Trope Discussion: Quippy, Fast-Talking Action Heroes

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Well-Known Member
Oct 23, 2014
In various Action/Adventure shows, particularly ones staring Teenage Protagonists, having your main characters play everything straight and say "Stand back citizens, I will protect you from this foul villain!" or take everything as seriously as possible makes them pretty boring.

So to spice up the interactions, The hero(es) will often spout comedic One-Liners and Sarcastic Quips in rapid-fire succession to lighten the mood. Spider-Man/Peter Parker, Buffy Summers, Danny Phantom, Sonic the Hedgehog, and about half of the Marvel Roster are all examples of action-adventure heroes that regularly crack zingers during a tense battle.

This trope has the benefit of adding some additional characterization to the heroes, and show them that they're willing to add light to a bad situation, and thus, a bit of hope, especially if the Quips are actually funny. The problems come when the writers can't write good one-liners, so every word that comes out of a hero's mouth comes off as grating and lame. There's also the problem of too many quips, letting the audience breathe is an important part of dialogue pacing. Having characters constantly babbling with no room for pause can get very annoying. But the most important thing is tone and timing. Knowing when is the right time to quip, and when isn't. Quipping during a regular burglary stopping is fine, but if you're having your hero spout back-to-back one-liners during the mentor's funeral, then you're doing it wrong.


Long Live the Fighter!
Staff member
Mar 11, 2005
California, USA
My problem with this trope is when writers try to take the "self-aware" route of this dialog. Character says a generic quip and someone else says, "Wow, I haven't heard THAT a million times before!" It drives me nuts when writers do that. They think they're so clever when it just comes off as snooty.


Active Member
Jul 14, 2010
I do think this has become a problem with the MCU films, or at least some of them. Spider-Man Homecoming was definitely a film where I couldn't get into the story, because every dramatic moment was undercut with a lame joke (the sequel was a little better, but still grating at times). It actually made me wonder how Batman & Robin would have been received if it came out in the 2010s.


I Am Here
Jun 12, 2009
Puerto Rico
There's a word for it: bathos. It's the main reason why I merely like most MCU movies instead of loving them (and it's also why I'm extremely disappointed with the direction they're going with Black Widow's solo movie).

To bring this discussion into cartoons, "bathos" is also the problem I had with the Trick Moon pilot. At various points, it came off as if it wanted to be earnestly epic and dramatic -- and then it cut itself off with gratingly self-aware quippiness.

Red Arrow

ça va nog wel
Oct 22, 2012
The first seasons of "The Batman" might be the worst example of this. 90% of the dialogue consists of REALLY BAD puns and oneliners.


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