have you ever heard the fable of the scorpion & the frog?

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I first heard this parable in The Crying Game (though Wikipedia dates it back to Welles's Mr Arkadin) and have been increasingly dismayed to encounter it in numerous other films and TV shows, including twice in just the last few weeks. None of the fictional characters have ever heard this bit of screenwriter copypasta, which is starting to seem borderline trolly to me.

But apart from wanting to complain about this hack move, I'm curious:
-Why do writers keep using this particular story? It's not economical like a cliched phrase might be—it takes at least a few sentences to tell it. And it's not naturalistic, as no one irl has ever regaled me with this fable as they betray me or do something else expectedly shitty. Surely there are alternative ways to communicate the idea that people don't change?
-Are there other examples of this kind of thing? It's like the Wilhelm scream for screenwriting but tediously long, unamusing, and it sucks once you notice its recurrence

rob, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 16:52 (eight months ago) link

IIRC Trump told variations of this in his speeches and acted like he invented it

aegis philbin (crüt), Wednesday, 8 December 2021 16:58 (eight months ago) link

I've encountered it many times in films and books. It's not economical, no, but I do like it as an explanation of irrational, self-defeating behaviour.

clemenza, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 16:59 (eight months ago) link

why isn't this a poll?

oscar bravo, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 17:00 (eight months ago) link

xp lol sorry oscar it basically didn't occur to me that anyone wouldn't know it already!

rob, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 17:04 (eight months ago) link

dl, your second video doesn't show up in Canada

rob, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 17:04 (eight months ago) link

Natural born killers “bitch, you knew I was a snake” is basically this too

coombination gazza hut & scampo bell (wins), Wednesday, 8 December 2021 17:06 (eight months ago) link

see now that is economical

I do like it as an explanation of irrational, self-defeating behaviour.

that spin on it is a little more interesting actually, but increasingly I'm seeing it used in the "you knew I was a snake" way, where it's more about the frog being a chump than that the scorpion is also going to die

rob, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 17:13 (eight months ago) link

Right. It's all about putting your trust in stereotypes to judge people.

Christine Green Leafy Dragon Indigo, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 17:38 (eight months ago) link

my friend once did a hilarious comic based on this where the final panel was the frog calling the scorpion a dick

no longer on the internet afaict

STOCK FIST-PUMPER BRAD (BradNelson), Wednesday, 8 December 2021 17:44 (eight months ago) link

oh wait here it is


STOCK FIST-PUMPER BRAD (BradNelson), Wednesday, 8 December 2021 17:45 (eight months ago) link

if you want a more economical version of the fable then there's this meme version (also leans into the 'irrational, self-defeating behaviour' aspect)


soref, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 17:47 (eight months ago) link

Or, recast as an ILX acronym that confused me initially, the frog mutters "PVMIC" as they start to sink.

clemenza, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 17:55 (eight months ago) link

lol dang you all are making me start to like it now

rob, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 18:00 (eight months ago) link

Yeah, I think it’s a shorthand that can be misused in a simplistic way, but does a good job of conveying that sometimes logic, argument and even good intent just don’t matter because the power of nature often defeats them. It’s unsettling and maybe a bit tragic because we like to believe that this isn’t how things *should* be.

Kim, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:12 (eight months ago) link

sounds to me like a variation of "a leopard can't change its spots".

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:19 (eight months ago) link

yes it has often been reduced to that, but as clemenza rightly pointed out the original point is that the scorpion's inability to change is as destructive for the scorpion as it is the frog. But then the moral is basically "do not help scorpions," which is not great, as Christine said.

Kim's post helps me realize that part of my aversion to this fable is that I strongly dislike arguments based on "human nature" (though tbc I started the thread b/c it's weird how often I encounter this in pop culture with zero acknowledgement of how common it is, not b/c I hate the fable itself)

rob, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:27 (eight months ago) link

Weird that Trump would have used it, because, to me, it illustrates a somewhat subtle point, not exactly a specialty of his. His reading probably amounted to the thrill of the scorpion saying "I can do whatever the fuck I want."

clemenza, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:31 (eight months ago) link

I imagine trump would use it in strictly the “don’t help scorpions” sense.

Kim, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:37 (eight months ago) link

Or "you elected a scorpion, what did you expect"?

tbh I don't remember him mentioning it, though I am grateful for forgetting anything from those four years

rob, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:38 (eight months ago) link

Story is slander on scorpions tbh. The only time scorpions are likely to sting frogs is when frogs are trying to eat them.

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:52 (eight months ago) link

^ found the scorpion

Ennui de Toulouse-Lautrec (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:54 (eight months ago) link

Trump told the snake story not the scorpion one. In the snake story the snake just bites the woman to death there’s no mutual self-destruction.

A Pile of Ants (Boring, Maryland), Wednesday, 8 December 2021 20:13 (eight months ago) link

this is kinda like the Cat-Maiden fable

Cool Im An Situation (Neanderthal), Wednesday, 8 December 2021 20:50 (eight months ago) link

THere's a really good take in an old Tharg's future Shocks I think, or a Ro-Jaws Robo Tales or something where the scorpion has become a clamp on robo bomb. Ancient 2000AD anyway.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 21:02 (eight months ago) link

seven months pass...

There's a supremely well done version of this during the end credits of Chameleon Street (1989). Harris puts together a continuous version consisting of spliced confessional-style footage of basically the entire cast telling it. The technique is really cool and, somewhat surprisingly, padding the story out makes it a lot more fun to hear (as does the context-setting of having just seen the film of course)

rob, Wednesday, 3 August 2022 13:04 (one week ago) link

sometimes logic, argument and even good intent just don’t matter because the power of nature often defeats them.

Power of nature, or perhaps the nature of power, ahhhh

Led By Honkies (Bananaman Begins), Wednesday, 3 August 2022 13:20 (one week ago) link

i learnt this story as the coal and the straw in a learn-to-read book at my primary school in the mid-60s (the book was probably already 50 years old then). in this version the straw acts as a bridge over a little stream and the coal (which is red hot) walks across and burns the straw into two pieces and both fall and drown (if the straw is even still alive at that point). oh no!

i don't recall if there was any "lol! lmao!" dimension to it as i was too new to reading for subtext but the inappropriate grisliness of the main narrative has never left me! i was too young to be confronted with this! and i had no one to blame but myself as it wasn't a reading we'd been set, i was reading ahead bcz i was bored with whatever insipid forgettable pablum constituted the earlier chapters. lol! lmao!

mark s, Wednesday, 3 August 2022 13:38 (one week ago) link


seo layer (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 3 August 2022 13:41 (one week ago) link

the frog said to the scorpion "why did you do that, now we will surely both drown"

The scorpion replied "u must be new here. We the best, man."

the straw acts as a bridge over a little stream and the coal (which is red hot) walks across and burns the straw

surely you asked why was the coal like 'this is fine' when on fire but when faced with some dousing water it could only recoil like so much drake

nashwan, Wednesday, 3 August 2022 17:22 (one week ago) link

"Everyone strives to reach the Law," says the man, "so how does it happen that for all these many years no one but myself has ever begged for admittance?" The doorkeeper recognizes that the man has reached his end, and to let his failing senses catch the words, roars in his ear: "lol! lmao!"

jmm, Wednesday, 3 August 2022 17:28 (one week ago) link

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