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It's been said that "a trope can't be partially subverted any more than a woman can be a little bit pregnant". So then what do you call it when The Butler Did It, but "it" was eating the last cookie in the jar? Or when a powerful weapon glows so little you can't even notice it in good light? Or when someone only becomes slightly agitated at being called a certain nickname?

We'll tell you what we call it: a Downplayed Trope.

A Downplayed Trope is when a trope is played to a much smaller extent than it usually is. In particularly extreme cases, the lack of extent to which the trope is played is Played for Laughs for the same reason as its antithesis, the Exaggerated Trope. The exact definition varies on a case-by-case basis, but the above works as a general rule. It's also why The Same but Less doesn't really make a new trope, since Tropes Are Flexible.

In case the introduction didn't tip you off, many cases of Not a Subversion fall into this trope's territory.

A form of Playing with a Trope.

Compare Subverted Trope, Parodied Trope.

Contrast Exaggerated Trope.

Examples of Downplayed Trope include:

Anime & Manga

  • Yazan Gable of Zeta Gundam downplays the Axe Crazy and Psycho for Hire (and arguably the Complete Monster) tropes. Yazan is a dangerously insane, feral predator who joined the army just so he could get the chance to hurt people and has no empathy whatsoever for those around him. However, he's as rational as a person with that kind of motivation can be, enjoys the company of a few likeminded sociopaths, follows the orders of those superiors he respects, and is generally portrayed as a brutal uncaring thug rather than the cackling madman that is typical of both tropes.

Film (Animated)

  • Futurama downplayed Implausible Deniability in Into the Wild Green Yonder, when the head of the robot mafia isn't denying his wife stole his lucky foot. He's just insisting they need more evidence when the evidence so far is conclusive.

Film (Live Action)

  • The Matrix downplays Like a God to Me, where a guy calls Neo a "personal Jesus Christ", but in the context of being polite instead of amazed.

Live Action Television

  • The Mentalist: The butler was the driver for the Socialite who did it, making him an accomplice. Said socialite arranged for the butler to go free if she confessed.
  • Bones: The butler confessed to doing it, but it's pretty likely he's just taking the fall for his employers.
  • Marshal Sam McCloud is a literal example of a Cowboy Cop but otherwise very much downplayed. Since he is from New Mexico but based in New York, he becomes a strange cop in a strange land.


  • David Sarif of Deus Ex Human Revolution fits this aspect of Corrupt Corporate Executive. He's not a bad guy per se, especially given the setting. He's shown to genuinely care about his employees, but he's also willing to cut some corners that would be difficult to explain in an investigation and to take "creative" interpretations of some of his employee contracts. That said, he's the nicest bigshot you'll meet in the setting and the only one not in cahoots with the Illuminati.
  • Fina of Skies of Arcadia has a small version of a Cleavage Window (because it has a purpose other than Fan Service).

Western Animation