• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

Xander: As long as nothing really bad happens between now and then, you'll be fine.

Buffy: Are you crazy? What did you say that for? Now something bad is gonna happen.

Xander: What do you mean? Nothing's gonna happen.

Willow: Not until some dummy says, "As long as nothing bad happens."

Buffy: It's the ultimate jinx!

Willow: What were you thinking?! Or were you even thinking at all?

Xander: You don't know... Maybe this time it'll be different...
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "School Hard" It isn't.

The inevitable question asked when another character's rash plan or reckless behavior results in disaster or near-disaster. Asked upon discovery of the mayhem caused by said recklessness, or after picking up the pieces, and is usually asked by their superior, a concerned parent, or simply a friend or ally.

Popular answers include "I wasn't!", "I don't know!", "It Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time!", and "I Did What I Had to Do." If someone answers "For Science!!" it's a good bet that he's a lost cause.

Can follow a My God, What Have I Done? for a Kick the Dog moment. A Deal with the Devil is almost always followed by this, if only from the audience. Not to be confused with What the Hell, Hero?, which has less to do with recklessness and more to do with kicking or shooting the dog, though it can overlap.

Compare What an Idiot! and What the Hell, Hero?

Examples of What Were You Thinking? include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Saiyuki's "Kami-sama" arc, Sanzo attempts to break a barrier that he thought was created by will power by shooting at it, on the "rationale" that the bullets are infused with his will power, and thus the two will cancel out...yeah, no. Instead, the bullets ricochet back and everyone dives for cover, with Hakkai yelling, "What are you DOING, Sanzo??"
  • These exact words are used in Ranma ½ when the Tendos, particularly Kasumi, call Genma out for taking his son to the cursed training ground of Jusenkyo. To the annoyance of some readers, though, this is only in the very first chapter of the manga, and nobody so much as raises an eyebrow when Genma later reveals he taught Ranma the Nekoken because he was too lazy to read the next page, which warned that the technique invariably drove trainees insane and was too stupid to use, anyway. Although, it's entirely possible that people stopped asking this of him because they realized it just wouldn't do any damned good.
  • Yuna Roma Seiran gets this from the ORB military officers in Gundam Seed Destiny, for hiding war criminal Lord Djibril in ORB and denying it, then acting all surprised when ZAFT sees through his obvious lies and invades in full force. Apparently, he thought that since ORB had successfully hidden the Archangel from them two years ago, but not even in anime do politics bend to the Rule of Cool...
  • In Full Metal Panic, Kaname tends to yell this whenever Sousuke does something insane. More often than not, he proceeds to explain the ridiculously complicated terrorist plot that he foiled to justify his actions. Sometimes the plot is even real.

Comic Books

  • From the Star Wars: Clone Wars comics, during the battle of Kamino:

 Commander Merai: What were they thinking, defending a water world with ships that can't submerge?



  • The Goonies. Stef barks this at Andi when she hits the wrong notes on the musical lock, causing part of the floor to collapse.

 Stef: What were you thinking?

Andi: I hit the wrong note! I'm not Liberace you know!

  • The Fast and the Furious: Dominic Toretto asks this of Jesse after he races Johnny Tran for pink slips.
  • The captain asks Cool Hand Luke what he thought defacing parking meters would get him. Luke replies that, being drunk at the time, he probably wasn't thinking.
  • Happy Feet: Gloria asks a version of this after she discovers that him singing to her at the mating season is really him lip-synching and letting someone else sing (Mumble can't sing).

 Gloria: "Mumble, what could you possibly be thinking?"

Mumble: "I...I don't know what else to do!"

  • In the feature film adaptation of Shane Acker's 9, 7 asks 9 this after 9 put the talisman into the machine, causing it to wake up and kill 2.
  • In Oh God! You Devil, when Bobby literally finds God near the end of the film, the Almighty agrees to help him out of the predicament he's in, but not without giving Bobby a (for God) gentle rebuke.

 God: "You made a deal with the Devil. How dumb could you be?"



  • Zoe Heller's novel Notes on a Scandal (later made into a film of the same name) was released under the (patently absurd, given the novel's tone) title of What Was She Thinking? Notes On a Scandal in the US.

Live Action TV

  • Elliot Stabler frequently hears this on Law & Order Special Victims Unit: when he drove a paranoid-schizophrenic to a breakdown to get information, when he tried to convince the parents of a girl beaten up by his friend's son not to testify, when he made his daughter's DUI disappear, the infamous "What possessed you to tell the shrink in your psych evaluation that you fantasized about killing suspects?!" Or the time when he told the father of a murdered girl that the Suspect might get away with it...
    • Captain Cragen also said this to Olivia Benson when she gave a reporter confidential information about an investigation involving Anthrax.
    • Fin Tutuola heard this from John Munch and his ex-wife in the episode when he handled a case against his son poorly.
  • A lot of people screamed this at Mohinder from Heroes when he injected himself with a Super Serum he'd invented mere hours ago from studying a woman who cries death, while outside in a bad part of town. And also wanted to distribute it to the general public, despite the fact that a remarkable proportion of those with powers kill people a lot or even try to destroy the world.
  • Lampshaded in America's Funniest Home Videos during the Daisy Fuentes season, where she gives a little speech about the three primary audience reactions: "hahahaha", "owwwww..." and "what were they thinking?"
  • Doctor Phil, anyone?
  • Used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, see the page quote.
  • Used verbatim in Flashforward, regarding Mark Benford's actions in the last episode.
  • Used in an episode of Everybody Hates Chris, in which Julius is laid off and has to take care of the house, cooking, and cleaning while Rochelle tries to find a job. After being insulted by Rochelle for most of the episode, Julius makes the mistake of saying that taking care of the house, which Rochelle usually does, isn't that hard. Cue Rochelle, who is known for cursing people out, launching a positively horrifying hour-long tirade that had Julius cowering in the corner, ending with Rochelle yelling "HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND!??!"
  • Used in The League of Gentlemen when a minor member of a gentleman's club of... purveyors of Special Stuff (which makes even human flesh seem upstanding and moral) run by Hilary Briss decides to bring his wife to a secret meeting:

 Briss Right…now we’re all finally convened. As my special customers, you’re no doubt aw…

Maurice's wife enters

Eunice Hiya, I was just parking the car.

Briss Right, Eunice! An unexpected pleasure! Sam, would you like to get Eunice a drink?... Maurice,…do you have a moment?

Briss leads him to one side

Briss Are you out of your fucking mind?


Professional Wrestling

  • Comes up quite a lot in WWE, either from skits backstage after a loss (or near-loss) because of a tag team partner, or when a commenter wonders what a high-flyer was thinking after attempting a high risk move successfully (or unsuccessfully) and losing the match.
  • Kane buried The Undertaker...again. He decided to hold a funeral in respect of him...and then Alberto Del Rio interrupted. Now, given that Alberto has only been on Smackdown for a few months, and Kane is a veteran who just took out The Undertaker, and that Alberto interrupted his "funeral" just to challenge Kane, the audience, Kane, and pretty much anyone else who may have been watching all exclaimed...


  • Some fans exclaim this when a promotion has a good angle or rivalry going and then proceeds to screw it up somewhere along the line. WWE tends to get this a lot. For example, dropping the US Title rematch of Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus from Wrestlemania 27, considering that they're two of WWE's most consistent workers and could have put on an awesome match.


  • Folk singer Christine Lavin's song "What Was I Thinking", originally written in the late 1990s, features such examples as a poor choice of formal dress, hair style, and poor choice of White House intern.

Newspaper Comics

  • Zits has Mom convey an expression that says this phrase without using words to react to Jeremy's antics. Likely she doesn't say it because Jeremy will likely react with some quip.

 Mom: What were you thinking!

Jeremy: Everything's cause-and-effect with you, isn't it.


Video Games


Web Original


 Phelous: Um...clothes...wrinkly...

Cinema Snob: Doesn't look to terribly b-

He reaches out and touches the plugged in iron

Cinema Snob: OW! FFFUCK!

Phelous: ...did you think would happen?


Western Animation

  • Spoofed in the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy episode "Cry Ed", where, after Ed drops a house on Eddy in response to Eddy's scheme to get himself injured and gain sympathy, the following exchange occurs:

 Edd: Ed! What in heaven's name were you thinking?!

Ed: Absolutely nothing, Double-Dee.

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko frequently hears this from his uncle- "Of all the foolish things you've done in your sixteen years, Prince Zuko, this is the most foolish!", "You never think these things through!" In response to short-sighted things such as when he went through a great deal of life-threatening dangers to get the Avatar and would have died if Aang's friends hadn't come and decided to Save the Villain.
  • Parodied in an episode of The Simpsons

 Marge: This is the worst thing you've ever done!

Homer: You've said that so often the words have lost all meaning.

    • Apu gets an even more spectacular one:

 Skinner: Now I... I finally have time to do what I've always wanted: write the great American novel. Mine is about a futuristic amusement park where dinosaurs are brought to life through advanced cloning techniques. I call it "Billy and the Cloneasaurus."

Apu: Oh, you have got to be kidding sir. First you think of an idea that has already been done. Then you give it a title that nobody could possibly like. Didn't you think this through... (timeskip fade) ... it was on the bestseller list for eighteen months! Every magazine cover had... (timeskip fade) ... one of the most popular movies of all time, sir! What were you thinking? (pause) I mean, thank you, come again.

  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, "Mac Daddy": Bloo says this about Mac having apparently conjured up "Cheese". Mac's response: "Exactly, I wasn't thinking."
    • "World Wide Wabbit" has Frankie ask this to Bloo when he starts a website base don Herriman's embarassing "funny bunny" video that got 20 million hits.

 Bloo: I just thought it was funny.

  • The Spectacular Spider-Man's Norman Osborn solidifies his Genre Savvy credentials by asking his son Harry this when he learned he had injected himself with the Green Goblin serum.
  • Transformers Animated: Megatron kidnaps Bulkhead to complete his space bridge, and Bulkhead is so sick of people assuming he can't do anything that he makes it work. When Professor Sumdac calls him on this, Bulkhead points out that Sumdac was the guy who rebuilt Megatron (although he had no idea about the evil tyrant thing).
  • Cranky Kong asks this of Donkey Kong when he learns that DK has given the Crystal Coconut to King K.Rool, being told to give up everything to know everything;

 DK: I wanted to know all the secrets...

Cranky: So you gave the Crystal Coconut to King K. Rool!? What were you thinking!?


You Let TV Tropes Ruin Your Life? What Were You Thinking?!!!!!!

  1. Neither has brought anything to review, so Brad is looking at a clothes iron held by Phelan