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No way that button could ever come back to bite them.

"Why do we even have that lever?"

When the villain creates a machine of diabolical nature, some function gets thrown into the mix that wasn't quite planned, and doesn't really serve any practical reason. Expect Lampshade Hanging to ensue.

See also Fridge Logic.

Compare Oven Logic, where the oven dial goes up to thousands of degrees. One has to wonder why the oven had a dial that could go up that high if it wasn't meant to be used that way.

Compare with Cow Tools. Contrast with Mundane Utility. Overlaps a lot with Self-Destruct Mechanism.

Examples of Inventional Wisdom include:


  • In one of the versions of Mazinger Z, there was one lever on Hell Island served to launch the island spacewards and detonate it. Big Bad Dr. Hell used it to try to take Mazinger Z with him when he realized the battle was lost. It happened in Gosaku Ota's manga version.
  • In Parallel Trouble Adventure Dual, Mr. Sanada frequently designs machines with large buttons that you think would activate them, he even coaxes the person to press the button/presses the button himself, before revealing that it doesn't actually do anything. 'It's actually' *Mitsuki sits down on a lever* 'that lever..'
    • You would think Mitsuki would learn not to sit anywhere near her father's inventions the number of times this happens in the show.
  • Toward the end of the first arc of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Coco pushes a singular, prominent button on the Dai-Gurren's bridge, which opens the specific window that Nia happens to be standing in front of, so that she can climb out to enter Gurren Lagann.


  • The Far Side: A plane passenger is fumbling around with his seat controls, one of which is a switch marked "Wings Stay On"/"Wings Fall Off".
  • The Adventures Of Kool-Aid Man: Professor Kline builds a rocketship, but doesn't know how to turn it on.
  • Played with in Meanwhile. The Killitron is a doomsday device built by a mild-mannered inventor with no Omnicidal Maniac tendencies whatsoever. However, it turns out that it can be used to manipulate entropy, allowing for such miracles as reversing the aging process and transmuting food and water.


  • At the end of Bride of Frankenstein, the enraged Monster is rampaging through the lab. As he approaches a very large wooden lever Dr. Pretorius shouts, "Don't touch that lever! You'll blow us all to atoms!" The question must be asked: if you were collecting all the supplies and fixtures you'd need to build your super high-tech lab, how far down the list would "a lever that will blow us all to atoms" be?
    • Well to be fair, he doesn't say that's what the lever is for. Any Mad Scientist's lab is going to be full of equipment on the verge of exploding, so messing with controls you don't understand is a very bad idea...
  • The Chompers in Galaxy Quest, Gwen lampshades how ridiculous it is that there is a Death Course in the middle of the ship.

 Gwen: Fuck Screw that! I'm not doing it! This episode was badly written!

  • A Death Course with chutes and flames appears in Race to Witch Mountain.
  • In Spaceballs, Spaceball-1 can go to "Ludicrous Speed", which everybody except Dark Helmet realizes is something they shouldn't do. Fortunately the ship is also equipped with a hand-operated "Emergency Brake" which is labeled "Never Use".
  • The trapdoor in Red Sonja.
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: Captain Kirk's Logbook has a light that reads "System Failure" (and only that), meaning that this thing is released with the notion that it will fail routinely during its use. Given the movie it's in that's fairly ironic.
  • In the original Cube, somebody speculates that the only reason they were put into the cube was because it had been built, and not using it would be to admit it was pointless.
  • Practically everything Dr. Evil owns.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens The latte dispenser is operated by a Big Red Button that is identical and right next to the button that launches all of the US's nuclear missiles.

 President: What idiot designed this?!

Offscreen Voice: You did sir.

President: Fair enough.

    • Unfortunately, while trying to get a cup of Joe in The Stinger...
      • This is actually referring to a Real Life joke that all Nuclear Football carriers tell when asked about the briefcase's contents. Complete with the part about forgetting which switch is witch.
  • Isn't it a little strange that the motorcycle-sized speeder bikes in Return of the Jedi have a centrally-placed rocker switch for jamming comm. signals? That works on their own comm. signals, not merely the enemy's?


  • Discworld has Bungling Inventor "Bloody Stupid" Johnson, who has added quite a number of useless and dangerous things to his inventions.
    • In Hogfather he added some things to the bathroom in Unseen University that Archchancellor Ridcully would come to regret.
    • Although the inventions he doesn't add the useless and dangerous components to are, if anything, even more hazardous. This is the man who invented a manicure device that's used for peeling potatoes, after all.
      • And the hoho, which is like a haha but deeper[2]. It has already claimed the lives of several palace gardeners.
    • {{Maniette I}} believe it says in The Last Hero that he made a bomb out of common sand and water.
    • He also designed a nice, upper class neighbourhood that just happened to break the laws of space and time. You can just throw the trash out of the window into the yard, since it's probably not your yard, anyway. It's also has a very low crime rate, as thieves generally prefer to break into one house at a time.
    • Or the post office sorting machine, which included a wheel with a circumference-to-diameter ratio of exactly 3 (rather than the usual three-and-a-bit, which he thought was untidy), and which soon started sorting letters before they were written.
      • The clincher? he originally designed it to be a pipe organ.
    • And his actual organs [3] usually include special sound effects such as thunder or animal noises, with at least one example also being connected to the building's plumbing system. The UU organ, located in the middle of a city with a million inhabitants, also includes a pipe that plays the Brown Note so loud that it causes earthquakes.
    • And then there's the things that do work, but not in the way he intended them. Such as the 'potato peeler' labelled Manicure Device. Or the beehive used to store carrier pigeons. Or the table settings. Interesting fact, the salt shaker houses three families and the pepper pot is used to store half the city's grain.
    • The Alchemist's Guild should also get a mention for one of their ideas (no, not the Moving Pictures thing), trying to create artificial ivory using camphor and nitrocellulose. It doesn't really work out.
      • It seemed to work okay for John Wesley Hyatt on Roundworld. Reality Is Unrealistic?
      • Nitrocellulose becomes unstable as it ages, and easier to detonate by percussion, until in the extreme... "I done seen the whole thing, Sheriff. It were the cue ball what shot first."
  • The Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy features the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, a company built entirely around this concept. In the words of the Guide itself, their corporate strategy is based on building devices whose "superficial design flaws completely mask their fundamental design flaws." In other words, you get so involved in getting the thing to work at all that you completely fail to realize that it's incapable of doing what it was made to do in the first place. From the first book alone, examples include a superintelligent robot with a suicidally depressed personality and an intelligent drink dispenser that, no matter what you ask for, always gives you exactly the same horrid concoction that is "perfectly tailored to your individual tastes."

Live Action TV

  • An episode of Sesame Street involved a high-powered air conditioning system being installed in the Furry Arms Hotel. Humphrey specifically states that it's only meant to be turned up to 10. If the knob is turned up to 14, it will break. Those are literally his exact words. Guess what the resident penguins end up doing.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Blink", the Doctor (who has been sent back to 1969 by the Weeping Angels) constructs a device from various unrelated objects, including a casette and a flashlight to detect other "travellers".

 Doctor: This is my timey-wimey detector. It goes ding when there's stuff. Also, it can boil an egg at thirty paces ... whether you want it or not, actually, so I learned to stay away from hens, it's not pretty when they blow...

  • Chuck Versus the Mask, the museum's computer room has a big red readout that says system failure. Talk about a complete lack of faith in your system. Shouldn't they have hired a curator who knew how to use a computer?
  • Far Out Space Nuts: "I said lunch, not launch!" Maybe those two buttons shouldn't be right next to each other?
  • An episode of Star Trek has Kirk being court-martialed under suspicion of accidentally ejecting an "ion pod" with a crew member still inside it. The prime evidence is (falsified) footage of the bridge during the incident, which includes a closeup of the arm of Kirk's captain's chair, which has three buttons on it - presumably the three things it was determined a Starfleet captain needed to be able to do at any time: "Red Alert," "Yellow Alert," and "Eject Pod." Because that third one comes up SO often.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons
    • Dungeons in general. They often have way more traps in them than any reasonable person would be willing to live with. It would be the one day you're preoccupied by an argument with your Beholder and you forget to hit the hidden switch that disables the disintegration trap on your bedroom door.
    • Not to mention that they're basically miles of corridors someone had to dig out and build - often with amenities like doors and stairs and sconces for torches in addition to the aforementioned traps - that seem to serve no purpose other than to give monsters a place to live. The idea of dozens of evil beasts who should by all rights kill each other living side-by-side peacefully, guarding piles of treasure they have no use for including magic items they won't use to protect themselves in underground complexes where they have no food or water and may not even fit through the door to the room they're in has become something of a running joke among old school Dungeons and Dragons players.
    • The tinker gnomes of Dragonlance. Their inventions seem to start with an idea, then modify as they go to fix perceived problems in ways that seem reasonable until you look at the whole.
      • For example, falling into water while wearing heavy plate armor tends to be inconvenient. Wouldn't it be nice to take the armor off in a hurry when you need to? So it's set up to be removed quickly. If you fall into water, you might be a little panicked, so the way to remove it should be easily accessible, right? Bright red painted crash bar on the front. And plate armor - especially gnome-modified plate armor - is going to be expensive, so you want a way to retrieve all the pieces if you do need to remove it like that, so... all the pieces are attached to the belt with wires so you can easily find them.
      • A gnomic effort to light their caverns involved piping magma through them. When this made the average corridor hot enough to flash-fry gnomes, they poured water on the pipes. The net result was that it was still impossible to see because when you pour water on a tube of magma, you get huge quantities of steam. And it was still hot enough that you wouldn't want to spend too long in the corridors unless you were literally a fire elemental. But by the gods it was lit!

Video Games

  • Dwarf Fortress has a fondness for these, with players often ending up with levers that serve no purpose but to flood parts of their own fortress with lava. This is particularly pronounced in games when players swap out between years so that no one knows what the lever actually does and building around it.
    • Boatmurdered had a lever that, when pulled, flooded a siege workshop. It turned out it had originally been put in to irrigate the farms and became hilariously useless later when someone built a siege workshop on them.
  • In Advance Wars: Black Hole Rising, Lash proposes to the more practical Hawke that an airport she just finished for him be equipped with add-ons like a self destruct sequence.
  • Played with in Portal, which is centered around the inventions and facilities of Aperture Science, a company whose Cloudcuckoolander founder saw absolutely nothing wrong with doing such things as building a fuel system de-icer that is also a sentient, malevolent AI, or a shower curtain that warps space (the portal gun). In fact, the ancillary functions of their inventions are the parts that are actually useful. When anyone attempts to use them for their ostensible purposes, they invariably prove fatal. Special mention also goes out to the turrets, which don't really need to be sapient and capable of feeling pain. Portal 2 has even more fun with this, featuring, among other things:
    • Empathy Generators on the turrets. Too keep them able to shoot people they also installed an Empathy Suppressor.
    • Aerial Faith Plates that propel the player vast distances; these were designed to send test subjects into space, apparently sans spacesuit or any other means of survival. They were also plans to use them to load cargo onto trucks, despite the fact that the cargo is thrown with such force that it either breaks it and/or causes it to bounce back out.
    • Thermal Discouragement Beams, giant lasers that were apparently installed to keep office workers from leaving their desks.
    • Propulsion and Repulsion Gels, which were originally conceived as digestive aids despite the latter containing an element that "does not like the human skeleton".
    • Wheatley, the hilariously dumb personality core, is an elaborately set up subversion of this. It turns out that his stupidity is completely intentional, as he was designed to keep GLaDOS hobbled by constantly feeding her bad advice. Of course, this is what caused GLaDOS to go haywire and kill her creators. They also didn't anticipate that his idiocy would go so far as to arrange to kick her out of the job of Big Bad and take over the role himself. Oops.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, the clan VIP room's shower temperature can be set so low that it makes shards of ice rain down on the user. When you use it, your character questions why someone would even make something like this.
  • Applies to so many door-lock minipuzzles in all sorts of games. Why would a supposedly everyday door require people to go through lengthy, complex manipulations to get through — the users would get fed up. Why would a door be locked with a device that is disassembled when unlocked, or otherwise only good for one use.

Web Original

  • In Space Tree the Space Tree in Space!, the titular tree is on death row, yet gets pardoned. The door of the cell he's in has two identical buttons labeled "Door Release" and "Fiery Execution!". The person sent to release him can't read. Do the math.

Web Comics

  • The artistic variation shows up here, in Starslip. Vanderbeam, alone on the ship, is trying to calm down and forget about ghosts, so he goes around looking at art. He looks at The Scream, Nightmare, and Vanderbeam Getting Eaten By A Ghost, prompting this:

 Vanderbeam: Heavens, why did I ever commission this piece?!


 Robin: By the power invested in me, I now pronounce you man and Batman.

Ethan: That's not why I dressed [my Batman toy] up in a suit!

Amber: ... Why did you dress him up in a suit?


Western Animation


 Plankton: Coin-operated self-destruct? Not one of my brighter ideas.

  • Kim Possible: The Lorwardian Motherships' engines have an "off" switch.

  Warmonga: Long have I questioned the wisdom of that accursed switch!

  • Phineas and Ferb: In "The Monster of Phineas-n-Ferb-enstein", Dr. Doofenshmirtz's ancestor builds a device to make a potion that will make a person "Evil-Er". For some reason it also has a "Fairy Princess" setting.
    • Not to mention that every evil device Dr. Doofenshmirtz makes has a "reverse" setting, or a "self destruct" button. And every death trap he makes for Perry the Platypus has an escape hatch or escape-pod. All this is usually lampshaded by Doofenshmirtz himself saying things like "Why did I even put that there? What's wrong with me?"
    • "Hail Doofania!" The Rainbow Generator features a Self-Destruct Mechanism

  Ferb: You know, in retrospect I questioned the inclusion of a self destruct button in the first place.

    • In one episode, Doofenshmirtz spends an entire episode looking for an on-off switch so he can activate his latest -inator. It turns out that all the -inator does is open the cage that he had trapped Perry in.
  • The Emperors New Groove: As indicated by the page quote, the entrance to Yzma's secret lab has a lever that opens a Trap Door to a Croc Pool.

 Jurgen: AH! Why did I build a "Reverse-Suck"?!

Timmy: 'Cause this is MY movie!


 Pandora: I knew that "spew" switch was going to come back and haunt me.

  • Dilbert: When the evil Leena is trapped in her own prototype, the De-pruner, her coworkers hit the "decapitate" button.

  Leena: I knew I shouldn't have added that option.

    • Given the character, she definitely planned to get some use out of it.
    • Dilbert also installed a voice-operated temperature changer in the shower. Which reacts to any number he says, regardless of context. Dogbert is disappointed to find he himself cannot change the temperature when Dilbert is taking a shower, but he can ask about "That movie with the crazy computer..." "You mean '2001'?"
      • It's a good thing that Dilbert didn't mention that the crazy computer's name was HAL 9000.
  • The Simpsons
    • A Halloween special features an murderous Krusty doll: "Yep, there's your problem. Somebody set this thing to evil."
    • In a later episode, Bart sets a bunch of Roombas from "off" to "malevolent sentience". They promptly go on a mini-rampage.
    • "Why?! Why was I programmed to feel pain?!"
    • "Bart make bot bad!"
  • Megas XLR: Sometimes Coop can't even make sense of his own designs.
    • And inverted. Megas has 3 buttons labeled "Destroy the world", "Smite the world" and "Destroy the world, worse", and one button labeled "Save the world". Guess which button is needed? Guess which one is missing from the control panel?
    • Megas is low on oil in one episode, so Coop literally wrings the grease out of several cheesesteak sandwiches directly into a small tube that refills the tank. The gauge goes from "Empty" --> "Need a little" --> "Almost There" --> "Enough" --> "No really, I'm fine" --> and "PLEASE STOP!"
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Recurring teenage villain Cree explained that the only reason she escaped from a prison spaceship was because one of the pilots accidentally pressed the "Blow Up The Engines" button during a fight over trading cards.

 Cree: Who else but a bunch of stupid kids would put a "Blow Up The Engines" button on a spaceship?

    • In an earlier episode, the ice cream Monster of the Week is defeated when Numbah Three turns on the heater in the ice cream factory. Quote the delightful children from down the lane:


  • He-Man and She-Ra's Christmas Special shows Orko lauching a rocket thats manipulated by one easily breakable lever.
  • Futurama had Professor Farsnworth's glow-in-the-dark nose making machine. About halfway through the episode, he prepares to insert a note from Leela's parents into it to analyze it and hopefully translate it. This exchange took place:

 Fry: Isn't that the machine that makes noses?

Professor: It can do other things! Why shouldn't it?

    • Said machine also produces several barrels worth of toxic waste every time it's turned on, for no readily apparent reason.
  • In one episode of Adventures in Care-a-Lot, Grizzle takes over Care-a-Lot using the Caretaker II, a belly-badge-stealing ray that can turn invisible. Naturally, it gets lost while invisible, and while looking for it, Grizzle warns his minions not to press the blue button that releases all the belly badges, complaining that he never should have installed that button.
  • In BOT, the Transformers Generation 1 episode considered the worst in the TF franchise's 25-ish year history, one of the many, many, many nonsense moments was the solution to the Decepticons' superweapon: a human-level button (on a machine that supposedly had to be controlled by Bruticus, who towers above your average TF, which is why the entire episode was about finding all of Bruticus' scattered parts) clearly marked "Over Load." Yes, two words. You push it, the thing overloads and explodes. (Oh, making a device so big you supposedly can't use it yourself? Not much better. Like we said... it was bad.)
  • Hilariously parodied by Cartoon Network with a Birdman short (link here). Falcon 7 asks why Birdman allows Avenger on his console, while Birdman insists he's "fully-trained" and demonstrates by ordering Avenger to press the Coffee button...which is right next to the Doomsday button. He gets the coffee, but accidentally hit the Doomsday button too.
    • For added hilarity, we get to see the console, and the Coffee button is sandwiched between buttons for various weapons in addition to the Doomsday button.

Real Life

  • Some Hot Tubs can be set so high that it would literally cook anyone trying to use it. Partly justified if the customer wants a hot tub that doubles as an oven.
    • This goes for many heating devices such as the toaster setting that will burn everything.
  • Ever look at the speedometer in your car? Usually goes up well over 100 mph, despite numerous laws prohibiting too much faster than 80 or so.
    • There are reasons for this. Having the max speed so high means you'll be driving at speeds with the pointer pointing up, which is closest to your field of vision and easier to see; also, gauges tend to be less accurate at the extremes, so you want your normal driving speeds to be in the middle of the gauge.
      • There is no other way to design the pointer gauge by, say, making it just a pie slice in the legal range eye level?
    • Trucks have a smaller speedometer range, topping out at 85 or so.
    • Not the Delorean. That's right, the car that's best known for going 88 mph can only tell you it's doing 80.
    • Also, there's a reason racecars often have parachutes. Go too fast, and you'll flip over and wreck the car!
  • Arguably, the fact that stereo systems have a volume control that goes up to ten.
    • "This one goes up to eleven."
    • Speaking of which, look at the volume on your TV screen when you adjust it. It can be set high enough to blow your fucking eardrums out! Seriously, only deaf people would need anything that loud in order to enjoy anything.
    • To give a specific example, Panasonic Viera TVs have a volume indicator that goes to 100. 30 is extremely loud, only 20 or lower are comfortable volumes.
  • Since you're probably using a computer right now, try this Drinking Game: take a shot every time you see any program that places an useful option right next to a "delete" option. You'd better rent a room at the hospital first.
    • Even better, there was an old CD burning software, with a single button in the progress window: "Cancel". Obviously, since it was the only button it was always selected. Bonus points if you had set the pointer to automatically hover over the default button in the mouse settings.
  • Less drastic example: The "dislike" button under every YouTube video is right next to the (admittedly larger) "like" button. This is probably the reason why so many otherwise-epic things on Youtube invariably have a few dislikes hanging about them in a mist.
  • An inversion of this contributed to the Apollo 13 accident. While emptying a cryogenic oxygen tank using a heater, the dial used to watch the temperature did not go above the expected maximum, and as a result no one knew that the temperature was getting significantly higher and damaging some equipment.
  1. Also, coincidentally, said during many a game of Dwarf Fortress
  2. a ha-ha is a special kind of fence designed to be invisible from one side, as it is recessed into the ground. In real life, they vary from two to nine feet deep. The hoho was over fifty feet deep
  3. Not his actual organs, musical instrument he built