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Murdock: Lieutenant... How would you handle this?
In a world where innocent people are Dying Like Animals, some people take it on themselves to be ostriches. Zoological accuracy aside, these folks tend to believe that all you have to do is ignore the problem and it will solve itself.
Sometimes, they're right. Specifically, ignoring the situation just happens to be preferable to any other solution.
How is this possible?
- Whoever is responsible for the situation is attention-hungry. Don't give him what he wants, and he'll stop.
- Maybe the responsible party is powered by belief, and depriving it of same will ultimately destroy it.
- Or maybe the protagonist's state of mind has some connection to the situation, and cooler heads prevail.
As implied by the Dying Like Animals writeup, when this strategy fails, it fails hard. Sometimes played for comic relief, as when the ignoring character thinks it's just an attention ploy, and they're in for a nasty surprise.
- The first time the Fantastic Four fought the Impossible Man, they stopped him by not paying attention to his antics. Eventually he called Earth boring and went home.
- In The Vinyl Scratch Tapes season 2 part 1, the mane characters at one point react to Prince Blueblood's phone call threatening to bring down their radio station by discussing where they want to have lunch, paying no attention whatsoever to Blueblood's rant. Of course, this was after hanging up on him repeatedly, then threatening to punch out his remaining teeth.
- The movie 15 Minutes is about a pair of foreign terrorists who seek to videotape their murders, give the footage to the news, and become infamous that way. The ad campaign used the line "the only way to stop them... is not to watch."
- Used in the first Nightmare On Elm Street: the Final Girl actually turns her back on Freddy Krueger just as he is about to stab her, and he promptly ceases to exist. At least, until the sequel. (Or just the Revised Ending, at that.)
- Freddy vs. Jason had a local Government Conspiracy involving a massive cover up of everything Freddie Krueger had done, down to interring all the surviving kids in an asylum and medicating them so they can't have dreams, because Freddie gets his power from kids being afraid of him. Freddie averts this trope by setting lose another serial killer, causing the kids to hear about Freddie when the Revealing Coverup begins to unravel due to the adults wondering if Freddie is back.
- At the end of Sphere, in order to get rid of the destructive abilities the namesake Sphere had given them, the protagonists agree to use their power to make themselves forget about the Sphere and all of their activities involving it. In the original novel, at least, this works because the Sphere, by its own admission, didn't grant them these abilities — they already had them, but it took the Sphere to make them aware of it so they could use them. Yeah, it's kind of a weird book.
- Untraceable's plot revolves around a website with streaming video of murders. The more hits on the website, the faster the victim dies.
- Airplane II: The Sequel: Captain Buck Murdock of Alpha Beta Base is debating with a junior officer whether they should do anything about the impending crash landing of the lunar shuttle.
- High Spirits: a group of guests and staff in a haunted castle decide to deal with the haunting by ignoring them. They all steadfastly ignore the props of the theater's oceanic performance coming to life...until the giant wooden octopus grabs one of the kids. For the next few minutes everyone is desperately trying to free him whilst avoiding tentacles and getting drenched with water. They finally succeed, at which point one of them yells: "It's a bloody good thing we ignored it!"
- Carry On Up The Khyber: Used to great comic effect where the senior officers and ambassador have a dinner party and steadfastly ignore the pitched battle just outside, even when explosions blow in the windows and make plaster fall over the meal.
- In Star Trek:First Contact Commander Riker notices a red light come on the instrument panel of the Phoenix (Earth's first warp-capable ship, which was a rattletrap built on an old nuclear ICBM frame). Zephram Cochrane slaps the side of the panel with his hand, then tells Riker and Commander LaForge to "ignore it".
- Labyrinth: You have no power over me!
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- A two part episode of uses a similar weapon: a device that can kill anyone with a single thought. However, being a Vulcan invention, it only works on the aggressive. It is rendered useless when the protagonists stop (conventionally) fighting and empty their minds of aggressive thoughts.
- Something similar was done in another episode involving a group of soldiers that had been genetically engineered and mentally programmed as perfect killing machines: but are not programmed to kill people who don't fight back. If you don't fight then, they can't/won't do anything. The episode ends with them forced in to a stalemate with the government that created them (and wasn't nice enough to UNprogram them afterward) leaving them with the option of "cooperate or everything stays screwed."
- Scrubs: J.D. realized that the best thing he can do for the sick patient who was turfed to every department in the hospital (and for his fractured relationships) is to do nothing and let things heal themselves. Of course, by "realized," we mean he actually forgot about the patient entirely, and was told after the fact that his "treatment" was brilliant.
For the curious, the patient was not actually suffering from any disease at all, but rather had a high fever that resulted from the rapidly increasing medications he was being given as he was moved from department to department, each department unable to find a problem and giving him generic medication in the hopes of fixing whatever was wrong with him. Since there was no disease, nobody could find a disease, and kept transferring him to a new department in the hopes that they could fix him, and he eventually ended up with JD, who cured him by ignoring him, which caused his fever to break when he stopped being stuffed with drugs. Apparently this happens in real life.
- Star Trek: Voyager: At the end of "Twisted," with an incredibly powerful entity twisting and altering the ship, their ultimate solution is the decidedly odd, but logical (Tuvok said it, so it must be!) "solution" of not doing anything.
- Inverted in the Doctor Who episode "Blink": the monsters for that episode are "quantum locked" meaning that they only exist when not being observed. If you look at them (or if they look at each other) they turn to stone. But if you look away (or blink), you're dead.
The Doctor: Don't blink. Blink and you're dead. Don't turn your back. Don't look away. And don't blink. Good luck.
- In the 1998 Sam Neill miniseries Merlin, Queen Mab is defeated using this method. When people stop believing in her and refuse to acknowledge that she is important anymore, she fades away.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy the vampire slayer has this in bucket-loads. Sunnydale, where the series takes place, is built on top of the hell-mouth and is a focal point for supernatural occurrences and home to numerous demonic creatures. Everyone knows something weird is going on but most people seem to completely ignore the biweekly vampire attacks or the fact that the world is always in doom.
- Hogfather: Teatime's plan to assassinate the titular Santa Claus pastiche is to control the childrens' thoughts so that they no longer believe in him.
- Additionally, it's well-known on the Disc that putting a blanket over your head repels the bogeyman. This is all fine and good, but Susan takes it a step farther - put the blanket over the bogeyman's head, and he'll vanish completely.
- Feet of Clay: It's stated that that doesn't stop them from existing, but leaves them in a state where they believe they don't exist themselves.
- In ~The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy~, the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal is so stupid that it assumes that if you can't see it, then it can't see you. The best way to escape is to place a towel over your head. It will then get confused and wander away.
- The Last Unicorn: "You mustn't run from anything immortal. It attracts their attention."
- Sword of Truth has a variation in a monster called a Screeling. It will chase down and disembowel anything that runs away from it, but calmly walking away as if it isn't there will confuse it for a while, giving you time to escape, or at least put some distance between you and it and come up with a plan.
- In the Wheel of Time, this is how Semirhage is finally broken.
- That or her being simply humiliated by being spanked
- While the events of the first two book in the Knight and Rogue Series were personal, the third book has them just happening across a series of crimes. The Michael insists on helping, Fisk believes the best way to handle the situation is to go about their daily lives.
- Dean Ing's Soft Targets, a group of TV executives enact a plan to weaken terrorists by not mentioning their plans, or if they do have to mention it mock the terrorists. When this starts to impair terrorist recruiting and funding, several of the executives are kidnapped in an attempt to lift the informal interdiction of terrorism news.
- In a FoxTrot storyline, expert video gamer Jason spends a long time struggling to defeat the "Red Orb Guardian," but when he finally puts the controller down his eternally clueless sister Paige gets past it in moments — she just walked right by, and the monster didn't attack because she didn't attack it. When she explains what she did, Jason is flabbergasted at the thought of an incredibly powerful enemy you're not supposed to fight.
- It gets a lampshade when Jason calls this counter-intuitive, and Paige points out that he still harasses her despite the fact that her response is always to pound the snot out of him.
- In Warhammer 40k, one of the best ways to handle something extremely durable but either not very devastating or that has a very small threat range is to do just this. In fact, the most powerful units in the game aren't those with the best statlines or stuff (these tend to be Cool but Inefficient), but those with either the mobility to get their alright statlines to where they are most effective, or some other unusual ability, or some evident lack of a Weaksauce Weakness in the current metagame.
- For example, Necrons have Monoliths, which are giant flying tombs, and their gods Nightbringer and Deceiver, who devour souls by the truckload. Just stay out of their way and concentrate on eliminating their plain old infantry. If enough of them go down, the rest of the army vanishes.
- In Uru: Path of the Shell, the penultimate puzzle comprised a room with a large, rollable ball on a large,-rollable-ball-sized track. The understood goal was to get past the ball to the end of the track. The solution, which had to be deduced from a series of abstruse clues littered throughout a five-volume set of prophetical books, was to stand right next to the track and do absolutely nothing for fifteen minutes.
- Webcomic Elf Only Inn, being set in a chat room, makes this strategy extremely sensible in reality, but very odd in roleplay. Check here (actually, read the entire arc, starting from here, and especially this strip) for an example of its use.
King Herman: I have a very hard time listening to your speech about ignoring the long-term dangers of deforestation... WHILE A BIG RED DEVIL IS WASHING THE WALLS OF YOUR INN WITH BLOOD IN A VILE ORGY OF CARNAGE!!!!
- This is pretty much standard practice in chat and online game role playing, too.
- In a Penny Arcade strip guest-authored by Scott Kurtz, Gabe uses Time Travel to get goods from the 1980s, then says this trope's title when Tycho expresses concern over the ominous hole in space/time hovering just behind them.
- The Simpsons: A halloween episode included the story "Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores," about giant advertising mascots that come to life and destroy Springfield. As discovered by Lisa and Paul Anka (!), the key to survival is "just don't look." Because any ad that doesn't get attention, quickly vanishes.
Lisa: (to the one holdout being distracted by a donut ad) Don't make us poke your eyes out, Dad!
- In one episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the '80s series), the heroes use the technique of "wu wei" (basically, "do nothing") to stop the Technodrome. Understandably, this technique was never used again. This itself is a rather... unusual interpretation of the idea of wu wei, which is more along the lines of "don't waste time thinking, just act, guided by intuition." Basically, the opposite of doing nothing. In this case as many, the Rule of Funny wins out.
- What's New, Scooby Doo?: an egotistical computerized house appears as the villain. The only way to make it stop was to completely ignore it, causing it to overheat in its efforts to get attention.
- In the Justice League episode "Hawk and Dove," the more passive of the brothers stops Ares's war machine in the end by refusing to fight it. To clarify, the machine was powered by aggression.
- In The King and I (the animated film, not the original musical), the heroes' tactic against a giant sea monster that is about to eat the ship is to Whistle a Happy Tune. It works - the monster is just an illusion produced by the bad guy.
- The Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes show used this, basically, to get rid of some sort of cosmic brat (Even though it seemed old enough to qualify as an adult...) by doing nothing after spending a whole episode trying to catch him, but they find it just plain impossible. Counts as a Mythology Gag as said brat was the Impossible Man mentioned above.
- A later episode of the Legend of Zelda cartoon played this trope smoothly. Ganon's minions overthrew Ganon and attempted to attack North Palace by themselves, which for them ended in hilarious disaster.
Zelda: Wait a minute, Link. We might not need to fight this one... ...in fact, we might not even need you.
- In the South Park episodes "Cartoon Wars" (Part I and Part II), the people of South Park decide literally to bury their heads in the sand, so as to show Islamists that they have no part in the insult to Muhammad.
- In an episode of The Mask, the city unveiled a new policy for dealing with The Mask: "Just Ignore Him, Maybe He'll Go Away." It was starting to work, too, but the episode's plot intervened.
- One episode of Family Guy had the family using this approach to deal with a giant squid.
- Many minor diseases, most notably the common cold, are best treated with relaxation and time. The same goes for aches and pains. Some doctors, naturally, will suggest additional methods that have a placebo effect... It's where we get the saying, "If you get a cold and stay at home, you'll be sick for a week. If you get a cold and go to the doctor, you'll be sick for seven days."
- Trolls, on forums: "Don't Feed the Troll!" The idea being we don't reward kids from pooping their pants.
- This saying is very true, but is very hard to put into practice when the forum has a large community. Trolls know that the more active the forum community are and the more members there are, the easier it will be for the troll to bait someone into responding to their antics because there is always at least one person who can't ignore the troll. Small communities in forums or forums that are very closed off (or has a very active moderation team) usually will have less trolls because everyone knows what to do when they encounter one.
- "Wei wu wei," in Taoist belief, is often translated as "creative letting be."
- This is the only known way to get an excitable terrier to calm down.
- Zits. Popping them only makes it worse.
- It has been argued that the best way to fix the economic problem is for everybody to pretend that there isn't one, since stock prices - and through them, the health of the economy - are determined by the confidence that the marketplace has in the companies who issue them.
- Subverted with bullying. Anybody who's been bullied can probably tell you how often they're told to do this. It's terrible advice, though; at best, it only seems to work in relatively mild cases - not the ones where real help is most needed.
- However, this trope is often played straight in cyberbullying, where it's much easier to ignore the bully, thanks to blocking and reporting features on websites.
- Not exactly, if you consider that it's the equivalent of zipping their mouth shut in real life.
- That is true, but unless the person knows you in real life too, it's generally going to be hard for them to further harass you.
- It also depends on what type of media online the problem occurs in. If it is in a web site where people can make several alt accounts or bans are rarely given, the harassment will continue. In other places, people can restrict their profiles, instant messengers, and other forms of media to friends only.
- However, this trope is often played straight in cyberbullying, where it's much easier to ignore the bully, thanks to blocking and reporting features on websites.
- Toddlers and tantrums. Provided that there's nothing they need (not hungry, not tired, not in pain, not frightened, etc), ignoring a toddler's tantrum is usually enough to make them stop. Of course, if said toddler is throwing a tantrum due to not receiving enough attention...
- Disregard in various public spaces. Please control your child so the rest of us can peacefully shop, eat, watch a movie, etc.