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TV Tropes Monday: Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee



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Our intrepid hero can defeat the bad guy, save the day and be home by supper by kicking, punching, or shooting his way through any obstacle. Unless he gets Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee. The scenario comes in two forms: 1) the hero is hauled before a committee full of stuff shirts who are craving a scapegoat or have an agenda to which the hero (and his actions) are ancillary or 2) the hero goes before the committee in search of justice.

The first scenario sets the committee as an antagonist. The protagonist tends to come off as a rugged individualist who has no time for trivial matters, like the law, while the committee members appear to be at best well meaning but obstructive bureaucrats or worse  weak willed villains trying to destroy the hero through dirty politics. This often happens in the first act of a story as a character as well as setting establishing moment.

The second scenario, which often happens at the end of the story, has the hero going to the subcommittee to clear their name, seek justice, and/or expose the grand conspiracy. Often the bad guys will have spent the entire story concealing the truth against the protagonist herculean efforts to the contrary. The appearance before the committee serves as the culmination of this struggle, with the assurance that justice won the day.

Sometimes we see a mix of the two: the politicians are earnest in their endeavors but wrapped in a bureaucratic bubble that isolates them from the realities of the situation or we have (in the spirit of the Army-McCarthy hearings) where two members represent the opposite sides of the spectrum, an opportunist politicians using the committee to make his mark countered by a honest one who wants to get to the truth of the matter. Often the first serves as a foil to the protagonist, while the second serves as an ally. Rarely do we see the committee attempt to do a good job only for the politics of the situation to make the whole thing moot.

And finally, this trope is a great way to inject “courtroom drama” into a narrative without putting a character on trial. The proceedings are legal (or have an air of legality about it), a lot of legal jargon is thrown around, and the consequences can include jail time for anyone involved in them, although the usual result is a severe bout of public humiliation.



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