Where does It’s a trap come from?
It’s a trap! is a line from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The character Admiral Ackbar (Erik Bauersfeld), while engaging an ambush on an enemy weapon, is informed that enemy ships have arrived. Realizing that the enemy army must be aware of their plans and prepared to defend itself, he exclaims “It’s a trap!”
Admiral Ackbar is not a major character in the Star Wars series, but his distinctive, catfish-like appearance may have made his line more memorable. Decades after he delivered his minor but famous line, the actor started receiving requests for autographs.
A brief increase in attention to the line followed the release of the Family Guy special “It’s A Trap” in 2010. This special followed a cartoon family’s reenactment of the film Return of the Jedi. It’s a trap! also received an additional boost in interest in 2015, when the character was reprised in the 2015 Star Wars film, The Force Awakens.
Examples of It’s a trap
Who uses It’s a trap?
Branded on t-shirts and other merchandise, and alluded to in pop culture, it’s a trap! has inspired many memes among Star Wars fandom. One, based on a deliberate misspelling, features an image of Ackbar holding a blue tarp, exclaiming, “It’s a tarp!” Others play on words that rhyme with trap, like “It’s a cap!” along with an image of Ackbar wearing a baseball cap or “It’s a frappe!” with Ackbar rendered as the Starbucks logo. Some memes use It’s a trap! for observational humor: “Free to try for 30 days? It’s a trap!” Others memes use It’s a trap! for sexist jokes about girlfriends and wives: “She says: ‘I only need to go to ONE store. Wanna come?’…It’s a trap!”
A version of the It’s a trap! meme also incorporates the slang meaning of trap, a term used especially in online message boards for anime characters of ambiguous gender and transgender people who “pass” as cisgender. The idea of the term is that such an individual “traps” people into thinking they are a different gender. In forums, a user might post an It’s a trap! image to mock men who are attracted to transgender women. While trap itself can be used as a positive label in both anime culture and the transgender culture, the use of It’s a trap! in these contexts is generally transphobic and homophobic, as it implies that a trans person is deceiving someone about their gender identity.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of It’s a trap like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of It’s a trap that will help our users expand their word mastery.