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Clearly, your train is leaving at approximately 12:44.[1]


"Everything you know is wrong. Black is white, up is down and short is long."

"And everything you thought was just so important doesn't matter."

The Mind Screw is basically something that relies so heavily on symbolism or surrealism/absurdism, or maybe just failed in an attempt at coherency, that the immediate response afterwards is "What the heck was that?!?!"

These works practically beg for fans to invent their own improbable theories about Epileptic Trees and such.

While some fans can make arguments over what the symbolism means, and what everything represents, many mind screws will pad themselves with meaningless sequences to make the audience work even harder. Arguments over which sequences are significant are common. Don't expect the writer to be very helpful. And if the show has supplemental materials, don't expect them to be much help either. (If, by some miracle, they are helpful, you've got yourself a Mind Screwdriver.) The more decipherable symbolism tends to focus on the perceptions people have of one another. And puberty. And sex. Japanese and South Korean creators live, eat, and breathe this trope, particularly in the horror and psychological drama genres; and Asian audiences seem to thrive on this type of oblique, enigmatic ambiguity. David Lynch is hugely popular in Japan for this reason.

Note that the screwing is not the kind that involves romantic candlelight, long walks on the beach and the throes of passion. Unless you're into that.

Not to be confused with Mind Rape, no matter how the audience feels, nor with the Mind Game Ship, nor Mental Affair, which is a literal mind screw.

Distinct from an In Joke, which is designed to make sense to a portion of the audience.

When trying to get the creators to explain just what the heck is going on, expect some form of Shrug of God or worse.

Your Mileage May Vary, due to the subjective nature of this trope. Examples listed are works that are either intended to provoke this reaction or have provoked this reaction in a large spectrum of the audience, but one troper's Mind Screw is another troper's Fridge Brilliance.

Sub Tropes include Gainax Ending, Dada Ad, Alien Geometries. The Ending Changes Everything is an ending that does not rely on overt symbolism for its confusing nature, but has much the same effect on viewers. When this is funny, it's Surreal Humor. When frightening, it's Surreal Horror.

Compare with True Art Is Incomprehensible, What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?.

Contrast with Mind Screwdriver, where the Mind Screw elements get rationalized/explained.

Examples are sorted in the following subpages:

  1. Time Transfixed by Rene Magritte