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The easy way is always mined.
—from Murphy's Laws of Combat

This occurs when a character is given two choices; one of which sounds much easier, safer or more pleasant than the other. When the "better" option is chosen, it is subsequently revealed that they've actually picked the worse option without realizing it until it's too late.

Named after a running gag in the film I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. Damon Wayans and Kadeem Hardison play Evil Minions who are always being told by other characters that they can leave the building via "the window or the stairs". Each time, they choose the stairs and each time they get thrown painfully down a long flight of stairs.

For people actually leaving via the window, see Destination Defenestration. See also The Easy Way or the Hard Way.

Examples of The Window or the Stairs include:


Film

  • I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, as described above. The trope is subverted at the end of the film when the protagonist says "There's two ways you can leave this place..." at which point Wayans screams and jumps out the window. This prompts one of the heroes to say, "Didn't he know about the elevator?"
  • This is part of Jedi philosophy. The Dark Side is the quick and easy path to power, but it will exact a terrible price from you and everyone you care about in the long run. Unless you're okay with that.

Literature

  • Played with in the Discworld novel Going Postal. Main character Moist von Lipwig is given a choice by Vetinari: He can take over the job of Postmaster General, or walk out a door in Vetinari's office, and Vetinari would never bother him again. Being a Genre Savvy sort of chap, Moist goes to the door, carefully peeks through it, and finds a deep pit where the floor should be. He drops a spoon into the pit, and it doesn't make a sound for a rather long time. He takes the job. At the end of the book, the Big Bad is offered the same choice with a job at the Mint. He walks straight out the door without a pause.
    • Further played with in Making Money: Moist is given the same choice, and referred to the same door, on being offered a new job. Having ostentatiously repeated his previous actions he discovers the room now has a perfectly normal floor. (Playing With Playing with a Trope? Where will it end?!!)
  • One of the Dragonology choose your adventure books subverts this trope. Choose the nice wide gentle path and you make it to the castle safely, choose the narrow twisty trail you make it to a cave and set of a trip wire and get crushed by a boulder.

Video Games

  • In many a 2D Adventure Game and Platform Game, the screen will have a set amount of space it can display. If there are 2 paths to take and one has more Mooks or Spikes, it will be much easier in the long run.

Web Original

  • Used straight in a Diceman game comic - In one story if you chose to descend the stairs you'd meet a bunch of demons on the way up and get torn to pieces. The other option involved escaping through the window onto clotheslines.

Western Animation

  • In The Land Before Time, Cera and the other dinosaurs refuse to follow Littlefoot's instructions on where to go to find the Great Valley, instead taking an easier path. Their "easier path" winds up trapping them all in a deadly lava flow.
  • In Finding Nemo, our heroes come across a chasm. Dory was told that they had to go through it, and she tries to tell Marlin, who ignores her and then tricks her into swimming over it, since it seems much safer. They end up in a huge swarm of jellyfish, and they both almost die because of the stings.
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The King of Omashu", the eponymous King is putting Aang through a series of tests. For the last one, he tells Aang to choose one of two warriors to fight. Aang tries to Take a Third Option and choose the old, crazy King himself - but he was expecting this, informing Aang that he's an incredibly powerful earthbender and tougher opponent than both of the warriors presented. In fact, he's the strongest in the entire series until Toph comes along, and even then it's debatable.

 His Majesty: Wrong answer.

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