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Antimony: Hmm, an ominous passage that plunges into an inky blackness, sealed behind lock and chain.
Just like Pandora should have known better than to open her box, characters in fiction should know better than to ask questions, explore Haunted Castles, read aloud from the Tome of Eldritch Lore, or be curious on general principle. It inevitably starts the plot, which of course starts things moving and gets people dying.
If these characters are in a horror flick, anyone showing the slightest bit of curiosity in Slasher Movies will die. Or release the Sealed Evil in a Can. Or get their Genre Savvy friend killed as he complains that they shouldn't be there. Or gets them captured. Etc. etc.
Outside of the slasher horror genre, the death rate of this trope drops considerably, even if it still stirs up a hornet's nest of trouble. Since curiosity is often the driving force that starts a plot, it can be used to get heroes into and out of several precarious situations. For example, considering the tone of her Web Comic is goofy and mysterious, odds are Kat and Antimony aren't going to be dead at the end of that particular story... though you can bet your second shadow something interesting will happen!
Sometimes, it pays to be apathetic.
A subtrope of Tempting Fate. Compare Forbidden Fruit, Death by Sex, Too Dumb to Live. In games, can be the cause of Total Party Kill. Often the result of falling for Schmuck Bait. See also Curiosity Causes Conversion.
Anime and Manga
- Spoofed in Dragon Ball when Emperor Pilaf lures the cast into a trap by simply painting arrows on the floor leading to it, and ends up entirely amazed when it actually works. ("I had no idea that heroes could be so stupid. Must be one of those mail-order types.")
- The first arc of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni manages to both subvert this and play it straight at the same time. Throughout the arc, you are led to believe that Rena and Mion are targetting Keiichi because he's asking questions about the curse of Oyashiro-sama. As you might imagine, that's subverted, but the truth was that Rena and Mion had nothing to do with the murders, but Keiichi's panic about it fueled his paranoia about it until he kills not only them, but himself too, making this one played straight as well.
- But subverted in Nekogoroshi-hen, the aptly-named "Cat-Killing Chapter". Interesting mystery, possible explanations, slight indication that it ties back to the main plot... but everyone decides it's not worth getting involved in.
- In the episode of Cowboy Bebop involving the retrovirus Monkey Business, the protagonists stumble across a box containing a receptacle of the virus and are told not to open it. Faye is intrigued and opens it anyway, and Spike's use of brute force and firearms to separate the receptacle from its container—evidently based solely on curiosity - causes their hostage (who knows what is inside) much nervousness.
- Possible subversion, as this inspires Spike to plant said retrovirus ON the hostage!
- In Trigun (the manga, not anime) Vash and Knives follow a girl who appears on the ship into a closed-off medical room. Things go downhill from there.
- In World Embryo Yui has an obsession with Takao. When Riku uses his lies to try to steer her away from him, things go wrong and it ends badly.
- Digimon Tamers plays with this trope a bit. Kazu and Kenta, who are less mature and act more like their age than the other characters in the series, nearly get themselves killed multiple times when they go to the Digital World because of their curiosity and lack of understanding on how that place worked. On the other hand, it was curiosity and childlike belief that enabled another character to become a Sixth Ranger to the main team. The message seems be that that there's a line between healthy curiosity, which is what the latter had, and Too Stupid to Live, which is what Kazu and Kenta can be sometimes.
- Combine this with Idiot Ball, and you get a cage (made out of Kryptonite bars) that was used to capture Superboy, with a sign reading "LUTHOR'S TRAP TO CAPTURE SUPERBOY" written on it in giant letters... And Superboy, naturally, falling for it, and getting captured. His logic may have been that "no one would actually put a sign like that on a real trap". Although a trap should've been expected, the one with the big sign on it would normally be the decoy, a written version of Sarcastic Confession. However, even if it isn't a "real" trap, it's still a cage, with no obvious reason to fly into it- there's nothing in there. And the bars are made out of Kryptonite. Fortunately for him, this was All Just a Dream.
- In Shade the Changing Man, Shade traps a Celestial in a statue of the mythical Pandora (with box), and she comes to life. Kathy and Lenny find "Pandora's" box and give in to temptation by opening it. The box is empty, but it turns "Pandora" into dust.
- Narrowly averted in this Quino strip.
- In the Iron Man fic Huge Success, Tony decided to peek at the pym particles sent to his lab for examination before Dr. Pym showed up. He ended up being six inches tall.
- Hocus Pocus: A non-lethal example. When snooping in a house where witches used to live, and informed that a virgin lighting the candle will return them to life, the clueless teen protagonist does just that, incidentally subverting A Man Is Not a Virgin.
The Nostalgia Chick: "Fucking virgins, man! Why do we even have them, anyway?"
- Shane Acker's 9 is made of this trope. In the feature film version, it's because of 9's combination of being both very naive and very curious that over half the cast of the movie is killed before it's all over. Admittedly, 1's death was heroic suicide, but it was 9's curiosity that lead him to jam the talisman in the machine and wake it up in the first place.
- The Mummy (Stephen Sommers version): "You must not read from the book!" Too late...
- Lampshaded with the very not Genre Savvy line: "No harm ever came from reading a book."
- Referred back to in the second movie with: "No harm ever came from opening a chest." "Yeah, 'no harm ever came from reading a book', remember that one?"
- Lampshaded with the very not Genre Savvy line: "No harm ever came from reading a book."
- Alone in The Dark, the movie, has the cast about to open up a door to some other world or whatever. They decide not to as the last people that opened the door where wiped from the face of the earth but not without some questioning. The villain turns up, and for reasons completely unknown, opens up the door. Sure enough, they really shouldn't have opened the door.
- The characters in the Evil Dead films could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by just leaving that tape recorder alone.
- Likewise, Professor Knowby himself would've had a relaxing, uneventful weekend if, while working on his translations, he hadn't felt the need to recite a demon resurrection spell out loud.
- But the most obvious idiocy belongs to Cheryl in the first one, who hears a sound and goes out into the woods at night alone to investigate...
- The main character of The Spiderwick Chronicles just can't help but read the book,
evenespecially after a note tells him not to. Considering he's a teenaged boy, this is understandable.
- The Umbrella Corporation people at the beginning of Resident Evil: Apocalypse. The crack team of commandos they sent into The Hive never came back, and one of the two survivors who did barely make it out alive was infected with the T-Virus. What's the smartest move? Re-open the facility and send a second even less well-equipped team in to investigate!
- Arguably the leading cause of death in Slasher Movies.
- The first victim in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre walks, unprovoked, directly into Leatherface's kitchen. Each successive victim heads in looking for the others. Easiest massacre ever!
- Curiosity killed the cat, you know!
Jack: I know...
- Just barely averted in Mystery Team.
- Occurs in the film Godzilla 2000. Long story short, some curious scientists come across an ancient spaceship in the middle of the ocean. And, well, not surprisingly, it wakes up after 65 million years of dormancy and now wants to create a "new body" (The Millennian aliens inside somehow turned into pure energy after crashing) to become the dominant species on the planet.
- Likewise, there's Godzilla VS Mechagodzilla II. "Hey, guys! I found this huge egg! I wonder what's inside. Let's take it back to the lab and...Wait, why is Godzilla attacking us?" The egg contains Godzilla Jr.
- The film Gamera 3: Revenge Of Irys also has this when Ayana and some other curious students enter a forbidden shrine said to contain a "demon". Congratulations, Ayana! You've just unleashed an ancient evil unto the world that wants to devour you so it can become strong enough to kill the only thing that can stop it and wipe out all of humanity!
- In The Magician's Nephew, a young man cannot resist the temptation to ring a bell which is marked with a warning (and tantalizing) poem. It turns out that this bell awakens the witch Jadis, who later becomes the first evil force in Narnia. In his defense, the poem concludes by saying, in effect, "If you don't ring the bell, you'll never know what would've happened. You'll always wonder what would've happened, and it might drive you insane".
- Although when confronting Aslan about that, he eventually admits that it was merely his curiosity, an not the influence of the poem, to bring him to ring it.
- Pretty much the moral of half of H.P. Lovecraft's stories. The roleplayer jokes are that the only worthy treasure in a Lovecraft game are untranslatable crusty old books that permanently removes your character from play if you accidentally look at the pictures; reading any of it aloud may doom the reader, the group, humanity, the universe, all universes, or all that and beyond; that there are entire hierarchies of threats beyond that who will wipe out the merely-universe-killing threats without even noticing them, only to do the ultimate everybody dies (as soon as the stars are right). While the players have 1920's guns and would probably all die if they were against a single baby shoggoth, with the survivors going permanently insane.
- Slight subversion in Tamora Pierce's book Trickster's Choice. The main character is warned about the dangers of curiosity with this phrase. In response, she tells the other character 'and satisfaction brought it back,' with a short complaint that no one seems to ever remember the second part of the saying.
- In The War of the Worlds, Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were all minor characters who were interested in the Martians and tried to talk to them. Needless to say, their plan didn't work out very well.
- The Wizard of Oz remake Tin Man has the young D.G. set off the film's events; she insists on following a singing voice into a dark cave with ominous writing about evil darkness, a creepy, exploding rock face, and then on going in deeper to help a "little girl" crying for help. Her older sister Azkadelia rightly guesses the little girl wasn't what she seemed, and was in fact a (or perhaps "THE") Wicked Witch who was trapped there. She gets possessed for her foresight, and gets (rightly) more than a little peeved at her younger sister, setting her on a wicked rampage.
Recorded and Stand Up Comedy
- Lampshaded in Eddie Izzard's stand-up comedy routine Unrepeatable.
Izzard: " 'Oh look! Something's moving in the forest about eight miles away! I'll go check'... don't check. Please don't check; that's what curtains are for."
- Dave Chappelle invoked this as a response to being told not to visit a strip bar:
"Naked women inside? I'd be like a white guy in a horror movie: 'I've got to investigate'".
- Pick an RPG. Any RPG and any medium. Sooner or later a party will wander where they aren't supposed to, as often as not resulting in Total Party Kill.
- Survival in Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game) boils down to a few simple rules: Don't touch anything, don't read anything, don't look at anything, just keep your head down and keep walking. And that's assuming you even left your house in the first place, ya shmuck.
- It's such a well known thing within the horror or mystery genres of Tabletop Games that it's progressed to the point where several games, such as Trail Of Cthulhu or mystery/horror variants of FATE, have mechanics to encourage/push Genre Savvy players away from averting this trope. It makes a dull game if everybody does the "smart" thing and decides that they don't want to leave the house after all.
- The Spider Cliff Mysteries: The Wednesday That Wasn't: The lead's investigation releases a nasty force and after he uses amnesia potion to reseal it, he does it again.
- Freefall: A robot reads a note about an aggressive neural pruning program and instead of steering clear he looks it up. The program starts downloading into his head when he goes looking for it, threatening him with a mind wipe.
- Cyanide & Happiness gives us an example of this, both literally and figuratively in this strip.
- Marble Hornets: A few years ago, a guy named Alex Kralie was shooting a student film of the same name. As he was filming, he started to notice a really tall guy in a suit occasionally lurking in the distance. As of now, Alex is on the run after a failed attempt to rebuild his life, his friend Tim has gone insane and started stalking people while wearing a mask, and we have no idea what happened to anyone besides Jay and Tim.
- Ben Drowned: If only Jadusable's curiosity hadn't prompted him to accept the shady game cartridge from the old man, or posted anything to the internet, then the reader's curiousity wouldn't have led them to open "The Truth.rtf", thus releasing Ben to the whole of the internet, and things might have gone a bit better for everyone involved.
- The protagonists of Sevenshot Kid both refuse to let go of the mysteries they encounter even though they know how dangerous it is getting.
- Shows up in the Fan Film of Left 4 Dead. It's a particularly facepalm-worthy moment as the character in question is an Action Survivor with experience shooting the infected and has a very conspicuous assault rifle. Which she puts down before going upstairs and being lured in by the curious noise.
- The Path: The entire premise of this psychological horror game.
- Ao Oni : a game created by RPG maker. Group of teenagers decide to explore a old abandoned house, and ends up being chased by big purple monster. Most of the versions, only the protagonist survives. (there are versions that gives the player option to save friends)
- There's also the surprise end near the start; the first time the player passes the bathroom, a shadow is shown moving behind the fogged glass door (which happens to be locked). Guess what happens if you continually try to open it?
- Cry of Fear has a pedophile who wrote a short poem about three children. Two of them went home, but the third one stayed, and was tricked into going close up to a bush. The final line concludes that, indeed, Curiosity killed the cat.
- Inversion. Curiosity is a survival advantage for a predator as he needs to look for food. It is more likely to be counterproductive to a prey species who needs to stay away from unknown things. In other words curiosity, though it can kill a cat, is more likely to help the cat and kill the mouse.
- Ferrets have had their curiosity turned Up to Eleven through selective breeding, which combines poorly with their ability to get nearly anywhere.
- Inverted as curiosity is also the reason behind many great scientific discoveries and technological advancements.
- Currently scientists and psychologists are engaged a project to create a warning sign for our nuclear waste that will not merely inspire our distant descendants to go on digging, so far without much success.
- If you're curious about quantum duality, you may attempt the Schrodingers Cat experiment. This may indeed kill the cat, but only after you look.
- Chernobyl: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2988/is-nuclear-power-safe
- As a quick summary, the linked article describes the catastrophic meltdown as not only stemming from shoddy design, but from its workers deciding to see what happened if they turned its few safety systems off.