's response is to shrug off the mind control, and threaten to tear Hogwarts down if Dumbledore tries that on Harry. Not only is this OOC for standard Dumbledore, but Tony is acting out of his own characterization in the fic, since destroying/disrupting the only magical school in the British Isles instead of just having the corrupt Headmaster removed would certainly make people hate him. That said, you can hardly blame him for losing his temper after Harry came extremely close to getting killed.
  • In White Devil of the Moon, some think Nanoha has a moment like this when she tears into her past self Princess Serenity's mother over being irresponsible in raising her daughter and coldly dismisses her, more for her harsh tone than her points (which are a Deconstruction of Serenity and Endymion's romance).


Film

  • In She's the Man, Amanda Bynes' character spends a good portion of time being shy about her body (possibly due to the fact that she's in an all boy's school and she's not a guy but she still appears to be body shy). Then at the end of the movie she decides to flash an entire stadium of onlookers to prove that she is a girl so that her love interest will possibly like her.
  • In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Andy is confronted by his friend Jay's girlfriend over some speed dating card of Jay's with rude comments on them. Andy takes the blame to cover for Jay but then responds with an obscenity filled rant that is wildly out of character for the normally mild mannered Andy. In-universe it may have been intended to sell the story and make it more believable.
    • And later in the movie he verbally lashes out at his friends for hiring a cross-dressing prostitute to have sex with him. While well motivated, it's so rare for him to be so incredibly aggressive and assertive that two women looking at the scene through sound proof glass noted how hot and in control he was.
  • The Karate Kid: Mr. Miyagi's taunts after he fights off Reese and Silver in The Karate Kid Part III.
  • In the Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence movie, Life you may have noticed that in the "nigger pie" scene, their two characters personalities suddenly switched, from Eddie Murphy's somewhat hot-headed character suddenly just wanting to leave the diner to avoid any further conflict with the rednecks and Martin Lawrence's normally coolheaded, and at time borderline cowardly character becoming very angry at the owners denying them service. This is because that's exactly what happened. They did switch the characters' dialog from what was more in-character because, for some reason, it just wasn't flowing correctly that way.
  • In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at one point during the tour Charlie and Grandpa Joe sneak into a room to drink the unstable Fizzy Lifting Drinks which nearly leads to their deaths before they manage to evade the fans and catch up with the group, now Charlie in the book never broke the rules nor gave in to temptation and this event doesn't happen; he does redeem this action later in the film by apologizing to Willy Wonka and returns the Everlasting Gobstopper which earns him custody of the factory.
  • Optimus Prime is his normal noble, upstanding self in the live-action Transformers movies... Until battle is joined, at which point he's chillingly ruthless beyond almost any other incarnation, with a particular penchant for shooting/stabbing/mangling/tearing off his foes' heads.
    • Also when the autobots are hiding from Sam's parents, Optimus Prime would have been more careful not to break anything.
    • Despite Optimus being the leader of the good guys, he is still a veteran of a civil war that destroyed his home planet.
  • Director Brad Bird is best known for animated films like The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. Then he was unexpectedly announced as the director of the live-action film Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and did the job with such extraordinary competence that you would think he had been directing live-action films for years.


Literature

  • Don Quixote: Played Straight, even lampshaded: In the first part, it's very clear that Sancho Panza is a naive simpleton. In the second part, Sancho suddenly says very subtle, intelligent things to his wife. One of the narrators of this tale, seeing this inconsistency, decides to warn the reader: : The translator of this history, when he comes to write this fifth chapter, says that he considers it apocryphal, because in it Sancho Panza speaks in a style unlike that which might have been expected from his limited intelligence, and says things so subtle that he does not think it possible he could have conceived them; however, desirous of doing what his task imposed upon him, he was unwilling to leave it untranslated, and therefore he went on to say: This could be considered the beginning of Sancho's slow transformation into a discreet person.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: Fate of the Jedi: Ascension: Ben Skywalker, son of Luke Skywalker, is a compassionate Jedi Knight and Hero. After spending four books trying to convince his father that his Dark Action Girl Sith girlfriend is trustworthy, what does he do? He breaks into her room, grabs her and pins her to her bed. Then, he reads her diary while she begs him not to. There are no consequences or repercussions for these events, besides marring people's memories of when the two officially became a couple. Is this a good example of how to keep your girlfriend loyal to you?
  • This tends to crop up amongst the characters of the Twilight series. One notable example is when Edward decides in New Moon that he is too dangerous to be around Bella, after Jasper nearly attacks her. It was just in the last book that Edward's response to Bella being in danger was to stalk her from the bushes, and claimed that he would "let the chips fall where they may" in regards to her being in danger of being eaten by him.
  • Septimus Heap: In most of the books, Septimus Heap is usually the Only Sane Man and very cautious. In Darke, however, he blatantly disregards a warning from Jenna about something that is going on in the Palace. It doesn't end well.
  • In the Knight and Rogue Series, after having been held captive and experimented on by Lady Ceciel, Michael gets a little too much joy out destroying her life's work and drugging her. He even pulls out the tool she used to force feed him and starts mimicking the threats she made.


Live Action TV

  • In the third season finale of True Blood, Sookie, the sweet-natured protagonist, is left alone to guard Russell Edgington, the season's main villain as well as the most powerful vampire ever seen on the show, while he is rendered completely harmless. When she finds out he was clinging on the destroyed remains of his vampire lover, she decides to taunt him by flushing the remains down the sink and making him listen to it. And follows it up with a maniacal laugh. Many fans consider this to be the most outright Out of Character moment in the entire show, as well as one of the few times Anna Paquin was ever truly terrifying.
    • It Makes Sense in Context, if you consider Sookie was a fairy, and then add that fairies can be horrifying, as proven by the first episode of season 4.
  • In the miniseries of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, Laura Roslin demonstrates her loyalty to humanity by ordering her (unarmed) ship to stay and assist refugees even when two Cylon Raiders approach. Thanks to Apollo's quick thinking, they manage to survive the encounter. However, later on when the situation is repeated she orders the fleet to jump away rather than risk total destruction, giving her character quite a bit of guilt but saving humanity. The writer Ron Moore even confirmed in a blog post that he wanted to spend a scene showing her reconsider her actions earlier as foolish, but due to time constraints those scenes were never filmed.
  • A comedic example happens in Sex and the City, where during one of their brunches, the topic of the day is rimming, because Miranda's date did it to her rather unexpectedly. There was a general reaction "ew, guys do that?" from everyone, though sweet, prudish Charlotte was like "What's the big deal?". Then when Miranda asked if that meant she would have to reciprocate, open minded Samantha said something "Oh, I would never do that!" and Charlotte replies casually "Why wouldn't one reciprocate?" Might be a play off the idea that the quietest ones are secretly the most freaky, but it still comes out of nowhere and isn't mentioned again.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation:

 Guinan: First it was a fish, and now it's a Mentonian sailing ship.

Data: Where?

Guinan: Right there. Don't you see the two swirls coming together to form the mast?

Data: I do not see it. It is interesting that people try to find meaningful patterns in things that are essentially random. I have noticed that the images they perceive sometimes suggest what they are thinking about at that particular moment. (pause) Besides, it is clearly a bunny rabbit.

    • A more serious moment of this came from the introduction of Ensign Ro Laren. She had been in prison for treason and brought on board the Enterprise because she was Bajoran and they needed to deal with Bajoran terrorists. Just mentioning her name in the beginning of the episode caused Picard and Riker to tense up. But the real moment came when Riker met her in the transporter room and chews her out for wearing the traditional Bajoran earring, claiming it violates Starfleet dress code. This is despite the fact that Worf wears his family sash at all times. But it was to emphasize that no one liked her.
      • This episode aired long before Deep Space Nine established as much as it did about Bajoran culture and the tradition of the earrings in their religion, so at the time it could have simply been viewed as scoffing at her for personal jewelery that violated the dress code. Tuvok, however, does the same thing to a Bajoran-Maquis crewman in an episode of Voyager, almost making this an out of character moment for Starfleet in their uniform policies.
      • This is somewhat in-character for Riker, as it shows in several episodes (particularly the one that introduced Barclay) that, on a professional level, he is a rather stern executive officer, demanding a high level of excellence from the Enterprise crew.
    • From the Star Trek: First Contact movie, the fact that the enlightened, calm, diplomatic Jean-Luc Picard manically mows down a group of Borg with a Tommy gun is supposed to show that being assimilated by the Borg has touched the good captain more than he's willing to admit. He himself realizes this after smashing the model ships in the conference room during a talk with Lily.
  • Happened in the original script of Star Trek: The Original Series episode "All Our Yesterdays," with Spock falling in love and kissing Zarabeth but averted in the filmed episode at Nimoy's insistence. Instead, his behavior was hand waved with the explanation that, having gone back in time, he became like the savage Vulcans of that time.
    • Spock has several interesting examples. In the original un-aired pilot, he broadly grinned when touching a strange, quivering plant, and in the first televised pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", he began violently striking a monster-disguised-as-a-woman to prove the she really wasn't Kirk's long-lost love, the "woman" in question showing no ill effects and casually throwing Spock across the room in retaliation. These can be attributed to the fact that it was early in the series and Spock's character -- not to mention Vulcan culture in general -- hadn't been fully realized. Then in the Season 2 episode "Amok Time", a visibly distraught Spock thinks he has killed Kirk during a Pon Farr duel in which Spock was basically out of his mind thanks to crazy Vulcan hormones, but when Kirk unexpectedly shows up alive and well, Spock smiles with joy and excitedly rushes towards his friend before quickly regaining control of his emotions and apologizing for his embarrassing outburst. This, of course, was to show the depth of the friendship between he and Kirk.
    • In the episode "Requiem For Methuselah", Kirk completely ignores the fact that his crew is in danger and keeps hitting on Rayna. Even though Kirk is a well-established horndog, he would never put that above duty to his ship and friends.
  • There was an odd scene in "The Full House" episode of Jeeves and Wooster where we learn that, despite his infinite talents for just about everything ever, Jeeves does not understand New York diner slang. Because this scene was not in the original story, you can't help but wonder if the last line of the following exchange was something that Stephen Fry ad-libbed and was left in because it was funny.

 Waitress: One ham 'n eggs over easy. Wan' a shake with that?

Jeeves: Erm... thank you, no. I will just sit here, quietly.

Waitress: (to Bertie) ... Is he bein' funny?

Bertie: No, he always talks like that. She means 'do you want a milkshake', Jeeves.

Jeeves: Erm... thank you, no. A cup of coffee, if you please.

Waitress: You got it. (leaves)

Jeeves: (looks around in mild bewilderment) I don't think I have...

  • A well done example of this can be found at the final moments of the season 3 finale for 24. A loyal viewer would know to expect a twist or a cliffhanger, like the previous season finales had: The crisis is solved, the USA is saved. Jack Bauer marches to his car, stares off for a while... and then breaks down crying. Whoa. This short and relatively subtle moment serves to give a true scope of just what he's been put through.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Phases", Giles is explaining that the full moon brings out the darkest in people, and Xander quips, "And yet, ironically, led to the invention of the moon pie." Rather than snapping at Xander, which is what he always does, Giles giggles appreciatively! This is probably a deliberate use of the trope; the joke is that having spent a year deriding Xander's impertinence, he finds the humour in this singularly lame remark. (He's the only one, by the way.)
    • In a presumably less intentional example, in the episode "Fool for Love", when Riley is prowling the cemetery for vampires while Buffy is injured, he brings along Willow, Xander, and Anya, who instead of using their long experience to help him, chatter, crunch on chips loudly, don't take cover, and generally act like stupid muggle amateurs. Even though Willow and Xander at least not only saved the slayer's ass numerous times and dealt with vampires for five years, but actually once hunted them without Buffy for an entire summer, with a 60% success rate. They never had and never would act like that again, and presumably were only played that way to make Riley, who many fans consider a Scrappy, look good.
  • In the Degrassi episode "Take On Me" Sean, who is normally sullen, brooding bad boy, begins to act a lot crazier. A lot like Jon Bender of The Breakfast Club which was the movie the episode of was paying an homage to and Sean was the designated "rebel."
  • Allan-a-Dale from Robin Hood was a con-artist, thief, pick-pocket, and liar extraordinaire. Then in Season 3 he walks in on Kate getting molested by a man that the outlaws are trying to get information out of and on whom Kate is pulling a Dirty Harriet. Instead of simply clocking the guy or pretending to be an overprotective brother or tavern worker, Allan inexplicably yells: "this isn't part of the plan!" Instantly the man is aware that he's been set up. It doesn't really serve any purpose in the plot except as a lame attempt by the writers to make the loathed Kate look good in comparison to Allan (she's the one that gets to salvage the situation).
    • There is also an earlier episode in which our professional thief acts ridiculously clumsy when breaking into a castle bedroom, presumably so that Tuck, the show's other Scrappy, can roll his eyes at him.
    • At the end of season two, Marian has an Out-of-Character Moment that not only leads to her death but the show's demise. After spending two seasons as an incredibly careful and discreet spy, not to mention the voice of reason and compassion, Marian suddenly decides to kill the Sheriff of Nottingham. Repeat: she decides to assassinate a man by stabbing him in the back based on a rumour floating around the castle that the Sheriff was going to try and kill King Richard, despite the fact that she knows Prince John has placed a life insurance on the Sheriff's head that stipulates Nottingham will be destroyed if anything happens to him. She sneaks into his room with a sword and is instantly caught in the act of trying to murder him in cold blood.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch has a huge case of this trope in the opening scene to the final season. First of all, Aunt Zelda gives up her "adult years" to save Sabrina after Sabrina refuses to give up her true love even though she agreed to save Hilda (confusing already) and subsequently turns to stone and crumbles. Zelda turns into an 8-year-old to give Sabrina the rest of her life. Wait...WHAT? Zelda just gives up her entire life? Because Sabrina was an idiot yet again? Zelda agrees to this in a matter of minutes after Sabrina crumbles to pieces. Also, Sabrina, usually completely ignorant to most witch-things in the past, knows exactly what Zelda has done. But what is even more unsettling is that Sabrina merely gives her aunt a cheap, poorly written, and rapid "thank you" and tells her aunt that she is ready to live her own life. WHAAAAT?! Obviously, Beth Broderick had it with the writing and decided to leave. So, in return, they give one of the most important characters in Sabrina's life an awful, awful send-off that is poorly written, poorly acted out by an 8-year-old, and poorly conceived. What a joke. With Hilda newly married they had no use for her and since Zelda doesn't have some convenient boarding school to be shipped off to (Libby) nor a family that is given a new job in Alaska (Valerie) this was their only option. At least, they gave her a sendoff unlike Miles, Jenny, Mr. Pool, Drell, Mr. Kraft, Dreama, and Brad who just get Chuck Cunningham Syndrome and disappear without explanation.
  • Played for laughs with Toby Ziegler in the The West Wing episode "Six Meetings Before Lunch": when Toby, who spends the vast majority of his time sulking, complaining, growling, snapping, snarking, and yelling at everyone around him manages to get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed and is subsequently blissed-out enough to say things like "turn that frown upside down" and "let a smile be your umbrella", Margaret backs away from him in fright with the line "Now you're scaring the crap out of me." He then proceeds to amble down the hall humming "Put On a Happy Face" while cheerily greeting other staffers, who stop and stare at him as though he just sprouted antlers.
  • In a deleted scene from Merlin, Gwen is seen cautioning Morgana against fighting in the siege upon Camelot, telling her that it was Arthur and the knights' duty to fight, not hers. This is the same Gwen who once fought in the defence of Ealdor, the episode in which her spunk first gets Arthur's attention.
    • In The Coming of Arthur Arthur grabs a frightened kid, shakes him whilst demanding where the McGuffin is, and then holds him at sword point when he realizes he's surrounded by the kid's extended family. What the hell was that about?
  • ICarly has iChristmas, a Be Careful What You Wish For premise that ends with Carly breaking down in the hallway after her wish backfires, as the world returns to normal. Freddie enters, sees Carly crying her eyes out, sobbing with her knees drawn up, her hands in her face. Freddie then asks her what's wrong, Carly tells Freddie to leave her alone, thinking he's the mean Freddie from the alternate universe, and Freddie just shrugs his shoulders and blathers about rehearsing for the web show. It's done so Carly realises that she's back because the webshow exists again, but it's incredibly out of character for Freddie, who would never ever leave Carly sobbing in the hallway crying like that.
    • Sam's behaviour going from her usual Jerkass self to being nice when Brad is around leads Carly and Freddie to believe Sam likes him.
  • Weird example from Red Dwarf. In the episode 'Parallel Universe' the crew travel to a parallel universe populated by opposite sex versions of themselves. Lister ends up sleeping with his female alternate universe self and when the possibility of him being pregnant is raised - in this universe men are the ones who carry the baby - the female Lister is amazingly callous and indifferent, claiming it was solely his problem and that he should have used protection. Now the episode is very clear that the female counterparts have identical personalities to the regular crew and it it impossible to imagine the regular universe Lister being so insensitive to a woman he might have gotten pregnant.
    • It's also hard to imagine Rimmer ever behaving the way his female equivalent did. In the rare occasions when he's been seen interacting with women, he's normally either been quite shy or highly respectful to their position as a superior officer (Consider 'Camille' and 'Holoship'). For as much of a smeg head as he can be, it's extremely difficult to imagine him ever wanting to show a woman some video of two women together to turn them on. It seems evident that the female versions actually had vastly different attitudes to their male equivalents.
  • In Babylon 5 Delenn has a disastrous out of character moment in her Backstory that is revealed in "Atonement." Lennier has one at the next to the last episode.
  • In Doctor Who, the Eleventh Doctor decides to confront the invisible Monster of the Week by swinging a stick at it, apparently attempting to bludgeon it into submission. In other episodes, especially since the reboot, the Doctor disdains weapons and always attempts to find a peaceful solution first.
  • One episode of Modern Family has Mitchell win an award from his work, then get jealous when Cam puts up one of his old trophy's which is much larger. However, the real OOC moment is from Alex, who comments that she wouldn't "get out of bed" for a trophy the size of Mitchell's and later, when the latter explains his case, agrees with him, citing her mom putting lesser works of Haley & Luke's on the wall next to a plaque she won as if they were all equal. Obviously, this is done so Mitchell will realize how petty he's being, and Alex has been shown to be proud of her accomplishments on the show before, but never in such a Jerkass-y manner.


Newspaper Comics

  • A week-long storyline in FoxTrot from 1990 had Jason trying to fix Paige's sweater after Quincy chews on it, and even trying to apologize to Paige when she finds out about it. This is particularly odd since his frequent tormenting her was already an established facet of his character.
  • Garfield actually said that he likes Mondays well after "I hate Mondays" had been established as his Catch Phrase. It's also parodied in this strip


Professional Wrestling

  • For a time, Kane was the funniest man in the WWE simply because seeing a 6'9", mask-wearing psychopath doing things like imitating Hulk Hogan and breakdancing was such an Out-of-Character Moment it crossed over into a Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • During his short stint as a commentator on WWF Sunday Night Heat, Raven had one of these. His co-host Jonathan Coachman had a bad habit of ignoring the match in the ring in favor of endlessly shilling the main event and the main event wrestlers. Raven finally interrupted him mid-shill, berated him for being disrespectful for the men in the ring and ordered him to call the match that was actually happening. There's a reason many WWF/WWE fans viewed Raven's commentary run as Too Good to Last.
  • This celebration after an RKO by Randy Orton.


Video Games

  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Ike will sometimes say "You'll get no sympathy from me"; odd for the guy who gives everyone (up to and including his father's killer) sympathy. Might be a case of Lost in Translation, since while Ike is empathetic, he also does not hold back in battle, which could have been what Super Smash Bros. Brawl Ike was trying to say.
  • Not actually from the game, but at the side story of Final Fantasy Tactics a 2, Montblanc asks Hurdy to bring him a bottle of wine. Hurdy thinks he's out of his pom-pom because he had never seen his big brother drink.
  • In World of Warcraft, Varian wangsts in battle of Undercity about being kept as a gladiator by the orcs. In the comics where this happened Varian was treated pretty good and at one point mentioned he missed the life a gladiator. This wangsting is made much much worse by the inclusion of 'arena' PVP in the Burning Crusade xpac, wherein players are invited to voluntarily compete in the exact same 'ordeals' that Varian went through. The Battle of Undercity takes place in the Wrath of the Lich King xpac, which came after TBC. The earliest moment you could hear this speech, Arena was already into its third or fourth season, meaning he wasn't fooling anybody with his bloodthirsty racism against the 'fiendish orcs' who essentially forced him to do 3s.
    • Saurfang and Muradin are shown throughout Wrath of the Lich King to oppose the war between Horde and Alliance. Yet in the Gunship encounter, they jump at the chance to fight each other.
    • In that same scene, Varian, who usually displays outright hatred and disdain for ocs and the Horde in general, actually steps in to stop Muradin and Saurfang from fighting, telling Muradin to let him pass and collect his son's body. Really, that entire scene, while touching, was an Out Of Character moment for all characters involved.
  • Quite common in many of Nippon Ichi's games, particularly the post-game content, but there are some distinctive examples in both the storyline and post-game content:
    • In Disgaea Infinite, you can possess people to change the course of the story. Some options include forcing people to do some pretty hilarious stuff they normally wouldn't consider doing.
    • In Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice, one of the characters recruitable after the storyline is Marona, who acts like a total brat and is prone to violence when your party first come across her, which is a drastically stark contrast to her messianic Technical Pacifist personality. This is somewhat justified because her innocent heart was stolen by Baal, but since Baal hasn't stolen anything, it's implied that something else is going on.
    • In Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten, most of the main characters end up experiencing a few of these as a result of the A-Virus causing them to think and behave like Axel. Downright hilarious in the case of the normally calm and collected Fenrich, who suddenly explodes into a fit of Hot-Blooded yelling in the middle of a conversation, then politely apologizes immediately after as though nothing happened to him at all.
    • In Phantom Brave, Marona herself has an out of character moment in the post-game content when she meets up with Myao, which stated that Marona's chest is much flatter than hers, which in turns causes Marona to want to rip Myao apart. Keep in mind that this coming from a kind-hearted messianic loli who forgives everyone easily and very hesitant to use any sort of violence. However she does pull an 'intentional Out-of-Character Moment during Another Marona in order to hammer a certain point home to Ash.
  • In Da Capo II's Koko route, due to a lack of anything dramatic, Yoshiyuki is forced to create a meaningless conflict between himself, Wataru, Nanaka and Koko. The details of it seem rather unnatural at the time, including starting to date Nanaka though both know he doesn't like her, and then actually rubbing it in Koko's face out of spite since he thinks she started going out with Wataru.
  • In the first Pajama Sam game, Otto is normally a dimwitted character who is on a low scale of Too Dumb to Live. However, he seems to know a lot about geysers.
  • At one point in The Reconstruction, the party sees a group of escaped shra thralls run by. A Nalian Officer is hot on their heels, and asks Qualstio which way they went. You can then choose to either tell the truth or point him in the wrong direction, but your response will be filtered through Qualstio's mouth. If you decide to tell the truth, it makes no sense from an in-universe perspective, as Qualstio hates the Fantastic Racism against shra and has little regard for rules or authority. This is lampshaded by Tehgonan, who says he's worried Qualstio's "going soft" on him by avoiding trouble.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Batman himself pulls an OoC moment when he opts to try to find Talia al Ghul instead of saving Arkham City from being leveled and its inhabitants killed. Oracle gives him the riot act while Alfred refuses to listen to Bruce, telling him that he knows what he should really do.
  • In the first battle with Shadow in Sonic Adventure 2, he will say "I'm the coolest." after being hit the first time, which is way out of character for a distant and troubled hedgehog.
  • The So Bad It's Good game The You Testament has moments where Jesus Himself will threaten you with bodily harm even if you accidentally hit Him. And He'll do it, too! He also espouses something more akin to The Force and chakara.


Web Comics


Web Original

  • Daichi and Sasha have one at the end of Greek Ninja. Also Dawson's character runs on this.
  • The Nostalgia Critic has one where he freaks out at a guy taking his shirt off because a "horny female director wanted to see it" in Tank Girl. He never did that before or after that review. Also bear in mind, this is a bisexual Chivalrous Pervert who always points out Male Gaze disparagingly and deeply loves pandering to the Female Gaze instead.


Western Animation

  • In the episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender where Jet shows up to "help" the Gaang, Sokka's distrust of Jet from their first meeting is completely absent, and he in fact advocates believing him at face value and leaving Ba Sing Se. The creators even acknowledge they had to ignore that so they could give more attention to Katara's feelings of betrayal.
    • This is parodied further in Avatar: The Abridged Series, where Aang explicitly says that if he acknowledged the aspect of his character that is in love with Katara and would be jealous of Jet, the episode's plot would fall apart.
    • Some fans feel that both Zuko and Katara were written out of character in "The Southern Raiders" in order to serve as tools for an Anvilicious moral lecture on how violence is never the answer: Katara develops a sudden and unquenchable thirst for the blood of her mother's killer, to the point that she even accuses Sokka of not loving their mother because he sides with Aang, and Zuko becomes sarcastic and derisive, dismissing the notion of forgiveness as worthless, despite owing his membership in the Gaang to everyone forgiving his own past misdeeds.
  • In the commentary for Batman the Animated Series, Dini, Timm and the gang would admit that occasionally Batman had to be slightly out of character in order for the plot to progress, most notably "Harlequinade" (where he's constantly played for a sap throughout the entire story) and "Bane". ("He trashed my car, Alfred. Between two guys, that's real personal.")
  • Titanium Chef of Sushi Pack has had a few moments in recent episodes that were quite out of character, mostly to show the lesson that the Pack was supposed to be learning. Didn't make it any less annoying, though, especially considering there were other recurring villains that would have fit those lessons better.
  • On The Simpsons, Homer intermittently becomes highly knowledgeable about certain things in order to make a joke work.
    • "The Trouble With Trillions" has an OOCM that sticks out like a sore thumb: When the family is being asked by government agents what would Homer do with the Zillion-Dollar Bill he's been accused of stealing, Marge says that the money should go to the kids' college fund... only for Lisa to reply "Who needs college? Let's buy dune buggies!" Huh? This coming from the girl who, after helping put Mr. Burns back on his feet, refused her rightful million dollar advisor fee out of moral disapprobation for how he did it.
    • Another one that might be excused by the Rule of Funny: In "Rosebud", Homer and Bart are gloating that they can demand any price for returning Bobo to Mr Burns, and Marge replies "Now I'm sure he'll offer a fair reward ... And then we'll make him double it!" When the rest of the family stares at her, she adds, "Why can't I be greedy every once in a while?"
    • What became of Marge in the episode "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge" how she just seems to be insane and Ax Crazy rather than Closer to Earth or worst Not So Above It All. Marge never before and after went after any potential suitor for Homer with a broken glass cone, her treatment of Becky was very much unlike her.
    • In "Das Bus", Sherri defends her (and Terri's) nemesis Lisa when Bart knocks Lisa during the Model UN Conference, but even as it's an equivalent of if Nelson defended Bart (though Nelson stayed in character in this scene), it was probably done for the sake of starting a fight with everybody. Curiously, later when the Springfield kids are stranded on an island, Sherri blames Lisa for the crash, but Nelson blames Milhouse, who rolled a grapefruit on the bus floor, which accidentally jammed the brake pedal, causing the bus to crash.
  • Spoofed in American Dad episode "Bullocks for Stan": throughout the episode, Klaus has been narrating things, explaining that he's pretending he's recording a DVD Commentary for his life. At the end of the episode, when Stan says that his daughter is more important to him than a promotion and they hug, Klaus' narration cuts in, bemoaning how terribly OOC that line is for Stan and saying that the network made them do it.
  • An episode of Family Guy had Brian sending the temporarily gay Peter to a Christian anti-gay camp to turn him straight. Brain admits it goes against everything he stands for, but he does it to make Lois happy.
    • This trope is used frequently due to the show's Rule of Funny premise. Lois especially can switch between a compassionate housewife to bullying her family as much as Peter in a matter of seconds.

 Lois: Ya see? I'm part of it too! I'm part of the joke, just like everyone else!

    • Brian also has a very out of character moment in the episode "Be Careful What You Fish For". Stewie complains to Brian about the horrible conditions the preschool is in and how the teacher lets the kids do whatever they want. Brain goes to have a talk with the teacher until he sees how hot she looks. Brain then decides to defend the teacher and being the horn dog that he is, tries to date her. Stewie suffers more under the horrible conditions and tries to tell Lois, only for Brian to shut him up. Brian then sees the teacher has a boyfriend already so Brian decides to call the cops on her for how she ran the school just because of that.
  • An episode of Nightmare Ned had a scout leader telling horror stories around a campfire, frightening his charges...except Ned, who boredly dismisses them as nonsense. The Nightmare Sequence in that episode was actually the leader's, not Ned's.
  • This Ed, Edd n Eddy commercial for Cartoon Network Latin America may also triple as Fan Disservice and Divide by Zero. Subverted at the end, but STILL...
  • In a storybook of The Fairly Odd Parents ,Timmy wishes to have the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, but Cosmo and Wanda end up dropping him off at Vicky's house. To his surprise, though, Vicky's upset that she is alone on Thanksgiving because her parents and Tootie went out to get cranberry sauce and their car broke down. That's right, in this book, Timmy's Jerkass babysitter worries about her family, whom she treats no differently than him on the show.
  • Teen Titans had this as well. Starfire has a hugely obvious crush on her love interest, Robin, throughout the entire series. Resident Kuudere, Raven, is completely in control of her emotions at all times or else her powers will make things kaboom, and it takes several seasons for the closest thing she has to a family to even crack the ice. But the show brought in the writers of the original comic book for an episode, and due to the nature of the original comic book, all of the two girls' characterization got thrown out to have them swoon over Aqualad to try to give the audience the illusion that Aqualad is Estrogen Brigade Bait so that they could justly have Shape Shifter Beast Boy have his own Out-of-Character Moment to become a Jerkass until they were able to get to the moral of the story. And that doesn't even compare to how many random plots point are left behind throughout the episode at this point. This doesn't actually count as Character Derailment though, as it was only to move the plot and was only for one episode. Though, it doesn't help that most official sources count it as Canon, despite most fans' tendency to pretend it never happened.
  • In at least two episodes of King of the Hill Hank acts very out of character.
    • In "Strangeness on a Train", upon seeing that Peggy's birthday party isn't going well, he takes her into the bathroom and they have sex. Now Hank is pretty uptight and embarrassed about that sort of thing, and certainly would've never done that in a public place in earlier seasons.
    • In "Master of Puppets" Hank gives into Bobby's demands, buys him gifts, and coddles him after accidentally forgetting to pick him up one night. Now Hank would never give into Bobby's demands unless he was doing something he felt was honest or worthwhile like a job or a sport but Bobby was being selfish and bratty; the Hank of the earlier seasons would've probably give him advice on how life isn't always fair and tell him to get over it.
  • Played with in Rocket Power, where they had the Goth kid Eddie "the Prince of Darkness" who always wore a cape and mask. In one episode he was recruited as a substitute for the main characters roller hockey team while everyone else but Sam is sick. When they managed to win a key game Eddie pulled his mask up in celebration (the only time we ever see his face). When he realized what he did, he put his mask back on and skulked away back into the shadows, murmuring with embarrassment "I succumbed."
    • Not entirely true in the context of the show. After that episode, he takes off his mask occasionally, usually the punchline of a scene.
  • A rather infamous trope on Total Drama Island. Due to a lot of Depending on the Writer circumstances, you get a lot of moments where the nice, goodwilled characters suddenly belt out snarky comments, or the local Badass suddenly says something polite. It gets even worse when it comes to friendships, where two contestants will be laughing and hugging one day, and trying to slit each others throats the next.
  • In Daria, Sandi is shown to be a complete Alpha Bitch who exploits the fashion clubs' emotional weaknesses and attempts to find Quinn's throughout the entire series. However, in "Fire!", when Quinn is receiving a lot of gifts from a friendly bellboy, Sandi points out that he's acting quite suspicious and thinks he might be a stalker - like she's showing genuine concern for Quinn being safe. Might be a case where stalking is too much even for Sandi.
    • "Fat Like Me" also features one, but that was pretty much the entire point of the episode.
    • It's obvious with the bellboy, as in other cases, that Sandi is being an even bigger bitch and is just messing with Quinn's head.
  • The Jimmy Two-Shoes episode "Heloise, Schmeloise" had a major one for Jimmy. His Oblivious to Love is perfectly IC, unaware of Heloise's affections even as he dates Schmeloise. But throwing Heloise into a mud puddle so he and Schmeloise can literally walk over her is just plain Jerkass material.
  • In Wakfu season 2, Rubilax doesn't talk for three straight episodes.
  • It's starting to become a Running Gag that Fluttershy from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has a lot of seemingly out-of-character moments where she becomes or appears to be aggressive, violent and evil. Most instances are either justified or subversions. For example, when she was being cruel to everyone, it was because Discord had corrupted her mind. When she appeared to be beating up a bear, she was actually giving it chiropractic treatment. In most other cases, it happens when someone harms or threatens her friends, which is established as her personal Berserk Button.
  • Parodied on Phineas and Ferb a few times: a few of Dr. Doofenshmirtz's inventions have made people act out of character, and, like most of his inventions, these are used to tie up other plotlines. These include the Misbehave-inator, which made Buford suddenly act polite, and the Least-Likely-inator, which made Candace suddenly hide Phineas and Ferb's creation du jour.

  Ferb: ...That was completely out of character.

Notes

  1. The fundamental attribution error is a flaw in human thinking which causes us to ascribe a person's actions entirely to personality. If I snap at you while ordering my coffee, I am excused by situational factors: woke up on the wrong side of the bed, fought with my spouse, dog puked on the floor, etc. If, however, you snap back at me while taking my order, it's not because your father verbally humiliated you or you ran out of gas on the drive over or some pissy customer is being rude to you -- it's because you're a Jerkass, end of story.
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