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Narm is a moment that is supposed to be serious, but due to either over-sappiness, poor execution, excessive Melodrama, or the sheer absurdity of the situation, the drama is lost to the point of surpassing "cheesy" and becoming unintentionally funny. However, the humor can be extremely subjective, and mention of it may be responded to with a Dude, Not Funny.
It is named for the famous scene in the last season of Six Feet Under, where the main character Nate suffers a brain embolism. He suddenly grabs his right arm and repeats "Numb arm." (at this moment the scene is still genuinely creepy), but then it quickly degenerates into "N'arm! N'arm!" before he comically rolls up his eyes and drops to the floor. Even though this was the climax of a highly-acclaimed show, fans and critics overwhelmingly found the scene to be funny. Were you to discuss this phenomenon in a scholarly work or literary circles, the word you would probably use is "Bathos". Though all the implications of the technical term do not match up exactly (Bathos can be intentionally invoked for humor, for one). If you're talking to non-tropers and don't want to have to make fun of the unintentional comedy of brain embolisms, that's probably the word you want to use.
NARM can be caused by variety of reasons. Most common examples are:
- Acting, including voice acting:
- Poor spelling and grammar.
- Poor style and choice of words.
- Poor translation. In subtitled Anime, Narms are often created through the use of badly used English. In dubbed anime, Narms are more likely to result from the combination of a budding William Shatner reading an overly-literal translation.
- Overly ornate or terse writing.
- A failed attempt to pull off a Crowning Moment of Awesome, a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming or a Tear Jerker. Usually because those moments feel out of place compared to the rest of the work.
- Anything that falls under Wangst and Deus Angst Machina, as what is intended to be angsty (like Melodramas) and dramatic can instead come across as over-the-top ridiculous and absurd.
- Morals that don't fit with the settings of a story. Very Special Episodes are especially vulnerable to this.
- Sex scenes that come out of nowhere.
- Poor attempts of censorship due to things like localization issues.
- Special Effect Failure. It may be hard to take a monster seriously if you can see the strings.
- Graphical and audio glitches in video games, especially if they happen during cutscenes.
- Overuse or blatant use of stock assets such as Stock Sound Effects.
- Being an obvious cheap attempt to imitate a more popular work or parts of it.
- A work having assets (such as footage, lines etc.) ripped straight from other works.
- Shout-Out, homage, especially a pop culture reference that feels very out of place. This also applies to blatantly advertising the sponsors.
- Gratuitous attempts to be hip and follow current trends. Totally Radical dialog in general.
- The work, or the scene being a subject to a meme, either inside or outside the work.
- The actor or character in a serious work unintentionally looking and/or sounding like a character in more comedic works.
See also Nightmare Retardant and many cases of Snark Bait, as well as Fetish Retardant for erotica (of which the Swedish home furnishings variety is a particularly good source of Narm). Not to be confused with 'Nam, or the Narn, or OMMM-NOM-NOM-NOM. Also not to be confused with the National Area for Retired Mills, North American Registry for Midwives or the National Association of Recording Merchandisers..
Keep in mind that Narm is subjective, as one person's cheese is another person's charm. However, Narm is not when something simply falls flat or "doesn't work"; this is not a page for simply complaining about scenes you didn't like.
A number of examples of Narm become memes themselves.
Contrast with Narm Charm, where somehow, the drama still works.
- Comic Books
- Fan Fiction
- Live Action TV
- Professional Wrestling
- Tabletop Games
- TV News
- Video Games
- Western Animation