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540. A full minute of stunned silence means "My God what did you do?" not "Please continue".
—Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do In An RPG explains the difference between type 1 and type 2
Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Someone is shocked or stunned into silence.
There are two major types: Stunned amazement or stunned horror.
Often, stunned amazement causes the performer to think the audience's initial silence means they dislike the performance. The truth becomes apparent when they burst into applause. Often will lead to a Slow Clap. If in comedic fiction, bonus points if the sound of cricket chirping is the only audible thing.
Stunned horror can be further divided into stunned by stupidity or stunned by surreality. This occurs when a character says (or does) something so stupid or off the wall other characters are rendered unable to talk or limited to a single world, often a Flat What. See also Chirping Crickets, Loudspeaker Truck, Face Fault, and Idiot Crows.
- Happens at the final performance in Cats Don't Dance, before the audience bursts into applause. Somewhat justified, as the audience had taken considerable abuse during the show.
- In The Lord of the Rings, when Sauron falls the main characters who are fighting at the Black Gate are literally stunned into silence. It makes more sense in the extended editions, because it is revealed that the Mouth of Sauron told everyone Frodo was dead (or in the books, captured and awaiting death); it's to be expected that his victory would bring on a "Holy freaking crap, Frodo's alive!" as well as a "Holy freaking crap, we actually won!"
- Happens at the performance of Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare in Love before the audience bursts into applause
- In Sherlock Holmes, Holmes is seen participating in a barefist boxing match watched by a crowd loudly and savagely baying for blood. However, after Holmes—who has previously been holding back -- completely beats the crap out of his opponent within the space of a minute in response to his opponent's ill-advised decision to spit at the back of Holmes' head, the crowd immediately goes silent with shock, except for one chap who indignantly (but not too loudly, presumably out of fear of similar retribution) pipes up with "Where the hell did that come from?!"
- In the Doctor Who Series 4 finale, the tenth Doctor has been shot by a dalek! You know what that means! He'll regenerate, and change into a completely different person! The Doctor's companions, Rose, Donna and Jack back away as he begins to glow and change- only for him to redirect his energy and just stand there, smiling, looking completely the same. They just stare in stunned amazement.
- Angel: An effective use of both tension and comedy at the same time is found in the Series 4 finale. For several long moments at the start of the episode, absolutely no-one speaks. The camera pans around all six characters as each one shifts position or opens their mouth as though about to speak, but no-one does. It's clear the entire cast is absolutely stunned by whatever Lilah has just said. Lilah herself doesn't speak just waits, smug and amused, as Angel's team try and gather their wits and find their voices. Word of God reveals that it was deliberately timed to coincide with the length of time it takes for the credits to scroll across the screen as they'd once observed how long it takes and thought it would be funny to have absolutely no talking for that long if they could ever think of a plot. They thought of one.
- In "The Mountain Whippoorwill", a poem by Stephen Vincent Benet, Hillbilly Jim gets no applause because the crowd is stunned by his fiddle playing. He's that good.
- Utter audience silence can be the sign of a deeply moving musical performance, and as such is an enormous compliment to the performers.
- Occurs in El Goonish Shive when Grace decides to let Mr. Raven know she's in on the masquerade the fast way.
- Angry Joe's review of StarCraft II begins with a full fifteen seconds of him staring dazedly into the camera before fainting. (Yes, it's that good.)
- This happens multiple times in Oh God, Not Again. One of the more notable instances is when Harry mouths off at Voldemort several times while he's at his mercy and surrounded by Death Eaters, who just can't believe what they're seeing.
- In The Dark, Chapter 48, Emma loses it and tells off Victoria after seeing Melanie's mental breakdown. Chapter 55, after Melanie explained about her time in in captivity, while under hypnosis, while her bandmates are left in tears, along with A.J. and Brian. The rest are left in this kind of stage, that included a police officer and court official.
- Case of the Missing Technology, after the narrator finds out where Melanie C was being stored, she had to cue the rest of the search and quips,
even the crickets were quiet once we opened the door.
- Mission Control in Apollo 13 after Lovell reports that "we are venting something into space" and everyone realizes just how bad the situation is.
- "Springtime For Hitler" in The Producers.
- A "stupidity" example in The Princess Bride after Buttercup and Westley enter the Fire Swamp.
Westley: It's not that bad.
- In MacGruber, Only Sane Man Piper has this reaction when listening to MacGruber's backstory of him and the villain, learning that the latter's grudge against the former is all too justified.
- Happens in The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore. Wulfgar wins a one-on-one fight by crushing the guy's skull with his bare hands. After the fight a herald was supposed to step in and proclaim the winner. Instead, everyone just stands around staring at what he'd done.
- Calvin's father in Calvin and Hobbes, typically in response to one of Calvin's questions. The best one: "Why do you live here with Mom instead of in an apartment with a number of scantily clad female roommates?"
- ECW once did a storyline involving Raven tying The Sandman to a wooden cross, then placing a crown of barbed wire upon his head. This marks the only time the ECW mutants were ever not cheering, chanting, or screaming for blood. Definitely the "silent horror" variety. They had to send Raven (who was supposed to be the bad guy in all this, keep in mind) out to apologize to the crowd afterwards.
- Pretty much the reaction those in saw somebody being able to defeat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX, cleanly. To top it off, only Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Taker, his opponent, and possibly Bad News Barret knew the outcome in advance... meaning the reactions the announcers, the viewers, the referee, the other wrestlers, and Paul Heyman were all real.
- Ron White: "I got kicked off the high school debate team for saying 'Yeah?! Well, fuck you!!' I thought I had won. The other kid was speechless."
- Poker Night At the Inventory has several examples, but none more visible than during the Tycho's giraffe story, and the Heavy's Engineer story.
- Spacetrawler: Upon discovering that all Eebs are lobotomized at birth, Martina takes a full three panels to absorb the information.
- In Something*Positive, this is the audience's initial reaction to the first (and only) performance of Nailed! (a frankly sacrilegious musical in the vein of Jesus Christ Superstar). Then the lighters come out...
- Subverted in Gunnerkrigg Court. It looks like Antimony has gotten Coyote stunned silent with a revelation about Renard, but it turns out Coyote is faking, and he knew about the revelation all along.
- Done in Girl Genius in this page... although not for the same reason for everyone.
- When Linkara reviewed Cable #1, he mentioned a panel showing part of the world trade center blown up. His face showed that Harsher in Hindsight didn't even begin to cover it.
- When Todd in the Shadows reviewed Chris Brown's "Deuces", Kevin McCall's line "Like Tina did to Ike in the limo, it finally hit me" caused this. And follows by asking how it remained on the song (complete with a mock conversation where Brown asks to remove the lyric because they compare him enough already with Ike Turner).
- In Suburban Knights, when the main villain, an Evil Luddite wizard who wants to destroy all technology turns out to have an iPhone, everyone just stays silent for a moment (then The Nostalgia Critic calls out on him... discovering the bad guy is even more of a hypocrite than he seems!).
- In a crossover review of The Incredible Hulk Returns, when Thor says to Donald Blake "I like you, Blake, but only when you're asleep!" Nash and Film Brain can only deliver horrified expressions.
- Early on in Marble Hornets, Alex gets stunned in the middle of a rehearsal for his student film upon seeing Slender Man standing on a porch down the street. This leaves his two companions rather annoyed, as he never explains what has him so spooked.
- In Monsters, Inc., Roz reminds Mike Wazowski about his paperwork. Apparently, Mike forgot, leading Roz to comment, "Your stunned silence is very reassuring."
- Beavis and Butt-Head: For a couple of videos (Vanilla Ice and Milli Vanilli), all they could do is stare in horror for several seconds before wordlessly changing the channel.
- Used effectively by honor guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetary. If someone/a group of people is disrespecting the tomb or area around it in any way, they will break from their walk and address them directly in a loud shout, "It is requested that everyone maintains a level of silence and respect!" Technically it's less of a horror aspect and more of a shameful/embarrassing one, but it gets the job done just as well.
- Not sure if this is true, but apparently this exact same story happened to both Star Wars and Transformers. When they were first shown in Japan, the audience left the film in complete silence. The producer/director, concerned about the lacklustre response, asked their Japanese counterpart if they didn't like it. The Japanese counterpart then responded that the audience was giving the film their greatest possible compliment: for a Japanese audience, being silent means you're devoting your entire attention to that movie.
- There is a similar anecdote about Star Wars in America. When people saw the first spaceship come into view, they cheered. When they saw the second one (the Imperial Star Destroyer, which never seemed to end in that shot), they all went silent.
- In Clerks II, this happens after God-fearing momma's boy Elias explains to Randall that the reason he's never had sex with his girlfriend is because all girls have a "pussy troll" that prevents them from having pre-marital sex by biting off the tip of any offending penis. Randall, a veteran snarker, is absolutely speechless.
- Meet the Feebles has this happen as the audience reaction to The Sodomy Song, which is about what it sounds like.
- The Buddy Holly Story contains a scene where Buddy and the Crickets go onstage at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, and are met with stunned disbelief at these four white hillbillies. The crowd is quickly won over when the music starts playing.
- The Sex Pistols' final concert in Winterland, USA. After their rendition of the horribly tasteless "Belsen was a Gas" the audience sat in stunned silence for a few seconds before applauding.
- A subversion: Beethoven believed that his 9th Symphony got disapproving silence as a response. Instead, the crowd was going nuts; he, being deaf, couldn't hear them.
- Until, according to legend, one of the soloists turned him round so he was facing the audience. At which point they went even more nuts.
- Truth in Television: A particularly moving piece of music gets silence from the house. Can be a powerful, powerful compliment. I saw one occasion where a clap began, but most of the house didn't join in, and it subsided again. (It was a tribute to a dead member of the orchestra, and applause just didn't seem appropriate)
- Long ago, there was a YKTTW entry with this name which described the way dramatic arguments in shows would end: one person would raise their voice and deliver a final cutting line, then simply walk out, leaving the other in stunned silence.
- On the stupidity side, someone really doesn't understand how memory works.
- Avenue Q: Rod spends a whole song going on about how he is totally straight and definitely has a Girlfriend in Canada. At the end, he lets out a near-hysterical "And I can't wait to eat her pussy again!" For about 30 straight seconds all of the other characters, as well as the orchestra and conductor, stare at him in shock and awkwardness.
- Stunned silence variety appears in Something*Positive after a couple of musicals/plays the main characters put on. One of them ended with the audience pulling out their lighters and setting fire to the place.
- In his review of the cheesy 80s movie Ragewar, Dr. Insano gets a look that combines annoyance with weariness when he learns that this movie is the origin of the phrase "I reject your reality and substitute my own."
- The Simpsons: Krusty hosting the "Krusty Komedy Klassic" at the Apollo Theater. Um, oops...
- The page picture comes from Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Beach", as the response to Azula's idea of appropriate romantic dialogue with a guy she just met at a party.